Figures showing that more than three-quarters of those arraigned over recent crimes in Marsa were Maltese could end the politics of fear and racism, Integra director Maria Pisani hopes.
A total 301 of the 389 people arraigned from January 2015 to June 2017 were Maltese nationals, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said in Parliament.
Replying to a parliamentary question by Nationalist MP Claudio Grech, Dr Farrugia said there were 979 crimes reported in Marsa in the period under review and 283 cases involving 389 people ended up in court. Of these, 88 (or 23 per cent) were not Maltese.
Marsa residents’ discomfort as a result of the large African community there culminated in a ‘solidarity walk’ that mayors boycotted, objecting to the presence of far-right activists.
Asked if the figures mentioned in Parliament came as a surprise, Dr Pisani and Colin Calleja, head of the Unit for Inclusion and Access to Learning at the University of Malta, replied in the negative.
“While these numbers bring some clarity, let’s not pretend all is well. Migrant communities living in Marsa have also expressed concerns vis-à-vis crime levels,” Dr Pisani said.
The problems they collectively face are the fruit of decades of neglect
The residents of Marsa, including its Maltese and migrant communities, were all dealing with real problems resulting from poverty and social segregation.
The problems they collectively faced were the fruit of decades of neglect, misplaced policy decisions and zero long-term planning, she noted.
“Perhaps these statistics will put an end to the politics of fear and racism so that we may collectively move towards finding constructive solutions for all the residents of Marsa,” Dr Pisani said.
Dr Calleja called for the continued building of a community that was welcoming and safe, not only for the Maltese population but also for those helping to build a sustainable society.
“As hosts, we need to ensure that no one lives in substandard conditions. We need to upgrade and improve such areas to limit the infestation of crime,” he said.
“The Marsa population is right in expecting the authorities to clean up the area, not of migrants, but of criminals, wherever they may come from.”
Dr Calleja noted that in the past, crime was not unheard of in Marsa, especially in an area notorious for drugs and prostitution before the advent of migrants.
In the past, crime was not unheard of in Marsa, especially in an area notorious for drugs and prostitution before the advent of migrants
Unfortunately, through the creation of a ghetto, the blame soon veered to the migrant population.
This was not to say it was not true there were migrants who committed crimes, but all that had to be seen in perspective, he added.
“In any population there are those who fall into unlawfulness, and migrants are no exception.”
Dr Calleja said statistics clearly showed it was wrong to associate migrants with crime in Marsa.
Migrants were part of the population and, like the Maltese, also committed crimes. Most of the ones Dr Calleja knows are responsible, hard-working, young men and women seeking either safety from crime in their countries or an improvement in their lives and the lives of their families.
“Most migrants among us have done what the Maltese did years ago. They come here, work hard and earn money to help sustain their families,” Dr Calleja said.
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