The European Commission is keeping a watchful eye on the conditions of reception facilities for migrants in Malta – particularly the open tent village at Ħal Far – amid allegations the situation is becoming “inhuman”.
Following pressure by various international organisations, particularly the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), which recently recommended illegal immigrants should not be sent to Malta because of degrading conditions, the Commission said it had already drawn the attention of the government and was “closely monitoring” the situation.
Pressure on the Commission to step up its surveillance on Malta was made through a series of parliamentary questions at the European Parliament, tabled by Slovak Socialist MEP Monika Flasikova Benova, which described the situation on the island as “intolerable” and “inhuman”.
Quoting reports she said she received, Ms Benova painted an awful picture of the conditions at Malta’s open centres, describing the tent village in Ħal Far as “infested with rats, with poor standards of hygiene and the walls are contaminated by mould and asbestos”.
According to her, Malta’s facilities are overcrowded “and the health of those living there is being put severely at risk”.
Without going into the details described by Ms Benova, the Commission said the situation at some of Malta’s facilities still left much to be desired and improvements were expected.
A Home Affairs Ministry spokesman said while the situation at the open centres was far from perfect, the government was making all it could to improve facilities.
“The only tents that remain are those at the Ħal Far open centre, which are in the process of being replaced by mobile accommodation units being acquired under the European Refugee Fund,” the spokesman said.
The ministry emphasised the “extraordinary” and “disproportionate” burden the island experienced.
“It is worth reiterating that Malta has witnessed a disproportionate influx of migrants from North Africa since 2002. This phenomenon has overwhelmed local reception facilities, whereas the constant arrivals have posed challenges vis-à-vis the refurbishment of the centres. Nevertheless, several refurbishment initiatives have been undertaken,” the spokesman said.
According to the latest figures supplied by the Commission, Malta is receiving almost €6 million through the European Refugee Fund for the 2008-2013 budgetary period to improve the conditions at its reception facilities.
The Commission has also just approved an additional €1.2 million in emergency funds for Malta, designed to improve conditions in both open and closed facilities.