PDP express concern at treatment of Morccan Community
The PDP welcomes the interest of the Government in trying to resolve the problem of where to house the workers currently housed in the stone block at Buena Vista Barracks. However, it has been drawn to the attention of the PDP that there is discontent within the Moroccan community and Gibraltarian community at large, that the temporary solution, which arrived in Gibraltar a few weeks ago is wholly unsuitable for human habitation. The floating block is unsightly and although undergoing maintenance and improvement work, will remain an eyesore that will certainly not help improve the image of Gibraltar. The fact of the matter is that this floating platform is not only an eyesore but is very arguably not suitable for those being kept in remand let alone law abiding tax paying citizens.
The floating platforms previous use, by the Dutch Government, as a remand centre for illegal migrants and asylum seekers is not deserving of people within our community that certainly deserve better. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) made the following statement about the condition of the platforms: these boatsor floating platformsare characterized by confined spaces, poorly ventilated cells, high levels of humidity, and a lack of rest areas (CPT 2008, p. 31).
The PDP appreciates that the conditions currently afforded to the Moroccan workers up at Buena are not perfect either. However, there are surely other solutions to the protracted problems in finding a permanent solution to the unresolved discrimination, experienced by these residents of Gibraltar. It is wholly unjust that despite being moved on three occasions since the redevelopment of Casemates that they continue to be moved from pillar to post or slum to ghetto. They are therefore receiving the treatment of second rate citizens despite them paying tax like first class citizens. These are workers who came to help Gibraltar in arguably its greatest and darkest hour of need. They have been loyal workers of our community and have become part of the Gibraltarian fabric,
yet have not been afforded one of the most basic human rights, that of permanent, humanely habitable shelter. Our treatment of this community is embarrassing and speaks volumes to anyone willing to listen how we are prepared to treat vulnerable members of our community.
They are vulnerable because they have no vote and are here on temporary permits. These are not people who arrived in a boat yesterday who expect a free ride or believe they are entitled to social benefits as of right. These are long term residents of Gibraltar who contribute the same in terms of taxation as any Gibraltarian or EU nationals.
Not only is our treatment of this community something we should be ashamed of but it is not in our interest. Treatment of anybody as a second class citizen breeds resentment, particularly by the second generation who are being brought up in a modern western and generally advanced democratic society, and can be forgiven for asking why their parents are treated in this manner. That in turns creates an Us and Them mentality which is reflected in social problems and gang cultures. We as a community must take this social bullet for long term law abiding residents and do everything we can to integrate them and avoid future problems.
Clearly new non-EU entrants should not be allowed unless we feel they can contribute something special, but these people are not new entrants, they are long term, taxpaying, law abiding residents.
It is no longer acceptable to lay the political blame on one party or the other. The former and current Gibraltar Governments should have factored in the need for suitable housing. A solution should have been found with the Buena Vista Park Villas developer, until a suitable, PERMANENT location was found. The PDP is concerned with the costs involved in undergoing the Governments unsuitable solution. In particular: its rental, transportation to and eventually from Gibraltar, its upkeep, insurance and safety procedures as the CPT report also highlighted; a lack of facilities, including an alleged lack of skills to deal with emergencies (AI 2008, p. 21).
The PDP is also concerned as to the location of this monstrosity. Surely Gibdock will need all the moorings currently available to it as will the Port Department. The PDP would therefore like to know what the Governments plans are for locating this eyesore.
The Government have not made clear where, when and what the cost of the permanent housing will be. This temporary solution is clearly therefore indefinite. The previous GSLP Government has a track record of temporary solutions such as the USOC Pre Fabs and their historic treatment of the Moroccan community was not to be admired. Many will remember the continuous protest by representatives of the Moroccan community outside No 6 Convent Place before the GSD came into power in 1996 and address some of their concerns. Unfortunately whilst the GSD Government much improved the situation of Moroccans in Gibraltar they also failed to permanently address this issue. The Moroccan workers, unlike the residents of this and other former ghettoes such as North Gorge (Philippinos), have continued to endure ghetto like conditions since and beyond we deemed these locations uninhabitable for indigenous Gibraltarians. Moving the workers into a former detention block for migrant workers and attempting to class it as a hotel is an insult to the dedication with which these workers have served our community.
Whilst the PDP are aware that the Moroccan community appear to have been consulted at some level and that one of their representative (a youth representative) has publically expressed the view that they should accept this accommodation preferring not to get involved in politics by raising objections, they can be no doubt as Gibraltarians we have a responsibility to protect those most vulnerable in our society and these include those
without a vote and subject to temporary work permits. The views expressed to the PDP are that many in the Moroccan community are unhappy with the solution, but worried about voicing that disquiet. The simple question we as a society must answer is would we be happy to put fellow Gibraltarians in this environment? If the GSLP/Liberal Government believes it is fine then surely they should be suggesting this as an immediate solution to any housing waiting list for Gibraltarians? If they do not, as the PDP does not, then it cannot be suitable for the Moroccan community either.
The PDP therefore urges the Government to present a solution which will be wholly acceptable to all the workers currently housed at Buena Vista. A facility that will allow them to maintain their dignity and which affords them the respect they deserve.
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