The Malta Independent 26 September 2017, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Migrants hit by NIMBY

Tuesday, 12 September 2017, 09:40 Last update: about 14 days ago

As soon as preparations were at hand to shift the residents of the Marsa Open Centre to Hal Far, a commitment of the Labour Party electoral manifesto, the residents of Birzebbuga rose in protest.

Not In Our Back Yard (NIMBY) they seemed to say.

Who can blame them? Hal Far already houses a whole expanse of container-huts where migrants live. One can see them anytime one ventures on the Hal Far to the airport road. But then, fewer people pass that way than pass on the busy Aldo Moro highway at Marsa. Any time one catches a bus to Birzebbuga, one finds oneself in a bus with a substantial migrant presence. Sometimes the presence is overwhelming.

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Now the government has announced a temporary stay to the move until things are thought out better.

It seems to us there is really no other alternative possible.

As we said last week, the people of Marsa are right to protest against the presence of the Open Centre and the police are right to enforce the law for all, not just the migrants.

But relocating the Open Centre and increasing police presence are two temporary measures that the authorities can take.

As we said last week, the issue must be tackled at root level – the influx of migrants from Italy with just a temporary paper which soon expires must be stopped. The number of migrants must be stabilized. We cannot have an open door policy that does not even know who and how many are being let in. There we were: we were thinking we have been rather fortunate in that boat people seem to have stopped coming to Malta, only to find out they were coming from the North rather than from the South.

Next, in order of importance, in our eyes at least: the government must step in and stop the inhuman business of amassing migrants in apartments, as is being done on quite a large scale. The mostly Maltese landlords must be checked and co0ntrolled and made to face up to their actions and their consequences. There have even been cases of people sleeping rough or in stables with horses.

Concurrently, unhygienic practices must be stamped on. There were reports of illegal abattoirs operating from basements with no hygiene safeguards at all.

But action must be proactive, not just reactive.  A lot of good work is being done by voluntary organisations, acting spontaneously. The migrants must be taught and encouraged to study. Now that they are living in Malta they must try and understand the culture of the country that is hoisting them. Hopefully they will emerge from their enclaves where they meet only fellow migrants, speak their own language and live parallel lives as if they are not living in Malta at all.

Fortunately, their children now attend Maltese schools and mix with Maltese children, thus getting a smattering of Maltese and/or English.

It is important we learn from other countries and see how they do it. Germany, for instance, which took in around one million of refugees, is going about their integration in a Germanic, that is, organized, manner. And German is such a difficult language to learn.

At the same time, one must be patient – first of all these people have suffered so much just to be here. They must be given time to start learning and assimilating.

But at the same time, such people must not abuse of the Maltese charity and helpfulness. It is sad to come to know how many migrants are taking to drink and petty criminality. The courts must be firmer with all those who break the law, whatever their nationality. And if they do not change their ways, well then they should be deported to their country of origin or where they came from.

 

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