The Foreign Ministry had taken corrective action on procedures for the issue of visas to Algerians long before shortcomings were flagged by the National Audit Office, Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said on Tuesday.
Asked by PN MP Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici in Parliament what steps the foreign affairs ministry was taking, Abela said that the ministry had taken action long before the NAO report had been published, and noted that the NAO had been satisfied with the way the ministry had responded to the allegations.
He noted that the lack of resources that was pointed out by the NAO was a challenge that the ministry has been facing for many years, and added that efforts were being made to employ more diplomats both in Malta and overseas in the number of missions and consulates that the country has.
Abela also said that a September 2016 report by the European Commission had only found some operational irregularities when it probed the issuing of these Algerian visas, and assured that they would continue to analyse the parts of the NAO’s report which are relevant to the ministry and which are not “speculative”.
The NAO in their report, titled ‘An Investigation of Visa issued by the Maltese Consulate in Algiers’, had slammed the issuance of Malta visas for Algerians and the thousands of which were issued between March 2014 and September 2015, reporting that one in every four Algerians granted a Maltese Schengen visa never returned home.
The investigation, which had been ongoing since November 2015 at the behest of the Public Accounts Committee found that during the under review, period, 14,640 applications were received, of which 6,779 were issued a visa while 7,589 were refused. The NAO established that 99.5% of applications were decided within the 15-days stipulated in the Visa Code.
Original article found on The Malta Independent