Two days after immigration police carried out a dawn raid on a filthy Buġibba apartment building, dozens of migrants are back to sleeping there despite the miserable conditions.
“What do you want us to do? We do not have anywhere else to go. We can sleep here, or we can sleep in the streets,” Nelson from Nigeria told Times of Malta.
It was just after 5am on Monday morning when police kicked open Pakistani migrant Shad’s bedroom door as he lay in bed asleep.
His dark and unsanitary apartment is one of some 30 in the Paloma complex - a former hostel turned irregular housing unit - that was raided by the authorities following complaints from neighbours of a rat infestation.
Shad, 42, said he was marched out of his dingy unit and taken into custody only to be let free a few hours later once Immigration Police were satisfied that all his documents were in order.
“They could have just knocked on the door and I would have let them in and showed them my papers.”
“I heard shouting and then my door was kicked open. In all the countries I have lived in, I have never been treated like this, even when I was in the middle of riots and stuff like that. I am not a terrorist. I am just a man who works in a restaurant kitchen!” he said.
Throughout the building’s many floors – which are linked by a rickety and mouldy wooden staircase - economic migrants and asylum seekers were screwing the hinges back onto their doors or reorganising their few belongings.
In Shad’s decrepit unit, many of his personal effects were thrown out in a hurried clean up that took place in a bid to try and get the dank and dirty building up to scratch.
“We want to keep living here because it is the only place that we know we can sleep and cook food, you know? That is all we want, to live like normal people. Why do white people hate us so much?” said Mohammad, a 23-year-old from Burkina Faso.
I lost all my money in the raid
Meanwhile, Shad, who like most of the residents, has been living in Malta on the back of a temporary pass from Italy, says that in the chaos, his Italian debit card went missing.
He now hopes to borrow a few hundred Euros from other Pakistani migrants living on the island to finance his flights back to Italy.
“I will leave Malta. It has not worked out well for me here. I am not wanted – not by the Maltese, not the police. Nobody likes immigrants here. It is time to leave,” he said.
Maltese rent collector trying to regularise building
Attempts to track down the landlord proved unsuccessful, however the migrant residents told Times of Malta that they a Maltese rent collector – who acts on behalf of the building’s owner – had been at the site regularly.
Sources in the Public Health Department said the property was not fit for habitation.
“The building has a number of violations. It is simply not safe and so a major overhaul would be needed to allow people to live in it legally,” one source, familiar with the case said.
Two cases in as many months
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.