You could not stay. Your conscience did not allow you to stay silent infront of measures like "Malta tal-Maltin (suwed barra)" and the latest one called "Dissoluzzjoni tal-Ordni tal-Gizwiti". You collected your papers from the Centru Nazzjonali tal-Purifikazzjoni, the former Jesuit College in Birkirkara, and sped with haste to the airport with tears in your eyes. Your stomach still has to be emptied on a regular basis as you adjust to the new reality and you see the same empty, desperate look in the fellow passengers of this forced abortion of nationals. You still cannot bring yourself to explain what has happened in your country and why you have to leave it so fast. But you have no time to do so. You have to begin to adjust to the new country.
The new country is not like those Mediterranean pits that were reserved for the boat people. Like them, it knew you were coming. Unlike them it did not reserve a hastily built slum for you to call as home. You live in a former army barrack but your tiny room has running water, electricity and there is even a communications and technology room for all immigrants to keep contact with the world. Morale is low - no one wanted to be here. The authorities try to be accomodating and to relieve the greatest troubles. They create a scheme for economic support. Different jobs in the local market are made available. Unlike the Mediterranean nightmares that you used to read about you are to be allowed to scrape away a little earning in order to be self-sufficient and be able to hope for brighter days.
When you venture out into the street , the locals are understanding. Although your complexion is very much like those of the terrorists who bombed and targeted their nation with violent attacks at train stations and on buses, very few make the quick and illlogical assumption that you could be of the same ilk. You are offered lifts to work. You join the local carpool and although you are not working as the University Professor that you were in Malta, your life as a shoe salesman in this little town allows you to live with dignity even though your career and dreams have been put on hold.
Then one day a local radical paper falls into your hands. Your eyes cannot believe what they see. They seem to have caught up with you. Those bungling buffoons who were in power in Malta seem to have found a foothold even in this welcoming state, here is what they say:
"Surely, there are ways of keeping them busy and alleviating their boredom. For example, they should help, in their own interest, to keep toilets clean. Also, could not some scheme of putting them to work on public cleaning projects, under strict supervision, and for a small allowance, improve things? There are many jobs they could be given - God knows the island needs a massive sprucing up! The scheme could start with a few small groups, and eventually expanded. Naturally it must be ensured that at the end of their day's work, they return to "base"." source
You discard the paper and turn on the TV in your room - the one you just bought with the money put aside from your first two months' salary.
They will be everywhere. The intolerant, the coocooned as well as the well-meaning bumblers. You remember that massacres in India and Africa under the colonial regime were prompted by well-meaning actions of the Evangelical communities who intended to civilise the misbelieving miscreants. And you begin to notice how some things never change. How difficult it is to achieve genuine tolerance based on brotherly love and not the tolerance that relies on looking down a snobbish nose into the eyes of the tolerated, and humiliated human being?
This just cannot be real.
Note: The extract in quotes is taken from the editorial of the Sunday Times of Malta - 26th March 2006. It refers to the illegal immigrants and refugees who were bundled into housing under atrocious conditions and is a partial reaction to the new uproar created by a visit of European Parliament inspectors who were among the first outsiders to be allowed by the democratic Republic of Malta to inspect the conditions. The visit had prompted escapes from detention by immigrants eager to show their plight to the visiting MEPS (and who cares how they got to know about the visit? Why should they not know about it?). Following the escapes, police in Floriana were seen stopping anyone who is black while passers by called for a all immigrants to be rounded up and burnt in a square.
It is possible that the above summary is as biased as it could get. But even the possibility that it is one tenth of the truth makes me feel ashamed that I am Maltese.