Towards reason

My last two posts both consisted in harsh criticism leveled against the Labour Party for its position on illegal immigration. I firmly believe that certain declarations were out of line and seriously out of touch with leftist/progressive ideology. My main reservations were two-fold, namely that:
  1. The national interest should never precede human rights and human dignity; and
  2. The suspension of international obligations is unacceptable
Yet I must concede that I was overly-passionate and let my emotions get the best of me. This may have resulted in over-statements, shoddy writing and unreasoned reflections. The root of my discontent still stands however. In the future I will try to sleep on situations which stir my emotions like there's no tomorrow and come up with something saner...

1. Neglect

In my opinion a major part of the problem finds its roots in a collective feeling of neglect on this issue. Simply put, Maltese society is fed up with having to shoulder such a serious responsibility with negligible aid from our European counterparts. Instead, the general perception is that international bodies and the international press exist only to admonish Malta about the state of detention centers rather than to offer help. To the ordinary, reasonable man and woman this does not go down well. It is this situation which the politicians need to address. However, we must not neglect that racism is a reality and that it plays a major role in the forging of a national sentiment of mass hysteria. It is of fundamental importance that our politicians do not give in to such sentiments.

2. More competence, more responsibility

A possible solution is for Malta to advocate the need to transfer the general competences regarding asylum and immigration on a broad based EU-level. As things stand, matters of asylum and immigration are largely intergovernmental. This means that there is no general competence and common European policy upon which the EU institutions can act. Instead it all boils down to heads of government and ministers for justice bickering amongst themselves. Obviously they would primarily be fighting for the interests of their nation. Therefore, it is highly unlikely for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to willingly accept the entry of more migrants into the UK, especially since there has been a recent uprising against foreign workers stealing 'British jobs'. On the other hand if such competences were more European and less national, the probability for solidarity would increase.

3. Diplomacy over irresponsibility, humanity over nationality

I am one of those who believe that the suspension of international obligations is irresponsible and unacceptable. I also believe that the rights and dignity of the human person come first to the national interest. To explain myself, consider the following statement: 'I am a human being first and a Maltese citizen second'. Thus, I do not agree with the Labour Party's pt.19 of its plan of action on immigration which considers the suspension of international obligations. Instead I advocate diplomacy over irresponsibility, humanity over nationality. To be fair, Dr. Muscat was firm in his stance that conditions in detention centers need to improve drastically. He also emphasised the need to find a balance between Malta's obligations which respect the dignity of the human person and the national interest. In my opinion however, the suspension of international obligations (pt.19) and the sporadic use of the veto in European fora (pt.14) ammount more to more to radical methods aimed at achieving nationalistic goals. Whilst Malta must remain firm in its position to achieve unqualified and equal responsibility-sharing amongst all 27-member States it must do so in coformity with international norms. We cannot create a situation were international laws such as the 1974 Convention for the for the Saftey of Life at Sea (SOLAS) are discarded merely because they go against the national interest. The ramifications and international humiliation would be too grave to contemplate.

4. Conclusion

As a nation we should seek that middle way between irreponsibly harsh action and a passive attitude of nonchalance. I'm not entirely sure how to arrive at such a position but I feel that it is possible. It is very important for the Maltese nation to understand that a fair percentage of immigrants that land on our shores have a genuine case for international protection. Such persons can never be considered criminals. They cannot be towed back to Libya or wherever they came from. They should neither be considered as persons who have no right to establish a new life on the land in which they have settled. The EU Member States need to understand this too and consequently offer their help. Ultimately not every single refugee will leave Malta to establish a life elsewhere. It is thus much better to integrate such persons into our society instead of creating ghettos and an atmosphere of exclusion.

Just imagine if it was you that had to run away from the unspeakable horrors of your homeland only to be told that you have no right to peace... that you must go back.

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