Joint NGO reactions to a riot by detained migrants & to the Ministry’s response

On Tuesday 25th February a group of migrants detained at one of Malta’s two detention centres, Ħal Far Lyster Barracks, organised a riot in protest against their detention. The riot, held during a visit to the centre by a group of Parliamentarians, led to the intervention of Malta’s Police Force. Detailed information, including a series of relates articles, can be found here.

Immediately following the riot we coordinated the reaction of a group of NGOs working with migrants/refugees, where called for the immediate establishment of an independent and objective inquiry. We underlined our condemnation of all forms of violence, whether resorted to by migrants or Police officials, and reiterated our serious concerns at Malta’s insistence on adopting a detention policy that has been repeatedly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.

In a recent case where the applicant was represented by our Director, Suso Musa v. Malta, the Court highlighted:

  1. In the instant case the Court considers that it is necessary, in view of its finding of a violation of Article 5 § 4, to indicate the general measuresrequired to prevent other similar violations in the future. It observes that it has found a violation of Article 5 § 4 on account of the fact that none of the remedies available in Malta could be considered speedy for the purposes of that provision. Thus, the Court considers that the respondent State must above all, through appropriate legal and/or other measures, secure in its domestic legal order a mechanism which allows individuals taking proceedings to determine the lawfulness of their detention to obtain a determination of their claim within Convention-compatible time-limits, but which nevertheless maintains the relevant procedural safeguards.

  1. Having regard to that finding, the Court recommends that the respondent State envisage taking the necessary general measures to ensure animprovement in those conditions and to limit detention periods so that they remain connected to the ground of detention applicable in an immigration context.

The Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security did institute a board of inquiry to look into the riot, yet failed to ensure its independence when it appointed Ministry officials as the sole board members. Once again, we coordinate a joint NGO condemnation of the board, insisting for an independent inquiry that would lead to public conclusions.

In the wake of the riot and of the media discussions that ensued, our Director also participated in a TV programme together with the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security and an Opposition Spokesperson. The programme questioned the rationale behind Malta’s detention regime, wondering what could be done to avoid further riots and human rights violations. In-keeping with our position, Neil challenged the status quo of accepting detention as a necessary and obvious reception process.