After obtaining his Masters degree in international relations last week, Saleh Ahmed, a refugee from Ethiopia, is now struggling to find a job for which he is not overqualified.

Mr Ahmed, who was granted protection status in 2006, is offered jobs in the construction and the cleaning sectors. “I have been told I am not entitled to a job related to my studies because I am not an EU or Maltese national,” he said.

According to law, those granted protected status are entitled to work.

Mr Ahmed left Ethiopia in 2003, traveled to Sudan and then to Libya. From there, he paid smugglers to take him to Italy by boat but only got as far as Malta.

“At the time, we were welcomed by the Maltese. When we landed there were people shaking our hands, and we thought that, finally, we were going to be respected.”

He then spent a year in detention at the Ta’ Kandja centre and, during that time, he taught himself English by reading books, magazines and newspapers.

Upon his release, he decided he would do everything he could to try and get some formal education. “I am the type of person who, given half a chance, even a tiny window of opportunity, will immediately grab it. I found that at the University of Malta,” Mr Ahmed said.

In 2009, he applied to do an under­graduate course within the international relations department at the university. “I was told over and over again that I did not have enough qualifications and that I would not make it but they gave me the chance to apply and I took it.”

After successfully completing his undergraduate course, Mr Ahmed wanted to find a job to gain work experience but nobody would employ him.

Believing more qualifications would change this, he applied for a preparatory course, which then allowed him to read for a Master’s degree. This did not solve his problem and, today, notwithstanding the fact that he holds a Master’s, he is still being turned away.

“While I was studying for my Master’s last year, I had already started looking for work but it’s hard to find a job which is not a cleaning or at a hotel. It’s not because there are no vacancies but because of my status,” Mr Ahmed said.

Some employers, he noted, reacted negatively when he asked about vacancies. “They act like it’s not my business to even ask whether there were jobs available,” Mr Ahmed said.

As he continues his search for suitable employment, he has resorted to accepting any job offer, even if he is often overqualified for the role – but he has to make ends meet. “I have to put food on the table somehow. I have to pay rent. I have to survive,” he said.

Mr Ahmed said he made many friends over the years and while he felt he has integrated well within the Maltese society, he still experienced discrimination on a daily basis.

“Many people just look at me and see a migrant and nothing else. I go to the shops or wait for the bus and I can feel that I am not really accepted. When people take the time to talk to me and they learn about what I have been through, then they tell me that they admire me and they accept me.”

Mr Ahmed said that while he did feel discouraged at times, he would not be giving up and would keep sending in applications in the hope of finding a suitable job.

Source: Times of Malta
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