We would like to commend the Government of Malta’s stand against the far right group Defend Europe

Photo from independent.co.uk

We would like to commend the Government of Malta’s stand against the far right group Defend Europe in refusing to allow the C-Star to enter Malta.

Under the deceptive premise of ‘saving lives’, the mission of the vessel C-Star claims to ‘defend Europe’ by disrupting humanitarian vessels and by returning refugees to the coast of Libya.

The scope and actions of Defend Europe must not be underestimated, their political ideology is dangerous and extreme.

The stance adopted by the Government of Malta sends out a clear message against the politics of hate and extremism.

Statement of:

aditus foundation, Graffiti,  Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Kopin, The Critical Institute.

Malta could have done the right thing & shown solidarity

We are appalled at the way Italy and Malta treated the migrants and crew aboard the vessel Golfo Azzurro. Relying on restrictive and questionable interpretations of legal obligations in order to deny disembarkation created an inhumane situation, achieving absolutely nothing but more human suffering and pain.

It is unacceptable for States to behave in this manner, toying with the lives and security of people as they attempt to resolve their diplomatic disagreements.

Without access to complete information regarding the precise rescue location and procedures, we are not in a position to establish with certainty whether the recused migrants ought to have been disembarked in Italy or in Malta. However, we can say with certainty that under international human rights law and international maritime law disembarkation in Libya was an absolute non-starter.

This would have exposed the rescued migrants to risks of loss of life or of serious human rights violations, an unacceptable resolution to the impasse.

It is now opportune to remind Malta of its several calls for solidarity in dealing with refugee flows. Malta was in the prime position to show solidarity with Italy, a State that has solely hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants. Malta could also have extended its solidarity to the three migrants who were in need of safety and, as days passed by, humanitarian assistance.

Malta could have done the right thing. Instead it chose to abandon the migrants and crew to their fates out at sea, potentially for days.

Solidarity is not a one-way street. It requires long-term commitment to support whoever is in need, and whenever the need arises. We strongly urge Malta to revisit its understanding of the principle, and to distance itself from a migration policy based on self-interest and disregard for human life.

Statement by: aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta

Awareness Campus – aditus at a training in Italy

From 3rd to 16th July 2017, Teatro Stabile di Torino and Banca San Paolo with the support of the Regione Piemonte organised the Training Awareness Campus in Moncalieri, Turin, Italy, addressed to actors, cultural mediators, animators, dancers, social workers, doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists, trainers, gymnasts, singers and students, aimed at the consolidation of a group for conducting theatrical practices for the care of the person and in particular for the migrants.

Being also a Drama Trainer and Artistic Project Manager of programmes exploring themes related to vulnerable, marginalised and displaced people, I flew to Italy, to Turin and was one of the 50 participants.

The training provided a safe space in which everyone, young people up to the age of 85 years old, could express themselves freely and explore their creativity. The applied learning method was based on the constant and rigorous exercise of awareness and attention through the practice of physical, vocal and narrative action and on the practice of articulated instruments for building a way of reflecting on space and relationships with the others. The training focused on acting, interactive theatre, devising to bear witness, raise awareness, and build alliances and a cultural resistance movement at the core of a free and critical society.

During the training, the practical work was supplemented by several public talks of pedagogy, philosophy, history, and literature held by professors and doctors coming from the University of Milan, Bologna and Turin. Also in the evening, the social life consisted of cultural events organised by local organisations of refugees, volunteering associations for people with disability and migrant women groups.

Fonderie Limone, Moncalieri, Turin, Italy.  Ph credit: Giulietta Vacis

The training was very intense, from 9.00 in the morning till 8.00 in the evening. Living for 2 weeks with a very diverse group of people, sharing very personal emotions and stories helped us to develop an environment of inclusivity and integration in which every person is made to understand that she or he has a contribution to offer.

The trainers’ team worked hardly to facilitate and encourage our social interaction, collaboration, positive communication, mutual support and listening through very specific exercises and social games. I think that producing state of art and thought-provoking theatre and media products in order to strengthen collaboration, self-awareness, creativity and imagination is extremely important for working in our community and advocating good governance, accountability, equality, integrity and justice.

Fonderie Limone, Moncalieri, Turin, Italy.                                      Ph credit: Giulietta Vacis

Artistic expression is a strategy to build a sense of community, of unity, of shared values, an alternative world view, and a commitment to making the struggle for social justice an integrated part of our lives.

The cultural resistance campus in Italy aimed to raise awareness and critical sense that is able to analysis of the reality around us and challenge all forms of oppression.

