We welcome the Prime Minister’s public pledge to put an end to child detention, made on the occasion of Freedom Day 2014. We are also keen to explore how we can support any initiatives, programmes and procedures necessary for effectively implementation.
Although Malta’s national policy on migration and asylum already clearly states that children should not be detained, children reaching Malta by boat are in fact detained on arrival. In some cases it is for a few days, but in many other cases children are detained for months, without any provision for special care, education, protection or support, including while a decision is taken regarding their claim to minor age in the case of unaccompanied or separated children. In most cases these were children who were forced to flee their homes with their families or alone due to war or persecution, living through experiences no child should go through.
We believe that children should never be detained, even for a few days. We have therefore consistently advocated for Malta to bring its laws and policies in line with international and EU standards by putting an immediate end to child detention and setting up proper facilities for the reception of children.
The Prime Minister’s commitment is an important first step in the process to revise the current reception regime to provide the appropriate shelter, care and on-going support to children reaching our shores.
We are hopeful that the Prime Minister’s words are indicative of a willingness to actively engage with us all in a review process of the way Malta receives and treats migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.
We also urge the Government to ensure that, in all circumstances, the best interest of the child remains the over-riding priority.