To keep or not to keep … the refugees

World refugee day was last month and there has already been an excellent post on the topic. But in view of the very recent developments on our tiny, friendly Malta where we welcome everyone with open arms (provided they are fair skinned and, preferably, blue eyed), I thought another go at it would not go amiss.

I must admit life has been keeping me rather occupied lately and I have not been following the news on a regular basis. However, when yesterday at work, at home and in the evening everyone was discussing the whole sorry story of how the most recent lot of illegal immigrants were going to be sent back and Europe stepped in to stop it from happening, I had to go look up the news and catch up. You all know the details of the story so I won’t waste your time with it. Instead I’ll present you with two aspects of the lively discussions I was involved in yesterday.

As you’d expect there are those adamantly in favour of sending the refugees back. I am thankful to say that most of those I was with don’t want to send the refugees back because they are taking over Malta or because most of them are Muslim, but rather because Malta can’t cope with the influx and Europe is not doing much to help. But as one of us said – there are hundreds of Russians and Eastern Europeans in Malta, working in hotels and clubs and the like and nobody complains about them. Yes they have their paperwork all in order, but they are still here ‘taking the jobs of the Maltese’ as people are prone to say whenever the question of illegal immigrants crops up. Ah, but you see, someone said, the Russians and Eastern Europeans are fair skinned, and most of them have blue eyes, so they blend in and people simply admire their hair and eye colour. Sounds silly, but I bet those reading this blog who are about my age remember growing up in an environment where fair hair and blue eyes made you pretty and having unusually dark skin made you a ‘miskin’. At least in the villages down south it did. And this I believe is what it all boils down to. A number of us have racist tendencies, maybe drummed into us with all the history we learnt of how tiny Malta withstood the power of the Ottoman Empire. With the help of the Knights, of course, but we don’t boast of the Knights, we boast of the courageous Maltese fighting the dreadful Turk. And so we have an ingrained anti-semitic streak that at times is difficult to overcome.

As the previous blogger said, these people have gone through hell to cross Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Sea to land here, with the very real risk of dying in the process. No one would pass through hell unless desperately trying to escape from hell. And what do these people have to look forward to? Some of them are doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers … and they come here to first be locked away in a detention camp and then, when let out, they can look forward to a future of work as refuse collectors, street sweepers, builders, painters … all for the glorious income of a few Euros. A salary which no Maltese would accept for jobs which many Maltese don’t want to do.

4 thoughts on “To keep or not to keep … the refugees

  • Reply chantelle mifsud 15th July 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Unfortunately that how it is .

    They tend to ignore the thousands of migrants that have been working here for years. I don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to work here at all. What I have a problem with is the idea that these people are taking those jobs that no one wants to do. So let them have it . No, These people are being exploited by restaurant owners , construction companies ,etc and the authorities knows about it .

    Minuta , rosienne if he or she is a lawyer and studied Nigerian law for instance you can’t work in maltese courts, if you’re a teacher in Africa you cannot be a teacher in Malta. You’re assuming that there’s a universal standard. Maybe your point is that educated people should get an appropriate job.

    But how many engineers and teachers are you talking about? , and what;s wrong in one sweeping the streets until one finds a career? at least they have a job . Exploitation is what needs to be concerned and not the Job. Are we aware that fast food companies in Malta pay 4.40 euro per hour , is it that also horrible?


    I really enjoyed myself reading it 🙂

  • Reply Angelo Abela 16th July 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I am really annoyed by the kind of generalized statements you make in this post. ‘there are hundreds of Russians and Eastern Europeans in Malta, working in hotels and clubs and the like and nobody complains about them’ If they are working here legally I have no problem with them. With illegal immigrants the solution is simple. Send them back – whether its a beautiful young girl from Bulgaria or a middle aged man from Nigeria. If they are here illegally then they should be moved out of the country asap whether they are fair skinned, dark skinned, fat, thin, ugly or beautiful.

    The situation of illegal immigrants is quite different to that of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers stop be illegal the moment they get refugee status. And herein lies the problem. While the government can control how many visas are given out for foreigners to temporarily work in Malta it is impossible to control how many are given refugee status. Despite this there still exists a limit on how many people Malta can accommodate at a time and that is the crux of the issue. How can the EU help with this?

    My problem with your post is that futile comparisons of illegal immigrants coming in by boat to seek asylum with other immigrants who maybe come here legally but end up staying illegally only serves to confuse people on a matter which is already extremely complex in and of itself. They may seem similar but we have a straight solution for illegal immigrants but still struggling to deal with genuine refugees.

  • Reply Rosienne Farrugia 18th July 2013 at 9:15 am

    The main problem does not lie with evaluating a person’s request for asylum and granting said asylum (and refugee status) if it is warranted. The main problem is the mindset of a number of people who just want the refugees gone at any cost and regardless of the circumstances.

    Refusing to evaluate a person’s situation and sending them back where they came from, would be a problem as it amounts to denying a person’s basic human rights. I am not an expert but logic tell me there are at least 2 ways forward:
    1) Either integrate said people within the society – meaning give them the opportunity to work with exactly the same rights and obligations as other regular workers so that they will not be a burden on the country, they will not be exploited at the expense of other regular workers, and they contribute to social security, taxes etc. This will also give them the opportunity to get the best job they can. There is nothing wrong with sweeping the streets until you can get your ideal job provided you have the opportunity to compete for said job.
    2) Or push Europe for proper burden sharing. Yes, Europe can help. Not just by pouring money into the situation. Europe can, and should help, by sharing the burden of integrating asylum seekers. Here in Malta a a few thousand refugees have a big impact on a population of less than half a million, but amongst the millions in all the European countries collectively, a few thousands will be like a somewhat big drop in the ocean.

    • Reply Angelo Abela 1st August 2013 at 8:00 am

      I can definitely agree with those two points. Just wanted to make it clear that comparing illegal migrants (who come in all colors) and asylum seekers (who are mostly dark skinned) can be misleading and does not give any weight to the argument you were making in the original post.

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