Coleiro Preca: ‘I’ll be this country’s social conscience’

‘We’re treating unaccompanied child migrants like criminals’ – minister

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (centre)
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (centre)

On her last day as social solidarity minister, president-designate Marie Louise Coleiro Preca has sent a clear message that she will use her Presidency to push a commitment to end the detention of child migrants.

She was speaking at the launch of a report into care orders for children taken under government care at the Old University in Valletta.

“Unaccompanied minors must be our children… we cannot forget the experience they’ve been through. It can only happen if we look at these children in the face. Just imagine what they had to go through if their parents told them to take the opportunity [to leave their country]… they come to Malta and we treat them like criminals. Because that’s how we treat them,” Coleiro Preca said.

Her emphatic declarations comes days after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made ending child detention a commitment of his government, in a Freedom Day speech he gave in Birgu on Sunday, 30 March.

“Government must commit itself to provide a different reception centre for these children and the IOM will be sending a team to assess the matter. Let’s be united and stand foursquare on this issue.”

In a reply to a question from Integra Foundation’s Maria Pisani, Coleiro Preca also explained what her presidency could achieve.

“You’re not going to be the minister here, so to what degree will this commitment be followed through – have the wheels been set in motion? Because frankly, just because the prime minister spoke, does it mean anything?” Pisani asked.

“I’ve been given wider functions,” Coleiro Preca replied. “Obviously, I cannot go to parliament and submit a law. But it doesn’t have to be me. As President I will keep on facilitating and push forward for things to be done.

“Don’t lose heart. Let’s say I’m going to be an experiment, but I rarely fail in experiments when it comes to the vulnerable. Bear with me a few days, but we will set things in motion. I’m not in an executive role. But am going to be the social conscience of this country.”

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