Men who missed out on work sit in the shade in Marsa during a hot summer day, waiting for the next morning to try their luck once again. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina
Among the dozens of men gathered under some trees off Marsa bypass is 54-year-old Augustine Osea from Ghana. The father-of-three comes here six days a week, hoping to get picked up by someone looking for cheap labour.
“You might negotiate €5 or €4.50 an hour,” he tells the latest episode of the #TimesTalk podcast.
Osea has been in Malta for nine months. He came here from Italy, where he had spent his previous eight years. He hoped life in Malta would be easier. It is not.
“There are too many people here. There is a lot of competition for work. If you are lucky, you’ll get two weeks of work with one person. But sometimes it’s just one day.”
There are more than 4,000 migrants living in various centres in Malta, according to the foreign ministry. So far this year, 1,838 people have arrived by sea, UNHCR figures show.
And even when Osea does get work, he says he can face racial abuse from some employers.
“Some people are kind, but with others, they will look at you and even though you haven’t done anything to them, they will hate you. No matter how hard you work, the way they speak to you can make you feel discouraged. But the world is just like that. You just have to forgive them and try and move on.”
Osea says around 30 men gather every morning at the Marsa location alone, starting from 5.30am. Some get work, others do not.
Those who don’t get picked up hang out around the corner, at local bars located beside the run-down docks. Among them are two men in their 20s from Sudan, who ask not to be named. They explained how difficult life has been since leaving Libya and coming to Malta.
“I have no home, no school, no papers, nothing,” one of them said.
“Sometimes I sleep outside, under trees. One time it was for a week, another for three days. Many people are the same here. I do interviews, but I’m told I don’t speak English well enough, so I don’t get a job. I want to go back to my home country.”
His friend says the pandemic made life even harder for many who were already struggling.
“Since COVID it’s become more difficult. When you don’t have work, you don’t have a home and that’s dangerous.”
Also in this podcast episode, catch up with marathon runner Claudio Camilleri, who despite being in the middle of a 190km charity run, managed to stop and help a tourist in trouble.