An interesting debate on irregular immigration was organised by JEF Malta at the the KSU common room on the 7th March at noon. President of JEF, Christopher Scicluna, introduced the session before giving the floor to Dr. Derek Lutterbek, Holder of the Swiss Chair and Director of MEDAC who gave an overview on the issue. He stressed that we should not forget that migration is a beneficial economic phenomenon and that only 5 to 10% of irregular immigrants are those that come by boat from the south, as they are just part of a larger picture.
The debate, moderated successfully by Joe Azzopardi, kicked off after Dr. Lutterbek’s words as four MEP candidates shared their views on irregular immigration across the Mediterranean. Raymond Bugeja and Kevin Plumpton represented the Nationalist Party while Lino Bianco and Clint Camilleri are both Labour Party candidates, making the debate very politically charged. Raymond Bugeja and Kevin Plumpton both stressed that the problem needs to be discussed in terms of Malta’s size, Bugeja even speaking about its beneficial elements when it is controlled in relation to Malta’s population density. Plumpton emphasised the value of the individual human being as it is not the individual that creates a problem but a large volume of people that he compared to a tidal wave that can only be tamed with burden sharing; a solution that seemed to be mentioned by all the candidates.
The Labour Party candidates also gave importance to the value of the human being, especially Lino Bianco who spoke about irregular immigration as a human tragedy. However, both Bianco and his colleague Clint Camilleri spoke about putting national interest before everything else, with Camilleri even saying that his main aim is to make the EU understand that irregular immigration is a problem that should be dealt with by the EU and not by the Maltese government. The Nationalist candidates objected to this, Bugeja even saying that Malta is part of the EU, meaning that an EU problem automatically is a Maltese problem, and offered local solutions such as education that leads to integration. Plumpton further called the attitude of the Labour party Eurosceptic and criticised them for taking what he called a fortress approach which will ultimately get no results.
Bugeja spoke about the EU committees where a representative from every country is present. This is where the work is actually done; discussions are held, figures are looked at and a consensus is reached. He said that the only way to move forward is to contribute to these discussions and not through banging your fists on the table and through threatening with push-backs as if it were a fight. His colleague, Plumpton, who also argued against these tactics, said that better steps towards a solution are clarifying the Frontex and increasing the budget for home affairs. The Labour party candidate, Bianco, however insisted that the Maltese government is fighting for its national interest already by putting the issue of irregular immigration on the agenda.