Maltese people’s interests needed to come first in issues concerning migration, Nationalist leader Adrian Delia said on Thursday, noting the country’s high population density as a concern.

Addressing his second Independence Day mass meeting as party leader, he said: “Yes we want our economy to grow, and we need to look at our international obligations, but at the end of the day, Maltese people’s interests come first."

“The Nationalist Party will never refrain from saving people, but we need to protect our territory and our Maltese identity,” De Delia said, maintaining his nationalistic rhetoric.

“As a European frontier, we need to safeguard Maltese people’s interests first,” he added.

He questioned the government for insisting that the country needed foreign workers for the economy to grow.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is making an open call for 70,000 people - no matter where they come from, he said, to jeers at the mention of Dr Muscat.

He also reiterated his statement that “it is not safe to walk the streets under Labour”, to thunderous applause.

The Nationalist Party leader also addressed the internal strife within the party, warning people not to listen to those that insisted that the party was facing a split.

"Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is trying to scare people off by telling people the party is broken," he said.

Dr Delia thanked previous leaders George Borg Olivier, Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi but made no mention of his predecessor Simon Busuttil.

People living in poverty

He also sounded warnings of people in poverty, saying that there were women “who got pregnant so they could get government relief”.

Dr Delia said he spoke to people who were showering in public toilets and said he was tired of hearing stories of people sleeping outside. “Is this what the best of times looks like?” he asked.

The government is creating cheap labour and its effects are being felt. He referenced Yana Mintoff’s warnings that the Maltese economy was built on precarious work.

Read: 'Malta's economy is built on cheap labour' - Yana Mintoff

Fight for a common good

Dr Delia referred to several concerns, including healthcare, education, environment and infrastructure.

The government, he said, had sold off the three hospitals to foreign investors.

He dismissed criticism that he was all talk and no action - “we went to court to get our hospitals back- because they belong to you by right”.

He also hit out at the American University of Malta, saying that Nationalist administrations had invested in education and that he had started meeting stakeholders in the education sector.

The PN leader pointed out the government’s poor track record in good governance, saying there were Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports that showed clear indications of corruption.

Earlier, PN general secretary Clyde Puli lambasted the “character assassination” Dr Delia had been subjected to in a bid to silence him.

His speech focused on the tensions that arose within the party last year, admitting that the party needed to address its financial and internal problems to win again.

The party, he said, saw 1,700 new paid-up members in the past year - its best record in 13 years he said as the crowd erupted into chants of Nazzjonalisti, Nazzjonalisti” and “Delia, Delia”.