Written by Clarisse Bolonga
Broken cupboards, ransacked showers, beds thrown in dumpsters – this is the scene of desolation observed at the stables of Marsa.
But why is it like this? Because Maltese police arrested several migrants there yesterday in a raid that has left some people thoroughly unhappy.
Lovin Malta visited the stables to speak to some of the migrants evicted from their ‘homes’
Souleymane, a 34-year-old man from Mali, has been living in Malta for four months. He arrived from Italy hoping to find work. Having found no proper accommodation upon his arrival, he resigned himself to accept the company of the horses.
“After arriving on the island, I didn’t find housing anywhere,” Souleymane told Lovin Malta. “Most of the Maltese landlords do not want a black man or woman in their apartments. In addition, the rents offered are too high. That’s why I stay here. I rent my room at €110 per month. When I work, my salary allows me to pay my rent and help my family in Mali”.
“It’s hard to find work now in Italy,” he continued. “I have two children in Mali. How can I feed them? Wednesday morning the police arrested me and withheld my documents. They made a copy of my identity card and gave me the copy; then they gave me three months to show them my ticket leaving Malta to Italy. But I think that next month I will return as soon as I earn a little money… I have no choice,” says Souleymane.
According to several occupants onsite Wednesday afternoon who’ve been there for about two weeks, the police had warned them they had to move
Their deadline was Tuesday, July 16th.
On the morning of Wednesday, July 17th, a police force showed up to raid the stables, and made several arrests. Migrants who stayed there refuse to leave because they said the streets surrounding their ‘home’ were acting as recruitment agencies without the need for a job interview.
Every morning, construction companies come to the area to essentially recruit daily workers.
Sanoussy Balde, an immigrant from Guinea, is one of the beneficiaries of this system.
“In Italy, I have a legal residency lasting two years,” he said. “It ends this November. To renew it, I need a contract of employment, a passport and a residence. The first two documents are mandatory and if I do not present them, I will lose my right to stay in Italy. That’s why I came to Malta; to work and raise money.”
“Since I arrived in Malta a week ago, every morning, I’ve come to sit here to be recruited as a worker,” he continued. “Twice, a company hired me. And at the end of the day, I get between €40 and €50. In fact, the money I earn here will allow me to buy a work contract in Italy. It costs around €1,000. Even if the police arrest the migrants, for the moment I have to stay here because of my project.”
In the stables of Marsa, there aren’t only migrants from Italy. Those in Malta who are still looking for a residence permit and housing also live there.
“Today the police came to arrest everyone but they left me because I am an immigrant from Malta,” said a young Ghanaian man.
“It’s been 14 years that I’ve been living in this country without documents,” he continued. “Four years ago, I arrived in this apartment because I could not remain where I lived before. Looking for better accommodation is very complicated for me because, at some point, the owner will ask me for my documents. In addition, you have to have a stable job to pay rent in a proper apartment. At least here, when I do not pay, the owners can understand.”
As far as being evicted went, he was unimpressed. “They chased me but I will not leave. I have nowhere to go,” he said.
Preferring or accepting the company of horses, these immigrants, mostly from Italy, have excluded themselves from the Maltese real estate market for financial reasons. They find themselves in a similar situation to the occupants of China House in Ħal Far, where occupants do not have access to drinking water and rent a bed in a room of six to eight people for €150 per month.
This is just the latest case in a serious humanitarian phenomenon that benefits no none but the owners of these dwellings of misfortune.