Brief description of the organization
Malta office of the UNHCR – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a United Nations agency with the mandate to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
Problem addressed by the good practice
The good practice addresses the problems of discrimination, stigmatization, and social exclusion of young refugees and migrants in Malta.
The target group includes young people from refugee, asylum-seeker and migrant background in Malta.
Summary of the good practice
Spark15 aims to help refugee and migrant youth to attain full integration within the Maltese communities. By helping them to be active participants, encouraging diversity, and promoting a more inclusive society. The youth organization was formed by 15 young refugees following their meet-up at the UNHCR-NGO national consultations which empowered them to voice their concerns and needs as well as network with like-minded youth from other countries. Today, Spark15 is the first youth organization in Malta led by young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. The young people did not know each other before the UNHCR-NGO consultations, but the meeting gave them a real opportunity to begin working together to address common challenges. For example, members of the organization advocate for the education of young refugees as the key to integration. The organization is involved in youth sports events, intercultural event meetings, organization of the English language classes for refugees, networking with migrant diasporas and local communities, and other activities involving both refugee and non-refugee youngsters. By forming a youth-led organization, young refugees are empowered to plan and enact change in their communities – that puts them in the role of leaders, rather than just receivers of services (which is usually the case).
Spark15 is a groundbreaking project. Before the UNHCR-NGO consultations, the young people had to face the realities of the asylum process individually, perhaps taking things for granted and not being able to call for changes in policies and social practices which challenge them. As a group, they first of all support and inspire each other. As a group, they feel more influential and more accepted, build partnerships and networks, support other communities and are supported themselves. Through the consultation process, where the young were simply given a voice, they were encouraged to think inquisitively and act independently which facilitated their integration in the host society.
One of the aims of the organization is to reach out to other concerned young people and expand the network in the future. So far, word of mouth through migrant communities has worked well. But it is even better when young people meet up somewhere and friends bring their friends. This was made possible with the technical assistance and office space provided by local organizations, such as the Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, the Integra Foundation, and UNHCR Malta. Funding and technical support can be critical for a young youth-led organization.
More information is available on the organization’s website.