Immigration from North Africa into Southern Europe is a touchy subject at the best of times and these are not the best of times…
From my base in Malta, it is clear that the population mix of the country is changing. Quickly. You don’t need to be a genius to tell that there are Libyans everywhere in Malta now. Every cafe, ice cream parlour and kiosk has changed with their arrival.
For a country that complains as frequently as Malta has on the international stage about immigrants arriving by sea and the burden it places on the country, figures released recently show that in 2013 visas were issued to 33,619 Libyans by Malta.
Whether that sounds like a lot is open to question, but the most recent population numbers that were released for Malta reckoned that there were 425,000 inhabitants of this tiny nation. To save you the trouble of doing the math, that means that in 2013 alone, visas representing an increase of roughly 8% of the population were issued to Libyan nationals.
Does that seem like a lot to you???
Call it a hunch, but something tells me that the 2014 number will be higher still.
Just this weekend the Maltese Prime Minister announced that the government is suspending the visa free travel arrangements for Libyan diplomatic passport holders.
Horse. Bolted. Barn. Door. Closed.
It is not my country, so it is not my place to complain about the way things are run. What is worth pointing out though, is that it seems rather contradictory to complain as loudly and as frequently as this government does about the numbers of illegal immigrants arriving, but then open the doors to an increase of 8% of the population in just one year, from just one country.
The difference in approach is obviously that one group can support itself financially whilst the other cannot. This is not about human rights but about financial might.
We tend to call the hundreds of people packed onto tiny vessels “illegal” immigrants, but the reality is that most of them are poor and desperate. In similar conditions, any one of us would be fleeing for our lives and just as “illegal” as they are. Unless we have substantial means.
Considering how the Gaddafi regime operated, being a person or family of substantial means does not necessarily make you “legal” any more than being poor makes a person “illegal”.