A study has found serious shortcomings at migrant centres, including overcrowding, lack of privacy, denial of access to basic amenities and limited sanitation.

The study, carried out in 2016 and published last month, was based on interviews with 35 migrants who had spent time at centres in Ħal Far and Marsa. The participants were aged between 19 and 59.

Migrant centres had very rudimentary provisions, said the researchers, Maria Pisani, director of human rights NGO Integra Foundation and Nick Vaughan-Williams.

One migrant was quoted as saying: “Because we live in containers, in the beginning we are five or six persons in each container and the facility is very far from our container, and in the winter we do not have hot water.”

The research also found that the infrastructure migrants were kept in focused on “crisis – to the detriment of any long-term planning based on integration”.

Rejected asylum seekers, some of whom have been stuck in Malta for over a decade, lamented their “limited access to rights”.

“They need to change the policy for those who live in Malta for a long time. Ten years is not the same as one day,” one migrant said.

READ: Government reconsiders plans to relocate Marsa centre residents to Ħal Far

“But when you spend 10 years here, you are treated like you have been here for only one day. You must know how to treat people. People are suffering and yet they are contributing to the economy,” he added.

Dr Pisani echoed their complaints. She told The Sunday Times of Malta that rejected asylum applicants have been here for years and contribute to the economy in various ways. The government had the right to send them back to the country of origin – but that is a lot more complicated than it sounds, she explained.

“So these migrants end up living their lives waiting for a deportation that will never happen, and their existence is incredibly precarious.”

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