The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: Migrants and exploitation

Monday, 12 February 2024, 12:21 Last update: about 21 days ago

We have heard and read a lot about the increase in Malta’s population in the last few years, and debates – even at a political level – on immigration and on what ‘type’  of immigrant Malta should and shouldn’t welcome.

However, little has been said by anyone, save for a few NGOs, when it comes to how foreigners who come to Malta are treated and how some are – to put it simply – exploited.

Last week, Parliament learnt that a total of 197 investigations were opened by the Identita’ agency on reports of the exploitation of third-country immigrants during 2023.

PN MP Graziella Attard Previ asked Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri how many reports Identita agency received on the exploitation of immigrants from third-countries since 2013.

Camilleri said that the agency investigates all reports it receives, and that a Compliance Unit was established recently within the agency. He said that in 2023, 197 investigations were opened, 122 of which have since been closed.

There was no indication given as to what ‘closed’  actually means: whether it was because the report was unfounded, or whether it was because the report showed proof of wrongdoing and was passed on to the police for prosecution, or whether Identita’ itself had taken some form of action.

It already says a lot that this Compliance Unit was only established recently and it ties into the notion that the current political blowback on the country’s increase in population as a result of immigration is in some part quite hypocritical.

After all, very few seem to have had an issue with immigration in the last few years, because it was those very same immigrants who propped up some of the country’s most important economic sectors, with the construction industry being one such example.

In fact, insofar as Maltese could have an eye closed towards them when it comes to the treatment of these migrants, then there was no problem whatsoever.

All one has to do is ask – even now – how many Maltese landlords faced action or consequences for piling 10, 20, 30 or even 40, as was found in Sliema some months ago, migrants into one house, making thousands of euros off them every month in the process?

Likewise, how many employers have faced action or consequences for employing third country nationals without the necessary work permit?  Let’s not forget, it is the employer’s responsibility to apply for a work permit for a third country employee.

1,391 third country nationals were found to be living in Malta illegally and subsequently deported during 2023 according to data tabled in Parliament in January.

How many of these were employed illegally in Malta?  In which case, how many of those employers faced action for employing people without a work permit?  It may not seem like it, but this is the definition of exploitation: employing someone illegally means that it is unlikely that these workers ever had the necessary legal work conditions either.

But while the worker is deported once they are caught, the employer – at least it seems – gets off scot free and simply moves on to employing another foreign worker instead, and the landlord – again, so it seems – can simply rent the now vacant bed in their pigeonhole building to another foreign worker instead.  And rinse and repeat.

If action is being taken against the people who exploit foreigners in this manner, then it would be good for this to be publicised – much like the deportation of those caught living in Malta illegally – so it can serve as a deterrent.

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