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MALTATODAY 9 June 2019

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17 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 9 JUNE 2019 INTERVIEW ing this issue directly through the setting up of a specialised anti-hate speech unit. Hate crimes do take place across Europe and the rest of the world, even in countries with strong prevention mech- anisms. What I can surely say is that his murder needs to raise the alarm across all of our society, and we need to ensure that we include and in- tegrate race and ethic minori- ties and migrants into Maltese society. This will address stig- ma and prejudice, and reduce segregation. Importantly, the Prime Min- ister organised a meeting be- tween himself, Minister Dalli and the members of the Fo- rum for Integration Affairs immediately after the racist motive behind Lassane Sou- leymane's murder was con- firmed. That meeting was very positive, and now a number of proposals are being developed and discussed. During that meeting he was more than clear that racism and racial hatred have no place in Malta and that gov- ernment will do its utmost to address this problem. The Prime Minister's speech in Xewkija, the day of the arrests, set the tone to a political will to stamp out racism: but is too little, too late? Has our political class ever been serious about racism and integration? We need to tackle racism in the same systematic way in which we have tackled homo- phobia and transphobia. This means that the message needs to be as sharp as that of the Prime Minister, and the con- viction behind that message and the actions that follow equally well communicated. As Malta becomes increas- ingly cosmopolitan and inter- cultural, the least we can do is to have clear messages around equality for all and that racism and segregation have no place in our society. I trust that the government will do the right thing in this area, with the same conviction that I had when I spoke about integration to Raphael Vassal- lo in the 'Failure to integration is not an option' interview, soon after my appointment as director in 2015. Success will not depend on the government alone though. Society needs to be receptive to the work that will be car- ried out, and everybody will need to do their part to break down stereotypes and pro- mote an anti-racist culture. I therefore call on commu- nity organisations and sports clubs, amongst others, to in- spire change at the commu- nity level through pro-active work and engagement with race and ethnic minorities in their localities. Hamrun is an interesting example of contradictions on integration: on the one hand, you have fantastic 'ethnic' business sprouting up, on the other hand you had two Patrijotti candidates standing for the local council, not to forget other political attempts at using this town to raise fears on immigration. Do you feel that residents there are short-changed due to a lack of regeneration or infrastructural investment from the State, or because their concerns on safety and on rowdy, down-and-out (poor) migrant workers, are not addressed? I have often reflected on the difficulties that fast-paced change may have on local communities, and the com- pounding of those difficulties when not enough is done at a local level to invest in commu- nity support and regeneration. Therefore, my colleagues and I are full of empathy to- wards those persons who have experienced such difficulties because of this change, and we definitely need to hear them and address their concerns. Similarly, however, we need to take care of recent residents and open the space for their integration in the community. Precisely because migrant integration can only really happen at a neighbourhood and community level, the In- tegration Unit launched the Local Integration Charter to- wards the end of last year, and we already have 21 signatory councils. Others are expected to join, now that the elections are over. It would be great if this process leads to differ- ent integration initiatives that help to forge new friendships and build new networks mir- roring the transformation of the respective locality. Do you think the same problem exists in St Paul's Bay? How should political parties, in whose name the local councillors are elected, treat the reality of our multicultural towns? The day-to-day realities re- lated to migration are differ- ent in different towns and villages and this is because of several factors. What is cer- tain though is that all towns have EU nationals and third country nationals within them, and therefore the work of local councils needs to ad- dress this one way or another. St Paul's Bay primary school is one of the most ethnically diverse in Malta and during a recent visit, I was pleased to see that student representa- tion in the school was equally diverse. This shows that at the school level there is no seg- regation between students in view of the country of origin or other factors. That real- ity can serve as an inspiration for adults and the political process. Our Directorate will support all local integration initiatives as our resources will permit. Does Malta need a sociological and anthropological study to get to grips with our multi-cultural society as it evolves? As we increasingly learn about the situation of mi- grants in Malta through our one-to-one meetings with them, we are building a wealth of knowledge of the recur- rent issues, as well as the is- sues that the next integration strategy needs to address. So- ciological and anthropologi- cal studies will surely help us build a fuller picture in terms of local interaction, as well as issues and tensions, and would be a welcome source of information. "We need to tackle racism in the same systematic way in which we have tackled homophobia and transphobia"

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