Security concerns and Malta’s vetting
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
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.