Pakistani Bus Drivers Headed For Malta Get Arrested At Airport
The men were supposed to help address Malta's serious bus driver shortage
The men were arrested at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan
Twelve Pakistanis who were on their way to Malta to work as bus drivers were recently arrested at an airport in Pakistan on suspicion that they were travelling illegally.
The drivers were arrested during a spot-check by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) at the Allama Iqbal International Airport before they could catch their plane to Dubai, and from there onwards to Malta.
Malta Public Transport is looking to increase its routes and frequencies but is struggling to find enough Maltese people willing to work as drivers, forcing it to search overseas, including in Pakistan, for new recruits.
An ad by a Pakistani recruitment agency which has been doing the rounds online indicates MPT is looking to recruit 300 drivers, all male, although this has not been confirmed by the bus company.
Job requirements include a driving license, three years’ experience as a bus driver complete with a reference letter, a clean criminal record, a secondary level of education and a basic knowledge of English. Because Malta doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in Pakistan, applicants must first travel to Dubai to obtain a visa from the Maltese Consulate there. The entire process, including travel costs, accommodation in Dubai, medical checkups and English language refresher course, costs drivers a hefty €4,500.
A recent report by Pakistani TV station City 24, which Lovin Malta got translated from Urdu, shows that twelve Pakistani nationals were arrested at the Allama Iqbal International Airport after the FIA grew suspicious at their one-way tickets from Pakistan to Dubai to Malta. Although the report doesn’t specify why the men were travelling, Lovin Malta can confirm they were planning to work as bus drivers in Malta.
Malta Public Transport refused to comment about this particular case, but said all its foreign employees have the necessary travel documentation and work permits.
”Malta Public Transport is an equal opportunities employer that welcomes all people that share its values to become part of its team, as long as they meet its stringent safety and job requirements,” it said. “The company employs over 1,000 people from 38 different countries around the world.”
Toni Bezzina (centre) claimed Malta Public Transport will employ Pakistani nationals as cheap labour
The bus company also rebuffed comments made in Parliament yesterday by shadow transport minister Toni Bezzina that it wants to hire Pakistani drivers as “cheap labour”.
“All our employees are given the same salary and work conditions, regardless of their nationality,” a MPT spokesperson said.
This case highlights a problem induced by labour shortage that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat recently warned is fast becoming one of Malta’s major challenges.
“Malta doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in every country, which means that citizens of some countries need to travel to foreign countries simply to apply for a Maltese visa,” Muscat said last Sunday. “The travel and administration costs involved in the visa application process often end up exceeding the price of a ticket to Malta. This is one of the major challenges of our times and we are determined to solve it.”
To this end, the government plans to reform its visa laws to allow people to apply online for Maltese visas, bypassing the need to travel to a Maltese embassy in a third country.