In search of the building blocks of a human rights culture: lessons from the treatment of irregular immigrants in Malta

DeBono, Daniela (2012) In search of the building blocks of a human rights culture: lessons from the treatment of irregular immigrants in Malta. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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The treatment of irregular migrants in Malta is problematic from a human rights perspective, for it contravenes the principle of universalism that is intrinsic to human rights philosophy. This study investigates this treatment. Crucially, it identifies four elements of political practice in the absence of which it is contended a human rights culture cannot flourish, as well as underlying patterns in Maltese political culture which contravene these four elements. Its ultimate aim is to propose meaningful, effective and long-lasting human-rights-compliant solutions to the treatment of irregular immigrants in Malta.

Based on a reading of foundational documents of the modern human rights movement, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thesis posits that human rights should be ‘located’ between the political and the cultural. The four basic principles of human rights identified as framing the optimal political conditions for the nurturing of a human rights culture are related to dignity, a cosmopolitan orientation, democratic practice and a commitment to equality.

This concept of a human rights culture is innovatively used as an analytical tool for examining Maltese responses to irregular migration. This is done in a two-way manner, with the examination of practice enriching the identified theoretical framework, and the theoretical framework then guiding the search for possible new human-rights-consistent policy directions which Malta could take.

Drawing on a range of ethnographic methods, including in-depth interviews and participant observation, this study brings to light the difficulties of putting into practice human rights principles within an already established local culture grappling with its own ghosts like occupations and colonial experiences. Although resistance to change is often difficult to identify since it is shrouded in ‘modern’ language, hidden under security arguments or bureaucratic explanations. Interviews and a range of documents illustrate the multi-layered misconceptions, stereotypes and fear that play out among the Maltese.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DG History of Italy > DG987 Malta. Maltese Islands
H Social Sciences > HB Economic theory. Demography
J Political Science > JC Political theory. The state. Theories of the state > JC501 Purpose, functions, and relations of the state > JC585 Rights of the individual. General works
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 17 May 2012 08:56
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2014 10:40

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