Save the children

Are we afraid of living up to the lofty ideals of Labour and progressivism?

My readers may have noticed that there are certain issues about which I feel very strongly, and I often fume when I conclude that the Labour government is failing.  One of the issues where I feel that Labour is less than progressive is that of stateless persons living in Malta.

It is a betrayal of progressivism when we have at least 171 stateless people in Malta, almost half of them aged under nine.  Some of these people have been living and working in Malta for as long as 20 years. They live in Maltese villages, their children go to school there, play an instrument with the local band club, and help with the village feast or have joined the local sports nursery – yet, they are still not considered Maltese, they cannot represent Malta in a sports or artistic discipline, and are frustrated for being continually referred to as ‘migrants’ or ‘aliens’.

Their plight has often been mentioned by President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and was recently taken up again by the Children’s Commissioner, Antoinette Vassallo, who has said that the people concerned should be granted some form of regular status to uphold their “fundamental right to a family life”.

Vassallo says that children who are born in Malta, irrespective of their status, only know Malta as their home and, therefore, it is in the best interest of these migrant children for the status of the entire family unit to be regularised, since this safeguards the children’s fundamental right to a family life.

Actually, the Office of the Commissioner goes beyond that when it suggests that this regularisation should not be limited to those children who are born in Malta but equally to those migrant children who were born in other countries but who have settled and integrated here, whether or not they enjoy international protection.  Its pleas reflect those of many migrants’ rights activists, who over the past months have been pushing the authorities to give more rights to migrants who were denied asylum.

Most migrants who are denied asylum are allowed to work in Malta and are obliged to pay tax and social contributions but have no access to free education. While working, they have access to healthcare but no social protection.  This means that if they are injured, taken ill, or can no longer be gainfully employed, they will not receive any social, medical, or unemployment benefits. They are similarly not entitled to a pension once they reach retirement age.  They are also not allowed to marry, even if they enter loving relationships and form a family of their own.

This is a terrible blot on Malta and the Labour government.  Are we afraid of living up to the lofty ideals of Labour and progressivism?  Can we really sleep with a clear conscience when we consign these people to the dustbin of society?

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