An undocumented migrant who had an accident at work and was forced to lie to emergency medics about it said regularising the position of people like him would push employers to be more vigilant when it came to safety.
The Ghanaian, whose name is being withheld, was speaking to Times of Malta a week after fellow migrant Lamin Jaiteh was allegedly abandoned on the roadside in Mellieħa by his employer after being injured in a two-storey fall on a construction site.
A building contractor, Glen Farrugia, has since been charged with causing grievous bodily harm to the migrant along with a raft of other charges.
The man told Times of Malta that, without the possibility of working legally, many like himself and Jaiteh were unprotected.
“There are bosses who make safety very important and there are others who don’t. But when you have no documents, you cannot say anything,” he said.
“When I had my accident I had to tell doctors that it happened at home. My boss told me that if I didn’t, we would both get fined a lot of money.”
His accident took place on a cherry picker in June 2017. Injuries to his hand left him in hospital for three months and out of work for a further two.
His boss refused to call an ambulance and dropped him off at the hospital’s emergency department instead, warning him of the consequences of telling doctors the truth. The Ghanaian, like Jaiteh and many other migrant workers in Malta, was granted refugee status in Italy. This gives him the right to travel to another EU country for up to three months but not to work there legally.
As well as allowing them to work in unsafe conditions, working off the books made it much easier for employers to swindle them out of their money, he said.
However, finding work in Italy was not easy, he added. The situation left most, like him, with no option but to take what they could find.
Jesuit Refugee Services director Katrine Camilleri said it was no secret that there were a lot of migrants coming over from Italy and working in Malta undocumented.
It seems there is a need for these workers, she said.
“Everyone knows this is happening but there’s a refusal to find a solution to the problem, to even consider giving them a temporary employment licence,” Camilleri said.
Through such licences, the government would provide migrants with the option to work within the protection of the law, without having to offer them a residence permit, she pointed out.
“Alternatively, if you really don’t want anyone from Italy to work here, penalise the employers. Put enforcement measures in place and penalise those who are employing workers illegally.”
She said it was great to see so much support coming in for Jaiteh but the issue was so much bigger than this one person – many were in a similar predicament. Rather than simply saying it was unacceptable, something needed to be done about it, she added.
Shortly after the Mellieħa incident last week, Prime Minister Robert Abela said if the worker's claims were true, they were intolerable.
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