Tackling Malta's racism: Scope for legal intervention?

There is no doubt in my mind that a pernicious racism problem exists in Malta. It is not my intention to enter into a profound or detailed study into the causes of racism and xenophobia so this post will rest on this assumption. The facts, though, seem to stand out; ranging from racist killings (to give the benefit of the doubt, let me qualify them as 'alleged') to blatant discrimination, intolerant discourse and bigotry in the workplace, the street, the press, and even in the highest institutions of the state. 

Anti-discrimination laws have a basis in fundamental human rights. Consider the following articles: 

'All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status' [Article 26, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] 
'All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.' [Aritlce 7, Universal Declaration of Human Rights] 
'The enjoyment of any right set forth by law shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.' [Protocol Twelve, Article 1, European Convention on Human Rights]
Our very own Constitution states that:
'Subject to the provisions of sub-articles (6), (7) and (8) of this article, no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.
In this article, the expression "discriminatory" means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another such description.' [Article 45, Constitution of Malta]
Yet, as far as I am aware, these laws largely relate to the so-called 'vertical relationship' between the state and its treatment of individuals as opposed to a 'horizontal relationship' between two private individuals. Nonetheless, the state has (or should have) a positive obligation to disallow discrimination even in the private sphere. Otherwise the state would be passively tolerating racism and discrimination. Should the law in this regard be strengthened? Article 82A of the Criminal Code already establishes the offence of 'incitement to racial hatred', whilst other laws (e.g. employment law) makes provisions against discrimination, but is this enough? Should we consider the promulgation of one consolidated and far-reaching 'Law Against Racism' or 'Anti-Racism Act'? (This could be more comprehensive so as to include provisions against all forms of discrimination - not racism or racial discrimination alone). 


Evo Morales's Ley Contra el Racismo y Toda Forma de Discriminaci√≥n [2010] makes for interesting reading. Article 14, which concerns 'private institutions', states [loose translation]:

All private institutions must adopt or amend their by-laws so as to include offences involving racist  and/or discriminatory behaviour, such as: 
a) Racially and/or discriminatory motivated verbal aggression; 
b) Denial of access to a service for racist and/or discriminatory reasons; 
c) Physical, psychological, sexual, racist and discriminatory abuse, not constituting a crime; and 
d) Demeaning actions 
However, the European Union's 'Racial Equality' Directive [Council Directive 2000/43/EC] already makes reference to non-discrimination regarding access to services (even in the private sphere) in Article 3 (h) thereof, but I am not entirely sure whether this extends also to, say, access to a nightclub.  Nonetheless, it is questionable whether such measures are being effected in practical day to day life. Our laws concerning racial equality are found in various provisions of various different Acts and laws but they are mostly concerned with the prohibition of blatant racial hatred/discrimination (see for instance, Subsidiary Legislation 350.26 concerning 'Requirements as to Standards and Practice on the Promotion of Racial Equality'). The question I am posing is: do these laws go far enough to tackle the actual problem?


However, a very valid argument exists that no matter how many laws you may wish to introduce the problem will not be solved for it is deeply rooted in the collective psyche or culture so to speak. Racism, like political tribalism, starts at home and is fostered in places like schools and work. Being in a group of friends who advocate xenophobic opinions would also put pressure on a person not to speak out (if not to actually agree with such opinions). 


In light of these facts ambitious political, cultural and educational reforms are needed. Reform has to start with politicians and political institutions. For too long have we heard and seen politicians attempt to curry favour and popularity by exploiting voters' fears of immigration. This is a practice that has to stop although it does not mean that politicians should remain silent on issues such as responsibility sharing among EU Member States; especially in light of Malta's very limited resources. Such discourse is not racist, in so far as it is based on  objective and reasonable demands for EU aid (as opposed to discourse like 'invasion', 'disease and pestilence', 'country X should serve as the rubbish bin for Africans', etc like we are accustomed to hearing).


Secondly the state has to ensure stricter vigilance and discipline on the police corps.  Various persons have stated that the police either remain indifferent to racially motivated crimes or actually participate in them. Should the powers of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) (is this body actually functioning (?) because I haven't heard anything about it in the press) be strengthened in this respect so as to be able to conduct independent inquiries into the conduct of the police force upon complaints of alleged racial abuse or omitting of their duties? 


Thirdly various educational campaigns are needed aimed at promoting racial equality and harmony. The state would spend its money better on campaigns like these rather than on useless (and non-transparent) consultancies and the like. The national curriculum of education should also include concrete measures aimed at promoting racial equality amongst students. 


There is so much that could be done. All it takes is a little bit of will-power. 

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