WHEN the European Union picked Malta as the site for this week’s EU-Africa migration summit, it seemed a logical choice. The island nation is perched in the Mediterranean halfway between Libya and Italy. For a time, it was one of the top destinations for migrants from Africa trying to reach Europe. And Valletta, Malta’s fortified Baroque capital, is a very telegenic spot for a summit. (In “Game of Thrones”, a television series, it serves as the backdrop for the port city of Pentos, whose own asylum seekers include the Targaryans, an exiled royal family.) But Malta is also apt in a way EU leaders may not have intended: as a standpoint from which to observe Europe’s increasingly confused attitude towards refugees and other immigrants.
African migrants encounter as much undisguised hostility here as anywhere in Europe. Neil Falzon, who runs Aditus, a local human rights organisation, says many have been spat upon in the street. As in much of eastern Europe, unfamiliarity breeds contempt. Until the turn of the century, the island had one of the most ethnically homogenous societies in Europe, though its unique identity is actually the product of centuries of racial mingling. (The result is a native population who look a bit like Italians, speak a bit like Arabs and drive on the left like the British.)
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