As published on the Times of Malta on Monday, December 5 2016.
My position has always been that those people who arrive in Europe and who are not in need of protection should be sent back swiftly and safely. It is a principle that must be a pillar of our asylum and migration structure. It is the only way for a sustainable way forward.
In the near future, Joseph Muscat’s administration will start to deport a handful of children who were born to people who arrived in Malta irregularly years ago. They form part of a larger group of people being deported.
The children were born in Malta. They have always lived in Malta. They know no land other than our own. They know no life apart from the one they have here.
It comes after the government reportedly decided to withdraw the Temporary Humanitarian Protection status granted to these individuals, who fell through the cracks in our legislation – not satisfying the stringent criteria to qualify for refugee status but who could not be returned to their country of origin.
Legislation and policy cannot exist in a vacuum, the surrounding circumstances and reality on the ground must be taken into consideration. We must be firm, but we must be compassionate. We must be resilient but we must be honest.
So, of course, a line must be drawn somewhere, but children who only know Malta as their home, who have never left our shores, should not become pawns in a political manoeuvre aimed at Muscat trying to appeal to particular factions in our society.
Muscat refuses to do anything about the unsustainable amount of visas and residence permits being issued to Libyan nationals. He refuses to investigate the medical visa scandal that has allowed so many third-country nationals to settle in Malta. He travels the world to sell our passports and grant citizenship to those class of citizens he looks up to. And yet, his focus has been hell-bent on deporting a few children under the guise of “action on immigration”.
Despite the sad attempt at bravado, he is as he always has been: weak with the strong and the rich but strong only with the weak and the poor.
In some cases, these people have been on our islands for more than a decade. Yes, they arrived irregularly and, yes, they should have had their cases dealt with faster but the current situation manipulated by the Prime Minister is the opposite of justice.
It is typical Muscat: fawning over those he looks up to and can sell passports to, while kicking those children who cannot afford his price out into the cold
It was Henry James who stressed that there is an added turn of the screw in the element of horror whenever children are involved. He was right. It is simply not right to try to act like a bully-boy and make an example out of children who have no fault in any of this. When did we become a society that allows this behaviour? When did it become acceptable for voiceless children to bear the brunt?
Of course, expecting our Prime Minister to do anything that may cost him a vote or two is like waiting for Panama Papers Minister Konrad Mizzi to admit wrongdoing. It will never happen.
Muscat is happy to throw out these tearful children who have been in Malta all their lives before rushing to the airport to greet the next (former) Libyan businessman, Russian oligarch or Vietnamese member of parliament who have paid to become our latest citizens.
It is typical Muscat: fawning over those he looks up to and can sell passports to, while kicking those children, who cannot afford his price, out into the cold.
So before we pat our Prime Minister on the back, ask yourself whether you think this is really “action on immigration” or if this is just another attempt at a cheap headline at the expense of a few children whose names will be quickly forgotten.
Europe is facing unprecedented immigration and asylum challenges and having a fair system of returns must be part of any solution. But there is action on migration and then there are political gambits.
There is little doubt that this is no more than a cynical ploy aimed at boosting Muscat’s fake strongman image that he so badly wants everyone to believe.
We are not going to solve any immigration challenge by going after a couple of children born here.
But this was never about immigration, it was only ever about Muscat.
What he fails to see is that standing on the shoulders of little children will not make him or our country any taller.
Roberta Metsola is a Nationalist MEP