The Maltese government has announced the creation of a special unit to fight the illegal exploitation of non-EU workers in the Maltese archipelago, which is on the rise due to the country's economic boom.
An announcement that a "reporting unit" would be created was published in the official Gazette of ID Malta (the State agency in charge of passports, identity papers and travel documents as well as work-related residency permits) last week. This was reported by the Times of Malta.
The unit will be in charge of controlling residency and work permits for non-EU citizens who often arrive with a 90-day work or study visa. The Maltese inspectors will have wide-ranging powers.
Experts say that this move appears part of a crackdown on undocumented work after years of inaction.
Penalties of up to 5,000 euros, and six months in jail
Officials working for the special unit against illegal immigration will be able to inspect sites where migrants might work, study or live (including schools and private education centers) without a warning. These random inspections will be carried out with the assistance of police.
Attempts to hinder these inspections or providing false information can be punished with fines of up to 5,000 euros and up to six months in jail.
A government spokesman told the Times of Malta that the unit was created as part of an effort to be "better equipped to confront the growing challenges of a vibrant economy like ours."
Union: Exploitation has reached record high
A few weeks ago, the leader of the powerful union UHM Voice of the Workers, Josef Vella, warned that insecure and illegal jobs for non-EU citizens had reached a record high in Malta. Vella warned that such exploitation was sometimes organized in a way that made it seem legal.
One case of such exploitation that made the headlines in Malta was a case where the salaries of foreign workers were paid to an Indian agency that kept a large share, leaving little money to the workers.