On 15 November 2018, Malta issued a policy regularising a selected group of failed asylum seekers, the Specific Residence Authorisation (SRA). SRA was introduced to replace the former Temporary Humanitarian Protection New (THPN) status. SRA recognised the needs of failed asylum seekers who have been residing in Malta for a period of five years and who were actively contributing to Maltese society. To be eligible to apply, applicants needed to fulfil the following criteria:
- Applicant must have entered Malta irregularly prior to 1 January 2016 and been physically present in Malta for a period of 5 years preceding the date of application;
- Applicant must have his or her application for international protection finally rejected by the competent asylum authorities;
- Applicant must be of good conduct. Persons who have been convicted of serious crimes or are a threat to national security, public order or public interest are excluded from being granted SRA;
- Applicant must demonstrate that he or she has been in employment on a frequent basis (minimum of 9 months per year during the preceding 5 years);
- Applicant must present his or her integration efforts.
The SRA was valid for two years. The individual assessment was carried out by Identity Malta. SRA holders are entitled to a residence permit valid for two years with the possibility of renewal, access to core welfare benefits similar to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, employment licence, travel document, and access to state education and medical care.
Persons who held a valid Temporary Humanitarian Protection New (THPN) were to be granted an SRA automatically, without any individual assessment. Upon renewal, an individual assessment is conducted by Identity Malta and the immigration authorities based on the criteria outlined above.
In 2020, the authorities received 258 applications for SRA and delivered 234 residence permits. 62 persons saw their SRA renewed in 2020 for two more years.
In November 2020, Maltese authorities unexpectedly announced an update of the SRA policy. ID Malta confirmed that former THPN beneficiaries who were automatically granted SRA in 2018 will have their status renewed subject to the fulfilment of integration measures. Likewise, failed asylum seekers who were granted SRA on the basis that they entered Malta before 2016 and could prove stable employment would continue to be able to enjoy this status. The updated policy also foresees that the authorities shall provide to all unsuccessful SRA applicants assistance for voluntary return in their country of origin.
More importantly, the new policy specifies that new applications for the SRA would only be accepted until the end of December 2020, meaning that no new application were permitted after this date. Existing holders of the SRA were still able to renew their status in accordance with the revised policy but no new application was allowed.
Numerous NGOs promptly reacted to this unexpected new policy and expressed their “shock and disappointment”. According to them, the revised SRA policy will result in people remaining undocumented and thus without access to basic services and the possibility to exercise basic rights. In the two years since the discontinuation of the SRA policy, further attempts were made by Identity Malta to reduce the number of SRA holders, largely by refusing to renew permits on the basis of past criminal convictions.
This led to a several applicants challenging the Agency’s decisions before the Immigration Appeals Board and the Court of Appeal, with the Government insisting that, being a policy, negative SRA decisions were not appealable. Division I of the Board recognised itself to be competent to hear appeals from the refusal to renew or grant SRA and found in favour of the appellants. In a series of appeals filed by Identity Malta, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision Division I and declared that the refusal to renew the residence permit was unlawful, basing the judgements on principles of natural justice, best interests of the child and legal certainty.
Due to the termination of the SRA policy, rejected asylum-seekers who are not returned to their countries of origin have little hope for regularisation. Various demonstrations were organised by migrant communities, urging Malta to look at the situation of migrants who have bene living in Malta for several years, paying taxes and social security contributions and who had effectively made Malta home.
 Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement, Policy regarding Specific Residence Authorisation, November 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2Svq8qA.
 Information provided by ID Malta, January 2021.
 Identity Malta, ‘Updating of the Policy regarding Specific Residence Authorisation’, 24 November 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3vTrImq.
 A new policy that will lead to increased social exclusion and poverty, Press statement by aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija, Blue Door English, Christian Life Communities in Malta, The Critical Institute, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Drachma, Great Oak Malta Association, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta Humanist Association, Migrant Women Association Malta, Millennium Chapel, MOAS, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Repubblika, SOS Malta, SPARK15, Women’s Rights Foundation, 25 November 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3ab0MVO.
 Court of Appeal (Inferior), Patrick Acheampong vs Identity Malta Agency, 40/2022, 30 November 2022; Court of Appeal (Inferior), Jamilla Abdulkadir Mohammed vs Identity Malta Agency, 60/2022, 18 January 2023.
 PICUM, Malta: Migrants call for decent regularisation mechanism, 6 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/41LXEsJ