The first word I heard when visiting Block B in the detention centre for migrants at Safi was “Freedom”. Which, as Col Brian Gatt had informed us beforehand, is the first word any visitor hears as soon as he approaches the immigrants.

Though we didn’t visit the warehouses where the conditions are worse especially due to overcrowding, the inmates at Block B didn’t complain about the conditions they were kept in. Miles away from a one star hotel, but the atmosphere wasn’t tense. The relationship between the officers and the detainees also looked very positive, and it is clear that Col Gatt is looked at as both a person in authority as well as someone who deserves respect.

What struck me was their reaction to the amount of time they have to remain detained. I expected anger towards this aspect, and while there was a certain amount of anger, what was clear from what they said and their body language is a sense of awe. They simply couldn’t understand why they were being detained for so long (18 months).

I tried to be honest with the detainees as much as I could. I told them that we were a small political party and the only party in Malta that suggests a 6 month maximum detention period, rather than the irrational 18 months. While I promised we’ll keep on insisting on the more reasonable 6 month maximum, this wasn’t likely to change any time soon.

I also tried to explain the reason why. First of all that since they entered the country in an irregular manner they needed to be monitored. Quite reluctantly they understood this. But why for so long?

The truth is that up to a decade ago, one would barely see a black person in Malta. Unlike most other Western European countries most black people entered the country as asylum seekers, on boats, sometimes in large numbers. This created a sense of shock, not necessarily racism but while we have our fair share of racists, it was more a question of fearing what was new, things we hadn’t been exposed to before – in this case, seeing a substantial amount of black people in Malta

I tried to explain that it is this was caused automatic and long term detention. That the hysteria that was felt in the country in 2002 has decreased a lot since Maltese people now meet immigrants on a day to day basis and know them personally. Also, that detention gives the Maltese people a sense of safety that what is yet “unknown” is being closely monitored.

Some understood, others didn’t. “No one was a afraid when we saw the first white people in Nigeria”, one immigrant told me.

That is what I told them. Unfortunately, there is more.

I didn’t tell them that since 2002, Malta has seen the birth of two extreme right movement, who aside to the lunatic ramblings, also decided to contest elections (one of them Alleanza Nazzjonali has by now closed shop, the other, Imperium Evropa has actually went further extreme and intends to finish what Hitler didn’t).

In order not to cause any agitation I refrained from telling them that the only reason they were being detained for so long is that both government and opposition lack balls and are afraid that they lose some votes to the remaining extreme right party if they dare rock the boat.

That their real fear is not that black people let loose will become werewolves, but that a hallucinating neo-Nazi gathers his few, but fanatically loyal followers, tell them that the blacks were let loose to rape their women and eat their babies – and then, contest elections.

What I did tell them is that what we, the Greens are asking for is not abolishing the monitoring of people who enter Malta in an irregular manner. I explained that some time in detention (maximum 6 months) is necessary. That the monitoring should go on after the immigrant is released through regular signing at police stations and mandatory health checks.

What we are proposing is nothing more than common sense, humane and cost efficient. The only reason these people are being detained for so long is that both government and opposition lack balls.

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Most dictators are afraid of a particular group of people – students. In different ways the governments of Libya, Egypt or Iran and many others intimidate, harass, imprison and even execute students hoping they will shut their mouth up. Yet, amid all adversity and serious personal risk, some refuse to shut up.

Students in such countries have to hide behind a computer screen to spread their message. It isn’t foolproof and a few are persecuted anyway. Others have to support their words with guns.

But we are better off, aren’t we? We can freely speak our voice without such fears? Ok, not always. However, compared to these totalitarian regimes, our students do have much more freedom to evaluate and criticize society. Our government can’t even dream of sending its troops to University. So it has to find another way. And it did.

They hijacked our students. The recent spat at the Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) is a clear example. Studenti Demokratici Maltin (SDM) use bullying and a ridiculous electoral system to keep on electing exclusively themselves. Pro-government and extremely conservative, this group of student is doing exactly the opposite of the courageous dissidents in totalitarian regimes. That is, making sure other students’ voices are not heard.

However, this week something really interesting happened. As Pulse, SDM’s main adversary, decided to boycott the elections, an ad hoc movement of students was formed. Moviment Indipendenti (MI) is proposing three students whose credentials are other than being puppets of our stuck-in-a-rut system.

I invite anyone reading this blog to take a look at what these students are for:

http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#!/pages/Moviment-Indipendenti/373654617407?ref=mf

I can’t vote for these people because I’m no longer a student. However I appeal to any student about having a true democracy to vote for MI next Thursday.

All over the world, students are shedding their blood for their freedoms. For democracy. Is it too much to use a couple of minutes of your time for what should be our common interest?

First of all I’d like to congratulate our President in waiting George Abela. He deserves to be a President, and in my opinion this is a victory for the majority of people in this country.

 

The only thing I disliked was the fact that the PN and PL are making the most political mileage possible out of this. I’m also nearly sure that the reason he was chosen was that of personal interest of the two main parties. It was mostly a coincidence that this choice is beneficial for the country.

 

I believe this one of the reasons Abela was chosen was in terms of image for the main parties. It looks good that a blue government chooses a President coming from a red background. The PL also gained in terms of how they, especially their new leader are portrayed. Joseph Muscat, united the Party, which included making amends with Abela and bringing him back in the political sphere, then most of the Party voted for him.

 

However, the primary reason for this choice is technical, and I believe it favors the PN more. George Abela is a charismatic person, and one that is not blinded by the color of the Party he forms. When he felt he disagreed, he’s shown it, and even resigned. The effect of this is the fact that by next election, he would have definitely attracted the votes of floating voters, as well as those of people who otherwise would have voted AD, not voting at all, and even some who might have voted the PN. By becoming President he was out of the way.

 

Some PL MP’s also had to gain. Unlike what many people think, the majority of people contesting elections first priority is not that their Party is in government, but that they get elected themselves. If your Party is in government but you are not an MP, there is much less to gain. Thus, for people who might have been contesting in Abela’s same district, the no1 competitor is gone. Better still, gone with no hard feelings – he’s to become the President.

 

I don’t want to exclude the fact that probably there were MP’s from both sides who voted for George Abela for his assets as a human being, an honest person with a lot of integrity. However for me it’s hard to sink in that this was the main motive