Many Maltese and other Europeans not only accept the natural migration of people which have happened in various directions for centuries, but actively work to bring about support for, and the integration of the current waves of migrants from all directions, including Africans fleeing from persecution.
Life is tough and these migrants are sometimes (Africans, Europeans and Third World nationals) given work and paid below minimum wage, or not paid at all.
Migrants report being picked up, doing a day’s casual work and then when it comes to paying them, they say, “Sorry, I don’t have money today.” Others are working for quite large Maltese employers who won’t declare to ETC that they are employed.
Many volunteers teach the new arrivals English, donate clothes and give ongoing support in work and social matters. Churches also attend to their various needs and a number of NGOs are particularly active, JRS with legal representation, UNHCR Malta and Integra to name just a few. Hospital staff also do their best to deal with the issues of diverse cultures, languages and beliefs.
Britain has its colonial history, so there have been communities of ‘foreigners’ in Britain for many decades. It is well known that the immigrants and their offspring will do jobs that nationals won’t do, even if they are highly qualified. Indians run the ‘open all hours’ corner shops. West Indians drive buses. These are real life stereotypes. London and New York are thriving multi-cultural cities which exist because of real contributions of diversity and hard work. Of course, racism and other prejudice exist everywhere to some degree towards minority groups based on their religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation.
Many migrants have work skills, indeed some are highly qualified, but you still find employers with a prejudice against minorities.
What is the reality? Angelina Jolie stated “No-one chooses to be a refugee.” Migrants from Africa did not come to Malta by choice. They fled persecution and death in their countries, they saw friends die and be abused and raped on the desert journey where traffickers took large sums of money to take them to Libya. Conditions in refugee camps and prisons in Libya would not be considered acceptable to any European forced to endure them. More died after paying traffickers to take them by boat to Europe.
On arrival, they were imprisoned in detention centres for many months, where tensions run high and bullying is widely reported. They have their own hatreds, one tribe against another, one country against another, but all are locked up together. Finally, those who are permitted to stay are released and want to work.
Without work they are just another marginalised minority. They have skills or are willing to learn them. Only through work can they regain their dignity and start to enjoy life above existence level. They can provide for their families, and spend their earnings in shops and other Maltese businesses.
When they are paid fairly, they will earn enough to pay taxes.
Can we visualise the day when most Africans in Malta are given the opportunity to contribute to the economy and not draw from it and when they will have rights which other citizens take for granted.
There are many more EU and third country nationals living and working here, whether registered or not, than Africans. If we take the time to talk with them, we will find they are fellow human beings with hearts, with mothers, who have suffered huge traumas at a young age and now suffer boredom and rejection through lack of opportunity and through discrimination.
Why do we have these negative attitudes? FEAR, Fear of the unknown. So, let’s get to know some migrants starting on a one-to-one basis and find out who they are and what their culture is. They simply want to live in peace and harmony.
The Africans on the street want to be taxpayers. It’s time to give them a chance. It is time to look at our attitudes, are we ready to turn a negative attitude into a positive attitude? They do not take our jobs. They are a huge resource to Malta, if we only choose to realise it.