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PM ‘does not approve’ of immigration protest

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has criticised plans for a protest against immigration expected to take place on Sunday, warning Labour officials and MPs not to take part.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear to the organisers that he does not approve of such demonstrations,” his spokesman told Times of Malta.

The organisers have applied for a police permit to hold a protest in Valletta on Sunday, calling it a demonstration “in favour of the Maltese Government in the fight against illegal immigration”.

“While freedom of expression is everyone’s right, the Prime Minister strongly believes those who want to support Government won’t help by demonstrating in the streets,” Dr Muscat’s spokesman said.

He added that the Government will keep taking a strong line against politicians and the organised criminal racket while making sure human lives were saved.

A Facebook group promoting the protest has almost 5,000 members but this includes several moderate politicians from both sides of the spectrum who may have been added to it without their knowledge.

Asked whether any Government officials or MPs would be given the green light to take part in the protest, Dr Muscat’s spokesman said: “Obviously, MPs and Labour officials are expected not to take part.”

Bring ‘only’ Maltese flags and chant ‘Malta Tagħna, Malta Tagħna, hey, hey’

The protest is being organised by a Facebook group entitled Malta Tagħna (Malta is Ours), a play on Labour’s electoral slogan Malta Tagħna Lkoll (Malta for All).

The organisers this week published the acknowledgement letter sent to them by the police regarding their request for a permit.

A similar protest that was meant to take place earlier this month did not materialise after the police made it clear no permits had been sought.

Asked whether the permit would be granted, a police spokeswoman said: “The application is still being processed.”

Anti-immigration sentiment has grown in Malta since Dr Muscat threatened to fly a group of immigrants back to Libya without processing their asylum requests at the beginning of the month.

Advanced plans to send the migrants via Air Malta flights were foiled at the last minute by the European Court of Human Rights, which filed an “interim measure” to block their repatriation.

Malta has just recorded its highest number of irregular migrant arrivals in a single month: 880.

Sunday’s demonstration is being promoted as a “pro-Maltese demonstration” using the tagline: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Calling people to bring with them “only” Maltese flags and chant “Malta Tagħna, Malta Tagħna, hey, hey”, the organisers plan to meet at 9am at the top of Republic Street.

They also warned protesters to ensure there were “no rude comments or violence”.

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