Dozens of migrants rescued last year will be evicted from Malta’s reception centres by the end of the month as authorities make way for the possibility of further arrivals.
Migrants currently residing in the Ħal Far 'tent village' said they had two more weeks of state- funded accommodation before effectively becoming homeless.
“We know that in September we will not be allowed in [the Ħal Far facilities] any more. We will have to find a new place to live. It is very hard, no one wants to give a place to immigrants, you know?” one resident of the tent village told Times of Malta.
The dire housing options facing the migrant community were exposed last month when around 100 migrants were found living in stables in Marsa.
Migrants who were evicted during a raid on the site had complained that landlords would not rent a room to asylum seekers.
A spokeswoman for the Home Affairs Ministry on Wednesday said the island’s reception facilities were offered to those in need for between nine to 12 months.
The window of accommodation was standard, and residents had been informed of this on being granted access last year, she said.
Sources at the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers, which manages reception centres, said the year-long window was necessary to ensure migrants did not crowd out facilities.
The reception centres, they said, were meant to facilitate migrants’ transition into society and not provide permanent hospitality.
It was also important to make sure that there was enough space for potential new arrivals, the sources added.
Meanwhile, two ships, carrying 503 people, are waiting for a place to disembark after being denied entry by both Malta and Italy.
They have suffered enough
Some 147 people are on board the Spanish-registered Open Arms, which is currently off Lampedusa.
There are concerns about the safety of its passengers. One journalist currently on board tweeted a video showing the boat rocking amid choppy waters. A further 356 migrants – including over 100 children – are stuck on board the Ocean Viking.
Jay Berger, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) Project Coordinator, who is on board the Ocean Viking, said many of the passengers displayed the marks of physical and psychological violence from their journey through Libya.
“We are now asking for a place of safety to disembark these vulnerable people without delay,” he said.
“They have suffered enough.”
Government sources involved in coordinating migrant rescue and processing operations yesterday said Malta was open to the possibility of allowing the rescue ships to dock here, but only if the European community agreed to help take a “fair share” of the arrivals.
On board the rescue ships, volunteers are fearing that fights may break out at any moment.
“We could have a fight within a half-hour with a serious injury, or worse, someone could die on board due to violence,” Proactiva Open Arms NGO founder Oscar Camps said.
Many of the migrants on board, he said, were suffering from “very high levels of post-traumatic stress” and anxiety over their future.
“There are arguments over a spot in the shade, over a spot in the sun, arguments over food, arguments over the queue to use the bathroom,” he said.
Weather conditions, which have worsened in recent days with high waves, have increased tensions since many passengers suffer from seasickness and are vomiting.
Two babies were evacuated by helicopter from the ship to Malta yesterday for health reasons.