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Since 2013, the Labour government has cycled through four home affairs ministers.

The first one was Emanuel Mallia. We all know how that one went – disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s brilliant decision to appoint a criminal lawyer to a super-ministry with sweeping powers over the armed forces, the police, correctional services, probation and parole, the citizenship scheme, the public registry and all identity management, the courts, the office of the Attorney General, and public broadcasting went about as well as one would it expect it to.

After that morbid jackboot fetishist was forced to resign in December 2014, it was the alleged, botched bank robbery enabler‘s turn to have a go at the home affairs ministry, Carmelo Abela. The prime minister, Robert Abela, had accused the Nationalist Party of fabricating claims in cahoots with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s killers, who had also been involved in the failed HSBC heist in 2010 and had accused Carmelo Abela of being involved in the planning of the botched robbery. By the time the accusations came to light, Abela had already passed on the ministry to Michael Farrugia.

Farrugia was also no stranger to scandal. In August of last year, the Standards Commissioner found Farrugia guilty of having misled the Times of Malta when providing responses about his scandalous, last-minute waiver which immensely favoured the Quad Towers project in Mrieħel by rezoning the entire area as a high-rise friendly zone. Otherwise, his was an unremarkable career which largely consisted of passing the buck and making sure the shit didn’t smear his jacket whenever it hit the fan.

Today, we are forced to contend with a jumped-up mayor from Fgura who stuck so closely to Joseph Muscat’s shoes one could have easily mistaken him for a wayward piece of gum stuck to his sole. Don’t take my word for it: have a look at this brown-nosing master class on none other than Karl Stagno Navarra’s Pjazza in the midst of the biggest political crisis the country has ever seen. In case you don’t have time to click the link to watch a one-minute video, the summary of it is Byron Camilleri kissing Muscat’s arse while half the country was busy descending on Valletta to call for his head.

“How will I remember Joseph Muscat?” the great poet muses.

“In my mind, Joseph Muscat means ‘winning’. Winning at everything, everything he ever touched. That’s the reality. He oversaw successes in the field of employment, in the economy, in social housing – one success after the other. And I cannot forget our electoral successes and how much we’ve celebrated through the last eleven years. This is the first Labour government I’ve ever known. I never remember myself celebrating with the Labour Party. Joseph Muscat gave me that enormous satisfaction,” he adds, presumably pausing a bit so Stagno Navarra can wipe his briefs. He then tells all about Muscat’s hitherto unknown powers of transmutation.

“I remember the first time I ever spoke to Joseph Muscat, I was maybe 20 years old. I remember going in there like a sheep and coming out like a lion. I will never forget it – it was a difficult moment for me, going in one way and then coming out another. The effect that Joseph Muscat had on me at the time when I was 20 years old is an effect that he still has on me now ten years later,” he concludes before the clip mercifully cuts off.

The four home affairs ministers that have disgraced that high office since the Labour Party seized power in 2013 have plenty of things in common. To begin with, none of them had as much as an inkling of a policy framework for migration, a phenomenon which showed up on our shores with increasing urgency for more than two decades. Think about it: when was the last time you heard any of these people say anything which remotely sounds like a real solution to the complex problem that is migration?

Because what is the problem, after all? If you had to take their word for it, it’s a meandering, meaningless horde of dirty foreigners making their way to Malta to steal our precious way of life, like the great swarm surrounding the protagonists in a zombie movie. Historically, the Labour Party has always been domestically racist while projecting an aura of international solidarity whenever it is deemed politically expedient to do so. What we’ve seen the party do over the last few days is straight out of its standard playbook, though the hypocrisy was so blatant it was impossible not to pick up on it.

Obviously, the Labour Party will never tell you that the real problem is that we’ve shown an appalling lack of solidarity towards people fleeing conflict, dire economic conditions, and persecution and that we use the police force to raid neighbourhoods to keep up the deportation statistics.

The Labour Party will never tell you that the real problem is the fact that it regularly coordinates pushbacks involving the Armed Forces of Malta, the Libyan Coast Guard, and shady, unmarked vessels, effectively signing off on the death warrant of each person who was desperate enough to get on the boat whose fate it is to be sent back.

