The number of foreigners coming to live in Malta has been on a constant increase in the past decade, reaching 43,000 in 2018 (which is about 9% of the total population). This significant increase has led to the escalation of tensions between the local communities and the foreigners.
With most of the newcomers hailing from other European Union member states, a sizeable portion of them are coming from non-EU European countries as well as others outside of the EU altogether. These would include countries such as Serbia, Ukraine and Russia. African countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria, as well as Asian countries such as China, the Philippines and India.
A foreigner might find it quite difficult to befriend the local Maltese communities. This is mostly owing to the fact that the differences created by the foreigners, such as not willing to learn the local language or criticizing certain issues in Malta, which lots of Maltese people despise and reply with phrases “Go back to your country!” or similar. This can be contributed to the centuries of occupation of the Maltese islands by foreign powers; Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, French and the British, which has affected the mindset of the locals. This would lead to an unwillingness on the part of the Maltese to trust these people. As a result integration becomes much less likely to happen since the disintegration of trust is accompanied by the formation of new micro-communities by those who find no place for themselves in the local ones.
A recent survey from Malta Today found out that 41.2% of Maltese fear that asylum seekers and foreign workers are “invading us”, with reasons ranging from possible increase in crime, loss of culture and the ‘taking away’ of jobs from locals.
There might also be the stereotype that many foreigners are here only for a temporary period of time. This belief stops Maltese people from trying to form any meaningful relationships based on mutual understandings with the foreigners since in their eyes, it would be a futile and short lived attempt. This would further lead to a lack of trust and respect on both sides.
Another source of this problem could be the question of language. Foreign workers might not be willing to learn Maltese, as since English is one of the official languages in Malta, simply learning English would be enough. The mindset that Maltese as a learning language is unnecessary for these people could therefore be a contributing factor to the rising of tensions.