The fire at the Marsa reception centre last week has prompted a charity to launch an urgent appeal for blankets for the centre’s migrants and for the island’s homeless.
“The Marsa fire spurred us to do something because we learned that a lot of blankets and warm clothing was burned,” said Claudia Taylor-East, CEO of SOS Malta.
About 480 resident migrants of the reception centre were evacuated when a fire broke out in one of its dormitories. Some have since returned and others are believed to have been relocated to other centres.
Ms Taylor-East said that since the urgent appeal was launched last Thursday, the charity had received monetary donations as well as donations of blankets and fleeces.
She said the charity would buy more blankets to help keep Malta’s homeless people warm in the winter months and to respond to the plight of the migrants.
“A seven-year-old girl gave up her birthday money and we managed to buy eight blankets with it.
“I think it’s a little lesson given by her parents about giving up presents and teaching their child about charity. I called them and thanked them,” Ms Taylor-East said.
This is the charity’s second urgent blanket appeal. Its first in 2019 was aimed at helping refugees in need.
“We feel that in cold weather we need to give some warmth to others,” she said.
She recalled how back in November the charity had helped an African migrant who had been sleeping rough in the park in Ta’ Xbiex next to the marina.
The man was in his 30s, had lost his job and had been sleeping rough for 28 days after being kicked out of his accommodation because he could not afford the rent.
“We picked him up, fed him and we found shelter for him. He had been there for a month guarding all of his possessions in one suitcase.”
Last month, a Maltese man in his late 30s dropped into their offices to ask for help. He had been sleeping in the gardens next to La Vela Restaurant in Pietà.
“He said there were many people sleeping at the Msida bus shelter there. They were all meeting in the gardens to sleep together. It’s quite sad when people find themselves in these situations,” she said.
The charity said it is ready to deliver blankets to homeless shelters and to the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers.
Temperatures for the rest of January are forecast to drop to between six and 11 degrees Celsius during the night.