The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Marsa and à la carte enforcement

Thursday, 29 September 2022, 10:44 Last update: about 3 months ago

Over the past few weeks we have seen something of a clampdown on people living illegally in Malta.

The police have carried out a number of raids in varying localities which resulted in tens of arrests which will no doubt result in deportations for the people living illegally in the country.

This work is not the subject matter of this editorial: whoever is living illegally in the country must face justice accordingly.

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However, one thing stuck out from the raids of these past weeks: enforcement action taken outside two Marsa bars – Tiger Bar and Tavern Takeout – which are popular hangouts amongst African migrants which saw the removal of illegal structures and tables and chairs which had been placed there without a permit.

A big deal was made out of the action: police were present, and a large wheel loader was brought to the site to make a show of removing the structures.  Labour media house ONE News was also coincidentally on the scene to report what was happening before everyone else.

Let’s get a point straight: what is illegal, is illegal – that should be the starting principle.  So to criticise the act of removing any illegal structure in and of itself is not warranted, because after all the authorities are simply doing their job in that sense.

What is worthy of further questions however, is to ask why such dramatic action has never been taken against establishments elsewhere.

Why have we never seen large demolition machinery making its way down the streets of Valletta or the promenades of Sliema or Marsascala to remove the tables and chairs which are illegally taking up public space over there?

Why has this dramatic show only been reserved for a couple of establishments in Marsa which are synonymous hangouts for the migrant community?  Why haven’t establishments run by Maltese people which are committing the same illegalities not been subject to this enforcement?

Enforcement is effective not when it is done as a one-off, with the cameras coincidentally rolling as it happens. That’s not real enforcement: that’s a drama show. That’s two weights, two measures. 

Real enforcement is equal across the board, not à la carte. If something is illegal, then it is illegal – irrelevant of where it is, of who does it, and of who the owner is and where they come from.

We have seen a number of cases where establishments around the country, but particularly on promenades or in pedestrianized streets such as in Valletta, have left public areas riddled with tables and chairs which shouldn’t be there. We’ve seen complaints about those that are legal by the public for the takeup of pedestrian walking spaces, and we’ve even seen such structures being made to be removed through threats of enforcement, but when have we ever seen such a show?

When such structures or tables and chairs are placed illegally, they are placed in the hope nobody will realise, and when somebody does an enforcement notice is issued. Some simply apply for the illegality to be sanctioned, and continue to operate as normal, allowed to do so in an unfettered manner. No demolition machinery to pick up the tables and chairs there, oh no.

As things stand, the action taken in Marsa raises eyebrows when compared to the action - or lack thereof - taken elsewhere.

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