MSF closed its projects in Malta in 2010.

Why are we there?

  • Health care exclusion


This is an excerpt from MSF's 2010 International Activity Report:

Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are living in detention or in open centers in Malta, and conditions often affect health.

In 2008, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) set up a program to provide medical and psychological care in the detention centers to which all new arrivals were sent.

There have been improvements in making health care available to migrants over the past two years, but access remains difficult for those without official permission to stay in the country, particularly those whose asylum applications have been rejected.

Medical Care in Detention Centers

From August 2008 until October 2010, MSF ran medical activities in Safi, Lyster Barracks, and Takandja detention centers. In Safi and Lyster Barracks, appalling living conditions and poor access to health care contributed to the deteriorating physical and mental health of detainees.

Many migrants have experienced multiple psychological traumas relating to violence, including sexual violence. These may have occurred in their country of origin, on their journey to Europe, or upon arrival in Europe.

Poor Living Conditions

Poor living conditions, a precarious social situation, and a lack of future prospects exacerbate the effects of mental trauma and many people have difficulty coping.

In 2009, MSF suspended its work in the detention centers as the poor conditions were compromising the effectiveness of its medical care.

MSF resumed work in Takandja between June 2009 and October 2010, screening new arrivals and carrying out consultations.

In total, from 2008 until 2010, MSF staff held more than 4,670 medical consultations and 724 psychological consultations in the detention centers, and almost 3,000 people participated in health or hygiene promotion workshops.

Working in Open Centers

Until June 2010, MSF medical teams worked at a clinic located at Hal Far, in southern Malta, holding more than 2,150 medical and 727 mental health consultations between August 2008 and June 2010 for migrants and asylum seekers who had been moved from detention to open centers.

Health promotion teams held 165 workshops on hygiene and other topics both on site and at the open centers.

By the second half of 2010, fewer arrivals and an improvement in health care provision for asylum seekers and migrants meant that the emergency phase was over.

MSF focused its energy on the creation of a sustainable network that would be able to provide mental health support on a long-term basis.

Cultural Mediation

Cultural mediators facilitate communication between patients and health staff by removing many barriers of language and culture.

MSF successfully advocated for and initiated the provision of cultural mediation services, assisting almost 7,700 consultations in this way.

In 2010 the national health authorities employed five cultural mediators to assist in the provision of care at health centers, four positions were opened in Mater Dei Hospital, the largest public hospital, and plans were made to create positions at Mount Carmel Hospital.

MSF has worked in Malta since 2008.

Patient Story

Abdi*, 24 years old, from Somalia

“I am now living in this tent… in the sun, in the rain. In the afternoon it is impossible to stay inside because it is too hot. And we have nothing to do. In the camp there are these classrooms, but there is no teacher. We don’t learn anything.

"I have been here for one year and I haven’t been taught one single word of Maltese. I can’t study, I can’t buy books, I can’t help my family back in Somalia either.

"In Malta I have no future, no life, no education, no opportunity for development. We are all stuck. Our lives are wasted here. But we can’t go back.”

*The person’s name has been changed.