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Who belongs in Malta?

Soon after Malta’s first racially-motivated murder, far-right Party Imperium Europa is established as the third largest Party. What does that say about Malta?

The drive-by shooting of three migrants shows us that Malta is “a safe place”. At least according to Joseph Muscat.

After two serving members of the Armed Forces were arrested in connection with the murder of Lassana Cisse Souleymane, Muscat rushed to the press and said, “The conclusion of this investigation shows that Malta is a safe place for everyone”.

The closing line of Muscat’s statement, “In our country, everyone is required to follow the law”, would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting.

The Prime Minister’s strange ability to foresee the outcome of events and their meaning is remarkable. Especially considering his complete unwillingness to make a similar statement on magisterial inquiries into the shady dealings of his closest associates Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna.

The murder trial hasn’t even started yet, and Muscat has already concluded that Malta is perfectly safe. But in cases involving dirty money, we’re told, “Wait for the conclusions of the inquiry.”

The two other migrants who were shot in this incident, Bah Ibrahim and Mohammed Diallo, have a different opinion. They’ve told reporters they’re too scared to leave their rooms or to speak to lawyers.

Who could blame them, given reports of two earlier hit-and-run incidents near the Ħal Far Open Centre? Flags with far-right symbols have also been raised anonymously in this area, and migrants are regular targets for racial slurs and stones.

Malta doesn’t seem very safe for those hard-working migrants who keep falling to their deaths on Maltese construction sites, either. Akram al-Mashay was the most visible example, his death having been filmed and posted online by callous bystanders. But there have been many others.

Are non-white migrants seen as nothing more than a disposable source of cheap labour for the Maltese construction industry, and an exploitable source of sex workers for the island’s massage parlours?

Let’s take a moment to examine some of the other things Joseph Muscat has told us with regard to non-white migrants in Malta. We’ll set aside the issue of paying migrants for the moment — those who pay large amounts of money to buy a Maltese (European Union) passport because they are welcome without reservation.

The Prime Minister tried to paint himself as the picture of pro-migrant tolerance in the immediate aftermath of Malta’s first racially-motivated killing, appearing at a Labour Party gathering with Thea Mizzi, a 14-year old Maltese citizen who was adopted from Ethiopia.

But just weeks earlier, during a TV debate, Muscat said, “if I had a choice, I would want the Maltese to be working in skilled jobs as managers, doctors and teachers, and foreigners to work in the jobs that require long days in the sun and pick up rubbish from the streets”. The Prime Minister also told his followers that their pensions depend on bringing in more foreigners, as though they exist simply to pay for the lifestyles of so-called native Maltese.

Muscat isn’t alone in his attitude towards newcomers who hope to make the island their home. Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has also gone on record in recent months with unflattering remarks about foreigners, whose incoming hordes are apparently “eroding our values and our principles” and “causing havoc with our Maltese identity”. He urged his followers to “stand up for your Christian values, show who you are and declare you are Maltese and Gozitan.” 

I wonder what Christian values are being expressed on newspaper comment boards with phrases like, “Send them back” or “Let them drown”?

In the meantime, Lorin Scicluna and Francesco Fenech have been arrested, and everyone’s supposed to pretend it’s case closed.

Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia — the man apparently responsible for the Armed Forces — has quickly washed his hands of any responsibility for Lassana Cisse Souleymane’s death. “The responsibility falls on the people who committed the crime,” he said, as though anyone were accusing the Minister himself of murder.

“If I had tried to cover up for what they had done,” he continued, “I would have been politically responsible.”

What exactly is that supposed to mean? And what would have to happen, barring a cover up by him personally, to make the Minister politically accountable for anything that happens within the Ministry he apparently controls?

The Armed Forces were taken over by Labour Party sympathisers early in the reign of Muscat, with the current AFM head, Jeffrey Curmi, being given an astonishing four promotions in less than a year.

Curmi is either a military prodigy of Napoleonic abilities, Malta’s very own von Clauswitz, or there’s something seriously wrong with the state of the Armed Forces. And that is Minister Farrugia’s responsibility, regardless of how hard he tries to distance himself from it while keeping a firm grip on his Ministerial salary and perks.

Malta’s Armed Forces remain the first point of contact for so many migrants and refugees fleeing terrible conditions in their home countries. It’s essential to establish whether these two soldiers were isolated extremists, or whether racial hatred has been normalised.

This soul searching cannot stop with the Armed Forces. Normal Lowell’s far-right Imperium Europa is now the third largest Party in Malta. The rising tide of nationalist sentiment in the country raises important questions that need to be answered.

Can an outsider who is “not Maltese” ever truly be accepted and integrated into Maltese society?

What role do Maltese people want immigrants to play in their culture? Can they be Maltese, or are they just a source of cheap labour to be exploited in the case of African immigrants, and an open wallet to be cheated, ripped off and fleeced on the part of immigrants with money?

These issues are not going away. Sweeping them under the rug of denial will only allow them to fester.

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