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‘Jaiteh was put on a plank of wood’:Gambian worker recounts what happened

'Jaiteh was put on a plank of wood':Gambian worker recounts what happened

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The court in Malta looking into what happened on a Mellie?a construction site that led to a migrant worker being abandoned after getting injured has revealed what happened moments after the fall.

Lamin Jaiteh is believed to have fallen around two storeys while working on a construction site run by J & G Contractors Limited in Mellie?a, a small town in northern Malta. One of Jaiteh’s coworkers, a 27-year-old man from The Gambia, testified in court about what happened right after he saw Jaiteh fall.

“He told the court about the contractor’s orders not to call an ambulance, to make Jaiteh stand up despite his very obvious agony, to put him onto a plank of wood, and the order to put him into the front seat of the van despite Jaiteh being in so much pain he just wanted to lie flat,” Caroline Galea, an activist working closely with Jaiteh, said.

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Though there may have been up to 10 other workers on site at the time of Jaiteh’s accident, the fact that many of the workers were working illegally – without proper documentation – means most are afraid to testify or be involved in any legal proceedings out of fear they may be deported themselves.

“Most of the people on site were working illegally, and, according to this testimony, were told to leave after the incident happened,” Galea said. “A lot of men working on most Maltese constructions sites are working illegally. And Malta is a small place. Disloyalty to your bosses could reflect badly on you and your hire-ability on future projects. Witnesses are afraid to speak up.”

Galea praised the man for having the courage to testify in court.

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“By exposing themselves or being exposed in court cases like this, there is always the fear and risk that they might be deported in the process. Back to the place they were first granted asylum – and often, the place where they cannot find work to survive,” she said.

“So watching him walk into court, I was filled with anxiety but also respect; awe. This was his first time walking into a courtroom. I knew that the defence was not going to go easy on this man. After all, the testimony he gave was damning.”

Glen Farrugia, of J & G Contractors Limited, has been remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to voluntarily causing his workers grievous bodily harm as well a raft of other charges related to the incident on 28th September.

He pleaded not guilty to a host of charges including voluntary grievous bodily harm, negligence that led to the injury as well as trying to destroy evidence. Farrugia was also charged with a number of employment and occupational health and safety law breaches.

The Times of Malta had earlier reported that Jaiteh was allegedly dumped in the middle of a street by his employer and had to drag himself on his elbows to the nearest pavement.

Jaiteh told a seven-hour court sitting recently that he thought he was going to die after his boss, Glen Farrugia, pulled him by his armpits from the back of a company van and then drove off. Jaiteh has been in hospital since the incident on September 28.

“I used my elbows to drag myself on to the pavement because I was in the middle of the road,” he told a court via video link from Mater Dei hospital, where he was being treated for back and arm injuries.

“I don’t know how many minutes passed but I was saying, ‘help me, help me’. I was trying not to lose consciousness, because I didn’t know where I was.”

The 32-year-old father-of-two testified for almost three hours in the first day of the compilation of evidence against Farrugia, a contractor who denies grievous bodily harm and a series of health and safety and employment breaches.

He told the court that he came to work in Malta from Italy in May and began working as a painter. He moved on because the pay wasn’t good. On September 17th, he went to look for work and found a construction site in Mosta owned by the accused, Glen Farrugia.

Farrugia asked him to begin work cleaning scaffolding. He also helped make shutters for concrete. He earned €50 a day, working from 6.30am to 5pm with a five minute break.

“I agreed to work every day except Sunday,” he said.

He said he was not given any safety equipment.

“I have my own safety shoes but no helmet, no jacket. When I lost my safety shoes, he (Farrugia) gave me €40 to buy a pair. Then at the end of the week, he took the €40 back.”

He said that on the day of the incident he went to work in Mosta but Farrugia told him to go to the Mellie?a site, where he was tasked with cleaning the rooftop and using a crane to put up ‘concrete blocks’.

At one point he needed a hammer to take out some nails from wood, so he decided to go down to ask his colleague to give him one. He described how he was at the top, on the second floor of the construction site and stepped on the scaffolding.

“When I stepped on the scaffolding, I found nothing to hold on to and fell down.”

The scaffolding felt on top of him and he could not get up so his colleague laid him flat on the ground, he said.

When Glen Farrugia, who was on the other ide of the site arrived, Jaiteh said he was in a lot of pain and crying.

‘If you call an ambulance, everyone here will end up in jail’

“I told them please help me, I’m dying. Please call an ambulance… He told me ‘no, if you call an ambulance, everyone here will end up in jail’.”

Instead, Farrugia told the other workers to put him on a makeshift stretcher made of plywood and carry him to his car. He told him he would take him to hospital himself.

Jaiteh described being in the car crying and asking for help. They left the building site and approached a big roundabout.

“When we got there, he (Farrugia) told me I’m going to leave you somewhere and someone else will get you,” he said.

Jaiteh described how the van left the main road and went down a small road where he was left.

“I was afraid because he said we were going to the hospital and I didn’t know what his plan was or when he was going to drop me. Then he dropped me at the roadside there.

“I don’t know where he stopped. He stopped in the middle of the road. He removed the seat belt. He dragged me.

“It was very painful. It was a pain like I’d never experienced in my life. It was my whole body, I couldn’t tell where the problem was and my legs weren’t responding.”

Jaiteh said he was dragged to the road and Farrugia told him, “If the police ask you, tell them a car hit you.

“Then I saw him calling someone, I thought maybe he was calling an ambulance, I don’t know. He was saying ‘a black guy is here on the road’ but then he said something else I didn’t understand.”

Farrugia then drove off.

‘I used my elbows to drag myself’

Jaiteh said he was not sure how long he was left there.

“I used my elbows to drag myself on to the pavement because I was in the middle of the road,” he said.

“I don’t know how many minutes passed but I was saying ‘help me, help me’, I was trying not to lose consciousness, because I didn’t know where I was. And I was doing that until those two girls passed in the road.”

The ‘two girls’ were the young women who were among the first to help him.

Jaiteh informed the police about the name of his employer.

When he was taken to hospital, he was X-rayed and had a cast put on his hand.

No training, no work permits

Replying to various questions by the prosecution and the defence, Jaiteh said he never had any training relating to construction but he did work in plastering at home, in Gambia. Before coming to Malta he worked as a tailor.

Asked by the defence about work documents and his status in Malta, Jaiteh replied he had ‘nothing’. He had Italian documents, but none from the Maltese authorities. He did not know whether he had permission to work in Malta legally.

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