Some migrant workers are made to sleep on construction sites and the “rent” is deducted from their wages. Others are trapped in abusive jobs because the law gives them an unrealistic 10 days to find a new one... or lose their status.
Landlords raise rent suddenly, knowing that a migrant has no choice but to pay because they need their address to keep their identity card. Some desperate women consent to give sexual favours as part of their rental payment.
These are among the realities faced by migrants who are being exploited because of weak policies and laws, and lack of enforcement, a conference heard on Wednesday.
“These policies are being weaponised and used by business owners to silence migrants. They are denying them their fundamental human rights,” said YMCA Malta Head of Home Christian Inkum, as he presented the key findings of the project titled HomeInclusRation.
A White Paper with key recommendations and findings has been sent to the government.
The project was carried out by representatives of the Platform Against Homelessness that held roundtable discussions and interviewed several people who experienced homelessness.
It painted a picture of employee exploitation, unknown working rights by employees, the desperation of employees to retain their identity cards, and unfavourable laws.
A migrant working in the construction industry.
Inkum said one of the main challenges faced by migrants was the result of the unfavourable legislation and policies that seemed to be “designed to favour business owners and silence migrants".
This includes the 10-day period given to an economic migrant to find another job when they lose their employment.
If they do not find a job within 10 days, they lose their status.
This has “become the principal engine driving abuse. The fear of quitting and not finding another job within the stipulated period keeps them silent to abuse while employers tend to use this law as a weapon, fuelling further abuse," he said.