Fonderie Limone, Moncalieri, Turin, Italy. Ph credit: Giulietta Vacis

Antonella Sgobbo, Programmes Officer


Marriage inequality: the Bill is great news for same-sex couples, but no news for other minority groups

aditus foundation is extremely happy to see Malta adopting marriage equality legislation. It is our firm belief that all persons should be entitled to access and enjoy the right to marry and found a family, irrespectively of their sexual orientation, gender identity or other innate characteristic.

When advocating for the adoption of the Civil Unions Act, we had unequivocally stated that whilst the legal recognition of same-sex couples established through civil unions was a historical moment for Malta’s human rights progress, falling on step short of introducing marriage equality was indeed a pity.

The Bill is essentially a law of language, to the extent that what is being said is far less important than how it is being said. By introducing a series of amendments to various legal instruments, the Bill seeks to render marriage – its processes but also its ensuing rights and obligations – as gender neutral as possible in the way it is described at law and, importantly, at the political and social levels.

Although understandably challenging for some sectors, this shift in perspective by no means diminishes the personal, social and national value of marriage but rather strengthens its possibility of being conceived of and approached in as most an inclusive and welcoming approach as possible.

Yet it is ambitious and incorrect to define the Bill as an instrument that will allow all consenting adults to enjoy the right to marry, and a number of concerns ought to be flagged.

Whereas the Bill focuses almost exclusively on broadening marriage for it to include same-sex couples, it maintains the discriminatory and degrading status quo whereby persons in an irregular migration status are denied access to marriage, due to their impossibility of producing the required documentation.

The relevant authorities have done very little to seek alternative options with a view to resolving these difficulties, thereby continuing to deny marriage to an already marginalised population.

The Bill also ignores the challenges faced by refugees and migrants who remain bound by the civil status declarations they make before the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, usually within days of their arrival in Malta.

There is a need for the Government to appreciate the state of mind, thought process and personal circumstances of a person landing Malta – in many cases following a gruelling journey by boat – and declaring the status of single or married, before taking that statement as eternally binding.

Furthermore, the Bill also maintains the privileged position enjoyed by the Catholic marriages, whereby these are – if validly contracted – recognised by the State, and have the same civil effects as a marriage celebrated under the Marriage Act.

In an increasingly diverse Maltese society, where religious freedom and non-discrimination are Constitutionally protected, there is no reason why a revised Marriage Act should continue to exclude such recognition to marriages validly celebrated according to the rites of other religions and denominations.

aditus foundation also feels that the Bill needs to incorporate or trigger further amendments to truly ensure gender equality in marriage, beyond the linguistic changes proposed in the Bill.

Examples of existing practices that act against the role of women in marriage, and therefore in society, include presumptions made (in practice, now in law) for the purposes of inland revenue and social security, as well as the impossibility of new fathers to spend quality time with their children.

aditus foundation therefore welcomes the Bill and is looking forward to appreciating its dramatic impact on the LGBTIQ+ community.

We however strongly urge the Ministry to revise the Bill in order for it to truly fulfil its stated purpose: “to modernise the institution of marriage and ensure that all consenting, adult couples have the legal right to enter into marriage.”

This press release is accompanied by our detailed commentary on the Bill.

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

We, the undersigned 53 organizations, welcome the increased attention of the Council of Europe towards the protection of the human rights of migrants impacted by immigration detention, including the current draft process to develop European Rules on the Conditions for the Administrative Detention of Migrants.

We write to express our collective concern that a fundamentally different approach is needed if the draft codifying instrument is to truly reflect the minimum human rights standards to which migrants are entitled.

Existing international law obligations are clear that administrative detention must always be an exceptional measure of last resort, and even then, only when strictly lawful, necessary and proportionate to a legitimate State aim. Detention for the purposes of immigration control is a particularly worrying trend among European States as it is growing rapidly despite not being essential to the proper functioning of well-managed migration systems.

The increasing reliance upon immigration detention, therefore, brings into question a number of long-standing and fundamental human rights norms.

The codification of European Rules on the Conditions for the Administrative Detention of Migrants can play an important role in reinforcing these fundamental norms, but only if they truly and properly distinguish immigration detention from criminal and other administrative detention regimes.

Unlike other forms of detention, migrant detainees are neither suspected of, nor charged with, criminal offences, and their mere presence in Council of Europe member States represents no threat to public health, safety or security.

United Nations experts and human rights treaty bodies have consistently held that migration is not a crime per se and should never be criminalized or subject to other punitive measures.

For this reason, the links in the draft codifying instrument to existing criminal detention standards, such as the European Prison Rules (EPR), are highly concerning. In some cases, the draft rules seem to provide even lower standards than existing prison rules. Such links–even by analogy–work to reinforce the false and negative stereotypes that migrants are “illegal”, inclined to criminality, or represent a threat to public order or national security.

They are also a frequent justification for the perceived need for increased immigration detention, despite having no factual basis.

