The Maltese Problem

Like Morocco, Malta has had to contend with the influx of immigrants trying to get from Africa to Europe. The Guardian‘s Duncan Campbell reports on the situation there, and the troubling rise of right-wing currents in Maltese society.

Malta joined the EU only last year. As a member state it is obliged to deal with the asylum applications of the new arrivals, none of whom want to stay in Malta but all of whom are detained while their applications are processed. Malta received 116 asylum cases in 2001 but by last year that had multiplied to 1,227. In the past week alone a further 300 people arrived, rescued by the Maltese armed forces from a watery death. Many fail to gain refugee status so they hover in limbo, unable to return to their countries, unwanted by tiny, overcrowded Malta and by mainland European governments unsympathetic to African immigrants. (…) [The asylum seekers’] presence has provoked a reaction. This week, a Defend the Nation demonstration, organised by the National Republican Alliance – whose secretary general, Philip Beattie, says a “silent invasion” is under way – took place in Valetta amid scuffles and disputes. Mr Beattie, who works at the University of Malta, says he believes that most of the arrivals are economic migrants who are taking Maltese jobs, and that to release them would present a danger to Maltese people of a “social, moral and medicinal nature”.

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