Forced to flee his country or risk facing death for being gay

Bachir, Sudan*

Facts

Bachir, a sudanese gay young man, found himself forced to flee his country because of persecution due to his sexual orientation. After being surprised with his gay partner, their relation was made public and the couple had to face an armed mob chasing them. His partner died from being beaten up by the mob. The armed group of people also burned Bachir’s car, resulting in all his documents, including his university and high school degrees to be destroyed.

Being part of the LGBTI group in Sudan means being attacked on all sides. Legally, same-sex sexual activity and relations are criminalized, and if found guilty, punished with a long prison sentence. In some cases, the prison sentence might go up to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Furthermore, risks of societal stigmatization, violence and private justice targeting LGBTI people is tolerated – if not fueled – by the government and police forces. Fear of reprisals and harassment causes under-reporting of crimes committed towards LGBTI and due to this environment, access to healthcare for is also compromised.

After the incident, Bachir was rejected by his family and his last solution was to flee Sudan. He was facing a real risk of being killed by a mob meting out private justice, or facing a criminal trial, imprisonment and a possible death sentence. He did not have any form of support.

He fled Sudan through Libya, crossed the desert, boarded a small dinghy together with another 30 migrants and left the Libyan shores towards Europe. Quickly after departure, the boat ran out of fuel and was left drifting in the sea. After a number of hours with no fuel, water or food, the dinghy was finally rescued by an AFM rescue ship and was taken to Malta.

At arrival in Malta, Bachir was devastated as he had lost his partner, his family’s and friends’ support and his higher-education degrees. He had to leave everything behind: his home, his country, everything.

On arrival, Bachir applied for international protection in Malta. His application was rejected on the basis that the Refugee Commissioner was not convinced that he was gay.

Our Role

  • Our lawyers assisted Bachir with filing his appeal application in front of the Refugee Appeals Board.
  • The appeal’s procedure lasted approximately one year, in which our lawyers filed submissions and counter-submissions in response to the Refugee Commissioner’s responses.
  • In addition, our lawyers communicated with the UNCHR in relation to specific issues related to Bachir’s case.
  • Our lawyers attended the oral hearing with Bachir and defended his case in front of the Refugee Appeals Board.
  • In addition to assistance with the appeal’s procedure, we assisted him with other matters, such as access to education and social assistance.

Results

  • The Refugee Appeal’s Board overturned the Refugee Commissioner’s decision and granted Bachir refugee status.
  • Bachir has started out a new life in Malta and is studying at a higher-education institution and is motivated to find regular and stable employment.
  • Nonetheless, although feeling safe in Malta, he faces racial discrimination and still hides his homosexuality, fearing for more discrimination and harassment.

* Name and country been changed to protect his identity.


Walk for those who don’t dare walk themselves

Civil Society Statement regarding the ongoing detention of asylum seekers at Safi Barracks and the Initial Reception Centre


We are deeply concerned about the ongoing detention of hundreds of asylum-seekers – men, women and children – on medical grounds at the Initial Reception Centre and Safi Barracks. We believe that, in many cases, the detention is completely unlawful.

National law allows the health authorities to restrict an individual’s movement for medical screening for a period not exceeding four weeks, which may be exceptionally extended up to ten weeks for the purpose of finalising any tests that may be necessary. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stressed that in order to be considered lawful, detention must always be justified on an individual basis, implemented in good faith, and used only for as long as strictly necessary.

At this point, there are asylum seekers who have been deprived of their liberty on the pretext of health checks – consisting essentially of a single test to screen for active TB – for periods ranging from a few days to 13 weeks from disembarkation. Several hundred of these, some of them children, have been detained for 8 weeks or more, which is way more than the time needed to conduct this test even for such a large number of people.
Possibly worse is the fact that no one has told them for how long they will be detained and that there are no accessible effective remedies to challenge their detention.

That they are being held in crowded, insanitary conditions, with almost no opportunity for recreation or constructive activity, hardly any contact with the outside world, limited access to open air, and a severe shortage of basic material necessities, makes their detention even harder to bear. In these conditions it is not surprising that tension is building in the centres, as people are worn down by the uncertainty and the strain
of their prolonged and arbitrary detention.

