The Nationalist Party strategists have come up with a plan. Trailing Labour by some 40 points in the polls, the PN’s strategists want to turn the local council and European elections earmarked for May 2019 into an immigration battleground.
This, they believe, can help the party secure two out of the six European Parliament seats up for grabs and make some inroads in local council elections. Then, PN leader Adrian Delia can claim that he has done enough to stay on as leader and cement his place at tal-Pieta.
But his possible Pyrrhic victory might come at a bloody cost, for his incendiary speech about immigration could have very serious repercussions.
For the past year or so elections in Austria, Italy, Hungary, France, Sweden and Germany have been dominated by immigration as have European Council meetings in Brussels.
Europe is swinging to the far right and Delia and his strategists want to ride the wave of emotional xenophobia to consolidate their power within the PN.
On Sunday, Delia told a few PN supporters that poor and marginalised foreigners “are robbing the Maltese people of their liberty, making our elderly people feel scared in their own homes and our youths scared to walk the streets.”
In a feeble attempt to fit in his argument in the Maltese polarised political context, Delia blamed government for bringing in “more and more” foreigners, a move that he said “is eroding our values and our principles and is causing havoc with our Maltese identity.”
I wonder which Maltese identity he was speaking of. This is a nation which was for centuries ruled by foreigners and economically depended heavily on the presence of foreigners. Over the years the Maltese have made a killing, leeching off military personal stationed in Malta, tourists, and now, labourers.
While high-income foreign workers are welcomed with open arms, migrants who are abused by landowners and employers are seen as a threat.
The very same people who blame poor and marginalised third-country nationals for all the ills of the world are the probably the very same people who rent out substandard properties to migrants and employ third-country nationals illegally and pay them a pittance.
“Don’t be afraid to stand up for your Christian values, to show who you are and declare you are Maltese and Gozitan,” Delia said in Tarxien, where a few days earlier a group of Syrians were allegedly involved in a mass brawl.
Once again, what does it mean to stand up for Christian values? What does it mean to be Maltese and Gozitan? Beyond the language, fireworks and festas, there is nothing that makes us any different to other nations.
Delia is increasingly sounding like the US’ Donald Trump, Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
In his speech, Delia said: “If our country must welcome foreigners, then let us know who they are and where they’re coming from and let’s ensure that they don’t just come for a few months and leave, but that they integrate with us and want to become Maltese like us.”
Delia’s words are taken right from Trump’s playbook who addressing a rally in Phoenix, Arizona in August 2016.
Trump said: “These are valid concerns expressed by decent and patriotic citizens from all backgrounds, all over. We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. Sometimes it’s just not going to work out. It’s our right, as a sovereign nation to chose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.”
The foreigners, including EU nationals, who Delia said are threatening the Maltese identity care for our children, elderly and sick; they do jobs which the Maltese no longer want to do in construction and the hospitality sector; build our roads, drive buses, sweep our streets and line our pockets with undeclared cash.
As pointed out by Platform of Human Rights Organisations Malta (PHROM), Delia’s language was shocking, disgusting and abhorrent.
“Using inflammatory language and calling for affirmation of the Maltese identity, Delia accused non-Maltese nationals of instilling feelings of fear and insecurity, and ‘causing havoc’ with our Maltese identity,” PHROM said, adding that “this language is abhorrent as it is intended to generate hatred, discrimination, exclusion and violence, and has no place in Malta.”
Such divisive discourse does not bode well, and if Delia intends to follow in the footsteps of far-right politicians and organisations in Europe and the US, then he must also be ready to shoulder responsibility for any acts of violence or unrest as recently witnessed in Germany and other countries.
Delia is foolishly allowing Labour and Joseph Muscat to take the high-moral ground. For all his empty talk on cosmopolitanism, Muscat has done absolutely nothing to help third-country nationals.
Thousands of migrants and third-country nationals are denied their most basic human rights. Many are employed in inhumane conditions and paid poor wages, systematically denied residence and citizenship, given no option but to live in substandard properties or even worse in our streets and public gardens and denied access to free healthcare, pensions and social services despite paying taxes.
Yet, Muscat has done nothing to improve the living conditions of these workers and families who are sustaining his economic miracle.
Muscat is responsible for allowing thousands to live in the shadow of our greed, and Delia is responsible for fanning xenophobic and racist sentiments in defence of the very same greed.