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Don’t shoot the messenger

Posted Date: 28/05/2012

The Times of Malta - 28 May 2012 (Media InterAct)

 by Caroline Crutchley

At a conference held by SOS Malta earlier this month, the media was put under the spotlight and it was sad to see so few of them present. As a freelance journalist, I attended to find out why we were invited, having an enquiring sort of mind.

The press awards held annually by the Institute of Maltese Journalists has a new category, sponsored by SOS Malta. Yet, the prize was not awarded because none of the submitted features met the criteria.

SOS Malta wants to promote the problems and pleasures of third country national (TCNs) living in Malta and educate us all about it.

Now, I am a second country national and, for all of my 20 plus years in Malta, know the effect that has on my daily life and pocket. What am I talking about? If the journalists did not know then who will know?

A first country national is a Maltese passport holder and, if I am not mistaken, there are sub strata there too: returning migrants, those born in Malta and those that have taken Maltese citizenship by choice.

Second country nationals are those like me who are from the EU 27. In the pre-EU days, I would have been a foreigner full stop. Now I am a foreigner but an EU one, so we have the EU fighting my corner, if needs be.

Then there are the TCNs. This catchall is for passport holders from Commonwealth countries like Canada, Russia, the Americas, Africa and Asia. In other words, anywhere outside the EU boundaries.

The world is one great melting pot that is constantly on the move. The Maltese are migrants to the world. So why are Maltese so intolerant of them in Malta? Are they discriminated abroad? Yes, so perhaps that is why returning Maltese migrants find it so hard to resettle here.

What came out loud and clear at the conference was that the voice of TNCs is not being heard here and there is no one but the United Nations’ Court of Human Rights to help. If you are thinking or imagining a poor, illegal black African boat person, think again. I am talking wealthy, university-educated, career-driven people with masses of talent.

Many have been living legally in Malta for over 20 years, contributing to society, paying tax and national insurance and getting little in return. They feel alienated and forever standing on the shifting sands of the Maltese whims of political change.

Is this fair in a modern world? Would you discriminate and alienate your neighbour just because of the passport they hold? I know many with dual passports and so easily could hold a Maltese one. So why don’t we? I have a British passport that is the most sought after in the world. Therefore, it must be OK for me here in Malta.

Back to the conference. It was a revelation to the TCNs present and, I hope, some of the Maltese were listening to the voices from the floor.

I asked the first question as I waved my Maltese ID card in the air: I have an A for alien after my number. What do TCNs have on theirs?’

“An A,” came the reply.

Therefore, we are on the same boat then!

From the UK, we had two heavyweight allies, both women and both from different ethnic origins.

Nazek Ramadan, The Migrant Voice UK founder and chief editor gives TCNs in the UK a voice. She won the London Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year Award 2012.

Ronke Phillips from ITV and ITN news is listed in the top black heroes of the world alongside Barak Obama and Nelson Mandela. She set up a Views Diversity Panel across the UK broadcasting media and particularly for the ITV network.

The conference, part of the MediaInterAct project, brought together people from the four corners of the world. That the media was not covering their stories or plights came out loud and clear. This was a chance for education. Brainstorming workshops followed lunch, where we spoke about perceptions and problems and made recommendations to the media and the government.

Why are SCNs and TCNs charged more for utilities, asked for large deposits on services, generally pay into a system and get less in return? We are met with condescension at best, “whingers go home” and much worse when we try to have our say.

We love Malta. We fight its corner when talking about it and we are proud of our adopted homeland, so why can we not have our say?

Ms Ramadan and Ms Phillips were rather stunned by the bigotry and lack of willingness for change. The media and the children are the ones that can change everyone’s perception. The children of second and third nationals integrate easily at school and, with mixed marriages on the increase, Malta will become a welcome addition to the coffee-coloured world.

Change is blowing in the wind my friends, as Bob Dylan wrote, and it will grow stronger until things change.

Don’t shoot the messenger. Educate them.




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