Migrants from the Ħal Far residence known as China House were left with their doors kicked in and valuables destroyed after a police raid targeted sub-Saharan Africans with Italian status last Friday afternoon.

A police spokesman confirmed that the raid was a joint operation between district police, the immigration section and the rapid intervention unit.

Sources told Times of Malta that migrants of sub-Saharan African origin, most of them in possession of Italian documents, were the primary targets of the raid. They were being forced to purchase flights back to Italy with a deadline of departure date of August 15.  

Migrants who are granted temporary protection or have documents from an EU country have the right to travel to another EU country for up to three months.

The site was until recently home to Mohammed Jallow and Ibrahim Bah, the two survivors of the drive-by shooting in which Lassana Cisse Souleymane was murdered.

A witness, who identified himself as an asylum seeker from Guinea, said the police arrived in eight or nine vehicles and had an additional four empty buses for the purpose of transporting the migrants off-site.

The witness claimed 65 people were detained during the operation. All but one of them have since returned to China House.

Bubakar Toure, whose Italian passport and residence permit were confiscated during the raid, said he had travelled to Malta to find work. He was issued a photocopy of his documents and instructed to present travel tickets to the police by August 7 and to leave Malta for an unspecified location by August 11. The document was stamped by a police inspector.

Several migrants came forward with broken phones, which they claimed were either thrown to the ground or deliberately stepped on by the police during the operation. Almane Sanneh, from Gambia, showed Times of Malta his laptop, which had been visibly bent and had one corner of the housing broken off completely.

Lamir, from Gambia, said he was on his phone while sitting on his bed when his door was thrown open and he found himself on the ground. He alleged that he was grabbed by a police officer and thrown off the bed, sustaining slight injuries in the process.

Told to leave for an unspecified location by August 11

Dembo Sanya from Gambia said he hid in the surrounding undergrowth when the raid began but was found by three policemen. He was attempting to covertly film his detainment when one of the policemen noticed. His phone, which was visibly damaged, was thrown to the ground by a policeman and later returned to him with its memory wiped clean, he claimed.

He said he was then restrained with a cable tie fastener for over an hour and refused medical attention in police custody after complaining of injuries sustained during his detainment.

Two Malians, Isa Bakayoko and Gime Cisse, both claimed significant amounts of cash were confiscated from them during the raid, with the amounts of €1000 and €600 respectively removed from their possession by the police.

Questions sent to the police about the claims and asking for more information on the raid were not answered by the time of going to print.

“The way the Maltese government is treating us makes life difficult,” one witness, who identified himself as an asylum seeker from Gambia, said.

“The way some Maltese people look at us, I can’t explain it. I don’t know if it’s because we’re black, but they look down on us, I don’t understand, we are all human.”

Osman, from Senegal, said the people living in China House were not causing trouble but just trying to make life better for themselves.

“This is a very calm environment. There is no fighting or drugs. We’re paying to live here so we don’t complain. We just want to be able to work and take care of ourselves. Nobody is here illegally and we are following all the rules.”

Sources said the property belonged to the government and was being leased to third parties, but this could not be confirmed yesterday. Residents said they paid €100 per month for a bed, assigned six to a room.

Despite searching for better accommodation, Osman said he had been unable to leave the cramped residence because properties tended to become unavailable to him once he was revealed to be black. 

Maria Pisani, director of human rights NGO Integra Foundation, said her biggest concern was the racialisation process. “Only sub-Saharan Africans were picked up,” she said.

“Documents weren’t checked on site but they were taken to the police. This is deeply concerning because it also highlights the ongoing problems there are with asylum in Europe,” she added.

Dr Pisani said that the criminalisation of migrants continued to be worrying, as they were considered to be a source of cheap labour and at the same time completely expendable in the ongoing political game with Italy.

“Their rights continue to be ignored.”

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