The government’s priority in this time of crisis is to safeguard the jobs of Maltese nationals and any foreigners laid off would have to be deported, the Economy Minister warned. 

“Charity begins at home. Our primary focus are Maltese and Gozitan workers. The moment foreign workers lose their job they will have to go back to their country,” Silvio Schembri said in parliament on Tuesday.

Speaking during a debate on the coronavirus outbreak, the minister cautioned that the economy would not automatically resort to what it was before in a few months’ time. 

“The easiest thing would have been to throw money at the problem, but nobody knows exactly how long this situation will persist.”

He said a mini-budget will be announced by the end of this week to safeguard jobs. 

Schembri also reacted to concerns about social unrest from foreigners expressed earlier by Opposition MP Beppe Fenech Adami. According to the latter, criminality could be on the rise as a result of hundreds of foreign low-income workers being laid off, particularly in the tourism industry.  

In his reaction, the minister referred to foreigners, such as third country nationals working as cleaners, in the security field and the tourism sector. 

While acknowledging that he would be stirring controversy, he remarked that government’s primary intention at this point in time is to guarantee the jobs of Maltese and Gozitan workers. 

“As a matter of fact talks are already under way with the home affairs minister so that foreigners in Malta with avwork permit would return to their country the moment they lose their job.”

Schembri said that in times like these, government would be safeguarding the jobs of the Maltese nationals.

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