Malta must stand firm on immigration Muscat
The Malta Independent
May 4, 2009
Malta must stand firm on immigration and seriously tackle the issue, said Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat during a party activity in Msida yesterday.
He also called for a strategy to address the issue in the long term rather than on a day-to-day basis. Dr Muscat referred to the immigration dispute between Malta and Italy which re-occurred last Thursday when Italy refused landing to 66 migrants who were rescued by an Armed Forces of Malta petrol boat some 24 miles off Lampedusa.
As Malta was responsible for the co-ordination of search and rescue operations in the area which includes Lampedusa, it is duty bound to ensure that rescued migrants are landed at the nearest port. However, Italy again refused landing to the immigrants last Friday who were then brought to Malta.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi fell into this trap, Dr Muscat said, referring to the incident as a dispute between parties of the same group pointing out that the Popolo della Libert, the leading party in the Italian government, was, like the Nationalist Party, a member of the European Popular Party.
We need to fight illegality and those who are not working in national interest, Dr Muscat said.
Again Dr Muscat retorted that the government was spineless and was confused on what course of action to take in the crisis. National interest called for the government to put Malta first, he insisted.
Dr Muscat also referred to a letter sent by European Socialist Group president to the PL EP candidates calling for immediate implementation of the burden sharing agreement.
Immediate action was necessary Dr Muscat said while quoting Mr Shulzs statement that Malta should be treated as a special case by EU member states.
ESG was to exert maximum pressure on all European institutions to adopt the groups proposal showing solidarity when it counted, Mr Schulz said. The group was thus to support Maltas stance, Dr Muscat said.
He also explained that migrants themselves were not to blame for the issues that resulted as most of them came from economically and politically distressed countries. Thus, he called for a stop to the exploitation of irregular immigrants in the local industry where they were being paid paltry wages.
While this was unacceptable, it was resulting in an unfair playing field for other workers, he said. He also pointed out that European conservatives had sought to allow foreigners to work in a country for less than the minimum wage.
With reference to the VAT corruption case, Dr Muscat demanded an explanation asking who would carry administrative and political responsibility. It was easy to remain silent on the case however PL and the people wanted to know the amount of stolen funds, who stole them and how they got stolen, he said.
The money, he said, could have been invested in reducing hospital waiting lists, fighting the cost of living or towards the creation of new jobs. He described the case as one of serious injustice for thousands of workers and middle-class tax payers.
In the coming days, PL should also be launching its legal procedures against the government for reimbursement of VAT on vehicle registration tax.
He also noted that prices in Malta were shooting up and suggested the re-establishing of the national committee which was responsible for the euro changeover to assess whether price changes were justified.
The abuse, Dr Muscat said, was not being carried out by shop owners but from others further up the chain.
Furthermore, he said Dr Gonzi had lost control of the countrys reigns and unemployment increased by 31 per cent under his administration. Even Ministers in his cabinet were quoting different figures, Dr Muscat said.
While calling for tough action against corruption, he told workers to pass their message on election day.
Dr Muscat urged people to vote for the PL as the coming elections because the party is taking the positive stance the country merits, adding that Malta is capable of achieving the best. Amongst PL MEPs noteworthy work in the past five years was the safeguarding of jobs and working conditions.
Dr Muscat also accused Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi of being cut off from reality and peoples concerns. He criticised the PNs use of the word together in its pre-electoral slogan once again as its action was proving otherwise.
EP candidates Christian Zammit, Steve Borg, Sharon Ellul Bonici and Glenn Bedingfield also spoke.