It would appear that in practice the main reason for their ongoing detention is the lack of space in the open centres. While we fully appreciate the strain that the large number of arrivals has placed on Malta’s reception system, resource constraints, no matter how severe, can and should never be used to justify deprivation of liberty.

In view of this we are calling on the government to ensure that all of the people currently being held on medical grounds are immediately released, unless their detention is clearly and objectively justified on health grounds in the individual case.

We are also calling on the government to allocate the resources necessary to strengthen our reception system and create sufficient reception spaces for asylum seekers to be hosted in accordance with Malta’s legal obligations. It is clear to us that the only way to do this is by creating new spaces, whether in existing facilities that are currently not in use, such as Hangar Open Centre, or in other facilities that may be available. There is absolutely no way that enough spaces can be created simply by pushing residents out of the open centres currently in use. More, in the current scenario, where access to decent and affordable housing is almost impossible, this measure is likely to create more problems than it solves.

In recent months Malta has shown leadership on migration issues, providing safe haven to migrants rescued from vessels in distress and brokering agreements between EU member states to share responsibility for disembarkations. The staff of state frontline migration and reception agencies have gone way beyond the call of duty, in spite of the limited resources at their disposal, to provide services and support to new arrivals.

While we appreciate all of this, as do the people whose lives were saved through Malta’s efforts, it is essential that concrete action is taken to strengthen our reception system in order to ensure that asylum seekers rescued are received with dignity and their rights are respected. On our part we affirm once more our willingness to support any and all initiatives aimed at improving reception conditions for asylum seekers in Malta.

September 6, 2019


This statement is endorsed by:

  1. aditus foundation
  2. African Media Association Malta
  3. Agara Foundation
  4. Catholic Voices
  5. Christian Life Communities (CLC)
  6. Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF)
  7. Dar tal-Providenza
  8. Department of Gender Studies, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta
  9. Drachma LGBTI
  10. Drachma Parents’ Group
  11. Fondazzjoni Sebh
  12. Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants
  13. Fundazzjoni Paci u Gid
  14. Integra Foundation
  15. Isles of the Left
  16. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Malta
  17. Jesuits in Malta
  18. Kopin
  19. Kummissjoni Gustizzja u Paci
  20. Malta Emigrants Commission
  21. Moviment Graffiti
  22. Office of the Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta
  23. Office of the Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Malta
  24. Paolo Freire Institute
  25. Richmond Foundation
  26. Salesians of Don Bosco
  27. Segretarjat Assistenza Socjali Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija
  28. Solidarity with Migrants Group
  29. SOS Malta
  30. Spark 15
  31. St Jeanne Antide Foundation
  32. The Critical Institute
  33. Women’s Rights Foundation
  34. Youth Alive Foundation

NGOs commend Maltese Government and call on European Member States to do more

Joint NGO Press Release

The undersigned NGOs commend the decision taken by the Government of Malta to receive the 356 migrants and refugees saved at sea by the Ocean Viking.

For two long weeks, the rescued men, women and children were abandoned on a rescue vessel, forced to endure the scorching heat, uncertainty and ongoing precarity.

Once again, the European Member States have dragged their feet and unnecessarily prolonged human suffering. The principles of solidarity, considered to be a cornerstone of the Union, must take front and centre – first and foremost with those risking their lives to access protection, and also with the external border Member States who cannot be expected to continue carrying the consequences of political inadequacy and deadlock at the European level.

We remind the Member States of their legal, political and moral responsibilities and call on them to do much better.

