They asked him to react to a court decision by Magistrate Victor Asciak who ordered the immediate release of four migrants who had been languishing in unlawful detention for 166 days. A similar decision was taken a few weeks ago by Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras who freed a man who had been behind bars for no earthly reason for 144 days.
These five people, forgotten behind bars like this was the 18th century, have been freed thanks to the work of Aditus and its director Neil Falzon who represented them. And thanks to the good sense of the magistrates who waved away the government’s objections.
The system of indefinite detention is “abusive and farcical”, said Magistrate Victor Asciak yesterday. Yep.
But the government shows no contrition. There’s no interest in finding solutions that are not abusive or farcical.
Consider some of these choice quotes.
In the same vein of “with all due respect” and the principle that anything that follows that phrase is inherently disrespectful, Byron Camilleri premises his comment, such as it is, with “I respect the court’s decision”.
“But.” You knew there was a but coming. Out of the window goes the respect to the court’s decision. “I think this confirms that our country suffers a lot on the issue of migration.” Bullshit. That’s not what the court decision was at all. The court was concerned with the suffering of four men imprisoned for 166 days without the benefit of a countdown to some sort of resolution to their situation, without being told anything about their fate, treated worse than criminals because criminals have rights and almost no crime is without any possibility of release.
So this wasn’t about the country’s suffering. This was about the suffering of the country’s victims.
At once Byron Camilleri reminds me of Ian Borg and Konrad Mizzi. Like Ian Borg just yesterday he receives a court decision with contempt, publicly and explicitly determined to ignore it completely. And like Konrad Mizzi, he is concerned with his own suffering, not the suffering he has caused others.
“When we said that we are full up we really meant we are full up,” Byron Camilleri went on. The statement sounds impressive but it is truly meaningless. No one disputes they meant what they said but that doesn’t mean that what they said is meaningful.
It is unacceptable to argue that if open centres are at capacity, the only possible alternative is to accommodate the surplus in indefinite imprisonment. That’s like arguing for forced euthanasia because the country cannot keep up with waiting lists for heart surgery. More prisons should only be an alternative to an over-crowded prison.
The solution to an overcrowded open centre is another open centre. Or integrated social housing. Or managed relocation. Or voluntary, and I mean voluntary, repatriation. Not indefinite imprisonment.
I know this comes with shock and horror because anything spent on black people feels like a waste of money. But only the heartless think it is wasted expense to be decent and human and treat people in need with anything better than a cellar in the Bastille.
“The long-term solution is to stop people from arriving in our country”. A long-term solution that is composed of 13 words that include the words “the long-term solution is”, is elegantly succinct and packaged for a sound bite that would project an image of profound thought. Kemm hu bravu l-Ministru. But it’s hollower than a response to a comprehension exercise question in the earlier years of elementary school.
It is not merely simplistic. It is also racist by motivation and cruel by consequence. It’s all in the choice of the verb “stop”.
It would be a long term solution if Byron Camilleri brokered peace in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Darfur and North Nigeria, restored order in the Central African Republic, Somalia, Eritrea, Chad and Libya, properly democratised Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, reversed the depletion in agricultural resources because of climate change in West Africa, dampened the drought of the Sahel, revitalised the economies of the great continent to our south and transformed Africa into a destination for European migrants in search of greener pastures.
I doubt Byron Camilleri had any of this in mind which is why his notion of a “long term solution” is quite minimalist. I don’t suggest this is for Byron Camilleri alone to solve. Suggesting that, is about as absurd as it is absurd to believe that there are any “solutions” that involve zero migration.
That’s unless we do what our government is doing which is to adopt “abusive and farcical” methods of deterrence, shelving all notions of human rights, imprisoning people without cause, preventing access to habeas corpus, caging people in sea-pens, putting people on boats South chugging hopelessly towards desert death camps where we can’t see or hear their suffering, or fish and swim in a sea of corpses.
It’s not trains East. It’s boats South. It’s another European long-term solution. A final solution by any other name.