Peter Agius warns Malta risks being booted out of Schengen unless new passport system implemented

Agius says Malta runs risk of Schengen forced exit because there is no electronic system in place to scan fingerprints and passports at the border

PN MEP Peter Agius
PN MEP Peter Agius

Maltese MEP Peter Agius has warned that Malta risks being booted out of the Schengen zone unless it implements a new passport control system soon.

In a statement on Wednesday, Agius said that European Commission representatives had confirmed to him during an informal meeting that Malta was running a real risk of ending up outside the Schengen zone because it has no electronic system in place to scan fingerprints and passports at the border, as required by law. The Entry Exit System (EES) will finally come into force on October 6 this year - the Commission’s proposal having been adopted by the European Parliament in 2017.

The EES aims to improve the management of external borders, reduce irregular migration by addressing overstaying and to facilitate the management of migration flows. It will store information about holders’ identities and their travel documents, as well as certain biometric data.

Agius warned that during his meeting with the Commission, it had confirmed the possibility of Malta being ejected from the Schengen zone was a real one, “because to date there is still no system to verify fingerprints and passports electronically as the law requires.”

“If Malta leaves Schengen, all of us will have to be subjected to many border controls and delays that we got rid of in 2007,” Agius said.

“It appears that our country has left the implementation of a European law that had been agreed on six years ago till the last minute, so much so that a few days ago there had still not been a contract for the purchase of the new equipment that is required to replace existing systems at the airport.”

Agius said that he was informed that the Government was preparing a temporary manual passport control system, which he said, could be bureaucratic and cause delays, in a bid to try and avoid being removed from the Schengen area in October.

“All this points to the issue not having been taken seriously,” Agius said, accusing the government of endangering Maltese citizens’ right to freedom of movement in the Schengen area by failing to do their job in a timely manner. “The freedoms and rights which we acquired by our accession to the EU demand the Maltese government do its part to implement these rights.”

“We should never had arrived at this point,” said the MEP, promising to continue to request updates on developments on this and other matters affecting the rights of Maltese citizens in Europe.”This is an issue of national importance, the government has an obligation to inform us better about matters affecting our rights.” Agius said.