The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) has published a damning report into the “extremely challenging” living conditions at Open Centres in Malta with issues surrounding the “occasional infestation of rats and cockroaches” of particular concern.
“ Low hygiene levels, severe overcrowding, lack of physical security, the location of most centres in a remote area of Malta, poor material structures and occasional infestation of rats and cockroaches are the main general concerns expressed in relation to the Open Centres,” the report reads.
The report, which was jointly researched and edited by the Aditus Foundation, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, found that the situation at “deplorable” open centres has not improved in recent years, especially at Ħal Far.
There are 6 reception centres in Malta (down from 8 in 2017). Out of those, 4 are run by the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) and the remaining 2 by NGOs.
At the end of 2018, 1,182 persons were accommodated in Open Centres, up from 913 in 2017. A large number of persons accommodated in each centre inevitably results in severe hygiene and maintenance problems.
Despite the large numbers of residents, the majority of open centres are run by small teams that are responsible for the centres’ daily management and also for the provision of information and support to residents.
There are around 65 AWAS staff currently working in several reception centres (6 coordinators, 54 support workers and 5 social workers).
In general, the centres provide sleeping quarters that can house any number from 4 to 24 people, with the mobile metal containers in the Hal-Far centre holding 8 persons per container.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited the Hal Far Open Centre in 2015 and expressed concerns about the situation in the prefabricated container housing units.
It is reported that residents are suffering uncomfortable living conditions given inadequate ventilation and high temperature in the summer months and inadequate insulation from the cold temperature in the winter, in addition to the overcrowded conditions in each unit.
The lack of access to the open centres for individuals and organisations who wish to help is also severely limited and flagged as an issue, with only one NGO and the UNCHR granted access. Volunteers, academics, friends, and the media were generally refused.
Caption Photo: Marsa Open Centre by Horacio Villalobos