An Albanian worker who almost died during the Corradino building collapse where he was working – despite having no training in construction – had his eyes caked in concrete and suffered eye lesions, according to the magisterial inquiry into the incident.
The inquiry report shed light on the state of the five workers who almost died or suffered serious injuries, for the first time since the building collapse that also took the life of 20-year-old Jean Paul Sofia on December 5.
Sofia was found dead and buried under the rubble of the collapse after a 16-hour search. An autopsy concluded that he died of asphyxiation, caused by bricks crushing his torso.
Five people have been charged with Sofia’s involuntary homicide and the grievous injury of the five others as a result of the collapse: the project’s two developers, Matthew Schembri and Kurt Buhagiar; its architect, Adriana Zammit; contractor Milomir Jovicevic and his wife, Dijana, in her capacity as a company director.
The five other victims were Albanians Lulzim Carku, Gentjan Carku and Denis Carku as well as Bosnian Vladimir Laketic and Maltese Sammy Curtis.
Court expert Mario Scerri declared that Gentjan Carku and Laketic were in danger of dying while the other men suffered serious injuries, according to the report.
Gentjan had his eyes covered in concrete and had lesions to the eyes apart from fractures, he said.
Training and licensing should be imposed
For the first time since the December incident the inquiry – published by Prime Minister Robert Abela on Wednesday – shed some light on the case of these five men. It notes that when they were taken to hospital their identity card numbers were not known and the hospital gave them temporary identification numbers.
Court-appointed expert Alex Torpiano, a professor in architecture, pointed out that none of the men had training in the construction industry and called for the urgent introduction of an imposed training and licensing system for Maltese and foreign workers to be able to work in construction.
Torpiano noted that the most senior worker was Lulzim Carku, who had 20 years of experience in construction. He had completed his training in Albania but it was more geared toward construction using bricks, which was different to Malta.
In Malta, he attended a half-day training course in Qormi that focused on shuttering – the temporary support used as a mould for fresh concrete. He did not work at the Corradino site every day.
Torpiano noted that Gentjan Carku had no experience in construction but, as from July 2022, he was building walls at the Corradino timber factory. Denis Carku had no qualifications but worked on the shuttering of the site.
Torpiano also flagged that the men were all registered as carpenters in the books of AllPlus Limited, the company Schembri owned.
Workers were shifted under the company MilMar Construction Limited which belonged to contractor Milomir Jovicevic, who previously worked for Schembri’s company AllPlus Limited until a few months before the Corradino project.
“Their employment history that moved from AllPlus Limited to MirMar Construction Limited, even after the collapse, continues showing confusion and manoeuvring that certainly does not ensure that the rights of the workers are safeguarded,” Torpiano highlighted.
The inquiring magistrate heard how the Occupational Health and Safety Authority said it was never informed about the project and, therefore, had no way of keeping tabs on it.
Exploitation of foreign workers
The exploitation of migrant workers was flagged earlier this year by the YMCA as part of a project titled HomeInclusRation. YMCA Malta head of home, Christian Inkum said that migrants were being exploited because of weak policies and law and lack of enforcement.
Earlier this month, a relative of Syrian construction worker Mohammed Kasem Hashem Alkhateeb flagged the issue.
Alkhateeb, 26, died after he suffered severe head injuries when he fell a height of around one storey while working on a building being constructed in Triq Alessandro Curmi, Rabat. The relative was angered by the lack of health and safety measures in the construction industry, something that mostly impacted vulnerable migrant workers.
Nationalist MP Graziella Attard Previ said in parliament recently that many foreign workers coming from developing countries were being exploited and treated like slaves.
Up until June 2022, employment agency JobsPlus registered over 50,591 third-country nationals working in Malta, with around 14 per cent of those working in the construction industry.
According to a report published last month, 49 construction workers died on-site between 2010 and 2022 but only five of those cases have resulted in court decisions. Fines in those five cases ranged from €11,650 to just €1,000.
Titled ‘Victims of Malta’s Construction Boom’, the report was published by the Daphne Caruana Caruana Galizia Foundation for the Public Interest Litigation Network, a network of lawyers who offer help to victims of human rights violations or other public interest cases.