At least 80 migrants have been evicted from the former Paloma Hostel in Buġibba during a dawn raid sparked by reports of a rat infestation.

Large numbers of police officers raided the rundown premises early on Monday - waking people sleeping inside and ordering them to leave.

There were emotional and angry scenes as some tenants refused to go and others produced documents claiming they were living in Malta legally.

“I have been to UK, France, Spain, Germany - all from Italy, and I haven’t ever been arrested at five in the morning for just renting a room," said one.

Officers found people living in cramped conditions, mostly five to a room. One man evicted from the former hostel told Times of Malta the tenants paid up to €200 a month each to stay.

"They treat us like animals" - one of the men evicted in a dawn raid in Buġibba. Video: Ivan Martin

It was not immediately clear who owned the building. However police were accompanied by a man who tenants say collected rent from them. 

One officer was heard telling him: "You should be ashamed of yourself for letting people live like this".

The man told Times of Malta he was not the owner. 

Tenants said the man wearing shorts collected rent from them. Photo: Ivan MartinTenants said the man wearing shorts collected rent from them. Photo: Ivan Martin

The raid was led by officers from the Immigration Police, who were seen checking documents before police buses took some of the migrants away. 

Police raid former Paloma Hostel in Buġibba. Video: Ivan Martin

One of the tenants, Jude, from Nigeria, who asked for his full name not to be disclosed, described what happened during the raid. 

 “I woke up and I found police outside my door shouting," he said.

"They asked me for my documents and then they told me to take my stuff and get out”.

He said tenants paid a €200 deposit and then €200 for a room with a toilet or €100 to share. Others told Times of Malta five of them paid €200 each to share a room.

Jude said he crossed to Malta from Italy with a work permit and that he was was "happy" to stay in the accommodation.

Jude, from Nigeria, who says he has a work permit to work in Malta, was woken at dawn and evicted. Photo: Ivan MartinJude, from Nigeria, who says he has a work permit to work in Malta, was woken at dawn and evicted. Photo: Ivan Martin

However others described filthy conditions with rooms dirty, hot and smelly  in the summers and sometimes flooding.

“We complained so many times about the building - it is disgusting. But never cleaned," one said.

Officers cordoned off the area, preventing anyone from going inside. Police at the scene and a Planning Authority source said the raid had been sparked by reports of a rat infestation in the block.

During the raid one police officer was bitten by a tick and taken to be treated by the medical team on site. 

This was the second such police raid in as many months. Last month the police evicted migrants living in converted stables in Marsa.

They were found to be living in squalid conditions, with filthy mattresses, mouldy walls and clothes hanging off nails. 

Many ended up sleeping in the street.

Another 50 migrants were evicted from a large house in Qormi in April.

Last year, 120 migrants were found living in converted cow stalls in a disused farm in Qormi.

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