[WATCH] Fenech Adami raises doubts over glut of Algerian travel visas

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami says Malta is a “stepping stone” and “weak link” for Algerian nationals to exploit and travel to mainland Europe

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami and Opposition MP Francis Zammit Dimech Photo: Ray Attard
PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami and Opposition MP Francis Zammit Dimech Photo: Ray Attard
Beppe Fenech Adami says Algerians are using Malta as a 'stepping stone' for mainland Europe • Video: Ray Attard

In the wake of the alleged ongoing "racket" in the issuance of visas at the Maltese consulate in Algeria, Malta would be mistaken if it thought that terrorism was limited only to mainland Europe as travellers may have "sinister reasons," PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said. 

Addressing a press conference at parliament, Fenech Adami once again called on the government to launch an inquiry after reports that Malta was being used as a "stepping stone" for Algerian and Middle Eastern nationals to travel to other countries.

"Since it started visa applications in March 2014, the Maltese consulate in Algeria handed out 6,781 visas. These figures raise questions, more so since Malta does not normally host Algerian tourists. Moreover, incoming flights from Algeria tend to be packed, whereas return flights tend to be all but empty,” he remarked.

Describing Malta as Europe’s “weak link”, the shadow minister for home affairs argued that the absolute majority of incoming Algerians were only spending a few hours in Malta before jetting off to mainland Europe, mostly France.

Flanked by Opposition MP Francis Zammit Dimech, the PN deputy leader explained that since its inception in March 2014, the Maltese consulate in Algeria issued 3,407 during in 2014, and a further 3,374 visas during the first nine months of 2015. The majority of visas were issued to Algerians.

“Not only do these figures raise questions, but they also tarnish Malta’ s reputation. Accordingly, the Opposition is calling on the government to launch an inquiry on whether the issuance of visas is due to corruption or bribery,” Fenech Adami argued.

Asked whether there is a possibility that potential terrorists are using Malta as a terrorist hub, the shadow minister for home affairs acknowledged that recent world events have instilled fear among the general population, and that consequently, one may not rule out any “sinister reasons” behind the passengers’ travel movements.

Moreover, the PN deputy leader argued that it would be a mistake for the country and the authorities to think that terrorism is limited only to Malta.

Turning his attention to Identity Malta, the Opposition MP pulled no punches in denouncing the state agency as a “classic case of corruption and a monument of institutionalized corruption.”

Hitting out at the numerous "political appointments" at Identity Malta - most notably its executive chairman and former PL candidate Joe Vella Bonnici - Fenech Adami insisted that the government had already admitted of a “web of corruption.” Similarly, he said several Maltese residence permits were handed out as a direct result of bribes, and that in only two years, 13,000 residence permits had been issued.

“The government should come clean on how many people are living in Malta thanks to illegally-granted residence permits. How many of these residence permits have been withdrawn?” Fenech Adami asked.

‘Prisoners discriminated against according to political colour’

Lambasting the government’s “political interference in the police corps” and questionable motives behind the appointment of police commissioners, the PN deputy leader argued that under Labour’s watch, the police force has “always hit the news for all the wrong reasons.”

“As a consequence of the government’s continuous political interference, officers are feeling demoralised, which in turn has led to a spike in crime and thefts, and an exodus of police,” he said.

“In just nine months, there were 3,448 thefts in Sliema, St Paul’s Bay, San Gwann, Gzira, Swieqi and St Julian’s. It is true that the police have solved a string of thefts, but the majority of cases remain unsolved due to the lack of police presence. More poignantly is that several police stations which ought to be opened on a daily basis tend to be closed for days on end,” he said.

The PN deputy leader also claimed that prisoners at Corradino Correctional Facility are being discriminated against according to their political opinion and those who were not close to Labour’s inner circles, were being treated as “second class citizens."

Separately, Fenech Adami called for an investigation into how a car dealer benefitted from a €200,000 direct order for granting the police force with several second hand police cars.

“The decision behind this direct order smells of corruption. The standard practice remains for the government to issue a tender, and in addition, there has been so sign of the decision being justified," he continued.