The mission of the Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering, and improve the situation of the most vulnerable people with absolute impartiality to race, nationality, gender or religion. It is with these important principles in mind that we provide Refugee Support Services.
An overview of Malta and irregular migration
Given Malta’s geographical position, south of Sicily and north of Libya, the island has served as a gateway into Europe for some 19,000 asylum-seekers (primarily from Africa and the Middle East) fleeing war, poverty, conflict or persecution in their homeland. Any individual arriving in Malta has the right to apply for asylum, but those that arrive ‘irregularly’ often travel without a valid passport or visa and are detained until such time that their application for asylum has been processed.
Refugee Support Services (RSS) offer a number of services to migrants, primarily those that have made the journey by boat from Northern Africa, either during their period of detention or later in open centres.
The two key areas of support offered are:
Restoring Family Links
Restoring Family Links (RFL)) is a mandatory service offered by all Red Cross societies to help restore contact between families separated by armed conflict, disaster or migration. Facilitating a means to contact loved ones, can help provide crucial comfort to often traumatised and vulnerable individuals.
There are several means by which this service is offered:
- Phone calls
We are funded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide every new arrival with a five-minute phone call. These telephone calls are the most direct way of contacting and reassuring families that an individual is safe and is a crucial aspect of the support we offer to asylum-seekers.
- Tracing requests
We offer a written, confidential, and free tracing service to any individual that has lost contact with their loved ones. Using the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network, we endeavour to locate lost family members and assist with tracing requests from other Red Cross National Societies.
- Family Links Poster
In 2014, we joined a number of Red Cross Societies across Europe participating in the Family Links Poster project, a new initiative launched by the ICRC to assist in combating the difficulties faced by those trying to trace their families. Photos of people searching for family members are placed on posters at special locations throughout 18 European countries and also displayed on familylinks.icrc.org, the ICRC's tracing site.
- Oher methods
There are additional methods of re-establishing contact with family members including Red Cross Messages (RCM), “Anxious for news” and “Safe and well/I am alive” messages. More details on these and other services can be found on the ICRC Family Links website.
In addition to Restoring Family Links, we also perform a very important role as humanitarian observers within detention facilities and once detainees have been released. RSS provides referral information to other agencies that may be able to assist where Malta Red Cross cannot.
We actively seek and identify the vulnerable, including minors, pregnant women and the ill or infirm. We ensure they are referred to the appropriate agency equipped to address their individual needs.