“Gozo wasn’t ready for such rapid multiculturalism,” PN MP Kevin Cutajar declared on Facebook shortly after a Somali man was allegedly tossed into the sea in front of a cheering crowd.
He may have deleted his post a few minutes after posting it (or more likely was ordered by the PN to remove it) and replaced it with a tamer “clarification” that he meant to say social inclusion should have been planned out better, but his intention was clear.
A fight broke out for reasons as yet unknown, and according to an eyewitness it ended up with a group of men beating a Somali man to a pulp and one of them throwing him into the sea.
Police have got involved and a Maltese man is reportedly set to be arraigned, which means more details should come out in the coming days – for all we know, the man didn’t end up in the sea because of a clash between his cultural mannerisms and that of the Maltese people present.
However, Cutajar chose to link this fight to “the dangers of multiculturalism” and stop there.
He should have known it risked triggering the visceral reaction that life was peaceful in Malta until these nasty foreigners came over to try and change our way of life.
The logical conclusion, of course, is that we should react to multiculturalism’s social problems by restricting migration and deporting the migrants who are already here back to their country. Bay for blood, target the outsider and bathe in a false sense of unity.
If that’s not the reaction Cutajar intended, then he should now do his utmost to find and propose ways to manage and try and solve any problems brought about by multiculturalism, because all he’s done so far is add fuel to sociocultural tensions and take a step back.
Unfortunately, he’s not the first politician to go down this path and he is unlikely to be the last.
In recent months, we have seen Robert Abela saying Malta is “full up”, Silvio Schembri telling foreigners who lost their job post-COVID-19 to “go back home”, and Bernard Grech accusing the government of “choosing to fill Malta up with foreigners without studying their impact on the salaries of Maltese workers”.
We’ve also seen Adrian Delia practically blaming foreigners for leaving the economy in dire straits, and now Kevin Cutajar passing banal comments about “multiculturalism”.
We’ve seen a lot of bombastic talk, foreigner-bashing and airy-fairy talk about making Malta a hub of “value-added jobs” but few actual proposals aimed at making Malta a more attractive place for foreign workers and preventing any sociocultural tensions.
It’s a far more complex argument than ‘send them back!’, it might even be electorally unpopular, but it’s never been more evident that it is the right approach.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, it has become clearer and clearer how reliant we are on foreign nationals. The government may have prevented a rise in unemployment but another problem, that of labour shortage, is becoming more and more pressing.
A recent survey commissioned by the Malta Chamber of Commerce found that over three-quarters of businesses are struggling to find staff across all levels, with the Malta Employers Association not mincing its words in blaming this phenomenon on the thousands of foreign workers who left the island during the pandemic.
Some restaurants have been forced to reduce their business hours due to a lack of staff, while the shortage has even forced Red Cross Malta to resort to untrained people to work as lifeguards, despite all the risks.
Only today, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association urged the government to react to this labour shortage in the hospitality industry by exempting tax on overtime and part time revenues.
Economy Minister’s Silvio Schembri’s war cry at the start of the pandemic that foreigners who lose their jobs will have to go back to their country has come to fruition and that’s not something to cheer about.
Staff shortage strain on a business or service can only get so bad before it cracks, and when it does it’s our society that will suffer. It will mean fewer places for people to go, less competition among businesses, and ultimately – when the trend ends up triggering a rise in unemployment among the Maltese – a rise in social problems and a decline in workers’ rights.
These are potential problems our politicians should be pre-empting and tackling head-on, and this includes being honest with their voters about how society and the economy require foreign workers.
Once this premise has been set, discussion can then move towards ensuring foreign workers want to come to Malta and, once they’re here, ensuring they want to stay here.
It will mean tackling worker abuse, clamping down on bureaucracy at Identity Malta, ensuring people can live comfortably after paying their rent and presenting an all-round hospitable, and not hostile, environment for foreigners.
Rather than acting as mere observers and, willfully or otherwise, using their power to inflame racial and socio-cultural tensions, our political class should realise it needs to lead society into one which is more accepting of foreigners.
Their goal should be to make sure foreigners speak fondly of Malta when they do end up leaving our shores, not point fingers at them for all the country’s ills and then chuck them out with just the clothes on their back when the going gets rough.
This isn’t just a humanitarian attitude, it’s a strategic approach to ensure better times ahead for the economy, and therefore for the people of Malta, has better times ahead.
The writing is on the wall; unfortunately, no politician seems to be reading it yet.