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'Residents are fed up,' says Ħamrun mayor

Council tightens regulations on loitering and alcohol consumption in public

St Paul’s Square in Ħamrun. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

St Paul’s Square in Ħamrun. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Complaints about the lawless state of some parts of Ħamrun inhabited by foreigners have prompted the local council to introduce tighter regulations on loitering and the consumption of alcohol.

Mayor Christian Sammut announced the decision last week on Facebook, saying that the influx of foreigners to the locality was of “huge concern”.

Moreover, he lamented the lack of enforcement by certain State entities.

“Incidents of abuse and street fights have become a daily occurrence. Residents are fed up,” Mr Sammut remarked.

These concerns were raised a day after the police had to intervene in neighbouring Marsa, where a group of Syrians were involved in a free-for-all fight in Isouard Street.

The mayor’s outburst seems to have hit home, because barely three days after his Facebook post, the Prime Minister on Sunday raised the issue of public order in both localities.

He called on the police to step up patrols around Marsa, which is home to a migrants’ open centre. The facility was planned to be relocated to Ħal Far last year in line with a Labour manifesto pledge, but the decision was put on hold in view of the backlash from Birżebbuġa residents.

When contacted by the Times of Malta, Mr Sammut welcomed the Prime Minister’s intervention.

Among the issues raised by residents are the opening hours and standards of shops run by foreigners, which, they note, seem to be mushrooming, particularly in the area of Blata l-Bajda.

“The authorities must ensure such outlets have all the permits in place and are up to standard. They should also look into the reasons why their opening times stretch to the early hours,” the mayor said.

He referred to two new by-laws targeting loitering and alcohol consumption, which he said had been approved unanimously.

Mr Sammut said residents were increasingly wary of venturing outdoors at night for fear of violence or incidents caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

In his Facebook post, the mayor noted that the new regulations were only the start, as more initiatives were in the pipeline. He vented his frustration that the council’s complaints at times seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“While the police are taking action within their limitations, certain authorities are not enforcing the laws,” he said.

Considering the wider perspective, the Ħamrun mayor called for tighter controls to ensure that whoever entered the country from Italy did not overstay.

He also touched on the issue of housing, saying there were instances where a large number of foreigners were either residing in small apartments or else ending up living in the streets.

“The longer we take [to address these problems] the bigger the problems will become,” Mr Sammut warned.

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