National Report – Malta

Migration context

As happened for many countries of the Mediterranean area, over the past century the Maltese Islands have switched from being the source of migration flows to become their destination. During most of the XXI century, Maltese people have been moving[1] mainly for economic reasons and sometimes with the active support of the Government, which also organised technical courses to ease the integration in the main destinations[2].

The switch to destination country happened between the last decades of the century and the beginning of the new century. The arrival of the first boat on Maltese shores in 2002 has marked a significant point in the migration history of the country.

According to UNHCR Malta[3] the boat arrivals in Malta have been constantly increasing between 2002 and 2008, when Italy and Libya signed a security agreement which meant a decrease in boat arrivals until 2010. After this stop, the flow started to increase again with the explosion of the crisis in Northern Africa. UNHCR states that the increase during the following years can be linked to the operation Mare Nostrum, which was putting more pressure on Maltese Government for the organisation of missions of rescue at sea. Starting from 2013, the number of boat arrivals registered a new drop.

The decrease of boat arrivals does not translate in a reduction in the numbers of asylum applications. According to UNHCR Malta, asylum applications have experienced a new increase starting in 2014. The majority of people  applying for   asylum are nowadays Syrians, Libyans, Somali and Eritreans, but also a number of Ukrainians have applied for asylum during the past months.

The controversial systematic detention for anyone arriving on the island without the necessary visa or by boat has been reformed in 2015[4], when detention centres have been replaced by an initial reception centre, where people undergo medical screening before being welcomed in open centres. This practice is, however, just linked to a strategy document released by the current Government, whilst no change has been made, to date, to the relevant legislation[5].

Asylum requests are processed by the office of the Refugee Commissioner, who has decisional power on the kind of protection status to be recognised according to the particular situation of each individual.

Youth work context

The Maltese context has been characterised by a long tradition of volunteering, especially linked to Catholic Church and related organisations. In this context, youth work was seen as those structures which provided adults with the chance to reach young people and promote moral behaviour and catholic formation[6].

This changed during the 1970s and 1980s, when Parish youth-led groups started being paced side by side with drop in centres, where young people could just go to enjoy some sports activities or just to socialise. Later, the birth of youth-led groups based on different interests (environment, politics), marked a switch in the reasons for attendance: young people started attending youth groups on the basis of the services provided rather than the ideology behind it.

Starting from the 1990s, youth work has acquired more and more professional recognition: in 1993 the University of Malta has launched the first Training course in Youth and Community work; in 1998 a group of youth workers founded the Malta Association of Youth Workers (MAY), which has been advocating for the recognition of youth work as a profession and for a formal regulation of it.

The Chapter 533 of the Laws of Malta[7], provides formal recognition to youth work as a profession, establishing a National Agency (Aġenzija Żgħażagħ) which regulates the profession and provides support to youth workers and youth organisations.

Youth work is carried out within the framework of the school system as a support for episodes of difficult behaviours; but also outside schools, seeking to increase the participation of students in informal organisations. All the activities offered by youth workers are open to any Maltese resident, irrespective of their nationality.

In order to compile the mapping, we have decided to take into consideration the definition of youth work that has been provided by the Council of the European Union, which stated in 2013 that “‘Youth work’ is a broad term covering a broad scope of activities of a social, cultural, educational or political nature by, with and for young people. Increasingly, such activities also include sport and services for young people. Youth work belongs to the area of ‘out-of-school’ education, as well as specific leisure time activities managed by professional or voluntary youth workers and youth leaders […].”[8]

[1] Mainly in other English speaking countries, such as the UK and Australia.

[2] Mayo, P. (2007). Adult Education in Malta. International Perspective on Education (56)

[3] UNHCR Malta, Malta Asylum Trends. (Data and graphs available at:, last consulted: May 2017)

[4] Laws of Malta, Chapter 217. Immigration Act. (Available at:, last consulted: May 2017)


[6] M. Teuma, Youth Work development in Malta. A chronicle. (Available at:, last consulted: May 2017)

[7] Laws of Malta, Chapter 533, Youth Work Profession Act (2014, rev. 2016) (Available at:, last consulted: May 2017)

[8] Council conclusions on the contribution of quality youth work to the development, well-being and social inclusion of young people (Available at:, last consulted: May 2017)