Dr. Katrine Camilleri, a JRS lawyer in Malta, received the 2007 Nansen Refugee Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In receiving this prestigious award, Katrine said, "I hope that this award serves to draw attention to the suffering detention causes to thousands of innocent people in Malta and elsewhere and that it generates a real search for alternatives which respect people's dignity and rights."
Below she prayerfully describes her own experience of working with detainees and asylum seekers in Malta.
Asylum seekers in Malta are detained for long months in very tough conditions. As a lawyer, I offer them information, advice and legal assistance and I lobby for improved protection procedures. My work pitches me against the forces that shape government policy in the field of immigration. This has made me sharply aware of my powerlessness, that is, my true place in the larger scheme of things. It has brought home the painful realization that often there is little or nothing I can do to ease detainees’ suffering. This is hard to accept, so hard that at times I am tempted to give up, to turn away from the pain and to live more comfortably. Often, the only thing that keeps me going is the image of Mary at the foot of the cross. I am sure she must have been dying to tear Jesus off the cross, to do something for him, but she was helpless. The only thing she could do was to be there, so there she stayed, although it must have been the most difficult thing she ever had to do. Like Mary, being there is often all I can offer, and I have realized that this presence is precious. It has instilled in me a certainty that no matter how little my efforts may achieve, if they are part of God’s plan, some good will come out of them even if I never get to see it.
Scripture reading for prayer:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.