August 13, 2018 / 4:03 PM / a year ago

Evicted from Maltese cowshed, African migrants left homeless

VALLETTA (Reuters) - Maltese police on Monday evicted scores of migrants from a converted cowshed on a farm outside Valletta, shutting down accommodation condemned as inhumane but leaving most of them homeless.

Migrants who were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) some 53 nautical miles south of Malta sit in a police bus as it leaves the AFM maritime squadron base in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour, Malta August 13, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The mostly African workers had been paying up to 200 euros ($230) a month to live in the building, which had been sub-divided into small rooms with beds.

The farm near the capital “was illegally housing over 110 foreign workers in inhumane conditions... The shower and lavatory facilities were a health hazard,” Planning Authority official Charles Gafa said.

The migrants said they had reached Malta by ferry from Italy. Some told local reporters they were moving in with friends but about 80 said they had nowhere to stay and were asking for help.

The planning authority said it would ensure the farm was no longer used to house migrants.

The Aditus foundation, a Maltese rights charity, called for an investigation.

It said there had been repeated reports of “severe labor exploitation of migrant workers in the agriculture sector, at times amounting to forced labor, slavery and trafficking for labor exploitation.”

The planning authority had no immediate comment.

Malta has in recent weeks been thrust uncomfortably to the forefront of Europe’s migration crisis, having joined Italy in denying safe harbor to several rescue boats that have picked up refugees seeking to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa.

($1 = 0.8766 euros)

Reporting by Chris Scicluna, editing by Steve Scherer and John Stonestreet

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