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The Malta Chamber of SMEs on Wednesday issued a scathing statement, sounding the alarm on an issue it has been speaking about for months – the backlog by Malta’s authorities to process visas, a major stumbling block in the process of bringing third country nationals to Malta for work.

Indeed, SME Chamber CEO Abigail Mamo spoke of this issue with BusinessNow.mt last month, where she called for employers to cast a wider net as to from which countries it sources foreign workers.

“Unfortunately, the warnings have not been heeded in time and efforts have been too slow and have lacked any impact as the backlog in the Visa processing system has not been addressed. The pressures businesses are facing in terms of human resources is now unprecedented,” the SME Chamber said in a statement on Wednesday.

The main breakdown in the system rests in the processing by Malta’s High Commission Office in India. The High Commission in India handles visa applications from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives, exceptionally important sources of personnel in the current circumstances and these are all in a state of deadlock at present.

“Businesses have lost complete trust in the contracted appointment management system which is plagued by abuse from the numerous reports received regularly by businesses and visa applicants alike.

“The visa processing system is archaic, lacks transparency and falls short, by far, of sufficient resources to handle the pressures required. This part of the process in applying for a work or study visa has paralysed the whole system.”

The SME Chamber said that it appreciates the significant challenges contributing to this process.

“We are however also certain that the main problem is that these challenges were already very well-known but have been shoved under the carpet for far too long. The situation is now not only not being managed but is out of control.

“This crisis needs drastic intervention. If one had to use the analogy of a patient, we cannot just treat a patient in critical condition and requiring immediate surgical intervention with a diet. The time to treat the patient with a diet is long past and the patient is now dying.”

The SME Chamber called on the authorities to immediately deploy the resources necessary to shorten the processing time.

The SME Chamber also emphasised that it is in no way calling for any lax approaches or doing away with the necessary checks, but an immediate realisation that the system has broken down and unless authorities act efficiently and quickly, Malta’s economy, which is trying to recuperate after two hard years, will continue to be dealt blows with every week of inaction.

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