The life of migrants in Malta who are not granted asylum is “zero” and they have to put their dreams on hold, according to a Somali woman who fled forced marriage and war.
They can’t apply for a job, open a bank account or even get married.
“If you don’t have asylum, your life here is zero: you don’t have a status and you have to survive in a container. If we get protection however, we would be able to manage our lives and sustain ourselves,” Hafso Abdirahman says, flanked by fellow Somali Ayan Hassan.
The young women are two of seven who have recounted their arduous journey from Somalia, through the desert to Libya and across the deadly Mediterranean Sea, in a booklet recently published by the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta.
In the publication, the women express the challenges, fears and hopes of this yet unfinished long journey.
Since their initial request for asylum was rejected and their appeal is still pending, they are still living in the Ħal Far open centre as asylum seekers.
“Life is very hard in the container because it is smaller than this room, and we live in groups of six to eight women,” Ms Hassan says.
“That container is our kitchen, our changing room, our bedroom… our whole life is in a container. The toilets are far away and to go to the bathroom at night we wake each other up and go in a group as we’re scared to go on our own,” Ms Hassan says.
When they were in detention, the women were hoping for a better life outside, however, they feel they are still isolated.
And without a document in hand, their future is in limbo.
“Everywhere you go, you are asked for a document – an ID card, a residence permit. We cannot for example open a bank account or apply for a job.”
Without protection status, no man wants to marry them, and those who approach a woman for marriage face a lot of problems in court, as proof of origin is needed, including a letter from the government in Somalia.
“But there is no government in our country… We fled problems – persecution, torture, abuse and death – and still, we’re facing a lot of challenges here that have disheartened us.
“At the moment we don’t dare dream any more, but we will still speak up about our right for protection and hope to get asylum.”
Ms Hassan said women had no say about anything in Somalia and she escaped because she wanted to take the lead of her own life.
Ms Abdirahman also fled the war and abuse.
“I had a small cafeteria and one day an al-Shabab militia man came to my shop to buy coffee and told me he wanted to marry me. When I said I didn’t want to marry him, he said: this is not a question, but an order.”
Life without protection status for Ms Abdirahman is difficult and she is constantly worrying about her future. She also feels discriminated against by fellow migrants who view her as a “rejected woman” and look down on her.