Safeguarding our community and national borders is always a priority for this government. Even though we are a small island state with limited resources, we have built a deterrent to defend our territory and the means to assist at short notice our citizens in their moments of need. Above all, we have pushed forward and implemented social justice.
Our armed forces were the Cinderella of the disciplined forces. With nearly a fourfold increase in expenditure (€23 million in 2023 compared to €6 million in 2012) the past years have showed how much the government has invested in the AFM.
The latest investment saw the arrival of P71, which has considerably strengthened the naval capability of the AFM. This 75-metre vessel came with a €53 million price tag and it will revolutionise the AFM’s capabilities. Apart from other modernisation initiatives, our armed forces will continue to see the government sustaining their needs to keep abreast of our national security requirements to mitigate external threats.
I need not highlight the investment also made in our soldiers’ salaries and pension packages which are more than well-deserved for those who put their lives on the line to secure the protection and defence of the nation. This complemented better working conditions for all members of the disciplined forces.
The constant and rapid developments seen at home during the past few years has led to a more dynamic society with newer and justified expectations such as the need to protect and offer peace of mind. Civil protection is there to protect us, our environment and property against natural and human-induced disasters.
This year, capital investment in civil protection will top €8.5 million – 18 times as much as that 10 years ago. The coming year will see a further consolidation of the department with a new fire station in Floriana and another in Santa Venera and a new academy and training centre for fire fighters. There will also be a shift to strengthen the maritime aspect of the department.
Next week, the CPD’s maritime branch will launch a state-of-the-art rapid intervention fire vessel. The investment in CPD’s assets and infrastructure was made according to the plan to prepare it for any accidents.
The 2020 Libya agreement proved to be crucial in the drop in migrant arrivals- Byron Camilleri
Irregular immigration has been a perennial, and controversial, topic for Malta. The government was never cosy with the previous status quo. We strove for a more just system curtailing a disproportionate burden being carried by our country. The government’s policy adheres to five pillars. The prevention of irregular arrivals and the fight against human trafficking; a just and efficient asylum system; the repatriation of those who do not merit protection; burden sharing with EU member states; and resettlement opportunities to non-EU countries.
A prevention policy is crucial to curtail the arrival of irregular immigrants. Therefore, it is essential to continue cooperating with North African countries, Libya in particular, so these will augment their resources in the fight against immigration, frontier management and loss of lives at sea. The 2020 agreement with Libya proved to be crucial in the drop in arrivals both in 2021 and last year.
Undoubtedly, all this will be topping the agenda of my talks in Malta in March with other interior ministers from Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus during the MED5 meeting.
Social justice is the guiding force of this government’s ideology, especially the reforms aimed at ensuring equality and social rights. All this has been confirmed in Malta ranking first, for eight consecutive years, in terms of LGBT rights legislation out of 49 observed European countries. Indeed, we have become one of the few countries in the world to have made LGBT rights equal at a constitutional level.
Next September’s pan-European LGBTI event, EuroPride, will be yet another leading showcase model to others where equality and fundamental rights are concerned. Rest assured that more reforms are under way in this sector to get rid of the prejudices and traditional stereotypes which exist so everyone will have the opportunity to achieve their aspirations.
Byron Camilleri is Minister for Home Affairs.