The Malta Independent 18 May 2022, Wednesday

Marsa mayor denies police raids related to upcoming residents’ march against migrant lawlessness

Helena Grech Thursday, 7 September 2017, 10:17 Last update: about 6 years ago

Marsa Mayor Francis Debono has flatly denied that Tuesday’s police raids around Marsa had anything to do with a march organised by residents to protest unlawful behaviour by many African migrants within the locality.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether the police had stepped up raids ahead of the ‘solidarity walk’ organised for 17 September, he said that “the council has for a number of months been in communication with the authorities and the ministry concerned, which for obvious reasons we did not make this known to the public. When it comes to safety and security, a certain level of discretion is necessary.”

Asked why police raids have been ramped up, he said:

“We aimed to have these kinds of raids for some time. The reasons are straightforward: many things that were happening in certain areas were not above board, and were not in line with the law.

“Ultimately, the situation is not sustainable, and in my opinion the police are doing a good thing which is having a positive effect.”

In recent weeks, media reports have surfaced on growing unrest in Marsa among migrants, with the president of the Police Officer’s Union uploading videos of certain migrants causing havoc and other residents complaining of public urination.


Debono does not commit to attending the residents' march

In light of the current situation, this newsroom asked Debono if he plans on attending the march.

“I need to see how things go. I express full solidarity with the people of Marsa, but I think we must be careful to ensure that this walk does not turn into some political protest or a racist protest. That would be a bad thing.

“One must analyse the circumstances of the day. I maintain that residents are justly concerned.”

Debono went on to describe how a lack of analysis only compounded the problem.

“What was wrong at the start of this situation is that when they set up the open centre in Marsa, the government of the day did not properly analyse and assess the impact this would have on the locality.”

Asked about whether he was referring to a proper integration plan, Debono said that he is not talking about integration as such, but rather about the lack of any in-depth analysis on the impact of concentrating so many migrants into Marsa via the open centre.


NGOs never ‘lifted a finger’ to help localities

He next took aim at the numerous NGOs who are vocal about the government accepting migrants and against repatriation, questioning why they have not lifted a finger to help the localities that are facing challenges on a day-to-day basis. Such help would ultimately benefit the migrants and the residents, he contended.

“What is really shameful, with all due respect, is how NGOs rallied to ensure that the irregular migrants coming to our shores were accepted, but they never bothered to offer their assistance to the localities experiencing the challenges.

“Up until four days ago, there was a barrage of lawyers in court waving papers around trying to ensure that the government of Malta does not take any action against illegal immigrants.

“On this outrage about the police raids, in my opinion, whoever has nothing to hide should not be scared of the police.

“Let me be clear: my issue is not about migrants entering our shores. My issue is with this lawlessness that has taken hold, the excessive drinking and rowdy behaviour in public, the harassment of members of the public because of excessive drinking and the generally lax attitude towards our laws.


Excessive drinking and double standards

 “Somebody tried to put forward an argument with me by asking if it was right that these people are targeted by police and asked for their papers. I say why not; after all, our laws oblige people to carry their ID card on them,” Debono exclaimed.

Presented with the argument that, on the surface, it appears as though irregular migrants from Eastern Europe, for instance from Serbia, are generally not stopped by police for identification documents, Debono said this is wrong. He continues by saying the authorities should ensure that everybody is in line with the law.

He accused establishments in the locality of Marsa, without naming any, of serving migrants vodka in bottles of soft drinks in an attempt to fool people.

“For example, if you are a parents and your child is going to Paceville, even if everything is fine there and in line with the law, there is still concern because it is an area of excessive drinking. In the same way, residents are concerned about these people who spend their entire day drinking in the area.”

He said that a second version of Paceville was emerging, with a different style.


Unintended consequences

“I appeal with the authorities to continue their good work until these unbridled abuses stop. I also appeal with the authorities to ensure that such problems do not spill over into other localities as a result of the work in Marsa.

“You may be tackling one area, but it is important to carry out a follow-up of the unintended consequences from such action.

“I’d like to make it clear that us Maltese are not racist. Over the past 15 years we have accepted migrants, taken care of them in that we have fed them and clothed them where we could. The people of Marsa accepted the open centre, but we reach our limit when faced with such lawlessness and certain abuse.”

Asked about the anger many experience at seeing everyday Maltese breaking the law – such as littering, or tables and chairs on pavements – but not facing any consequences for such action, Debono scowled and said the people who make such arguments have no idea about life in Marsa and never visit the locality.


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