Malta’s systematic detention of asylum-seekers and migrants has for years been criticised by key human rights bodies. The European Court of Human Rights (here, here and here), the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Malta’s own Courts have all had harsh words to describe a policy that ignores international, European and national standards.

We visit detention on a regular basis, where our Pro Bono Unit provides legal information and services on how to challenge the detention legality. Together with assisting persons on their detention, we also guide them through other important procedures they must go through whilst detained: the asylum interview and appeals process, age assessment, vulnerability assessment and Dublin claims.

Malta’s detention regime must change.

Stop detaining children! Furthermore it should only detain anyone as an exceptional measure of last resort, and this only after an individual assessment.

Where anyone is detained, Malta must ensure living conditions that respect human dignity. It must also guarantee judicial oversight over decisions to detain anyone.

Vulnerable persons should never be detained.

What changes are needed?

Our legal services and advocacy activities combating Malta’s illegal detention focus on achieving the following goals:

  1. Allow aditus foundation & other NGOs access to living quarters in detention centres. Worldwide experience tells us that when detained persons are not able to freely be visited by lawyers, social workers, counsellors, religious representatives, doctors and other visitors they become vulnerable to human rights violations.
  2. Strengthen the legal remedies and procedures available to detained persons for them to effectively challenge the legality of their detention. We do believe that the current system, focused around the Immigration Appeals Board, does not constitute an effective remedy.
  3. Appropriately document the regular detention review procedures of persons pending removal. Where the law requires detention to be reviewed, these reviews must be quick, effective, accessible and in line with basic procedural guarantees.
  4. Do not detain children and vulnerable persons.
  5. Immediately provide all detained migrants with a document clearly indicating the reasons in fact and in law for their detention. It is impossible to question the legality of your detention if the entity detaining you does not inform you why it is keeping you locked up.
  6. Ensure maximum detention durations are respected.
  7. Actively and truly explore alternatives to detention instead of automatically detaining persons. There are alternatives.

Politico feature, by Joanna Demarco and Julian Delia.

Supported by PRO ASYL.
Supported by UNHCR Malta in Project Integrated.

A Fundamentally Different Approach is Needed: Joint Statement to the European Committee on Legal Co-Operation of the Council of Europe on the codification of European Rules for the Conditions of Administrative Detention of Migrants