‘PN not pandering to xenophobes’, Arrigo says over ‘foreigners’ billboard meme

PN deputy leader Roberto Arrigo shares mock-ups of Labour billboard apologising for ‘stuffing Malta with foreigners’ 

Robert Arrigo, a hotelier and himself an employer of foreign labourers, insisted that the PN had nothing against foreign workers and that the message was not xenophobic
Robert Arrigo, a hotelier and himself an employer of foreign labourers, insisted that the PN had nothing against foreign workers and that the message was not xenophobic

The Nationalist Party’s deputy leader Robert Arrigo has denied pandering to xenophobia, after he and party officials shared mocked-up photos of Labour billboards stating: ‘We made an error: we stuffed Malta with foreigners’. 

The photo-shopped billboard featured along others mocking labour’s “mistakes” in various fields, and took social media by storm in what was seen as an attempt to deflect attention from the PR blunder which saw the PN putting up a billboard with a spelling mistake on the first day of the electoral campaign. 

But Arrigo, a hotelier and himself an employer of foreign labourers, insisted that the PN had nothing against foreign workers and that the message was not xenophobic although aimed at the influx of low-paid foreigners. 

“There have been numerous speeches by party leader Adrian Delia in which he referred to foreign workers living in quarries or in farms and earning €450 a month,” Delia said. 

Arrigo acknowledged that he himself employs foreign workers, but only when he finds no Maltese to do their work. “There is a difference between employing people earning €450 a month and employing specialised people who speak four different languages,” he claimed. 

He also defended the message in the billboard as a “realistic one” which “reflects what we are living through at the moment.” 

But when challenged that such a generic message could be easily interpreted as one pandering to xenophobia, he insisted that his party’s concern was not on the presence of foreigners, but on the government’s “economic formula” through which growth is generated through “an increase in population.” 

“We should be investing in sectors which contribute to economic growth without increasing population... this unsustainable increase is resulting on pressures on the infrastructure, traffic and housing affordability,” he said. 

Arrigo also distinguished between importing low-paid workers, whom he said “contribute little in terms of a multiplier effect”, and higher-skilled sectors like gaming which attracted higher-paid, specialised workers. “It was past PN governments who cultivated the gaming sector which attracted high-spending foreigners.” 

Arrigo also promised that his party will outline concrete policy proposals on how to address this issue “before the general election”. 

“This is not a general election but an election on choosing the best MEPs and local councillours… We are therefore talking about the real issues facing people in everyday life. When the general election comes we will be presenting clear policies.” 

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