Updated at 7.15pm, adds PA statement
Hundreds of Turkish construction workers flown to Malta recently to work on massive construction projects are expected to start living in a quarry in Mqabba, which is being turned into a sleeping compound, the Times of Malta can reveal.
During a visit to a quarry owned by construction magnates Bonnici Brothers on Tuesday, foreign workers equipped with cranes and heavy machinery were erecting prefabricated homes, expected to serve as makeshift bedrooms for the construction workers.
Dozens of Turkish employees, working for TACA Construction, are reported to already be living on site, housed in a former residence in the same quarry and now turned into a number of small bedrooms.
However, due to an influx of more workers expected to arrive in the coming months, a large area in the Mqabba quarry is now being turned into a ‘small village’ to host the foreign workers.
TACA Construction – based in Turkey capital Ankara – is a giant construction firm which has entered into agreements with Maltese developers behind the erection of massive buildings around the island.
The Sunday Times of Malta had revealed plans by TACA to import some 2,500 Turkish workers over the coming months. Discussions were held with the government’s employment agency, Jobsplus, to ‘fast-track’ the required permits.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has recently indicated expectations of a new wave of foreign workers, warning that this was necessary for the country to be able to continue increasing social benefits and pensions.
Residents living in the vicinity of the Mqabba quarry said they recently noticed increased activity in the area.
However, they admitted that they didn’t know anything about the place being turned into a new living quarters for tens of workers.
“Trucks have been coming and going over the past weeks carrying foreign workers in and out of the quarry,” a neighbour said.
They leave early in the morning and come back late in the evening
“They leave early in the morning and come back late in the evening. Some of them are quite loud and speak an unrecognisable language,” another neighbour said.
Efforts to speak to a representative of the Bonnici Group on Tuesday proved futile despite various messages left with company representatives.
It is not yet known what connection, if any, there is between the Bonnici Group and TACA Construction.
No Planning Authority permit could be seen on site in the area where development works were being carried out yesterday.
Industry sources said “the turning of a quarry into a residential area is strange to say the least, and probably illegal”.
Earlier this week, the Times of Malta reported that some 300 Turkish employees of TACA have started working on the construction of a massive site in Tigné, where the Fortina developers are expected to erect a massive hotel and office complex.
The imported workers are being paid €4.50 an hour, the equivalent of the local minimum wage. The minimum wage in Turkey stands at €380 a month, half Malta’s threshold.
Local construction companies complained that they cannot compete with the prices being offered by the Turkish company, as their labour costs are much lower than the costs of those employing Maltese and workers from other countries.
Apart from the Fortina project, TACA Construction is expected to work on other massive projects on the island, including the City Centre development in St George’s Bay.
The Seabank db Group, which acquired from the government some 25,000 square metres of public land for €15 million, is planning to turn the area into a five-star hotel and a 38-storey residential tower.
The Turkish construction giant is also negotiating with other developers on other big projects.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Planning Authority said that following publication of this article it inspected the quarry and found no evidence that any persons had been living there.
It said a tent was pitched illegally in the quarry so it issued an enforcement notice and the structure would be removed.
The owners of the quarry told the PA that the tent was intended to be used as office premises and not for residential purposes.