Navigating Trust and Distrust in the Refugee Community in Malta

Luisa Gandolfo* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article considers how social trust is constructed in the refugee community of Malta, against the backdrop of ongoing and recurrent unrest in Libya. As social trust is re-evaluated, social spaces have become sites of tension where divisions re-emerge along political, ideological, and economic lines. By focusing on the Libyan diaspora, the article presents an insight into the ways that conflict trauma is expressed, and considers the challenges faced by civil society organisations and government bodies in their efforts to facilitate psychosocial support and community-building on the island. The article is based on 14 interviews conducted in 2015 with members of the Libyan diaspora, and Maltese civil society organisations and government bodies. The interviewees discussed the multifaceted aspects of trust-building, including the legacy of 40 years of political distrust during the regime of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, regional affiliations and divisions, and the continuum of trauma that unfolds in the Maltese Open Centres and in the host community. The findings of the study indicate that there are additional structural impediments that extend beyond the ongoing conflict, including the Maltese detention process, the redrawing of political boundaries around social spaces in the towns, and the role of identity, which present determining factors in the building of social trust. Collectively, these aspects hold stark implications for integration into the diaspora community on the island, while in the long-term, individual recovery from conflict trauma is intrinsically dependent on the trust-networks that are constructed, or joined, by the refugees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61–83
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of International Migration and Integration
Early online date1 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Libya
  • Malta
  • refugees
  • trust
  • conflict


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