European Human Rights Court orders Malta to release children from detention

In yet another critique of Malta’s detention regime, yesterday the European Court of Human Rights ordered Malta to release seven children from a detention centre. In its ruling, the Court indicated that Malta should “ensure that the applicants’ conditions are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and with their status as unaccompanied minors.”.

This decision, ordering Malta to release the children from detention, confirms that Malta is indeed detaining persons who are in most need of care and protection. It also underlines that this approach is simply unacceptable. 

Arrival and detention

On 18 November 2022, a group of 47 people were rescued and brought to Malta. Amongst them were 7 children travelling without their parents or any responsible adult. Following their disembarkation, they were all immediately detained in the so-called ‘China House’ detention centre in Ħal Far. On 30 November the Police issued them all with Detention Orders. 

During the review of their detention before the Immigration Appeals Board, on 6 December 2022, the Board effectively conducted a mass collective hearing of all 47 persons and issued one single collective decision. Many of the migrants were not present for their detention hearing.

It was during this review that 6 of the migrants declared that they are children. Whilst the Board requested that legal guardians be appointed to safeguard their interests, it nonetheless declared that their detention was perfectly legal. 

One month later, on 10 January 2023, AWAS had still not recieved any information regarding these children from either the Board or the Police.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released drawings by migrant children depicting the conditions inside Border Patrol detention facilities. Provided by American Academy of Pediatrics, from TIME.

And then they met aditus foundation

Our lawyers Alexis and Kirsten met 4 of the minors on the same day in the boardroom at Safi Detention Centre. During this meeting, the boys confirmed that they had informed several people about their age, but that nobody had yet approached them to assess them. Instead, they remained detained at China House, together with unrelated adult men in atrocious conditions. At China House they were not allowed any fresh air or sunshine time, let alone any tme for leisure or play activities.

We were particularly upset to notice that 2 of the boys had already been referred to AWAS by our lawyers, wherein we flagged that 2 children in need of care and protection were being detained. Our referral had been sent on the 22 December 2022.

Malta should stop detaining children.

This is not an immigration issue. This is about children.

Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director.

Urgent request to the European Court of Human Rights

Given the urgency of the situation, we immediately decided to file a request for interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights. In our application of the 10 January 2023, we asked the Court to confirm that the detention of these children was in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights. We requested the Court to intervene for their release from detention. 

The day after, the Court upheld our request for interim measures. It ordered Malta “to ensure that the applicants’ conditions are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and with their status as unaccompanied minors.”

Our application to the Strasbourg Court and its decision may be found here.