Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said yesterday he disagreed with establishing a quota system for migration but insisted that the current numbers were “unsustainable and unfeasible”.
Answering questions during a session with international media based in Rome, Dr Muscat said that, while his Government was “all for” the integration of migrants into Maltese society, the current numbers were too large to make it feasible.
“I do not subscribe to the theory of foreigners taking over Malta,” he told a Daily Mail journalist who asked him about the cultural impact of migration.
“The Government is keen on integration, which until some time ago was a dirty word. But to have a feasible integration policy we have to have feasible numbers. We want to show we are willing to tackle the issue head-on even though some think we are not totally politically correct. Multi-culturalism is not the issue but we cannot cope with these numbers,” he said.
I do not subscribe to the theory of foreigners taking over Malta
Dr Muscat said his Government was fully committed to an anti-xenophobic policy “but our people must realise that their Government is seriously tackling the problem and not sweeping it under the carpet”.
“There are people profiting from this situation. There are internationally organised gangs manning and managing these flows. They have access to huge amounts of funds and we cannot allow this anymore at the expense of asylum seekers and the EU,” he said.
Most of the journalists asked about the migration issue, especially in the context of Pope Francis’s visit to Lampedusa and his strong message on the subject. A Daily Star journalist asked whether there was disquiet about what the Pope said in such a Catholic country like Malta.
Dr Muscat replied: “I didn’t hear a single word of criticism. The Pope hit the nail right on its head. Our situation is worse than that in Lampedusa because, while in the latter after a few weeks they are transferred to mainland Italy, in Malta they are stuck there.”
He continued: “We stamped our feet and managed to get it on the European agenda... It is unsustainable for us.”
He explained that Malta last year had 2,000 recorded entries, which was equal to one million immigrants entering Spain or Germany.
“We appreciate more funds being made available to Malta but it is not an issue of throwing money at the problem. It might serve as a cushion but we need to look at changes to EU rules or a more realistic option of roping in Libya, which should be seen as part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”
He said he had a phone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras because: “Europe has to grasp this window of opportunity, especially under the Greek EU presidency”.
“We want something concrete. Empty talk on solidarity is not enough. We want a common way forward so I came here to discuss it with Mr Letta.”
Replying to questions on his economic policy and any similarity to Cyprus, Dr Muscat said: “The only similarity between Malta and Cyprus is that they are both islands and nothing else.
“Our banking system, as declared by IMF, is sound. The biggest players in industry have no direct relation to the domestic economy. I was very happy to note that IMF is projecting an increase in GDP.
“Not only are we best performers in the eurozone but the pace of economic growth is set to increase. All this is not because we are lucky but thanks to initiatives taken by the previous administration and the current government, including attracting international private investors.”
Asked about the deficit target, Dr Muscat said that “despite the IMF scepticism” Malta will go below the three per cent mark “before the end of the year”.
“We would have achieved a lot if investors consider Malta as an automatic shortlist for investment. It is like a second thought to choose Malta, except for financial services.
“We offer the right place for manufacturing, aviation and maritime service. We have a killer of a product. The advantage of our country is our legislative agility. We are capable of regulating in a short period of time. A business-friendly country which doesn’t mean we are lax on attitude or legislation.”
The Armed Forces of Malta last night rescued about 90 migrants whose boat was sinking off Marsaxlokk. Sources said that another 200 migrants were heading towards Sicily.