Working title: The Marsa Open Centre as incubator for social integration Author: Jedidiah Gordon-Moran
Since 2001, more than 12 500 illegal migrants have arrived in Malta, the vast majority in small boats crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. In a country with a population of around 413 000 and the highest population density in the EU, this has placed enormous pressure on Malta. The rush to provide temporary housing for the migrants, who have very few opportunities for employment and financial self-sufficiency in Malta, has resulted in inadequate, overcrowded accommodation and crippling social isolation. Unwanted by a country in which they arrived by accident, their status uncertain, the migrants exist in a frustrating state of social, political, and financial limbo.
The Marsa Open Centre is the largest facility in Malta that provides free housing to migrants. A converted industrial trade school in severely polluted port-lands on the Grand Harbour, the Centre was designed to house around 600 people but on any given day it is home to over 1000. The process of ghettoization in the area surrounding the Centre has already begun and it is perceived as a “no go zone” by many Maltese. Given the current reduced rate of illegal migration to Malta, the Centre is expected to be required for another 5-10 years in its current capacity. However, there will always be a need for “emergency” housing for a number of vulnerable asylum seekers in Malta.
The goal of this thesis project will be to make the Marsa Open Centre into a healthy, inhabitable place for migrants in need of emergency housing as well as establish positive connections between the Centre and the surrounding community. The project will take into account the eventuality that the housing component of the Centre will be needed at a reduced capacity. An “architecture of transition” will be suggested as migrants are re-housed in urban areas of Malta where their integration into society will be facilitated. The potential for the Centre to subsequently provide other social services such as a library, small business incubator, and community centre will be explored.