Introductory Speech - John Axisa
Mr John Axisa, a long-standing worker in the Department Of Emigration in Malta since 1927, gave an introduction, and explained the position of the first emigrants from Malta in the early years of the 20th century. Many had settled in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and the South of France. It became easy for these to fully integrate in their new social environment, although in different levels of success. Since 1947, however, new laws were passed in those North African countries that affected the immigrants' progress. They could not exercise their trade or profession, and in Egypt they were even dispossessed of their property. Those who chose to leave the country were not allowed to take their belongings with them. Malta could not receive them because of high unemployment, so their rescue came from the British Government who arranged resettlement for them in Australia, South Africa or England where they were regarded as British subjects under the Imperial practices of the time.
Many thousands who left Malta during the fifties and sixties were almost compelled to seek their fortunes in foreign countries, especially after the poor conditions as a result of the war. It is often said that there is another Malta away from the shores of the Maltese Islands. In most hearts of the migrant population their love for Malta never decreased. In fact these migrants set up their Maltese associations and kept their language and cultural traditions alive. Most of them have spent a lifetime abroad since they left the Islands, and now they are in their later years of life. Sadly many were those who passed away without having one more chance to visit their roots in Malta.
Mr Axisa commented that with mass emigration over the decades, Malta has lost thousands of young and healthy men, women and children who could otherwise have retained the balance in the composition of Malta's population. The result is that the elderly population has increased by a high percentage and the problem will have to be faced by future generations.
Source: 'Malta' - Maltese Culture Movement, Issues 4,5,6, 2000.