The references to existing criminal detention standards in the draft codifying instrument are responsible for many of the substantive shortcomings of the document, such as:

  • the detention of children, pregnant women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, victims of trafficking, and other migrants in situations of particular vulnerability;
  • understanding of immigration detention as a prison-like environment with limitations on visitation rights or confiscation of personal belongings;
  • concept of order and security with the use of force and physical restraints and solitary confinement, including as a sanction.

It is our position that such practices are inappropriate for the purposes of administrative immigration detention. Migration regimes, at their core, are about ensuring that people are aware of, and able to comply with, fair and humane migration procedures. Prison-like regimes have no place in such systems.

For migrants in particularly vulnerable situations, the use of detention should never be contemplated. Such individuals deserve appropriate care and support measures to assist them in complying with migration rules, but never the use of detention.

For migrants who are not in a situation of particular vulnerability, the decision to detain must be carefully circumscribed and based on an individual assessment so as to avoid the overbroad and arbitrary application of detention measures. Detention must only ever be an exceptional measure of last resort, and only after the effective exploration of alternative measures to detention have been applied.

Even in such carefully circumscribed situations of detention, it is nonetheless difficult to imagine why a regime that is fundamentally concerned with compliance with administrative migration procedures should ever contemplate the use of force or solitary confinement, for example. Such provisions are indicative of the draft codifying instrument’s fundamentally flawed starting point.

Rather than relying upon minimum criminal detention standards that are not appropriate for administrative immigration detention, we encourage the CDCJ to take a new approach–counting on the close cooperation and support of the undersigned civil society organisations–by taking action to address the following five priority areas:

  1. Envision a fundamentally different regime

We need a fundamentally different way of conceptualising what detention conditions are appropriate in the administrative immigration context. As migration is not a crime per se, traditional criminal detention regimes, which take into account legitimate public safety and security concerns, are not suited for the administrative detention of migrants. Similarly ill-suited are other administrative detention regimes, which may take into account legitimate concerns around self-harm and mental health, for example.

Traditional detention standards from these contexts therefore fail to correspond to legitimate State aims in the context of migration management–namely to ensure compliance with administrative immigration procedures.

As such, the body of international norms that establish the minimum standards for detention conditions in criminal law or other administrative detention regimes are fundamentally different in purpose than the appropriate norms in related immigration settings, and the CDCJ should actively ensure that they are fundamentally different in effect as well.

The close similarities between the current draft instrument and criminal detention standards, in particular, hinder the process of defining the adequate regime that effectively protects migrants’ human rights in the context of administrative detention.

For example, the current draft’s contemplation of the use of police stations and prisons is fundamentally incompatible with suitable administrative detention conditions for migrants.

We therefore call on the CDCJ to review the scope of application of the Rules to avoid legitimizing the use of unsuitable places of detention by States. Norms based on existing human rights standards for migrants and on general principles of care and protection–not punishment or mitigation of threat–should be the driving rationale behind this current codifying exercise.

  1. Reinforce a broader set of fundamental human rights

Beyond the right to liberty and protections against torture and other ill-treatment, migrants have fundamental human rights that ensure their safety, dignity and humanity and require heightened duties of care in the context of administrative immigration detention. The right to liberty and the prohibition on torture are rights applying to all persons, regardless of immigration status or nationality. They are rightly highlighted among the “basic principles” underwriting the draft codifying instrument.

However, States would fail to comply with the full scope of their obligations to protect migrants in administrative detention if their sole actions are to refrain from arbitrarily detaining and/or subjecting persons to torture or ill-treatment.

Equally fundamental in this context are the right of every person to basic dignity and humanity, as well as the heightened duties of safety and care to which individuals in particularly vulnerable situations are entitled. In order to uphold migrants’ dignity and humanity, additional legal safeguards are also critical, such as access to a lawyer from the outset of the migration procedure, the right to appeal or review the detention order, the assistance of an interpreter and to have information provided in a language the migrant understands.

These additional rights should be further promoted and reinforced within the draft codifying instrument. Doing so will help to re-frame the exercise from one in which standards are put in place to merely avoid serious harms or abuses; to one that provides guidance to States on how to properly ensure the safety, dignity and humanity of all migrants within places of administrative immigration detention.

  1. Clarify that administrative immigration detention is never acceptable for migrants in situations of particular vulnerability

Migrants in situations of particular vulnerability should never be detained for reasons of administrative immigration enforcement. Such detention is not necessary, poses serious risks of torture and ill-treatment, and is inconsistent with international legal obligations prohibiting arbitrary detention.

The current draft codifying instrument implicitly condones the immigration detention of a range of migrants in situations of particular vulnerability including migrant children, families, pregnant women and nursing mothers, persons with disabilities, elderly persons, stateless persons, asylum seekers, persons discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and victims of trafficking, torture, trauma or other abuse.

