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Govt and GSD clash on Moroccans’ rights in hostel row

The Gibraltar Government yesterday said the GSD’s record on hostels “leaves much to be desired”, after the Opposition said a “radical approach” is needed to address the inequalities in access to housing opportunities.

The Opposition said more needed to be done in Gibraltar to protect the rights of Moroccan Gibraltarians on the Rock.

In a statement, the GSD said: “The implication by the GSLP/Liberal Government that the advancement of rights of our Moroccan Gibraltarians or citizens of Moroccan extraction would not have been possible under a GSD Government is both false and a complete rewriting of history.”

“Moroccan citizens had complained about the discrimination and lack of rights they suffered under Sir Joe Bossano’s GSLP government – long before the GSD was elected to government.”

“It was under the GSLP that they conducted 24-hour vigils outside No.6 Convent Place for many months complaining about those issues.”

Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, said: “The Government says it dealt with ‘historical injustices it inherited in 2011.”

“When the GSD were elected in 1996, those ‘historical injustices’ were addressed and led to the end of the 24-hour vigil in recognition of the measures that were being taken.”

“The late Dr Bernard Linares was instrumental in addressing many of these issues and worked closely with the Moroccan Workers Association at the time.”

“I know Bernard felt this was some of the work he was proudest of – especially in the field of education, children and family rights.”

Mr Azopardi said the fact that the GSLP/Liberal Government dealt with a backlog of citizenship applications on being elected is “welcome but it is not a magic fix to all issues”.

He said the “cause of ensuring that our citizens of Moroccan extraction are dealt with equally is also not helped by presenting a false set of historical facts”.

“Much more needs to be done to break down the historic barriers of discrimination and inequality in our community,” Mr Azopardi added.

“A GBC Viewpoint programme earlier in the year brought to the fore the squalid living conditions some of our citizens face feeling compelled to rent in the private sector.”

“The inequality of access to housing opportunities is also historic and spans many administrations.”

“A much more radical approach to this issue needs to be taken.” “Improvements have been made, but so much more remains to be done and it is important to acknowledge it and ensure there is a systematic programme and culture throughout the delivery of services to ensure equality, non-discrimination and the improvement of social conditions for all our citizens.”

But in its response, a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said: “It is quite incredible that the Opposition have chosen to jump on the bandwagon of the workers’ hostel when their record in Government in this regard is nothing to be proud of.”

“They seem to have forgotten that the move of the hostel from Buena Vista Barracks to its existing location at the Queen’s Hotel was driven precisely by the fact the then GSD Government sold Buena Vista to a developer for the construction of luxury housing.”

“They sold the land without the provision of a ready-made alternative location to which to move the residents.”

The state of the Buena Vista hostel is a matter of public record, the Government said.

It added: “The GSD in Government also presided over the deterioration of the other workers’ hostel at Devil’s Tower Road.”

“The poor conditions there were also a matter of public record at the time.”

“This Government purchased the Sunrise Motel and proceeded to expand and repair it in order to move the residents there. This newly refurbished facility was used to decant tenants.”

Plans for a new hostel have already been announced and this will deal with the issues made public this week, a spokesman for No.6 said.

The new building will have the capacity to allow existing residents to be relocated to new facilities.

“The Opposition would do well to remember that people in glass houses should not throw stones,” the Government said.

“Their record on hostels left much to be desired.”

“The Government will not tolerate discrimination and inequality in any shape or form.”

“Our record speaks for itself. It will be recalled, for example, that we established the first Ministry for Equality in the history of Gibraltar.”

“We have dealt with nationality and immigration issues which were affecting many members of the Moroccan community in Gibraltar.”

“In so doing, the persons affected were granted equal rights to Gibraltarians and EU nationals, as is only right and proper.”

“The Government is truly proud of the positive and welcome contribution made by Gibraltarians of Moroccan origin to the progress and development of our country.”

“They are as essential an ingredient to the formation of the Gibraltarian identity as the British, Genoese, Maltese, Jewish, Indian and others who arrived here over the centuries.”

“There is always more to be done and the Government remains fully committed to work closely with the Moroccan Community Association and to tackle whatever issues they may wish to raise.”

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