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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

Who’s afraid of Roberta?

MEP Roberta Metsola is making Malta proud in the European arena, on the issue of migration

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
23 February 2016, 7:21am
Roberta Metsola, an MEP representing the PN, has been on the forefront with regard to the migration issue that, according to some observers, is even threatening to undo the EU. 

A recent issue of ‘Time’ magazine reported that more than 70,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe through Greece since January and that over 90% of them are from three countries – Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. It also said that according to the UN, 40% of those who arrive in Europe are women and children.

In the European Parliament, Metsola is on the forefront on this issue. She makes Malta proud. 

About a month ago, a report, authored by Metsola and Italian socialist MEP Kashetu Kyeng was presented to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. It actually said that not everyone who arrives in Europe should be automatically eligible for protection and those who are not would have to be safely returned.

The report argued that states along Europe’s external borders have to be secure if fears presented by migration were to be allayed and that every member state had to play its part on relocation.

In a speech at the European Parliament earlier this week, while reacting to the attacks in Cologne’s central train station on New Year’s Eve, Metsola reiterated the importance of respecting each other’s rights and freedoms and emphasised that hatred – being against women, religions or any other minorities – was unacceptable. 

Some of the comments made in reaction to this speech on Facebook were nothing short of vile, to the extent that Metsola decided to ask the police to investigate what could only be described as a death threat - a posting saying: ‘She should be shot’.

“I did not enter politics to say things that everyone will always agree with, I speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in, that has always been my style and I will not change it. I respect criticism from anyone no matter how harsh it may be and will happily argue my corner with anyone. This goes beyond that, it exposes a level of intolerance that is worrying. It always impresses me how people spewing hatred from behind their screens think that they can say whatever they like online without any consequences,” Metsola told MaltaToday. 

One thing that Metsola pointed out was that the level of hatred towards migrants had shot up when Malta had not received any asylum seekers by boat in a year. This is indeed a very intriguing point.

There is only one reason for this intolerance and hatred: fear of the unkown. People are afraid that ‘the world as they know it’ will change and their peace of mind will disappear. This is a common reaction to events as they fold out but it is also a very stupid reaction. In fact, more often than not, this fear – morphed into hatred – of immigrants is exhibited by the uninformed.

History has shown that those who survive need not be the strongest or the more vicious. It is those who are able to keep adapting themselves to changing circumstances. This is also partly why Malta as a nation is a success story. Not recognising what is happeneing all around us and expecting things to remain as they have been for the years since one was born is nothing short of a stupid and shortsighted reaction to fear of change.

The despicable attitude towards immigation and towards courageous positive people like Roberta Metsola shows that, for many, religion is a very superficial attribute with ethics and respect for human dignity not figuring anywhere. 

When a legal expert – probably of Maltese extraction – asked Jesus ‘who is my neighbour?’, Jesus related the parable of the good Samaritan. It is the story of a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, who happened to be going down the same road, crossed to the other side and ignored him. But a Samaritan took pity on him and helped him. 

After recounting the story, Jesus asked  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” and the legal expert replied: “The one who had mercy on him.” 

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus retorted.

The choice of a Samaritan as the protagonist of the story is no coincidence. Samaritans were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not observe the law entirely. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. Tellingly, when the Samaritan helped the injured man, he did not consider the man’s race or religion.

 The many racists among us, who resent and hate foreigners ‘invading our country and taking our jobs’, are actually exhibiting their bigotry spawned by the fear of the unknown.

Cohabitation on the agenda

Last Wednesday, the Prime Minsiter announced that a proposed law aimed to remove any form of discrimination towards cohabiting unmarried couples has been presented for Cabinet’s approval. 

The bill on cohabitation is long overdue and has been in the offing for decades. Yet, I always thought that it was impossible for the country to have a law on cohabitation without first having a law on divorce. 

The scenario of a cohabitation law without a divorce law would have led to a situation where, for practical purposes, there were two levels of marriage: a first class ‘A1’ marriage – whether celebrated by a religious or a civil rite – and a second class, also-ran ‘B2’ pseudo-marriage attained via the registration of cohabiting partners who want to remarry but are impeded from doing so.

With divorce in place, it is only those who do not want to marry that will opt for cohabitation.

Moreover, without divorce, giving rights to cohabiting couples when at least one of the partners has had a previous broken marriage is akin to an indirect recognition of bigamy – since the original marriage would not have been dissolved.

During the divorce referendum campaign, I attempted to communicate this problem to the then Prime Minsiter, Lawrence Gonzi.

He could not understand this point... or pretended he could not.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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