MaltaToday Survey | After Hal Far riots, migration climbs to top of the agenda

Immigration is a top concern that cuts across all age groups and all regions, outstripping all other problems by a large stretch, a MaltaToday survey has found

Immigration is a top concern that cuts across all age groups and all regions, outstripping all other problems by a large stretch, a MaltaToday survey has found.

People were asked to list two major problems facing the country today and illegal migration/migrants topped the list with 32.3%.

The result is not unexpected because the survey was done after the migrant riot at the Hal Far open centre. The survey had been scheduled to start that week after Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia delivered their budget reaction speeches in Parliament.

The survey found that people distinguished between migrants (often referred to by respondents as illegal immigrants) and foreigners living and working in Malta, which was mentioned as a problem by 9.2% of respondents.

This means that migration and foreign workers, collectively were mentioned as problems by 41.5% of people.

The numbers lend credence to the widespread feeling of anger and disbelief in the aftermath of the Hal Far riot where five cars belonging to staff members were burnt, offices ransacked and workers pelted with stones.

Subsequently, almost 100 migrants from the open centre were charged in court by the police for taking part in the riot. Those who admitted were handed down a six-week jail term.

The numbers also suggest that the Hal Far riot may have dampened people’s trust in Muscat despite giving the budget a high rating. The results of the survey last week showed that Muscat suffered a four-point dip in trust, which is probably a reflection of people being less appreciative of his conciliatory tone in the aftermath of the riot.

Migration worries Labourites more than PN voters

Labour voters were more likely than Nationalist voters to list migration as a major concern. Among those who voted for the PL in the 2017 election, 37.1% mentioned migration, while the equivalent result for PN voters was almost 10 points lower at 28%.

However, the concern over foreigners living and working in Malta was marginally higher among PN voters (9.4%) than it was among PL voters (8.5%).

The concern on migration was highest among those aged between 51 and 65, with 35.9% listing it as one of two problems facing the country. This was followed by those aged 36-50, where 34.1% listed migration as a concern.

The Northern Harbour region registered the highest concern for migration with 36.8%, while the lowest concern was registered in the Western region with 22.6%. In Gozo, migration was mentioned by 35.4%, the second highest figure.

In the South-Eastern region, home to the Hal Far open centre and the Safi detention centre, migration was listed as a concern by 31.2% of people.

Migration was the topmost concern for those with a secondary education (37.1%) but less pronounced among those with a tertiary level of education (22.1%).

The results are reflective of a broad consensus in the country that migration is a problem. This was undoubtedly influenced by the Hal Far riot but the survey also serves as a warning for mainstream parties not to ignore people’s concerns on the matter.

Nationalists concerned about cost of living

Overall, traffic and roads came in second as a concern with 13.2%, followed by foreigners living and working in Malta (9.2%).

Environmental destruction/the environment was listed as a concern by 7.1% of people, followed by construction/inconvenience caused by construction (5.5%).

The cost of living was listed as a concern by 3.8% of people. This was significantly more a concern for PN voters (7.2%) than PL voters (1.8%).

Corruption was mentioned by 2.7% of people as a concern, with this being more of a concern for PN voters (4%) than PL voters (1.1%).


The survey was carried out between 24 and 31 October 2019. 656 respondents opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on gender, region and age was used to replicate the Maltese demographics. The estimated margin of error is 5% for a confidence interval of 95%. Demographic and sub-group breakdowns have a larger margin of error.