Migration has been a hot topic on the Maltese Islands for the last decade due to the ever increasing number of war terrors, the severe lack of local opportunities and the lack of hope for a better life that plagues a great number of countries in Africa and the Middle East. As a result, thousands of refugees have crossed the Mediterranean Sea in act of desperation to get away from the ongoing fighting and start a new life elsewhere – and they typically target mainland Europe or Mediterranean islands like Malta.
Even though Malta has seen much less people (in terms of quantity) come over illegally, due to its size, it is struggling to inhabit any more.
Malta is currently the 9th most densely populated country in the world and the relatively high influx of incoming refugees is not helping the very urbanized country.
This has been causing racial tensions and nationalism to rise in society over the time. Some believe this was proven evident through the results of the last MEP elections in 2019, where Imperium Europa, led by Norman Lowell, attained 3.59% of the popular vote. This made them Malta’s 3rd largest political party behind political giants PN and PL.
Entering migrants are dispersed into migrant centres on arrival and are isolated from the rest of the Maltese citizens through these living quarters.
Unfortunately, locals are generally failing to display any sort of empathy and sympathy towards these immigrants whenever a story about their peril pops up in the news.
While stories regarding migrant boats floating nearer to our shores are frequently flooded with angry Maltese commenting terms such as “go back to your country”, “let them drown at sea” and “we are full up!”, stories regarding havoc being caused in our own migrant centres seem to go relatively unnoticed or even ignored in comparison.
Robert Abela, Malta’s current Prime Minister, ensured this position immediately with newly elected opposition leader Bernard Grech. Right after congratulating him on his victory, he told him:
“The message is: the country is full up. And if we are not sending this message, then we have failed. The country is full up and cannot stand anymore pressure from migration…These people need to be repatriated”
Locals who live nearby to these centres have informed us that they commonly hear screaming and protests coming from these centres. The sound of people screaming for help has grown typical around that area was among the reasons why locals called it a concentration camp when talking to us.
That brings up the question; why are they yelling and continuously protesting if we gave them free living centres?
Below lies a list of a large sample of articles that were published this summer which I was able to find by simply typing in the term “migrant centre” on Times of Malta’s website. From all pieces listed, there is just 1 single positive piece out of a total of 24.
Excluding the single article written about raising money towards migrant education, the other 23 stories include common themes of poor hygiene, mental health and overall safety and havoc within the centres or boats they travel on.
Over the past year, the Maltese have not only welcomed some boats onto our land, but on the other hand, have also allegedly attacked incoming migrant ships and at one point, used tourist boats to keep the refugees isolated at sea for many weeks at a time because “the country is full up”. Sadly, this exacerbated the mental health of all passengers on board and led to several suicides.
While the situation already looks far too volatile with COVID-19 also posing a threat, we have virtually zero knowledge of what is happening inside the few detention centres in our country. The constant screams and attempted escapes give quite the indication of the scenes which take place inside. However, what is really going on within those high walls? What conditions do these refugees live under if they continually cry for help after being saved from the harsh seas?
Written by: Kyle P. Camilleri