Spark 15 are a group of young refugees who have a clear objective: to encourage other young refugees to become active participants and agents of inclusive societies in Malta, and beyond.
Spark 15 members are a mix of young people coming from a number of different countries including Eritrea, Palestine, Somalia and Libya, with ages ranging from 18 to 25. After forming friendships while attending MCAST (the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology), Spark 15 officially formed as a group following a UNHCR consultation meeting in October 2015.
“We found that we all face common challenges. Following the consultation, we stayed in contact and decided that together it would be possible to do something great. We named ourselves Spark 15 because we are a small idea that can become big,” said Spark 15’s President Hourie Tafeh, a 25 year old woman from Palestinian.
The organisation was officially inaugurated on Friday, 17th March 2017, at the President’s Palace at San Anton Gardens, with an opening speech given by the President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.
During the launch, Spark 15 released a video which highlights daily challenges that young refugee communities face in Malta - mainly access to work and education opportunities.
To watch Spark 15's video CLICK HERE
Hourie has a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design from Lebanon, and is now studying for an advanced diploma in Marketing at MCAST. She explains that “One of my major challenges has been finding work. I am not the only one who has this problem. For me, it’s because I wear a hijab, for others it may be because of their skin colour. Even if they have a work permit, many are not accepted.”
Mohammed Hassan, better known by his friends as Moh, is a 23 year old business student, who also believes that education and employment are key elements to enabling the integration of refugees in Malta. “With no access to education and work, there can be no integration. This will lead to the creation of ghettos,” says Moh.
Moh is confident that Spark 15 have the key to encourage dialogue between refugees and local youth. “It cannot be done through traditional and formal ways, but by organising events, music sessions and sports activities which will attract members from different communities to be and work together”, he explains.
During the launch, Kahin Ismail, UNHCR Malta Representative said: “We applaud the resilience and dedication of Spark 15 as a youth refugee organization whose members find the time between studying and working to be active members of this vibrant society and their work to promote, and advocate for refugee integration in Malta.”
“Spark 15 is the first youth refugee organization in Malta, and is a testament to the growing diversity of Malta.”
UNHCR called for the implementation of an integration framework in Malta.
“At the legislative and policy level, we welcome the Government’s efforts to create an integration framework that acknowledges the growing reality of a diverse Malta and which we hope will establish concrete and actionable measures to facilitate refugees and migrants’ access to services, employment and full integration,” Mr Ismail said.
“At the community level, social inclusion is a dynamic two way process. It is important that we work together to engage with the wider community, to establish deeper ties, and to highlight how our similarities are greater than our differences.”
Visit Spark 15 on www.spark15.org
Photos: © UNHCR/Tümer Gençtürk