Se­cu­rity con­cerns and Malta’s vet­ting

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

From the per­fectly le­gal yet eth­i­cally ques­tion­able sale of cit­i­zen­ships, to the visa and res­i­dency per­mit racket run by Joe Sam­mut, to the ab­nor­mally high num­ber of visas given to Al­ge­ri­ans and Libyans, and to the med­i­cal visas racket, Malta is quickly ac­quir­ing some­thing of a bad name for it­self in in­ter­na­tional cir­cles.

Two news items car­ried in today’s is­sue aug­ment and re­in­force those con­cerns.

The first, cour­tesy of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, shows that Malta is­sued the high­est num­ber of res­i­dency per­mits last year, on a per capita ba­sis, in the Euro­pean Union. So much so that Malta’s rate of res­i­dency per­mits to­talled 23.1 first-time res­i­dence per­mits per thou­sand peo­ple is heads and shoul­ders above the EU’s num­ber two, Cyprus, which is­sued 18.4 is­sued per thou­sand Cypri­ots.

It is no se­cret that the lion’s share of those Mal­tese per­mits went to Libyan na­tion­als who, de­pend­ing on whether they went through a mid­dle­man or not, un­der­went lit­tle, if any, scru­tiny be­fore be­ing let into the coun­try and, by de­fault, into the rest of the Schen­gen Zone of which Malta forms part.

This nat­u­rally leads to the se­cond news item, which may ap­pear un­re­lated but which is strongly symp­to­matic of the prob­lem - that Libyan au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested a wife of

Edi­tor’s pick

mil­i­tant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, once con­sid­ered the most dan­ger­ous man in the Sa­hara and a vet­eran al-Qaida-linked fig­ure.

Libya it­self has been a hot­bed of ter­ror­ist and mil­i­tant ac­tiv­ity and this week’s ar­rest fur­ther am­pli­fies that these un­savoury el­e­ments are very much present in our im­me­di­ate neigh­bours to our south, peo­ple who would be will­ing to pay large sums of money for en­try into the Euro­pean Union’s Schen­gen Zone for one rea­son or an­other.

But quite ir­re­spec­tive of how each sub­se­quent fire is stamped out by the gov­ern­ment, the dam­age caused with each pass­ing scan­dal is caus­ing un­told dam­age to the coun­try. It is clear that Malta must ab­so­lutely clean up its act, and not only be­cause we are on the cusp of as­sum­ing the Pres­i­dency of the Euro­pean Union.

There is no doubt that many of those en­ter­ing Malta and gain­ing res­i­dency and other per­mits are per­fectly in­nocu­ous and le­git­i­mate peo­ple but, on the other hand, oth­ers are un­doubt­edly be­ing ad­mit­ted into Malta with­out the proper checks and bal­ances be­ing ap­plied. And as such, just about any­one from the war-torn and ter­ror­ist-in­fested Libya could have gained ac­cess to Europe via Malta – a ma­jor se­cu­rity con­cern that very few peo­ple are re­ally talk­ing about.

Af­ter all, with all the res­i­dency per­mit and visa is­su­ing scan­dals that the coun­try has been sub­jected to over the last few years, can the gov­ern­ment re­ally be in a po­si­tion to vow that each and ev­ery re­cip­i­ent has been thor­oughly vet­ted as re­quired es­pe­cially in this day and age? This is highly doubt­ful.

It is in­deed hoped that in­ves­ti­ga­tions will be car­ried out to get to the bot­tom of who, ex­actly, has been al­lowed en­try into Malta, and to Europe in the process. This is­sue alone should be one of great con­cern not only to Malta, but to the whole of the Euro­pean Union.

Malta must not be­come known as the land of pass­ports and visas, we are much bet­ter than that. We have so much more to of­fer than sim­ple ac­cess to the wider Euro­pean Union. And the fact that we are ac­quir­ing such a rep­u­ta­tion is noth­ing short of a na­tional dis­grace.

The is­sue is a tick­ing time bomb: all that is needed is for a ter­ror­ist to en­ter Europe via Malta to com­mit an atroc­ity, of which we have seen so many over re­cent years, and Malta’s good name will be tar­nished for years, if not decades, to come. And for what, ex­actly - for the sake of al­low­ing a hand­ful of du­bi­ous peo­ple to make a mint from sell­ing ac­cess to Malta and Europe, as has clearly been the case in so many in­stances.

Such prac­tices must no longer be given any quar­ter at the na­tional ex­pense.

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