NGOs have called on the government to fulfil its “legal and moral responsibility” and ensure access to dignified housing for all, after a raid on an Qormi farm that left some 80 African migrants homeless.
Planning Authority enforcement officials on Monday shut down a farm which had housed more than a hundred migrants, many paying around €100 a month, in inhumane conditions. Many of those evicted said they did not have anywhere else to go.
In a statement, a group of 21 NGOs described the incident as a “story of exploitation, abuse and dehumanisation” and expressed their shock at the fact that the occupants had been treated with “such contempt and disregard for their dignity”.
A toxic blend of housing costs, labour exploitation and racism ensures that many African migrants are positioned at the far end of the socio-economic spectrum- NGOs
“It is now a well-established fact that sustaining economic growth in Malta is dependent on diverse forms of migrant labour,” the organisations said. “And yet, there appears to be very little acknowledgement of the fact that the migrant labour force forms the backbone of economic growth. Without this acknowledgement, there remains very little space for respect, let alone appreciation and inclusion.”
The organisations said that more people - Maltese, Europeans and migrants - across the socio-economic spectrum were being forced out by the relentless rise in real estate and rental prices, with a month’s salary becoming increasingly inadequate to cover a month's rent.
A toxic blend of housing costs, labour exploitation and racism ensures that many African migrants are positioned at the far end of the socio-economic spectrum, the organisations said.
“Over the past few months there have been more reports of migrants being forced to pay obscene prices to live in the most abhorrent and inhumane conditions simply because they have nowhere else to go. This situation is unacceptable and something must be done in order to curb this profit-driven assault on human dignity.”
The NGOs insisted that evicting migrants with no pre-warning and providing no viable alternatives could not be part of the strategy, and that the government had a responsibility to “ensure that the welfare of the entire labour force be prioritised over economic growth and increasing profits for the few”.
“Specifically, the competent authorities have an urgent responsibility to work with all the relevant agencies to ensure access to dignified accommodation,” they said. “The Government must immediately pursue a strategy to ensure that decent and affordable housing is made available for all, regardless of where they fall on the economic ladder.”
The organisations also called on the government to take concrete action on the promised rent reform, and to take into account proposals by NGOs and other stakeholders to address skyrocketing rental prices.
The organisations that signed the statement were: aditus foundation, African Media Association, Allied Rainbow Communities, The Critical Institute, DrachmaLGBT, Drachma Parents Group, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta LBGTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM), Migrant Women Association, Moviment Graffitti, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Richmond Foundation, Solidarity with Migrants, SOS Malta, Spark15 and We Are.