European Court of Human Rights orders Malta not to deport 2 Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity

Earlier today, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Malta not to forcibly remove our 2 clients, being Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity. We had filed the application on Friday 13 January, following our clients’ detention in Safi Barracks. They were on the path to being deported to China, a path thankfully interrupted by the Court’s order to Malta not to remove them! We filed the application together with the NGO Safeguard Defenders (Spain).

The Case

The applicants are married Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity and Muslim faith. They came to Malta in Malta in 2016. Following rejection of their application for International Protection in 2017, the applicants spent years living in hiding in Malta and were issued with a return decision and removal order on 1 August 2022. The applicants raised a claim based on the principle of non-refoulement before the competent authorities. This was rejected on 12 January.

The applicants flagged to the Court that, if returned, they would face a real risk of being subjected to serious violations of their human rights on account of their ethnicity and religion.

Our clients also informed the Court that Malta did not provide them with an effective remedy whereby they could raise their human rights complaints, as required by European human rights law.. 

On 12 January, Malta’s immigration authorities informed our clients that their return was imminent. They detained them at Safi Barracks, where our lawyers met with them to discuss the next steps. In Safi Barracks, their mobile phones were confiscated, meaning they would have been unable to call us should the removal have been carried through.


Safeguard Defenders (Spain)

In a mere four pages, the Maltese Board blatantly ignored the extensive documentation produced by the applicants in stating that “appellants failed to produce further evidence to substantiate the principle of non-refoulement”.

That documentation included clear-cut evidence of transnational persecution of the couple by Chinese authorities through reprisals against their family members in Xinjiang since 2017, as well as the growing series of reports and decisions by competent national and international authorities, including the hard-fought report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of August  2022 that states: “In light of the overall assessment of the human rights situation in XUAR,” or Xinjiang, “countries hosting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities from XUAR should refrain from forcibly returning them, in any circumstance of real risks of breach of the principle of non-refoulement.” 

The fear and uncertainty the couple has been put through is highly emblematic of the continuous strain felt by those at risk of the PRC’s gross human rights abuse and long-arm policing efforts in a European Union where many Member States remain alarmingly negligent in upholding their international obligations.

aditus foundation

This order from the European Court of Human Rights is yet another condemnation of Malta’s asylum procedure. It keeps on failing those who need in most: persons fleeing persecution and atrocious human rights violations.

It is high time that Malta reviews its approach to asylum to ensure that it fulfils its core mission of protecting refugees. In the meantime, aditus foundation will continue our hard work to ensure that asylum-seekers are able to effectively present their claims and that refugees enjoy the protection they are entitled to.