Economy Minister Silvio Schembri has apologised for a speech in parliament on Tuesday in which he said laid-off foreigners would have to be deported.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Schembri said he wanted to “set the record straight” after his speech caused an uproar on social media.
“My choice of words was unfortunate and I apologise if I hurt or offended anyone,” he said.
Speaking during a COVID-19 parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Schembri said “charity begins at home”.
The government’s primary focus, he said in the House, was Maltese and Gozitan workers.
“The moment foreign workers lose their job they will have to go back to their country,” he said.
Shortly after his speech, social media was alight with comments taking him to task for what was described as divisive language that singled out foreigners.
On Wednesday, Schembri said he and the government are “united in our respect to all workers, no matter their nationality”.
“We are committed to assist employers, employees and the self-employed in these difficult days, which I am certain we will overcome together,” Schembri said.
The economy minister said the government was proud of the fact that the Maltese economy had not only offered a better standard of living for Maltese families but had also opened the door of opportunity for European and third-country nationals to build a future.
He also assured that employed third-country and EU nationals would not be deported.
The minister urged landlords who rent out their properties to be considerate in the present circumstances and be more flexible with rent rates until the economy regains momentum.
“I thank you for your hard work throughout the past years and look forward to seeing our economy back on track in the interest of everyone living in Malta and Gozo,” he said.
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