24 August 2019


Statement issued by:

  1. aditus foundation
  2. African Media Association
  3. Catholic Voices Malta
  4. Department of Gender Studies, University of Malta
  5. Department of Youth & Community Studies, University of Malta
  6. Drachma LGBTI
  7. Drachma Parents Group
  8. Integra Foundation
  9. Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)
  10. Kopin
  11. Malta Emigrants Commission
  12. Moviment Graffitti
  13. Office of the Dean Faculty of Education, University of Malta
  14. Office of the Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta
  15. Richmond Foundation
  16. SOS Malta
  17. Spark 15
  18. St. Jeanne Antide Foundation (SJAF)
  19. The Critical Institute
  20. Women’s Rights Foundation


Europe must take collective responsibility for rescued migrants

Joint NGO Press Release

As Malta swelters in the summer heat, over 350 men, women and children are out at sea, stranded aboard rescue vessels waiting to be allowed to land. Despite repeated requests to Italy and Malta for a safe port, to date neither Member State has allowed disembarkation and none of the Member States of the EU have stepped in to offer refuge to those on board. As days turn into weeks and EU Member States continue to drag their feet, conditions on board the two ships worsen and people’s life and safety are compromised.

In the face of this callous disregard for human life, we, the undersigned NGOs, urge Malta to once more lead by example and allow the people stranded on board the rescue vessels to disembark in Malta, whether or not it is legally responsible for their disembarkation in terms of international law.

It is quite simply unacceptable to argue that the rescued migrants should be returned to Libya, where they risk imprisonment in inhuman conditions, torture, rape, and slavery. Libya cannot be considered a safe port by any definition, so it is imperative that another solution is found for the rescued migrants.

It is equally objectionable to imply that any State is somehow justified in refusing to allow the disembarkation of people rescued by NGOs. International maritime law is clear: the priority is to save lives and to ensure disembarkation in a place of safety, regardless of who conducted the rescue. Saving lives is therefore a legal obligation, and under no circumstances can it be considered wrong or – at worst – a crime.

The Member States of the European Union, a Union supposedly founded on solidarity and respect for human dignity, have a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution. That Europe repeatedly closes its doors to people fleeing harm is beyond reprehensible – it is a betrayal of the principles which are supposed to define us and of the rules that are there to protect us all.

Furthermore, it is amply clear that the Member States at the external borders of Europe, like Malta, Italy and Greece, cannot and should not be left to deal with this European challenge alone.

It is for this reason that we are calling on the European Union institutions and Member States to take collective responsibility for the tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep and to take concrete steps to ensure that, wherever they are disembarked, people are received in conditions of dignity.


  1. aditus foundation
  2. African Media Association Malta
  3. Allied Rainbow Communities
  4. Anti-Poverty Forum Malta
  5. Caritas Malta
  6. The Critical Institute
  7. Drachma LGBTI
  8. Drachma Parents GroupIntegra Foundation
  9. Isles of the Left
  10. Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)
  11. Kopin
  12. LGBTI+ Gozo
  13. Malta Emigrants’ Commission
  14. Maltese Association of Psychiatry
  15. Men Against Violence
  16. MGRM-Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement
  17. Migrant Women Association Malta
  18. Moviment Graffitti
  19. OASI Foundation
  20. Office of the Dean – Faculty of Education University of Malta
  21. People for Change Foundation
  22. Richmond Foundation
  23. SOS Malta
  24. SPARK15
  25. Young Christian Workers

Residential Leases Act: The First Step Forward – Instability and Exorbitant Prices Yet To Be Addressed

Joint Press Statement

A coalition of 20 NGOs active in the social field view the Residential Leases Bill as the first step forward. The NGOs had presented a proposal for rent regulation in February 2018 and reacted to the White Paper on this subject in October 2018. This Bill introduces a much-needed framework with basic rights and obligations on tenants and landlords, and is clearly the result of serious research work and a broad consultation process. However, the Bill very marginally addresses the predominance of short-term contracts that lead to widespread instability, and fails to tackle the most pressing issue of exorbitant rent prices.

The sudden and continuing hike in rent prices is pushing thousands of persons into precariousness, hitting hardest those on low and medium wages and pensions as well as persons in vulnerable situations such as women experiencing domestic violence. Thus, much more will have to be done if Government is to achieve its objective, as set out in the White Paper, of making rent a housing alternative.

