Front page.

Editorial | Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Jumping on the bandwagon

Recent weeks have ushered in a worrying new political development, with different parties now engaged in a conspicuous bid to court and attract the anti-immigrant vote.
Last week, Opposition leader Joseph Muscat challenged the government to a parliamentary debate about immigration, referring to the phenomenon in excessively alarmist tones which were clearly aimed at consciously echoing – and, if necessary, amplifying – the concerns of the common citizen.
As if on cue, AN leader Josie Muscat regaled us with 10 proposals to deal with the issue. Under scrutiny, however, it turns that none of these proposals is realistically feasible, and most are in fact illegal.
And just to add to the overall impression of a political class greedily lapping up the issue to make personal headway with the electorate, Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando (who, lest we forget, has much to atone for since the March 8 election) now muscles into the fray... echoing the Opposition leader with a call for “something to be done”, without clearly specifying what.
In a sense, it was a predictable development, and the only real surprise is that it took so long to come to the forefront. However, the issue has now been well and truly politicised, and we can only expect the current inflammatory rhetoric to descend into mass hysteria as the June EP elections draw nearer... at a time when the “immigration season” is usually at its peak.
On one point at least, all parties are in agreement: something needs to be done, as much about the unsustainable influx of people, as about the unscrupulous band of organised criminals that is clearly exploiting the situation for financial gain.
But something must also be done about the growing levels of xenophobia and mass hysteria our country is witnessing; and rather than address these issues, our politicians (with the possible exception of Dr Gonzi himself, who has shown considerable restraint in this regard) seem to be more interested in fanning the flames for their own advantage.
If we are to be serious about this issue, the first step is to acknowledge that the Maltese reality is changing, in step with the global forces which have provoked this mass-abandonment of Africa to begin with. From this perspective, any proposal that takes into account that a return to a “pre-migration era” – as advocated by AN and other crackpot organisations – is clearly not a realistic option.
Migration is a vast and complex issue, and no matter what the outcome of this current phase in Mediterranean history, Malta will almost certainly become home to a minority of residents of African origin... whether the rest of the population likes the idea or not.
So when it comes to solutions, the concerned citizen would do well to remember that, no matter what a political party promises before an election, its actions once in government will be dictated by the same prevailing political conditions and enacted within the same context of international law.
In a few words, any approach to the problem must be taken within the parameters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which incidentally is transposed in its totality in the Constitution) and within the framework of EU membership.
Therefore, talk of “suspending international obligations” – for instance, withdrawing from Dublin II or the Geneva convention, or worse still of shooting immigrants at sea, or locking them up indefinitely – are for the same reasons inapplicable under the present reality, and utterly unacceptable in the context of a civilised country.
This does not, however, mean that Malta has no bargaining chips whatsoever. Rather than concentrate on Dublin II, the government might wish to re-interpret other relevant international protocols to our advantage, in the same way as other Mediterreanean countries have already done to theirs.
It is an open secret among observers of migration that Eurodac – the protocol by which all migrants are fingerprinted upon entry – is routinely ignored by (among others) Greece and Italy: the significance being that these same migrants cannot afterwards be traced to their first point of entry into the EU (which, as Dublin II makes clear, is where they will otherwise have to remain).
If Malta were to put its foot down and refuse to apply Eurodac entirely – something which falls well within the criteria established above, as indiscriminate fingerprinting is itself questionable from a human rights perspective – it would send a powerful message to the rest of Europe: that we are not content with our current status as the EU’s “waiting room”, and that the same EU must do more about the issue if it intends to maintain Malta as a convenient border check-point.
The second issue where Malta can make a striking difference is in a rapprochement with Libya.
With the exception of recent arrivals from Tunisia, Libya remains the single largest “exporter” (so to speak) of irregular immigrants. Ghaddafi’s own bargaining chip with the rest of Europe seems to lay in his country’s negligible attitude towards the control of its borders. The impression that criminal organisations are left to their own devices and allowed to continue this unacceptable human trafficking is clearly visible. We question whether government has been able to make significant advances in developing a relationship with Libya to ensure more cooperation on its part on migration.
To leave the debate up to the scaremongering forces of this country is an unacceptable and dangerous outcome for a people that is trying to get to grips with this inevitable phenomenon.


Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download front page in pdf file format


All the interviews from Reporter on MaltaToday's YouTube channel.


Jumping on the bandwagon


Harry Vassallo

Alan Deidun for MEP

Anna Mallia

The Euro fat cats

A taste of Ebba’s sketches
Currently NUVO art & dine is exhibiting the first commemorative exhibition of Ebba von Fersen Balzan organised by her husband Saviour Balzan and Nuvo.

An honorary Maltese, a visionary artist
Artists, art critics and friends unanimously gather to remember the impact and value of Ebba von Fersen Balzan’s work and her strong connection with the Maltese islands


The Julian Manduca Award

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email