The Labour Party will never tell you that the real problem is that, while overseeing one of the most systemically racist administrations the country has ever seen, it has also overseen the proliferation of a massive system of labour exploitation that pits foreign workers against local in a diabolical game of chess where the pawns all eat each other while the kings and the queens remain unharmed.

What the Labour Party will do is appoint the most soulless individuals it can find – the Mallias, the Abelas, the Farrugias, and the Camilleris of the world – to one of the most powerful ministries in the country and order them to do the party’s populist bidding. In this case, the party has finetuned its ability to capitalise on racist sentiment to wash its hands of Malta’s humanitarian obligations towards refugees, and people like Byron Camilleri are all too content to oblige.

Kusi Dismark, a Ghanaian man who’s built his life in Malta over the past 13 years and has had the misfortune of becoming Malta’s most well-known barber in the worst way possible, is set to be deported as I publish this column.

While it should have been obvious from the onset that this column was written because of how callously the man’s life is being uprooted, I deliberately avoided mentioning his name until the very end for two reasons: because I want to end this column with a reminder that is linked with his case and because I am sure that everything that ought to be said about its finer points has already been said by people who are more familiar with the situation than I am.

I can’t shake off the feeling that Dismark’s case struck a nerve with the general public for all the wrong reasons. This is not to insinuate that the man’s obviously infectious charm and drive to succeed and live a decent life have anything untoward about them or are somehow undeserving of praise. Rather, the opposite – the fact that his exceptionally good track record was being paraded as some sort badge of merit that ought to cement his chances of being able to remain in the country legally.

The fact is that our ministers for dehumanisation have done such an excellent job at fulfilling their master’s brief that our standards for the treatment of migrants stopped existing a long time ago. I’ve reported stories documenting literal shit and filth in detention centres. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture has repeatedly described those conditions as “unsafe”, “inhumane” and “illegal”.

A photo of an exhibition based on the project ‘Like Flour’. The project, which was created by photojournalist Joanna Demarco, documented the struggles of migrants who suffered atrocities in Malta’s detention regime.

I’ve interviewed former detainees who told me about being tasked with doing suicide watch for other detainees who were literally losing their minds in rooms packed with dozens of people from dozens of different countries, all piled on top of each other, scared, hungry, and desperate, like literal sacks of meat in a warehouse.

You would think that in a normal country, such revelations would send shockwaves throughout society and galvanise some sort of resistance towards a government that brutalises people in this manner. But the reality is that these kinds of stories aren’t widely read. They aren’t even somewhat read, sometimes. Most of the time, I’ve had editors tell me they had to turn off the comments section because of all the racist hatred that was being spewed out online. Most of the time, foreigners as ‘a concern’ rank higher than ‘human rights breaches’ in voter polls.

Dismark shouldn’t have to be a model citizen to deserve this kind of empathy. He shouldn’t even have needed to spend the past 13 years here to elicit this kind of sympathy and support. As long as a human being meets the most basic standards of decency and willingness to observe mutual respect with other people, they shouldn’t need to grovel and plead and tell us how much of a good person they’ve been in the hopes that they will not be deported.

The whole idea that migrants must practically memorise the local rule book and constantly sing our praises in gratitude for graciously allowing them to hang out around the periphery of our society is colonialist bullshit wearing a different garment. The fact that the general public reacted to Dismark’s case because he happens to be such an affable gentleman but has failed to react to the other long list of egregious atrocities that the Maltese government committed with others who made their way here is indicative of the problem I’m speaking about.

These are the depths we’ve allowed our collective sense of empathy to sink to. For us to as much as feel something about the government’s abusive treatment of countless individuals over the years, it took one distinctly likeable individual to do it.

I say it practically every time and I will say it again today: the only way to deal with a political party that’s caused this kind of psychological damage to the whole country is to cut it off from power once and for all.

There is no alternative to tyranny except the downfall of tyranny.

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