Every migrant I met in Malta had been through some tragic times, perhaps in the war-torn countries they left behind; during the dangerous sea crossing from Africa to Malta in tiny, over-crowded boats; or in their 18 month internment in a Maltese detention centre upon arrival. However, there were a few who, against incredible odds, had met with some success. I met ______, a Somali, born in Saudi Arabia, and raised in Kenya as he was visiting a friend in the small grocery store in one corner of the Eritrean restaurant at the Marsa Open Centre. His English was impeccable and after telling me what kinds of goods they sold at the store (pretty much everything), he asked me what I was doing at the Marsa Open Centre. I showed him some of the drawings I had been making and gave him the usual explanation that I was a student of architecture from Canada working on my Masters thesis project. He said it was no surprise that the Centre was such a horrible place to live as it was never meant to have people living in it. It was formerly a school after all.
_____ had been in Malta for 5 years but he no longer lived at the Marsa Open Centre. He had an apartment in the city. He told me that he worked for the International Organization for Migration at their offices in Valletta. His job was to provide interpretation to fellow asylum seekers who had presumably applied to be resettled in other countries and were being interviewed by those countries. He told me he spoke 4 languages.
This was the first and only refugee I met on my trip that had such a good job (or any job for that matter) but even he was not satisfied with staying in Malta. He had been offered asylum in Ljubljana, Slovenia and would be moving there in a month. They had given him a flat, a passport, and with that the freedom to travel anywhere he wanted. He said that he had told them that he would not go without his girlfriend and they had accepted her as well.
I cannot explain why ______ had been so successful at freeing himself from the limiting life that the Centre offered while others I met had been living there for up to 7 years with little hope of leaving anytime soon. Most people around me seemed to exist in some kind of permanent state of limbo, struggling to find odd jobs, and relying on the Centre for money and shelter but I was extremely happy for him and it made me believe what he said next. Anyone can have their own apartment and a decent life within a few weeks of being released from detention. All they need is a good job.