Police on the hunt for people smuggler in Malta
The Police are trying to locate a Somali man, residing in St Paul’s Bay, suspected of having managed the trips of over 200 migrants who wanted to reach Malta from Italy.
The individuals, mostly asylum seekers fleeing war in Syria and persecution in Somalia, would use fake passports to pass off as European citizens, allowing them to go through the Schengen zone without any checks.
On two separate but related occasions, the Italian authorities stopped four Syrians at the Bergamo and Ciampino airports as they tried to reach Malta using false documents.
Increased checks and controls at the borders and the suspension of Schengen rules in Malta and Italy led to renewed passport controls. In turn, this uncovered “a racket” whereby migrants would cross over, seeking asylum on the island.
According to the Maltese government, the persons in question were applying for asylum, who often used photos of people involved in war – whom they claim are their relatives – to sustain their claims for asylum.
A total of 30 people were said to have entered Malta from the start of the year, who are now being traced down by the authorities, together with collaborators.
“From the analysis of the authorities involved, these people are unrelated to terrorism. Their abuse is related to false documentation for the provision of international protection and work permits,” the government has said.
But Opposition leader Simon Busuttil finds it hard to believe that the individuals were trying to reach Malta just for work and asylum purposes.
“Sorry, I don’t buy that,” the PN leader tweeted.
Authorities in various member states, including Italy and Malta, are trying to crackdown on criminal organisations that facilitate the transit of foreigners through the bloc’s borders, providing them with false documentation, flight tickets and money.
An investigation by the Guardian revealed that forgers in the Middle East were offering fake Syrian passports for as little as $250.
During an emergency meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday, EU member states admitted that only a few governments had actually strengthened checks for certain EU citizens, as agreed in May.
According to Euractiv, all EU citizens will be now considered a potential threat, so all EU travellers will be subject to a stricter scrutiny, including checks against the Schengen Information System (SIS), as is the case for all third country nationals.
Besides the loopholes in the external border controls, ministers also emphasised that member states should improve their exchange of intelligence. Officials estimate that five member states share “half of the information” related to foreign terrorists, while the other capitals barely engage in the exchange of information.
Therefore, the ministers agreed on making “maximum use” of the Schengen tools to improve the overall level of information exchange between counter-terrorism authorities in the EU.