The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorates the events of March 21 in 1960, when police opened fire and killed 69 people during a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against apartheid laws. In 1979, the General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity would be organized annually, beggining on 21 March, in order to fight against racism guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, racist laws have been abolished in many countries, yet still, in all the world, too many communities experience racial discrimination.

Youth standing up against racism” is the 2021 theme of this international day. Through #FightRacism, the young participants are engaged to stand up for the equal rights of all. Despite of the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many young people work together to defend a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination. COVID-19 has impacted young people’s lives, mainly for those from minority communities with their education discontinued, and their individual and social lives impacted. They also have to face an increase in racial discrimination, in this way this international day is an opportunity to join them and empower them all across the world.  

With the 2020 Black Lives Matter marches which drew millions of demonstrators worldwide, this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination appears nowadays as an opportunity to continue the protestation against racial injustice and to focus efforts on trying to bridge the gap between the communities in Malta. For that reason, CCIF has organized an online intergenerational dialogue on the topic of hate speeches and negative stereotypes.  



As at December 2016, the population of Malta was estimated to be 460 297, and 54 321 were foreigners1. Since 2002, Malta has experienced the arrival of sub-Saharan migrants and asylum-seekers arriving irregularly from the Libyan coast. However, there is extensive research showing that a segment of Maltese society is still fearful of, and discriminatory towards migrants2. According to the European I Get You Report3 , the predominantly Roman Catholic population and a history of colonisation and emigration, have contributed to the perception of migrants being considered as unwelcome intruders. It must be noted that stereotypes between communities in Malta generate inequality and division in the country. Therefore, we can sadly find in the media some stories which emphasize this mentality that goes against human rights. 

For instance, you may remember the Jack Daboma case in July 2015 which has been the subject of heavy coverage by the local news media. Jack Daboma is the name of a black Hungarian student who was assaulted by a woman who incited racial hatred while trying to organise a queue at the Valletta bus terminus. While she had spit on him and insulted him, he was wrongfully handcuffed by police officers. This man filed a criminal complaint against the woman for inciting racial hatred. Finally, they were charged in court with breach of public peace, and racially-motivated assault, respectively both released as parties dropped charges. In an interview following the incident, Jack  Daboma said  The next step is to move forward. I am the one who was spat at and treated badly … but I believe that is the time to change and to create awareness, and educate people4. 

Other cases on social media, prove the xenophobic environment in Malta. In particular, the attacks on politicians who deal with the migration. Nationalist Member of European Parliament Roberta Metsola was targeted online with threats and horrible words after she spoke about the necessity of integration for migrants coming to Maltese’s shores.

Hate crime is still a vastly understudied phenomenon, especially in Malta. However the curent surveys, as the report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, has shown an increase of racist insults and xenophobic hate speech at alarming and unprecedented levels5. Moreover, as illustrated Daboma’s case, the discriminatory profiling by the police is a common reality, but it’s an unlawful practice that undermines trust in law enforcement authorities. According to a survey6, the discriminations are also found in the labour market, where the quality of employment depends on the skin color rather than the level of education. Skin color affects also access to private and public adequate housing, which can exacerbate social exclusion. 



Although these discriminations are commonplace, the Maltese legislation prohibits and sanctions it. Besides, the Maltese Criminal Code sets out a general aggrieving circumstance or any crime motivated by hatred against a person or a group, on the grounds of gender, gender identity sexual orientation, race, color, language, notation or ethnic origin, citizenship religion or belief or political or other opinion. Moreover, the Criminal Code criminalises the act of condoning, denying or grossly trivialising genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, citizenship, descent or national or ethnic origin. These laws apply when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite to violence or hatred against such a person or group; or likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting. 

Therefore, this laws would protect all persons in Malta against discrimination and hate crime. Now, we’ll define this notion thanks to the Victim Support Agency website. Hate crime is any criminal offense which is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s characteristics previously cited. It’s made up of a combination of the following acts: physical aggression, hate speech (any words, behaviors or displays of written or printed material considered to be threatening, abusive or insulting), and incitement to hatred. However, Malta does not have a specific system for recording hate crimes. There is no specific guidance document on how to identify hate crimes. But no matter what kind of abuse people have to protect themself and this other and report it. 

Below are the details of a Victim Support Agency which offer services free and specifically tailored to each and every individual. These can include : psychological support, legal assistance, a dedicated phone line, assistance through online chat and social media presence.



1 Current migration situation in the EU: hate crime, FRA – European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2016)

2 UNHCR & Aditus. Meet the Other Preliminary Findings: Report on Integration Research Project. Malta: UNHCR. (2012) 

3 European I Get You Report Published in Brussels by JRS Europe. (2017)

4 MaltaToday 

5 STOP HATE Report, SOS Malta. (2019)

6 Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey : Being Black in the EU Published by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2018)

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