There is a severe lack of a successful integration policy in Marsa, with the Maltese and migrant communities in the town rarely attempting to come together, the locality’s mayor has said.
Appearing on Lovin Daily days after his town was named Malta’s capital of culture, mayor Josef Azzopardi explained that though the locality works with a number of NGOs and state organisations, the two communities rarely ever join together in conversation.
“I think I’ve annoyed the police, honestly, I call them practically every day,” he said, thanking the local police, local council and Minister Byron Camilleri for the support. However, he said, this wasn’t enough to address the locality’s regular problems.
“We have horse patrols, dog patrols, local patrols and the Rapid Intervention Unit’s rounds – but they aren’t doing the rounds because of the residents. The residents are the victims here,” Azzopardi said.
“What’s the real problem?” he asked. “The problem is that you have a number of migrants living in low standard housing, and they end up on the street and taking on every bad behaviour possible.”
“Just yesterday – and it pains me to say it – I found two people laid out on the street, and there’s nothing I could do about it. And what can the police do?”
With just 5,000 residents, Marsa has long been facing a number of problems. From migrant-related issues, in part due to the nearby Open Centre, to ongoing problems with prostitution and drug use.
The lack of an effective integration policy to address these concerns meant the town was being forced to bear the brunt of the fallout, Azzopardi said.
“That’s the problem – we have a concentration of migrants who have little to do,” he said “Integration doesn’t exist. Let me be clear – I come from an education background, so I’m not closed-minded and I say this with full responsibility.”
“You’d have a garden full of migrants, and when Maltese people enter the garden, the migrants will leave. And vice versa. And why? Oftentimes, the migrants in the gardens are doing illegal things, such as selling drugs.”
Saying that these events stained Marsa’s image, he said he was not going to give up on the locality and just do nothing.
When asked if the local council was working with NGOs or other specialised groups, Azzopardi said: “One issue we have is that NGOs, when a ship is coming, they’ll fight tooth and nail with the government to get it in. But then, what happens afterwards? Are we happy with having a number of migrants left with nothing to do?”
“I’ve spoken to the migrants, and I’ve tried to help them find a home – and many times, they’ll just refuse any of our help… they just won’t come.”
Azzopardi also spoke about his plans for 12 cultural events to occur in the town throughout 2022 as part of a €200,000 package given to Marsa after being named capital of culture for 2022. The funds must be used on events, and not on other aspects of bettering the town.
What do you make of Azzopardi’s perspective?