Malta: Residents suffer in silence as language students run amok

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Aug 20 13:01:20 UTC 2007

Residents suffer in silence as language students run amok

The hordes of English language students that descend on Malta each
summer may go a long way toward boosting Malta's overall tourism
numbers. Although the expenditure left behind by such tourists is
debatable, they are also taking a marked toll on the localities in
which they stay and frequent. Residents, particularly those in central
localities, are meanwhile suffering in silence as they endure
sleepless night after sleepless night with alcohol-fuelled singing,
scuffling and shouting persisting until dawn.

Vandalism to residents' cars and homes, as well as vomit and urine
frequently found on doorsteps in the mornings, are some of the main
complaints of residents of areas such as Swieqi, St Julian's and
Sliema, whose suffering is compounded by their proximity to
Paceville's nightlife. One Swieqi resident speaking to The Malta
Independent on Sunday yesterday related how he and a passenger in his
car were recently attacked by a group of six to 10 drunken Spanish and
French students just minutes from his home.

Following an altercation, the passenger was dragged out of the car and
down the road by his feet, after which he was severely beaten, as was
the driver when he attempted to intervene. The pair suffered a broken
nose and a multitude of other injuries. "The Paceville, St Julian's
and Swieqi areas are no longer safe to live in," he remarked.
Alternattiva Demokratika highlighted the wide-ranging and serious
problems yesterday as the party laid out its proposals for a "polluter
pays" principle for this segment of the tourism industry.

Speaking yesterday at a press conference in Swieqi, AD chairperson
Harry Vassallo observed, "Language schools and the residences where
language students are lodged in large numbers have been causing
considerable nuisance to their neighbours for several years. This is a
serious cost that must be accounted for. Those profiting from this
sector of the tourism industry must be warned that they can be asked
to pay for it." Calling for a special enforcement approach to the
problem, AD outlined a series of proposals yesterday aimed at curbing
the delinquent behaviour of Malta's young tourists, many of them free
from parental supervision for the first time.

The proposals include carrying out an evaluation exercise immediately
to establish the direct and indirect costs and returns from the sector
in order to properly assess whether the negative impacts of the
industry could be either drastically reduced, or whether the industry
itself should be actively discouraged. Moreover, AD has proposed that
businesses organising underage language school arrivals be held
responsible for their actions during their stay in Malta, and that
they provide adequate insurance for any damage caused by such youths
during their stay. The sector's stakeholders, as well as businesses
and residents directly involved in or affected by the industry, should
be consulted so as to determine the most effective means of monitoring
the situation and reducing the negative impacts.

Another proposal suggests instructing police to keep watch on the
hardest-hit areas and implement a zero tolerance policy. If the
measure still proves ineffective, AD suggested the institution of a
special warden service dealing specifically with the problem. The
language school segment of the tourism industry would finance this
service. The current practice of hosting such students in hotels and
unsupervised residences, according to AD, should be "actively
discouraged", and preference given to lodgings with host families.

The scores of complaints made to the police, as well as documented
offences involving English language students should also be published
on the website of local councils. Such an initiative, AD said
yesterday, would give residents a clear view of the state of affairs
in their individual localities as well as allowing them to monitor
trends and the effectiveness of police action. AD also urged that
Malta's ministries and government departments be specifically
instructed to no longer ignore the negative impact of such business on
other aspects of the economy and on the quality of life of private
citizens who are enduring unwarranted hardships year after year.

Dr Vassallo added, "The general public cannot be asked to subsidise
any business by the loss of amenity of its property, by bearing the
cost of damage to property, nor by suffering in silence a host of
nuisances caused by language schools. "This sector can and should be
run in a manner which does not create serious negative impacts on the
rest of the population and on other sectors of the tourism industry.
It is unacceptable that in order for some people to make a profit, or
even to have employment, others must suffer the costs."
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