The NGOs welcome several provisions of this Bill. We favourably view the obligation on landlords to register contracts that include an inventory and the amount of money deposited, coupled with dissuasive measures against renting without a valid contract. It is also positive that the Housing Authority will be responsible for private residential leases, related enforcement and an adjudicating panel that will speedily decide on minor disputes.

We positively note that tenants will have the right to access utility bills, and that landlords will have to inform the tenant three months before contract expiry whether they intend to renew the lease or otherwise.

The proposed Act would establish a one-year minimum contract period for residential leases. One year is glaringly insufficient to guaranteeing a degree of stability to the tenant, leaving the current situation of short-term contracts more or less unchanged. The coalition of NGOs, when reacting to the White Paper last year, had proposed a three-year minimum in order to start addressing the issue of tenants living precarious lives.

The three-year minimum proposed by the NGOs would be binding on the landlord, with the tenant able to leave the place during the contract period without any penalty on condition they give due notice. Government plans to grant tax credits to landlords who offer contracts that are longer than one year are positive, but this will unfortunately have only a limited effect on incentivising longer-term contracts.

The Act would regulate annual rent-price increases by pegging them to the Property Price Index and capping them at 5%. However, this regulation only applies to increases during contract duration, that is, to those cases where landlords provide contracts that are longer than one year. Unreasonable rent increases, with no limit whatsoever, would still be allowed following the end of the contract period. The coalition of NGOs had proposed that the monthly rent to be paid in any new contract, irrespective of whether it is with the same or a different tenant, should not be higher than 10% of the last monthly rent paid under the previous contract.

This would prevent exorbitant increases in rent-prices following the expiry of contracts. We had also proposed the creation of a Rent Value Index that would enhance public knowledge on the private rental market and lead to a degree of rent-price stabilisation. The Rent Value Index would list rent-value in different areas and for different classes of property according to their size and quality. There would be a rule stating that an initial price should not exceed 10% of the price listed for that particular category within the Rent Value Index. This proposal has not been taken on board.

Besides these points on the principles underpinning the regulation framework, the NGOs also have specific points as feedback regarding some articles, namely:

  • The Bill allows two exceptions to the obligatory one-year minimum contract term. These exceptions apply when i) proof is presented attesting that the lessee is a non-resident worker or student whose stay in Malta will be shorter than six months, or a resident who needs to rent an alternative primary residence for a period of less than six months, and ii) in the case of room rentals. Whilst the first set of exceptions is understandable, the second should be removed. Tenants renting rooms should be afforded the same protection as those renting a whole unit.
  • The Bill states that the landlord has thirty days to register the contract from commencement of the lease. However, the law does not spell out that a contract should be in place from the first day of the lease and, when not, the lease is to be considered a de facto one with the protection afforded to tenants in such leases.

    In the absence of such a provision, landlords who are caught leasing without a contract can simply claim that thirty days from the commencement of lease have not yet passed, and it will be very difficult for the tenant to prove otherwise.
  • The Bill gives the right to the tenant to access their utility bills. The Bill should go further and establish a mechanism whereby the tenant has automatic access to their water and electricity bills.

The coalition of NGOs will continue to push for a rent regulation framework that enhances stability and peace of mind for tenants and landlords, eliminates discrimination and which avoids situations of precariousness, always bearing in mind that adequate housing is a fundamental human right.

Andre Callus, on behalf of the Coalition of NGOs.

To this end, the NGOs will be presenting their reactions and proposals during the Bill’s discussion in the Parliamentary Committee prior to its enactment.


Issued by:

  1. aditus Foundation
  2. African Media Association Malta
  3. Alleanza Kontra il-Faqar
  4. Forum Komunita’ Bormliża
  5. Integra Foundation
  6. Isles of the Left
  7. Koperattiva Kummerċ Ġust
  8. Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement
  9. Malta Humanists Association
  10. Malta Tenant Support
  11. Mid-Dlam għad-Dawl
  12. Moviment Graffitti
  13. Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)
  14. SOS Malta
  15. Spark 15
  16. The Critical Institute
  17. The Millennium Chapel
  18. Third World Group Malta
  19. Women’s Rights Foundation
  20. Żminijietna – Voice of the Left