Plans to build a new €7 million open centre, which would have increased bed capacity by 400 this year, have been shelved, Times of Malta understands.

The EU co-financed project would have seen the construction of a new open centre at Ħal Far.

It was aimed at improving reception facilities and becoming “the first specific centre to cater better for the welfare of asylum seekers”.

However, those plans are now being revised.

Asked about the status of the project – meant to have kicked off in 2016 and be completed by this year – a Home Affairs Ministry spokesperson said the government “is considering different options in view of the number of migrants currently residing in Malta’s initial reception centres.

“Priority is being given to the regeneration of existing migrants’ centres in Ħal Far,” she said.

“The Agency of the Welfare of Asylum Seekers maintained the same objectives of the project in terms of the intended capacity of the migrants’ centres,” she added.

The spokesperson said the €7 million project was being revised especially because the current needs and immigration burden were different from those of a few years back.

In recent weeks, migrants who spoke to Times of Malta said several of them had been “evicted” from open centres to make space for new arrivals.

Some of these homeless migrants are still sleeping at the gates of Valletta, in other public places or at their friends’ residences.

Some were helped out by Dar Papa Frangisku, an emergency shelter run by Caritas, the Family Ministry and the Alf Mizzi Foundation, which reached out to the migrants and provided a group of 60 Eritreans with solidarity meals for a few days. 

Others have been offered temporary shelter on a camp bed inside a marquee set up in a football pitch in Marsa.

Homeless migrants ‘in limbo’

The ministry spokesperson said the Welfare of Asylum Seekers “did not evict any migrants” from its centres. 

Migrants, she added, were provided temporary accommodation for a specific period.

Besides food, financial assistance and other material support, they were also given psycho-social services and were constantly monitored by social workers.

“These services are intended to help migrants live independently and seek legal employment. Vulnerable migrants usually reside at the centre for a longer period than other migrants,” she said.

The migrants’ residential contract at the open centre was for nine months. They received prior notice before their time was up so that they could prepare for their move out, she clarified.

However, “evicted” migrants have told Times of Malta that they had not had their protection application decided upon, meaning they had no status and no form of identification that would allow them to secure employment or housing.

A member of the Eritrean migrant community said the affected migrants were “in limbo”.

“These people are not like some of us who have refugee status, subsidiary status, humanitarian protection, or have had their asylum application refused,” he said.

“Their application has not been decided yet and they are not even sure if Malta will be able to host them or whether they can be relocated. Physically they are in Malta, but they have no legal status whatsoever,” he added.

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