The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Minister on squatters: ‘I can’t understand why this insistence to chuck them out’

Sabrina Zammit Thursday, 25 May 2023, 13:22 Last update: about 10 months ago

Lands Minister Silvio Schembri said Thursday that he cannot understand why there is so much insistence to remove squatters occupying historical sites.

Asked by The Malta Independent why squatters who have occupied historical fortresses at Bingemma and Benghajsa have not been evicted, Schembri said that the situation has been going on since 2011 and he cannot understand why the “panic” has erupted in recent weeks.

He said that the Lands Authority has already issued eviction orders and discussions have started through the Housing Authority for alternative accommodation to be found for the squatters.

In a parliamentary question last week on Benghajsa the minister went into detail about a 2019 investigation on the property, where in total there were two eviction notices dating back to November 2011 issued by the Commissioner for Lands in accordance with the Land (Compulsory Eviction) Act.

“Nobody wants them out in the streets” he said, adding that  he cannot “understand the persistence on evicting them”.

He said that these people cannot afford private accommodation.

Asked when such discussions on alternative accommodation took place, he said that the situation has been tackled for several weeks. But when pressed to say what other steps had been taken, the minister said that there were “other priorities”.

A Planning Authority enforcement notice, on Fort Benghajsa, that has been in effect since 2016 claims that its occupants have inside erected an unauthorised home and garages. A discarded couch, building debris, and scrap metal may very well be found in the fort's moat.

On Fort Bingemma, The government had said last February, that efforts are being made to find the squatters who have been illegally occupying Fort Bingemma for decades “alternative accommodation,” before evicting them.

This national heritage site has been occupied by a family since the 1980s, and now also features an illegally built swimming pool.

To date, squatters owe an outstanding fine of €24,620 to the Planning Authority (PA) for illegal developments within the historical fort.

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