Updated: Voting rights for migrants 'a red line issue'
Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil said today that the issue of voting rights for migrants was crucial for Malta because the country could not afford to give such rights to the 5,200 immigrants currently living here.
“This is one of the red lines that we cannot cross," Dr Busuttil said at a press conference, pointing out that the last general election was decided by a mere 1,500 votes.
A right-to-vote clause for migrants was included yesterday in a European Parliament report on a common EU policy on immigration. The report was penned by Dr Busuttil, who, however, unsuccessfully resisted the inclusion of the clause by the socialist, liberal and Green groups of the European Parliament.
The Maltese Labour MEPs voted against the granting of voting rights, but Dr Busuttil said they had not put enough pressure and they had not managed to convince their fellow socialists to vote in Malta’s favour. This was in contrast to how the European Popular Party had voted.
He argued that granted voting rights to migrants who arrived illegally would send the wrong message, that this was a free-for-all. It could also constitute a pull-factor and in Malta's case, it could give the migrants the power to elect a government.
He said this report provided a common policy towards immigration which the European Parliament could now push forward to the EU as a whole. He said the recent stand-off between Malta and Italy was proof of the need for such a common policy, but the human tragedy was reason enough for such a policy to be implemented.
The report, among other proposals, calls for a revision of the Dublin regulations so as to enable immigrants to move freely around Europe without being sent back to the country of first arrival
The PL in a reaction said Dr Busuttil was trying to be deceptive. The PL MPs, it said, had voted exactly as Dr Busuttil did. Therefore, if he was trying to criticise their voting pattern, he was criticising his own.
Furthermore, despite the influence which Dr Busuttil claimed to have in the European Peoples Party, he had not managed to include, in his report, a clear reference to compulsory burden sharing. Indeed, the report welcomed the Immigration Pact, which only spoke on voluntary burden sharing.
And when Labour MEP Louis Grech had proposed the setting up of an Immigration agency, Dr Busuttil had not even turned up for the vote and the PPE voted against.