Freedom of movement is one of the fundamental aspects of the European Union. Through the freedom of movement, people can cross borders and settle in different European countries, making it one of the best forms of integration. Yet this freedom doesn’t differentiate between those people going with good intentions and those coming with bad ones.
In the last ten years, more often than not, you hear Maltese people blaming crime on the influx of refugees. You need only converse with the man on the street to see that the word “criminal” brings to mind visions of a black refugee, roaming the streets of Marsa. Half of the people who hold this view won’t admit this, whilst the other half, as we speak now, are vigorously sharing their opinions on different social media platforms, often not shying away from fervent racial type casting. The act of racism is in no way justifiable, but it doesn’t mean all those guilty of racial prejudice are inherently obtuse. Some are just ignorant; victims of misinformation.
National statistics aren’t something people are especially familiar with. An article published on The Times, in October of last year, put holes in this narrative. Statistics showed that, of crimes committed between 2015 and June 2017, 301 people out of 389 which were arrested in Marsa were indeed Maltese. This means that an astounding 77% of crime in Marsa during that period was of Maltese creation. This statistic, though compelling for pro-migration activists, only accounts for one city for a period of a few of months. So what about all the other foreign instigated crime we hear about on the news, in areas such as San Ġiljan and San Pawl il-Baħar? Are they not too buzzing with foreign life?
This might leave the Maltese man or woman questioning the necessity and efficacy of the freedom of movement within the EU. An excellent interview by Albert Galea, posted as an article in The Independent, touches mainly on these points, highlighting instances of pickpocketing predominantly committed by Eastern Europeans.
In the article previously mentioned, Mr. Galea asks his sources directly whether these crimes are committed through the abuse of freedom of movement. Zahra, one of the interviewees, stated “open borders are good for many things, but they also give a window of opportunity for people to move freely and commit such crimes”. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the strong correlation between poverty and criminality. Taking a historical perspective, the legacy of authoritarian rule has left these countries of origin in dire economic straits with their citizens searching for any way out.
Zahra’s analogy of the window in this context, is a perfect one. When the weather is idyllic, the window is kept open, yet with the first few drops or rain, it is shut with haste. In the same way people are quick to change their minds on the topic of freedom of movement, disregarding the many benefits it provides. Take for example the various job opportunities the Maltese benefit from; you could apply for a job anywhere in Europe, and be placed at an equal footing with applicants from that country. In the same way, we gain workers from all around Europe who fill in jobs which are high in demand, such as nursing. I am an archaeology student, a field which has a few specialists here in Malta. Thanks to the Italian archaeologists who are coming here, our heritage can continue to be preserved, whilst our past can continue to be discovered. This freedom shouldn’t be discussed in light of a single issue, but rather its entirety should be taken into account; the good aspects and its more negative ones. On the whole, freedom of movement is an integral part of our European identity, as it makes us not only Maltese nationals, but also European citizens.