Foreigners in Malta: servants, intruders or co-residents?

The Maltese opposition is toying with anti-foreigner rhetoric, but is it a symptom of something deeper?

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Foreigners in Malta: servants, intruders or co-residents? - NewsMavens
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, WikiCommons

Why this story matters:

I got my first hate mail in Malta last week -- it's something commonplace for more vocal immigrants. "[I]f you don't like it here, get out of my island. Nobody asked for your presence and opinion!" a man from Valletta wrote, after having accused me of criticizing the government.

Yet I have not voiced my opinion about the government, which led me to conclude that he got this impression either from my reviewing the Maltese press for NewsMavens (e.g. this), or posting a few sarcastic comments about the state of public transport on an expat forum.

Keeping the general European context in mind (e.g. Austria, Hungary, Italy) I couldn't help but be impressed during the May Day rally, when Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called out the leader of the opposition, Adrian Delia, on xenophobic remarks he had made earlier that day and announced that Malta is a cosmopolitan country. Crowds even cheered. I chatted up a participant of the rally, and he said he fully shared the PM's views on foreigners, because many come from very poor countries and deserve empathy.

But this is not the whole picture. In writing for Malta Today, Raisa Galea uses the word "servants" to describe the place reserved for foreigners in booming Malta's political vision. She points out that the pragmatic approach to foreigners adopted by the ruling party is not only exclusionary (see this point earlier on NewsMavens), but is likely to backfire if socio-economic tensions escalate on the archipelago.

Details from the story:

  • At a business brunch on the occasion of International Workers' Day, the leader of the opposition, Adrian Delia, warned against the "influx of foreigners". He earlier said, “we will not let foreigners make money from the people’s assets”, and “by 2050, Europe will no longer be Christian”.
  • Surveys show that the presence of foreigners, whatever that means, is one of the top concerns for the Maltese.
  • According to Raisa Galea, writing for Malta Today, the opposition party has not come up with proposals on increasing income, protecting the architectural heritage, or protection of public spaces.
  • She also suggests that the backlash against multiculturalism follows the political elite's full embrace of the neoliberalism of the centre-left government that promotes growth and the entrepreneurial welfare state.

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