Quota Abolished

Between the years 1919 and 1923, the entry of Maltese into Australia was regulated by the quota system. That quota allowed 260 immigrants each year and those immigrants were to be allowed in batches of no more than twenty in the same month. The quota did allow more immigrants in if they belonged to special categories such as those migrants who had immediate relatives in Australia and the re-entry of those who had been legally in the country before.

When Malta gained self-government in 1921 various representations were made to have the quota system removed as this was considered discriminatory. On November 23, 1923, the quota was abolished. Henceforth, the conditions regulating the entry of Maltese into Australia were mainly those requiring a clean bill of health and a declaration from the police stating that the intending migrant was of good character.

Illiterates were also eligible if they obtained a special Commonwealth permit which was obtainable by relatives or friends in Australia who had already guaranteed work for the applicant. Those who had no one to nominate them were expected to pass a colloquial test in English and to have a minimum of 10 on disembarking.

Measures were also taken not to allow British consuls in North Africa to issue passports for Australia to Maltese living in that area without previously informing the Governor of Malta. This was intended to stop the unregulated flow of Maltese who went to North Africa with the intention of emigrating to Australia and thus avoiding the procedure of being examined by the Maltese authorities.

Another source of concern to Maltese and Australian authorities was the number of Maltese stowaways found on ships bound to Australia from North African ports. On August 17, 1926, eleven stowaways were discovered at Port Said on the s.s. Ormuz. On September 29, twenty-one men were found on board the ship "Ville de Verdun".

The removal of the quota system caused no great exodus from Malta to Australia. While it was true that by 1927 the number of Maltese in Australia was somewhere near the 3,000 mark, there was still some reluctance from the Australian side to allow unhindered migration from Malta. The "safeguard" adopted by Prime Minister Bruce and strongly defended by Senator Glasgow, was made to impose an unofficial quota. Casolani, in his report for the year 1926, called the safeguard repellent and discriminatory.

In the introduction to his book entitled: "L-Emigrazzjoni.tal-Maltin", Casolani complained that it was still an arduous task for him to persuade Australians that the Maltese were not the type of immigrants which some Labourinspired newspapers had made them appear to be. In that book Casolani expanded his own theory on why the Maltese migrant was on a par with his British brother and therefore deserved the same rights as those migrants who originated from Great Britain. Australia had to be convinced that the Maltese were not aliens but British.

The book referred to what was written by Casolani in 1927. In it the author stated that the Maltese migrant was a British-born subject who was also a European living in a self-goveming island within the British Empire. His ethnic origins were pure. His physical condition was sound and he was as healthy as the Irish and other similar races.

According to Casolani most Maltese who emigrated to Australia sought work on the land. The majority preferred Queensland and many were toiling in the sugar-cane plantations and contributing to the prosperity of the State. Only a few preferred the cities and these entered Australia when emigration from Malta was haphazard and uncontrolled. Australians who objected to immigrants from Malta should remember that many Maltese had given their loyal service to the Crown during the war years.

No financial subsidy was given to intending emigrants from Malta; they travelled with their own money. Casolani was very insistent on refusing any financial help to those who wished to emigrate. His objections to any aid in terms of hard cash have to be understood against the background of his own time; otherwise they would make very unconvincing reading. This was Casolani's case against any financial assistance to migrants:

"If left to himself the Maltese of the emigrant class will work wonders. There is no limit to his own resourcefulness, for besides brawn, he possesses brains. He is thrifty and will live on a crust, and by the sweat of his brow will build a fortune. Let him feel that you are behind him and he will become stagnant, unproductive and a nuisance to the nearest British consul. In the end he will contrive to obtain subsistence and repatriation at Government's expense".

The emigrant leaving Malta did not leave home without any money in his pocket. Casolani himself claimed that he made sure that those who were given passports had enough funds to travel to their ultimate destination. He also claimed that @e had known an emigrant who had 5,000 to his credit.

The Maltese, according to Casolani, were natural emigrants. Migration came naturally to them because they lived on two very small islands and had contact with the outside world from time immemorial. Since the British had taken possession of the Maltese islands in the early part of the nineteenth century, the Maltese had settled in various continents.

Assimilation was no great problem to the Maltese. In England, France and in the U.S.A. ' they were hardly distinguishable from the local people. Casolani thought that returned emigrants from Australia talked and behaved in a manner that was more Australian than Maltese, The Maltese mixed well. Maltese young men had ?0 objection to marrying Australian girls and tne children born of such mixed marriages were thoroughly Australian.

The Maltese, like the Boers and the French Canadians, spoke and wrote in their own language. Many learnt English in their country of adoption and their children usually spoke only English.Religion was a major force in the life of the Maltese. Their lives were orderly and frugal and they were very attached to their children. They worked hard and spent very little. This was the reason, according to Casolani, that in 1927, there were a number of Maltese in Australia who had amassed considerable wealth.

Politics were not a great preoccupation with the Maltese living outside their native land. They were hard workers and did not like going on strike. Casolani said that he knew of no Maltese in Australia who created political agitation. Maltese prefer to settle permanently when they emigrate to Australia. If they send money back home they do this while their dependants are still separated from them. When they can afford to send for their families the money they earn remains in Australia.

In 1927 Casolani wrote that no Maltese then living in Australia had been accused of burglary, begging, or loitering. He did not know then of any Maltese who had been imprisoned.

Source: The Great Exodus by Fr Lawrence E. Attard. (C) P.E.G. Ltd - 1989.


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