Legal Intern at EASO’s session on initial steps

On 12 November, I was in Brussels to attend the 9th EASO Consultative Forum Plenary Meeting. This meeting is a gathering of NGO representatives from all Europe, stakeholders from Member States, European Union officials (EASO and European Commission) and the United Nations (UNHCR).

This year’s Forum was focused on the initial steps in the asylum procedure and the aim was to exchange knowledge from different types of stakeholders.

We heard different panel discussions from experts stressing key considerations, with the opportunity to present questions on issues we’re all facing in our work. Civil society, Member States and European institutions officials had a chance to express their views and hear each other.

Final recommendations from the different workshops focused on outreach and information, registration, and channelling of applicants with special needs.

This gathering is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more, exchange and get inspired in order to do a more appropriate and fairer work. I sincerely thank EASO for supporting my participation at this meeting!


A busy day in Court…

Yesterday we had an intense day in Court with Carla and I handling three important cases: Lifeline, El Hiblu 1 and a gender recognition case. Two of these had successful outcomes and we’re waiting (as I type) for a decision in the third.

Gender recognition

Some weeks ago Carla had presented an application requesting the Court of Voluntary Jurisdiction to recognised the affirmed gender of a transgender man. The Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act (GIGESC) states that, when a person has already availed oneself of the procedure to change one’s gender and/or name, the second change needs to happen through a Court application.

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How can we improve hate crime reporting in Malta?

At the end of August (28-29), I attended a workshop on hate crime organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

ODIHR provides support, assistance and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights and tolerance and non-discrimination. It observes elections, reviews legislation and advises governments on how to develop and sustain democratic institutions. The Office also conducts training programmes for government and law-enforcement officials and non-governmental organizations on how to uphold, promote and monitor human rights.

The aim of the workshop was to familiarise civil society organisations with the concept of hate crime, especially in the context of migration, and introduce ODIHR’s work on reporting and addressing hate crimes in Europe.

This workshop was important for us all at aditus foundation, since we are searching for betters ways to support our beneficiaries when they are victims of hate crimes. In particular we are extremely concerned that, whilst we do know of hate crimes occurring in Malta, reporting levels remain extremely low…almost at level zero. My participation was funded by UNHCR Malta, for which aditus foundation is extremely grateful.

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NGO Statement on the European Meeting of 23 September

On the occasion of the meeting of the 23 September between representatives of Malta, Italy, Germany, France, Finland and the European Commission the undersigned organisations strongly urge the meeting participants to bring to an end a distribution of responsibilities that results in human suffering, injustice and violations of international and European law.

A permanent system of disembarkation and relocation of asylum-seekers rescued in the Mediterranean is absolutely necessary. The current ad hoc system whereby relocation is negotiated on a ship-by-ship basis is neither humane nor  sustainable. Furthermore, it is imperative that rescued asylum-seekers are always treated in a manner that fully respects their dignity and fundamental rights. Ultimately, the present scenario risks draining cooperating Member States of their willingness to support Italy and Malta.

We welcome the active involvement of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in these relocation exercises, reiterating the need for such exercises to be treated as European initiatives and not as bilateral political negotiations amongst Member States outside the scope of legal and policy scrutiny. Relocating asylum-seekers should be based on the principles enshrined in Europe’s asylum norms, including: registration and protection as asylum-seekers, appropriate provision of information, restoration of family ties, identification of and support to vulnerable persons.

We are particularly concerned at Malta’s treatment of rescued persons in the Initial Reception Centre and in Safi Detention Centre. We have already expressed our concerns regarding the lawfulness of the detention of those who have been detained on medical grounds for weeks on end. Beyond this, both centres are over-crowded and living conditions are abysmal.

Whilst we fully appreciate Malta’s challenges in receiving relatively large numbers of asylum-seekers in a short time, we cannot endorse an approach that leaves people locked up for weeks, without a valid reason at law, and treats them with such disregard for their humanity.

It is simply unacceptable that this approach is tolerated by a European Union built on values of solidarity, humanity and dignity.

In view of the above, we strongly urge the Member State participants to seek to establish a permanent relocation mechanism for asylum-seekers rescued in the Mediterranean that:

  1. Provides effective solidarity with Italy and Malta by ensuring the swift transfer of asylum-seekers and by providing support – including financial – towards the urgent improvement of reception conditions;
  2. Terminates at once the approach whereby rescued persons are only allowed to be disembarked once their relocation is secured;
  3. Ensure that all persons are provided with information, in a manner they understand, about their futures from the moment of their arrival and throughout the relocation procedure;
  4. Guarantees that, following disembarkation, all persons are treated humanely and with respect for their dignity and fundamental human rights;
  5. Immediately strengthens the capacity of open reception centres, both in terms of physical space and in terms of the human resources necessary to provide all asylum-seekers with the support they need to rebuild their lives.

Statement by:

  1. aditus foundation
  2. African Media Association
  3. Blue Door English
  4. Integra Foundation
  5. Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)
  6. Malta Emigrants’ Commission
  7. Migrant Women Association (Malta)
  8. Moviment Graffitti
  9. Office of the Dean, Faculty of Education
  10. SOS Malta
  11. Syrian Solidarity in Malta

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