SME Chamber

Our very Own Inconvenient Truth

Vince Farrugia

We had better face this issue. No one in his right senses wants to deny help to those less fortunate than we are, but no one wants to see our little Islands impossibly burdened  with a  growing immigrant population. It isn't that we are all racists or bigots. It's just that we all know in our heart of hearts  that a densly populated country like ours simply cannot just have the same immigration policy as other much larger countries. Our limit is there, whatever anyone says.   And we're not referring only to Africans, though these seem to be the major concern of most Maltese. Malta has tens of thousands of immigrants who have moved in our country in one way or another. They come from all over the world, East Europeans, Chinese, Philippines, Bangladeshis, Indians, Arabs, Russians, Pakistanis and yes, many, many Africans.


They are simply everywhere. Some are not so visible but, alas, many others are. Some work diligently and are no nuisance to anybody, others are packed 10, to 20 in one small apartment with no sense of hygiene, health and safety standards or any respect for their  neighbours or the surrounding environment. Some are becoming a real threat. They create difficult situations in streets, in bars, in petrol stations, in shops. They have been led to think we have some obligation towards them. They order goods from shops, from petrol stations, from bars, and if the bill reaches to levels beyond what they have in their pocket, they simply say ‘no money' and expect to walk out…..with the goods. Before the shop owner opens his mouth out comes the mobile phone, a number is dialled and suddenly the shop owner has a mob in his place. These things have happened, and its thanks to the tact of our police force that potentially ugly situations have been defused in time.


This is Malta Right Now in 2009. And one can't really challenge or protest the status quo, not even in a rational way, because he is quickly labelled as a bigot or a racist quicker than you can say the word. Some people have left no room for discussing the issue, and its these extremist for and against views that are most harmful . That's why people are worried. You walk certain streets in certain localities and believe you're in Africa or Asia. Most of us, luckily, do not see this because we do not live in the effected areas. But the problem is there and it's growing day by the day with every boatload that comes in. So what do we do? Shall we turn it into another political Punch and Judy show with one politician hitting the other while we all stare in disbelief. People want decisive action. They don't want T.V theatrics. Are the Nationalist to blame? Is Labour right in blaming the Government? What are we going to do? Do we have a solution? People simply don't care whether it's Lawrence Gonzi or Joseph Muscat has the right solution. They want a solution….. period, but one that is broadly acceptable to all. Above all, the people want the rule of law to prevail, for anyone, be it Maltese, Somali, British, or whoever.  


I don't believe government is to blame. I talk to Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, to Minister Dalli and to the Prime Minister and to Army senior personnel and know they are doing their best to get the European Union to recognize the terrible mess we're being allowed to sink in. Is their best good enough? Maybe it's not good enough. We would have a solution by now if it were. I'm not sure from meetings I've been through that anyone has a firm solution, and to be honest, I don't think the problem will solve itself if some of the solutions being touted are implemented Our geographical position has seen to that.


I'm not sure we even have the right dimension of the problem. My reckoning ,and I am a person who is in daily contact with many localities and with many people, is that the size of the problem is much bigger than the authorities would have us  to believe. It is a visible problem. So am I and many others  possibly wrong?. One only has to look at the buses coming and going from certain localities to know that it is a very evident and growing problem.


People do not care whether it's the Nationalist or Labour that have the solutions. They want our politicians to came together and face the problem together. If Joseph Muscat has ideas how to solve the problem, then people expect him to go to the Prime Minister and offer his help. People are not impressed who the Leader of the Opposition attacks, just to gain political kudos but in the end  offers no solution. Saying we have a problem and stopping there is not good enough. It would make more sense if Prime Minister and the Leader  of the Opposition go together to Barroso or whoever can do something  and for once speak together for all the Maltese. This is not a petty issue where one politician takes points off the other. It is not just another election campaign issue. For once let's grow up and face the truth. And politicians young and old should steer away from building on people's prejudices. This can become dirty and dangerous. Let's be all mature and manage this menace professionally. We need to be united as mature Maltese here, not a larger version of village festa rivalry Maltese. 


But this is hard nut  to crack. Politicians who think they have an easy solution to the immigration issue may be living in cookoo land. We're a small country. We have little power to bargain and even less to impose on the likes of France, Britain, Italy or Germany, who have a larger land area, more resources but an even larger problem. It is wishful thinking to believe that we can force these countries to come to help us. There is no Nationalist or Labour politician big enough to bully any German Chancellor or any French President. It is better for the sake of all of us that Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat stop pretending. They should come together. Agree to address the problem together and work for a solution together. While they bicker, the problem grows bigger.


All of those in the bars, at the workplace, in the media, who think they have solutions, should stop dreaming. I think I've heard most of these solutions. I have not heard one that makes sense. The truth is we have a large extension of sea out there. The Libyans literally wait for the boat people to leave their waters and enter our waters while the Italians wait for the winds to change so that they move back in our waters. When nothing else happens and the boat people are in danger our maritime squad, professional solders that they are, act to save lives. Our little "navy" cannot simply leave human beings perish. Its human beings we're talking about. Some of them may be crooks and vagabonds, but the majority are simple folks seeking a life out of misery. And say what you may, our navy has never shirked its responsibilities to their fellow man.


But boy, are we paying a high price for doing what is right even though we have no obligationexcept a christian, human moral one. The Maltese never colonised anywhere. We've never exploited anyone from any African nation. We should have been the last to have paid a price for the misdeeds of many other Europeans, for the price we are paying is for the sins of the colonial past of our neighbours.. The French, the Italians, the British, the Dutch, the Germans, they all had their share of exploiting Africa.they all made millions out of Africa. We didn't.


The immigration issue is like a time-bomb. Our leaders must lead responsibly and must act and be seen to act. Together for once.


How easy it is to make a political band wagon out of this tragedy. And how cheap.

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