This Christmas, many people complained about their business being affected by the political turmoil our country has been going through. We, it seems, have got used to our economy booming. Yet what many fail to see, or would rather not admit to, is how our ‘booming economy’ has cost us much more than it’s worth. This very economy is built upon the destruction of our environment and heritage in the pursuit of erecting tower block after tower block even though many are destined to remain empty; it is built on the idea that citizenship can be bought by those who can afford it rather than given to those who deserve it; it is built upon the exploitation of workers, both Maltese and foreign, but particularly the latter, for the benefit of the few.
To many of us, Christmas is a time to be spent with family and friends, and to give thanks for another year. While I was doing just that, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the families of those twenty-two children who are set to be deported and at how we, as a country, have completely reached rock bottom in our race to accumulate more money at any cost.
Let’s start from the facts: this year, the head of Malta’s national employment agency said that Malta will need an additional 10,000 foreign workers in 2020 for its economy to keep growing at the same rate we’ve been experiencing over these past few years. We also had the now-disgraced Prime Minister Joseph Muscat say that Maltese people should not be the ones picking up rubbish. Meanwhile, the state expects third-country nationals to earn €19,000 a year, plus an extra €3,800 per child if they want to live in Malta. I was never the best at maths, but things really aren’t adding up.
The truth, however, is that they do if you look at them in the manner there were meant to be seen: a very twisted one.
We are making way for more foreigners to come to live here, to do the jobs we don’t want to, to pay them less because they are foreign, to get them to pay exorbitant amounts for properties in dirty, polluted and uninspiring backwaters, and then penalise them for not making enough by taking their children away and blaming policies.
The excuse the government has used for all of this is that it does not want these children to end up living in poverty, adding – rather unbelievably – that this is in the children’s best interest. The state could easily help the families of these twenty-two children out. Given that their parents are doing everything in their power to support their families, then social services should step in. Many may disagree, of course, but the reality is that if we’re fine with having foreigners bust their gut on our behalf, then we should be willing to ensure that their and their family’s basic human rights are, at the very least, safeguarded.
More pertinently, this issue has highlighted another problem this government and many Maltese people have: the inability to understand that money or lack thereof is not the only form of poverty a person can experience. A person fed but unloved is still poor, a person clothed but uneducated is still poor, a person with material possessions but traumatised is still poor.
So what is my point, you might ask? Well, while these children may be at risk of living in poverty should they continue to live here, they will be poor if they are sent back home nonetheless. For what is a child to do without their family? How much poorer would a child feel without the love, empathy and education that they should receive from their nearest and dearest? This isn’t an extraordinary case, these children’s relatives are alive and kicking, so why are we going this far?
Ultimately, we could easily solve the problem of material wealth for these children: food, education, and healthcare can be made available. We are, after all, in l-aqwa żmien, no? Instead, we are choosing to wash our hands of them and, based on some policy which clearly doesn’t take anything other than money into consideration in a country where the minimum monthly wage doesn’t exceed €800, exile them and take them away from the things they need as much as the food they eat and the clothes they wear.
And so, with Christmas come and gone, the message it is meant to bring with it, that of goodwill, has once again been lost amid the fairy lights. It’s a sad world we live in indeed.