Kirk’s bank for migrants pays dividend for Malta

David Cameron refered to those hoping to cross into Europe as a 'swarm of people". Picture: Getty
David Cameron refered to those hoping to cross into Europe as a 'swarm of people". Picture: Getty
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A SCOTTISH volunteer working for a Kirk project in Malta has urged David Cameron to learn lessons from the pioneering methods being used to help asylum seekers.

David Lloyd, a retired chartered accountant with the Out of Africa Project in Valletta, criticised the Prime Minister’s use of the word “swarm” to describe migrants and said instead the UK could look at innovative ways of helping migrants get on their feet financially.

Lloyd said the church ran a “bank” – now worth over £100,000 – funded by donations from the Church of Scotland Guild. He said it an example of “people power” helping migrants become financially independent and was breaking down hostility from locals and politicians.

The project has been praised by former Maltese president George Abela as “ground- breaking and pioneering.”

Commenting on Mr Cameron’s remarks on the “swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean”, Lloyd said: “I’ve been watching what’s happening at Calais and think David Cameron’s comments have been wicked and horrible. I found the language he used so offensive and hurtful to people.

“Every single one of these migrants is a person with a names and life story. Putting a label on them means there are no life stories and is dehumanising,” said Lloyd, a former assistant director of finance for Fife Council.

Many of the 6,000 migrants who have settled in Malta (1.5 per cent of the island’s population of around 24,000) have been helped by the Kirk’s Malta Microfinance bank offering interest-free loans for rent, skills training, setting up businesses and college fees.

“There is still hostility and racism here from some people but by taking direct action we’ve let ordinary people in Malta see that migrants are real people just like them.”

Doug McRoberts, a former BBC Scotland news broadcaster, who set up the project, jointly run with the Methodist Church when he was the minister at St Andrew’s Scots Church in Valletta, said: “I don’t particularly want to get into a fight with David Cameron but I’m happy that thousands of people in Scotland and across the whole of the UK have raised money to help the migrants.

“This is people leading government, who are saying as individuals ‘this is what we want’. It’s ordinary people leading the way. Governments should be a function which assists society towards being itself.

“If the UK government would listen to what the Kirk is doing in Malta it would have a more rational and humanitarian approach.”

The Rt Revd Angus Morrison, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has spoken out on the migrant crisis.

Last week in a joint statement with church leaders he said: “To talk of those gathering at Calais as a ‘swarm’ encourages people to see those in desperation as less than human, and so less deserving of sympathy, respect or dignity.

“To incite fear that by offering the hand of friendship and welcome we may damage our own standard of living implies that British lives and well­-being are somehow more valuable than those of others.”