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AN blames main parties for belated immigration debate

Both PN and Labour were to blame for letting illegal immigration escalate over the years before discussing the issue in public, Azzjoni Nazzjonali leader Josie Muscat said.

"Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi recently admitted that there was consensus between the two parties not to bring up the subject of illegal immigration. Instead, the parties discussed it during private meetings... and the PL has not contradicted this," Dr Muscat said.

He was referring to a recent statement in which Dr Gonzi accused PL leader Joseph Muscat of breaching a national consensus on immigration and pulling the subject into partisan debate.

Dr Gonzi said the Opposition Leader had first breached this consensus just after the government had given him a detailed presentation outlining how it was handling the problem.

Speaking during a campaign press conference yesterday, AN's Dr Muscat insisted that his party had been consistent in speaking out about this problem, which, he said, stemmed both from immigrants arriving in boats and those entering without a visa or overstaying.

But since his party had been set up, the numbers had increased and now immigrants posed a threat to Malta's cultural and religious values. He said the main parties had turned the Euro-parliamentary election campaign into a political football and people needed to understand that on June 6 they would not be voting in districts but as a whole country.

"The election results will not change who is in government or the Opposition," he stressed. Voting on this partisan basis only divided the voice of Malta in the European Parliament, he insisted as he called on people to vote for candidates who would represent the people.

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