Some asylum seekers living in the country’s largest open centre have resorted to sleeping outside because they cannot afford to buy fans for their rooms.

Migrants at ─Žal Far are accommodated in containers – similar to shipping containers – that sleep four to six people.

And as Malta sweltered in a record-breaking June heatwave, with temperatures soaring to as high as 41.3 degrees Celsius, residents found it difficult to keep cool.

“Because of the virus, people are not working and so cannot have money to buy fans,” Abdul Alfadel, a Sudanese man who has lived in the camp for two years, said.

The cabins become a hot oven in the day and do not cool down at night, another man from Somalia, who preferred not to be named, remarked.

They cannot even breathe in the container

“Many go to the sea during the day or sit under the trees close to the camp. Last week was very difficult,” he said.

“At night, you see too many people outside their cabin because they cannot even breathe in the container,” he explained.

Fans broken or refused?

Times of Malta spoke to four other people who live in the centre and  said they did not have a fan in their container and that many others like them had the same problem.

A source within the Agency for Welfare of Asylum Seekers, however, said that, last year, a procurement of fans had been purchased and that each cabin had one.

“If they do not have fans at the moment, it’s because they are broken or they broke them and most likely a procurement of more fans is on its way,” the insider said.

Migrant community leader Intesar Bashir explained that many had requested a fan, especially as it helped them cope with the mosquitoes, but were turned down.

Coping with extremes of temperature

The extreme temperatures in the cabins was a long-standing problem asylum seekers had to deal with every year, Bashir said.

“In winter some did not have enough blankets and heaters and, in summer, there are not enough fans... really, the conditions are inhumane,” she said.

Another Somali claimed they were doing their best to find fans at the market for a cheap price but security officers would not let them in.

However, security personnel said it was fans that would pose a safety hazard – the ones with exposed wires, for example – that they were restricting.

In April 2021, the population of asylum seekers in AWAS-run open centres was 1,311, according to data by UNHCR.

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