The government of Malta never forgot the many thousands of Maltese who left the islands’ shores to seek work in other countries around the world.
The exodus was so huge that in countries like Australia, Canada and America another Malta was established. One of the main reasons why Malta governments kept migrants abroad in sight were the millions of liri/euros repatriated each year from Maltese living overseas.
Money send from abroad will remain a vital source of foreign exchange to Malta’s coffers.
The biggest contribution to the economy of Malta from Maltese living abroad happened during the vital hardship years of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when the Maltese economy needed a financial boost after the war and the departure of the British forces.
Many can still vividly remember our struggle to get money from the British but few would ever mention the tens of millions that reached and are still being received by the Treasury through Maltese living abroad.
Politicians are able to understand this phenomenon more than anybody else and, in fact, they religiously embark on a pilgrimage to visit the Maltese living abroad. Let’s be honest, in return it gives them plenty of TV/radio coverage back home as well.
The ultimate need to keep a close link with and lines of communication open between those that have left the islands and Malta is evident, whichever way you look.
There is ample evidence that Maltese communities abroad kept the fire burning for all that is traditional.
A vital link between Malta and its people living abroad took roots
Some would say they remained more Maltese than those living on these islands. They remained nostalgic as people do when they leave their homeland but did not stagnate.
The need to get together from the four corners of the world to exchange views and networking was felt deeply. The Malta Emigrants Commission, under the leadership of Mgr Philip Calleja, called the first convention for Maltese migrants in July 1969.
Leaders from all over the word congregated in Valletta. Networks were established that lasted a lifetime. A vital link between Malta and its people living abroad took roots.
However, it took 30 years for another convention to be held. This time, the Emigrants Commission and the government got together and welcomed the new millennium with the second meeting for leaders of associations and Maltese abroad and of Maltese origin.
This was held between January 25 and February 1, 2000 with the motto ‘F’rabta mal-Maltin ta’ barra’ (United with Maltese living abroad).
At this convention, the government of the day realised that dual citizenship should be seriously considered.
A decade later, we again gathered in Malta for the third convention under the motto ‘Strengthening our unity’.
This time round, the organisation of the event was taken over completely by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the meeting was held at Il- Borża, in Valletta from March 14 - 18, 2010.
These conventions had received the imprimatur of the government as it was decided they will be held every five years and not 10, as used to happen.
Five years have passed since the last convention and we are now on the threshold of another meeting, the fourth, in fact. It will be held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, in Valetta from April 20 - 23. This will be another convention organised by the government.
Preparations have been going on for many months this time with some input from the Council of Maltese Living Abroad. The motto chosen for this convention is ‘New prospective’.
The event will kick off with solemn Mass celebrated by Gozo Bishop Mario Grech at the Russian chapel, at the President’s Palace in San Anton, followed by a reception hosted by the President.
It will be opened by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.
In conjunction with the convention, a literary symposium and art exhibition by Maltese diaspora artists will be held. The winner of the diaspora monument competition will also be announced.
I encourage all Maltese people interested in the migration movement to attend the convention by getting in touch with Foreign Ministry, the organisers.
This convention coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Anzac forces’ landing at Gallipoli in World War I. For this purpose, the Australian High Commission in Malta will be holding a number of activities between April 13 – 25. HMS Anzac and STS Young Endeavour will be visiting Malta during that period.
The official remembrance ceremony at the Pietá military cemetery on April 25 will this year be a must, as will a visit to the Anzac monument at the Argotti Gardens, in Floriana.
Lawrence Dimech was the first Maltese consul-general in New South Wales.
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