Dozens of migrants demanded that a Maltese rent collector refund their €200 rental payments as police sealed off a number of “unsanitary” apartment blocks in a dawn raid on Monday.
“I want to slap [the Maltese rent collector]. I paid him the [rent] money to live here and he told me it was safe. He said it was all legal and now we have nowhere to live. We have to sleep in the street like animals,” a distraught woman screamed as police sealed off the former Paloma Hostel in Buġibba.
She was one of several migrants who could not believe that they had been evicted from their home after paying a Maltese man hundreds of Euros in rent.
“I cannot believe this. I have papers to work and live in Malta. I was told this building was ok to live in by the rent collector,” a 25-year-old from Nigeria said.
The Maltese man, who would not give his name, told Times of Malta that he was not the property owner, who migrants said was an unknown Russian man.
The former hostel was used by a nearby Russian school, but has for the past several years been offering irregular accommodation to dozens of migrants.
The police raid saw undocumented migrants taken into custody for questioning and probable deportation, while several others were told to leave with what few possessions they could carry out with them.
“My passport is inside, everything is inside. I do not know what I can do now because the police are not letting me go inside,” one man from Pakistan said.
Residents of the building complained that the rooms would flood in winter and would become infested with cockroaches in the summer heat.
“Yes there are rats. The rooms stink. The toilets are so bad. But we are immigrants – where do you want us to live?” another young man said as he handed out bottles of water to his friends.
The building was described by officers on the scene as “disgusting”.
“It is not fit for animals let along people,” one officer from the Rapid Intervention Unit said.
As undocumented migrants were marched off into a police van for processing, officers from the police Immigration Unit shouted down to their commanding officer – “we keep finding more [migrants]. This place is full of them, we need more time”.
Around the corner from the ongoing raid, migrants congregated on the front steps of another abandoned former hotel.
“Now we will have to go live with friends and find a new place. There are many places like this in Buġibba, you know. They are sh*t, but we have to live like this because we are immigrants. It doesn’t bother me so much – I lived in Libya you know,” one said.