20 June, 2014

MALTA… THE ISLAND OF HOPE ?

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Category: Country review, Discrimination, European Action Day, Refugees
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MALTA

Written by Marthese Formosa (21 years old, Malta)

In the last decade or so, Malta has seen an influx of irregular migration mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. Sometimes people call them ‘illegal’. They certainly do not realize or care to realize that the UN recognizes the fact that not everyone can have documentation and travel in a regular manner. Once they are intercepted and documents are filled out, they are no longer ‘irregular’.  Sometimes countries do not keep records and without a passport it is obvious you cannot travel regularly that way. Other times, visa and other restrictions especially for work by European countries are so great that even if migrants can afford the flight, they cannot travel regularly.

Most of all, I fear that many Maltese have closed not only their hearts but their eyes to suffering. No one in their right mind that has an OK life would ever go through a migratory route. People do not seem to understand that to come to Europe, everyone that is pushed into a situation where they have to flee, have to cross deserts and go into North African countries where most of the time they are persecuted and then get on a boat that probably should not be even allowed on sea. A lot die on the way. We call it a tragedy and we forget that what we do to them here is a tragedy. Locking them up for 18 months, which is definitely more than the time needed for security clearance in most cases.

You hear people say: they are ungrateful, because they start riots in detention. Without them realizing or even wanting to realize that that riot was probably because something happed: someone tried to commit suicide because of lack of dignity in conditions inside detention, someone was not granted legal access when they should have and so on. We also say they take ‘our’ money. Without realizing that if they were allowed to work from the beginning, they would and they would pay taxes. As soon as they are out of detentions, they search for jobs and they do pay taxes if their employer allows them!

The current economic tensions are always blamed on the ‘external’ factor. Diverse people are grouped together: people fleeing because of war, because of poverty, because of persecution, those fleeing for economic reasons or political, those fleeing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, Muslims, Christians, atheists, people from different countries and people with different identities. They are grouped and labelled ‘the other’. It is so much easier to blame the other, rather than to take collective responsibility or blame the proper decision makers who we should be the watchdog of. If there are economic tensions, it probably is not because of migrants: why do wages not rise proportionally along with inflation? Why do product prices keep rising?

If there is social tension because we fear that this ‘other’ is going to stampede all over our ‘culture’, I ask, what is our culture? Malta is a mix, so why do we close off to other ingredients? We say we are a ‘generous nation’. Yeah, for money for big causes! We are not generous when it counts! Some people may be, but the comments you hear everyday are so extremely racist and xenophobic that you find yourself thinking ‘I see how generous you are, dear I’m not racist but…’

However, I think there is hope. Once on a bus I heard a conversation that went along those lines:

-They are taking our jobs!

-I agree! Although not many Maltese want to do those jobs, but you are right!

-I cannot stand them! Apart from that sweeper we had, he was nice

-He did a great job! Everyone loved him

-Yeah and what about that…

This conversation made me realize that many speak because others do. Many insult because others insult as well. But they try to protect the people they have personally met. And this is my point: they are people too, we are all humans. Some humans are great, some are OK and others should not even be called human. It does not depend on your migration/national status. And I wish my country would realize this and open their eyes and hearts.


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