Police uncover asylum racket while investigating serious crime

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A racket involving fake asylum documents was unearthed by the police while they were investigating a serious crime, the Times of Malta has learnt.

Police sources said the racket could be linked to the so-called dirty oil fuel smuggling scam the Italian authorities uncovered.

Third-country nationals residing in Malta are thought to be involved in the racket, and at least one white-collar Maltese citizen is also among the suspects.

“This is information that just got to us during an investigation into an unrelated matter. We are still coming to grips with the scope of the crime and will have a better idea of how wide ranging it may have been in the coming days,” the sources said.

They said that the investigators could not exclude the possible involvement of international organised crime syndicates, most notably in Italy, as the crime seemed to fit with a pattern also noted overseas.

More than 1,200 people applied for asylum in Malta last year. A string of third-country nationals, mainly Syrians, were discovered trying to enter the island with fake documents in 2015.

In a statement at the time, the government said the men found trying to enter using false documents were doing so for work and asylum-related reasons and were not involved in terrorism.

The government said an international ring had been smuggling Somalis and Syrians to Malta, where they hoped to find work.

The ring was discovered as Malta suspended the Schengen rules, and airport controls were imposed on flights to the island in the summer of 2015.

Those trying to come to Malta often use travel documents bearing images of people in war zones – which they claim are relatives – in order to strengthen their claims for asylum.

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