Detention merely for the purposes of administrative immigration enforcement is never a measure that can appropriately protect these individuals from serious harms of torture or ill-treatment, and will often be arbitrary given the abundance of alternative measures to detention.

Rather than adopting rules for the detention of persons in situations of vulnerability, the CDCJ should insist on their referral to protection systems and on their accommodation in care and protection-based alternatives to detention. Additionally, the CDCJ should encourage States to assess such situations of vulnerability prior to ordering detention, so that their detention can be avoided.

Finally, the CDCJ should insist more strongly that States have an obligation to monitor the evolution of vulnerability factors within detention so that persons identified as being in situations of vulnerability can be immediately released.

  1. Call for the priority application of alternative measures to detention

A critical safeguard for avoiding arbitrary detention in the context of administrative immigration enforcement is the robust application of alternative measures to detention. Like the right to procedural safeguards or the requirement that detention have a legitimate purpose, the obligation to pursue alternative measures to detention is a critical component of non-arbitrariness.

Any detention must be strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate purpose in each individual case, requiring the application of alternative measures prior to any use of detention.

However, such alternative measures remain underused and underexplored in the immigration context. A wide range of community-based alternatives to detention exist, such as partnerships with NGOs to provide specialized assistance, information, legal provision and case management, that make the use of immigration-related detention unnecessary. These models have achieved high levels of compliance with immigration procedures, while ensuring the rights, dignity and wellbeing of migrants.

The CDCJ should further emphasize States’ obligation to give priority consideration to the application of alternative measures to detention before resorting to any administrative immigration-related detention. This could be achieved, for example, by making more explicit reference to, and aligning approaches with, the current work of the CDDH-MIG to elaborate an Analysis of the Legal and Practical Aspects of Effective Alternatives to Detention in the Context of Migration, as well as by drawing upon the expertise of national, regional, and international experts on the effective implementation of alternatives to immigration detention, such as the International Detention Coalition (IDC), or the European Alternatives to Detention Network.

  1. Strengthen safeguards regarding access to and monitoring of places of immigration detention

Regular access to and monitoring of places of immigration detention by independent bodies is a critical safeguard against arbitrary detention and ill-treatment. Risks of human rights violations, including torture or ill-treatment increase when the conditions and treatment of persons held in immigration detention are not regularly and independently monitored. Depending on their mandate and purpose of monitoring, various institutions at national, regional and international levels may carry out immigration detention monitoring.

With a mandate established under the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, National Preventive Mechanisms are in a unique position to monitor places of immigration detention and prevent human rights violations.

In addition to recognizing the importance of monitoring bodies’ unrestricted access to all places of immigration detention, the draft instrument should also strengthen the guarantees of confidential and free communication with migrants as well as protection against the risk of reprisals suffered by migrants or any other person who engaged with monitors.

The CDCJ should take steps to strengthen these protections by reference to, among other things, the guidance provided by UNHCR, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, and the International Detention Coalition on monitoring places of immigration detention.

Signed by:

  1. aditus foundation
  3. Amnesty International
  4. Association For Legal Intervention
  5. Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
  6. Austrian Women’s Shelter Network (AÖF)
  7. Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME)
  8. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  9. Detention Action UK
  10. Defence for Children International – International Secretariat
  11. Defence for Children International – Belgium
  12. Defence for Children International – Czechia
  13. Defence for Children International – the Netherlands
  14. Destination Unknown Campaign
  15. Dutch Council for Refugees
  16. Eurochild
  17. European Network of Migrant Women (ENOMW)
  18. European Network on Statelessness (ENS)
  19. Estonian Human Rights Centre
  20. Flemish Refugee Action
  21. Forum for Human Rights
  22. Future Worlds Center Cyprus
  23. Global Campaign to End Child Immigration Detention
  24. Greek Council for Refugees
  25. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
  26. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  27. Immigrant Council of Ireland
  28. Institute for Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI)
  29. International Child Development Initiatives (ICDI)
  30. International Detention Coalition (IDC)
  31. Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD)
  32. Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
  33. KISA Cyprus
  34. Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali (Kopin)
  35. Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights
  36. Médecins du monde
  37. Médecins du monde Netherlands / Dokters van de Wereld
  38. Mental Health Europe
  39. Missing Children Europe
  40. Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre
  41. Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS)
  42. Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU)
  43. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
  44. Plate-forme Mineurs en exil – Platform Kinderen op de vlucht – Platform Minors in exile
  46. Red Acoge
  47. Refugee Rights Turkey
  48. Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP)
  49. SolidarityNow
  50. Terre des Hommes
  51. The Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims
  52. The Salvation Army – EU Affairs Office
  53. Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE)