A former hostel raided by immigration police and public health officials last month, will remain open but the landlord will have to fix the place up, a court decreed on Tuesday. 

Some 120 migrants living at the former Paloma Hostel in Buġibba were evicted by the police in a dawn raid in August.

The health authorities had wanted the place shut down because it did not meet sanitation standards.

Residents had complained of squalid conditions and a rat infestation that allegedly plagued the neighbourhood.

Although the building was sealed, the migrant residents have since returned after a court temporarily suspended the closure.  

On Tuesday the First Hall, Civil Court, presided over by Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale upheld a request by the landlord countering the sealing order.

The court declared that the only way of protecting the landlord’s property rights was by upholding his request for the building to remain open. 

However, the owner was to ensure that remedial action was taken within a short term to upgrade the property and that public health was not manifestly endangered. 

Inside the former Paloma Hostel.Inside the former Paloma Hostel.

How the raid played out

On August 26, the owners of the rundown premises on Triq il-Gifen, St Paul’s Bay had been notified of a sealing order shutting down the building. 

The raid was sparked by concerns that the property posed a public health risk and the sealing order could only be reversed once health authorities were “satisfied” that the risk no longer existed.

That order had prompted the owner, Russian national Bodishtianu Evgueni Ivanoch, represented in court by Christopher Drago, to file an application for a warrant of prohibitory injunction, which was provisionally upheld.  

This had allowed the migrants to return home once their documents had been vetted at police headquarters and found to be in order.

Migrants had their doors kicked in by police at dawn.Migrants had their doors kicked in by police at dawn.

Landlord started to fix property

Although public health issues were of “great importance”, the court questioned why the officials involved had waited a week to take action after first receiving the neighbours’ complaints.

Moreover, the property owner had been informed of the sealing order “without being given any reasonable notice in terms of law”. 

This had made it impossible for him to take any remedial action prior to the closure of the building.  

The court also heard how remedial action had indeed started to be taken by the landlord, since the raid was carried out.  

In closing, the court decreed that the expenses of the case were to be borne by the respondent. 

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Ishmael Psaila assisted the applicant. Lawyers Dustin Camilleri and Alexia Farrugia Zrinzo assisted the respondent. 

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