Britain should emulate the tough Maltese stance on immigration
One sure sign that your country is a fully-paid up member of the EU is when boatloads of illegal immigrants start heading for your shores. It's certainly been the experience of Malta, the small Mediterranean island which acceded to the EU in 2004.
One day last week, no fewer than five such boats arrived, carrying a total of over 150 people. The Maltese government's response was swift and decisive. Police were at hand for four of the landings, while the fifth vessel, a Spanish trawler containing 51 Eritreans, was refused permission to land on the basis that the migrants had been picked up at a point where Malta was not the closest land territory.
For its uncompromising stance, the Maltese government was criticised by the UN refugee agency and pressure groups representing the interests of refugees. But it did exactly the right thing.
Malta is one of the most cohesive societies in Europe, and enjoys low levels of crime. There is a real sense of community and the family unit is strong. A large influx of African migrants, with different faiths and cultures, could easily endanger social cohesion.
In addition, Malta is already crowded enough: after Bangladesh, it is the most densely populated country on earth. The Maltese government's refusal to admit the Eritreans gained domestic support from across the political spectrum.
In the end, Malta allowed one pregnant woman and her child ashore from the boat; the other migrants were flown to Spain and Morocco.
By standing up to the international do-gooders, Malta has sent out a clear signal that it will put the interests of its own people first. Is John Reid's "new-look" immigration service a sign that Britain is - at long last - considering doing the same? Fat chance.
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