The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

TMID Editorial: Migration - Solutions, not racist talk

Saturday, 12 September 2020, 09:07 Last update: about 4 months ago

Summer is almost over, yet the European Union has done practically nothing to help countries like Malta and Italy on the migration issue.

Despite all the talk of European solidarity and of fighting human traffickers at the source, migration remains a burden on a number of Mediterranean countries, a burden that is made heavier by the Covid-19 pandemic. And the usual group of Member States have once again been left to fend on their own.

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Europe, it seems, is not interested in helping Malta, Italy, Greece and other countries affected by the crisis. Europe seems to think that our geographically unfortunate position is our problem, and ours alone.

Speaking at a Summit in Corsica on Thursday, Prime Minister Robert Abela once again appealed to the EU to work on this issue in a holistic manner, and to implement the agreements that had been reached months ago. The crisis cannot continue to be tackled boat by boat, he said.

Abela is right on this one. The EU cannot keep ignoring the problem and deal with migrant rescues on an individual level. And, let’s face it, the EU has not been particularly successful in tackling migrant standoffs. There have been several cases where migrants were left stranded on ships for weeks and months. And when a solution was reached, it was only thanks to the goodwill of a few Member States, usually countries which are themselves affected by migration. How often have we heard of Northern states offering to help their Southern neighbours?

The EU has often talked about cooperating with Libya, Abela said, but not much is being done in concrete terms. The EU is supposed to work as a group, and it does so on many issues, but if it keeps closing an eye on the migration issue and abandon countries like Malta, people will lose faith in the European system. Many already have.

But there are other factors at play here. Factors that are determined by how politicians deal with migration locally. The government, for example, has employed a very questionable method of keeping migrants on ships anchored offshore. And millions from our taxes have been used to fund this practice. It seems to be a way of appeasing certain people: rescue these people as per international laws and obligations but then put them somewhere where they are ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Civil society NGOs have called on the government to stop this practice, but it seems that things will not be changing anytime soon.

Then there is the Leader of the Opposition, Adrian Delia, who, in a bid to cling on to his seat has again resorted to anti-foreigner rhetoric. Delia says that he is speaking about security, not migration, but whichever way he puts it, his discourse is fanning the flames of racism.

Delia keeps speaking about the ghettoization of Malta, and the influx of foreign workers – the ‘us and them’ mentality.

Unfortunately, such populist talk goes down well with many people in Malta. People, it seems, who do not consider how essential these workers are for our economy and the lifestyle we have become accustomed to.

The catering, entertainment and transport industries, among other, are practically manned by foreign nationals. You cannot take a peep out of a window nowadays without seeing foreign food delivery bike drivers whizzing by. People often speak out against this influx without actually considering the fact that, without these workers, the economy would probably crash and many of the services we use daily and take for granted would stop.

Rescued migrants and foreign workers are, of course, two very different subjects, but the fear of foreigners is not. In view of the lack of help by the EU when it comes to migration, fanning racist flames is the worst thing one can do. It can only lead to social strife.

Migration is an issue that will not go away and we have to learn to live with it. So we might as well work on solutions. If we do not want ghettos, we should find a way of helping foreign workers, who have become part of our society, to integrate more. If Malta is overcrowded and cannot take in any more people, rescued migrants who are granted asylum can be trained to perform certain essential jobs for which there is a demand.

Griping about migration alone will get us nowhere. We need to be creative and learn to live with this reality which, at the end of the day, is not something new for Malta.

 

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