Updated | PN defends Delia after NGOs hit out at ‘shocking’ immigration speech

A joint NGO statement released on Monday reacted to Adrian Delia's comments on the erosion of Maltese identity and values due to foreigners

Adrian Delia's speech on Sunday at Tarxien
Adrian Delia's speech on Sunday at Tarxien

PN leader Adrian Delia is feeling the heat from a statement by human rights NGOs which took him to task over his inflammatory speech on Sunday on immigration, insisting that the Maltese government has “no plan for immigration”.

The PN said on Monday evening that his speech on Sundary was a reflection of the absence of a plan, and said it was “the obligation of a mature and serious Opposition that looks after the national interest to discuss the social, economic, environmental and infrastructural impact of unplanned, high-intensity immigration in such a short span of time and in a land that is limited and of scare resources.”

The PN said in a statement it refused suggestions that Delia’s speech on Sunday had been inflammatory.

“He never expressed a sentiment that ran counter to fundamental human rights. He was clear on the need to assist lives at sea. He attacked the exploitation of people held in inhuman conditions or sleeping rough. And he spoke positive of foreigners who have integrated well.”

The PN said it was duty-bound to speak both of the new poverty created by unlimited influx of foreign labour, which was affected property rental prices and created inadequate working conditions. “This poverty is bringing with it criminality that is worrying the Maltese… the PN is a proud guardian of the Constitution which it will be celebrating in the coming weeks for Independence Day. These values and our identity are our political compass.”

Malta's human rights NGOs called out Opposition leader Adrian Delia for his comments on Sunday about foreigners causing a threat to Maltese identity and values, calling them "abhorrent".

The NGOs said they were "shocked and disgusted" by what Delia had said, saying that by "using inflammatory language and calling for affirmation of the Maltese identity" he had "accused non-Maltese nationals of instilling feelings of fear and insecurity".

Speaking at a political activity in Tarxien yesterday, Delia made rallying statements about the new Nationalist Party slogan "A Caring Society", lamenting what he said was the loss of Maltese identity and values.

The NGOs made reference to Delia's comments about wreaking "havoc on our Maltese identity", saying the language he used was intended to generate hatred, discrimination and violence. They urged the Opposition leader and his colleagues to refrain from resorting to such divisive discourse for the sake of political expediency. 

They highlighted that several national and global developments have hastened the pace of social change, making today’s reality and society extremely different to those of a few years ago.

Mentioning developments such as Malta’s EU accession, neo-liberal economic policies, globalisation, and the rise of social media which have, they said these had in fact been championed by successive Maltese governments.

Despite this, they said, "these developments have also brought about uncertainty and growing insecurities. Furthermore, not all have benefitted from the economic boom and there is growing inequality and abject poverty in Malta, together with several fractures within our communities. Social change has bought about a sense of loss and uncertainty for many and, for some, fear of change."

It is because of this, the organisations said, that they believed that Delia was keen on capitalising on such insecurities and populist sentiments, underlining that it was hypocritical of him to make such anti-foreigner statements since he was negating the political factors that may have contributed to such human misery.

"[This] raises questions vis-à-vis the [PN's] commitments to international human rights obligations and to Malta's very own Constitution." The NGOs pointed to Article 1 of the 1964 Constitution of Malta, where it is laid down that Malta "is a democratic republic founded on work and on respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual." They said this makes references to all persons living in Malta irrespective of their gender, race, colour or belief.

"The leader of the Nationalist Party has an immense responsibility in this nation-building exercise," they said, "We hope that he and his colleagues will not rubbish this responsibility for a handful of votes, but that he will promote the Constitution's values throughout his work."

The NGOs who issued the statement were Aditus Foundation, Allied Rainbow Communities, The Critical Institute, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, KOPIN, LIBICO, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM), Men Against Violence, Migrant Women Association, Moviment Graffitti, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, Richmond Foundation, SOS Malta, SPARK15, St. Jeanne Antide Foundation (SJAF), We Are, and
Women’s Rights Foundation.