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!
the occasion of the meeting of the 23 September between representatives of
Malta, Italy, Germany, France, Finland and the European Commission the
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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;
Terminates at once the approach whereby rescued persons are only allowed to be disembarked once their relocation is secured;
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;
Guarantees that, following disembarkation, all persons are treated humanely and with respect for their dignity and fundamental human rights;
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.
This year we’ll be marching with a message that shows solidarity with so many of our beneficiaries who would love to march…but simply do not dare to: LGBTIQ+ refugees.
Our work brings us in touch with several men and women who have fled their countries because of the persecution they fear due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We guide them through Malta’s asylum process, in particular by explaining the importance of explaining their LGBTIQ+ identities. Of course, this is extremely challenging. There are several personal, social and community obstacles along the path to revealing such personal stories to a Government Case Officer who might be mostly interested in knowing:
“What were you before you were gay?”
Case Officer, Office of the Refugee Commissioner.
It is even more challenging, at times, to reveal such identities to members of their own communities on whom they rely for almost everything.
For Malta Pride 2019 we want to remind Malta, and Malta’s LGBTIQ+ community, of the diversity within this very community. That LGBTIQ+ includes persons with disabilities, young and old, refugees, migrant…and so many more colours.
We want to reassure those LGBTIQ+ refugees who dare not march for fear of being identified, labelled, shamed, excluded or threatened, that we proudly march for them.
We are not surprised to read the news that yet another group of migrants were found living in squalor. On the one hand, it is terribly upsetting that more and more people have recognised an economic opportunity in this inhuman business. They are profiting by racist exploitation that ‘houses’ people in structures designed and intended for animals. Essentially, they reflect what we’ve been saying for far too long: Malta’s economic boom lives off the exploitation of migrants and returns close to nothing to its slave labourers.
On behalf of aditus foundation, Integra Foundation and JRS Malta, I would like to share with you our 3 new publications on refugee integration.
Published in the context of Project Integrated, with the support of UNHCR Malta, the 3 Policy Papers are intended to guide our advocacy with Government on key aspects of refugee integration. In the coming months we will be engaging in dialogue sessions with Ministries and other entities so as to present our views and discuss ways forward.
The Policy Papers, published as an on-going series of policy input, are as follows (click on the names to download in .pdf):
Family Unit: a Fundamental Right highlights our concerns with Malta’s absolute ban on family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, and urges Government to grant this right;