Child pawns of a political system

Some of you may not like what you are about to read, but then, I was never one to care about saying what is popular, it was always about saying what I believed is right.

In the past few days Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela stated that the government will not give Maltese citizenship to children born to migrant parents. I and the political party I am part of believe this decision is fundamentally wrong both on moral and humanitarian grounds.

I will explain why.

This decision was not made according to any consistent stand against migration made by this government, or the previous one for that matter. If that was the case, we would not have thousands of Libyans living here as bogus directors of bogus companies funded by money taken illegally out of their country.

We would not have hundreds of illegal workers from eastern Europe in the construction, hospitality, entertainment and agriculture and fishery industries artificially driving lower end wages down and not contributing one cent to the government’s coffers.

We would not have hundreds of wealthy people buying our passport for the sole intention of avoiding paying taxes in their own country. We would have none of that.

This decision was taken out of pure political expediency. The Labour Party is worried it will lose votes to the anti-immigration right wing parties forming in this country and decided to make a gesture to pander to people who may switch support to them. So what did they do? Emulating an increasingly consistent pattern of behaviour, they picked on the most vulnerable to show their strength.

The Nigerian parents of the children being denied citizenship have been living here legally for years under a government programme for failed asylum seekers called Temporary Humanitarian Protection Status (THPn).

Thanks to this programme, unlike some of the groups mentioned earlier, they were working legally, paying taxes and national insurance just like you and me, and generally contributing to our society.

This programme has now been terminated. Fair enough. It is a decision a government has the right to take. However, in a few cases, as the people affected have been here for such a long time, children have been born to them.

The only country these children know is Malta, in some cases the only language they speak fluently is Maltese. They know themselves as Maltese children of foreign parents. If they were born to foreign parents with residency in Malta, they would be eligible to a Maltese passport. As THPn is not considered this they do not have that right.

Yet they have no alternative country to be citizens of, they are not registered in the home country of their parents, the parents themselves have no documentation to legally go back to their country of origin. The end result of this is the government is condemning these children to a life of stateless limbo.

Even if this was not the case, to wrench children from the only society they have known as a result of a cynical political gesture goes against everything that makes us Maltese. Where is the Christian tradition in that? We boast of our generosity, we boast of record amounts of money collected in L-Istrina, and yet collectively we deny a few, and it is a very few, children the fundamental human right of having an identity and belonging to a country.

Before the xenophobes and ‘patriots’ get ranting it will open the flood gates to more coming here so their children get Maltese citizenship, the government can easily draw a line and make it clear that from now on this will not be the case. Those that came before were not told this, and in effect built a life under an illusion perpetrated by the authorities. We have done wrong by them by giving them the impression they could stay, we must do right by not harming the innocent product of that illusion, their children.

Partit Demokratiku was founded on the principle of protecting the vulnerable, encouraging sustainable development, fighting corruption and enforcing good governance. It was not founded on the everything-goes-for-a-vote concept.

All the other political parties have been deafening in their silence on this injustice, we will continue to do what is right, not what is popular. We will not let child pawns be the victims of our political system.

Anthony Buttigieg

Deputy Leader

Partit Demokratiku