We’re launching an updated Statelessness Index country profile on Malta, which now includes a country briefing

Today aditus foundation and the European Network on Statelessness are launching an updated and expanded country profile on Malta as part of the Statelessness Index.

The Malta page now includes up-to-date data on new categories like withdrawal of nationality, reduction of statelessness, and bilateral return and readmission agreements, as well as a shorter country briefing, which outline recommendations for the Government on how to improve the treatment of stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness.

The Index country profile on Malta provides analysis for over 25 different categories. Law, policy and practice under each of these categories are assessed against international norms and good practice and marked with a clear and easy to understand assessment key.

Main 2019 Index Updates

2018 saw some improvement in Malta, but significant concerns about law, policy and practice on the protection of stateless people and prevention of statelessness remain.

At the end of 2018, a new regularisation route was introduced for people refused asylum who are unable to leave the country – some of whom may be stateless – provided they have lived in the country for five years and can meet other conditions. The new ‘SRA’ status gives individuals and their family members access to a two-year residence permit and a range of socio-economic rights.

However, this positive change does little to address one of the root causes of people ending up in irregularity: the lack of a procedure to identify and determine statelessness and grant stateless people the rights due to them under the 1954 Convention. Malta remains one of only four EU member states yet to accede to the Convention.

Further steps are also needed to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention, and to prevent and reduce statelessness in Malta. The safeguard granting stateless children born in Malta a conditional right to acquire nationality does not prevent statelessness in all cases and has still not been implemented in practice; and provisions relating to conferral of nationality by descent that were ruled discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 remain in place.

What have we been doing?

In the past year aditus foundation has been very busy putting the issue of statelessness on Malta’s national agenda. We flagged our human rights concerns to the Universal Periodic Review and, thanks to our submission and interventions, several States urged Malta to ratify the 1954 Statelessness Convention. Malta did not agree to accept these recommendations, yet we’re extremely glad that statelessness is now a UPR issue for Malta!

We also written formally to the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, reminding him of commitments publicly made by Malta that it would be exploring the possibility of ratifying the 1954 Convention. In this regard, we have always urged the Ministry to designate the Office of the Refugee Commissioner as the administrative entity to process statelessness applications, given its expertise in searching and applying Country of Origin Information.

About the Statelessness Index

The Statelessness Index is an online tool that assesses how countries in Europe protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce statelessness. It is the first to provide comprehensive and accessible comparative analysis for 18 countries in Europe, including Malta. It allows users to quickly understand which areas of law, policy and practice can be improved by states.

The Index was developed by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), in partnership with aditus. It is an invaluable tool for sharing good practice and raising awareness of issues that affect stateless people.

We look forward to working with key stakeholders to facilitate the change needed to improve the lives of stateless men, women and children living in Malta.

If you have any questions regarding the Index, please do not hesitate to contact us.



Maltese NGOs at the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review’s Pre-Session

On 12 October aditus foundation, Kunsill Nazzjonali ŻgħażagħThe Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay attended the UPR pre-session on Malta to give their feedback and recommendations on the state of human rights in Malta as they stand.

The UPR pre-sessions are attended by States’ missions to the United Nations, based in Geneva, with a view to gathering information in preparation for the upcoming review of a State’s human rights performance. Malta’s review is set for 14 November 2018…we’ll be following closely!

(Don’t know what the UPR is, or why we think it’s an important human rights process? Read our earlier blog post.)

So, who said what at this pre-session?

aditus foundation

Neil was present as Director of aditus foundation but also as Head of Secretariat of the umbrella organisation Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM).

He started his presentation by highlighting the significant progress made by Malta in several areas since the last UPR, such as the adoption of the Integration Policy (2017) as well as amendments made to the immigration detention policy.

Statelessness was an issue discussed in depth by aditus foundation, also in the shadow report presented to the UPR process. In this regard, Neil reiterated concerns expressed in the Statelessness Index, namely:

Neil further noted the challenges faced by refugees and migrants in accessing Europe safely and legally, emphasizing that safe and legal pathways need to be introduced. He also stressed the need for Malta and Italy to stop bickering on Twitter and to find a way of resolving their legal and political disagreements regarding rescue at sea of migrants.

aditus foundation pleaded that Ħal Far Tent Village urgently needs to be replaced with housing that is community-based and equipped with basic material supplies. In relation to immigration detention, Neil noted that some instances of deprivation of liberty need to be aligned with international human rights standards.

Finally, on the migration theme, Neil urged Malta to remove the arbitrary prohibition of civil marriages for undocumented migrants.

Neil then spoke on the rule of law, mentioning examples of institutionalised nepotism, kickbacks and other forms of corruption. Neil finally stressed the importance of establishing a public inquiry looking into the brutal assassination of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

PEN Representative David Lindsay

David Lindsay, Editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday, spoke on behalf of Pen International, Reporters without Borders, IPI (International Press Institute), The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and Article 19.

He stated that during the last UPR session, no recommendations were made on freedom of speech, yet Malta’s situation degenerated enormously. He underlined how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination on 16 October 2017 has left trailing behind it a climate of fear.

David reminded his listeners that a makeshift memorial set up in her memory has been cleared over 20 times by government officials in the thick of the night.

David reiterated Neil’s recommendation by calling for an international public inquiry that would establish whether her death could or should have been prevented.

David said that PEN welcomed the decriminalisation of defamation under the new Media and Defamation Act adopted in 2018, yet also mentioned serious concerns in relation to this new law, particularly that the burden of proof remains with the defendant, including in cases initiated by senior members of the government.

In addition, libel suits may be passed to heirs. To highlight this, David mentioned how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family inherited a total of 33 civil libel suits, all instituted by senior public officials against Daphne herself.

Lindsay lamented that 2017 was the year Malta was introduced to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), as a way to censor and silence journalists and media houses by slapping them with exasperatingly high-cost legal fees. David expressed the fear that these methods are aimed at preventing the media from practicing its right to inform the public about matters of general interest.

David urged the UPR to recommend the prohibition of recognition of foreign defamation judgments, in order to protect Maltese journalists from SLAPP and libel tourism.

He concluded by stressing the importance of having a public inquiry looking into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ

The General Secretary of Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ, Sean Ellul, tabled the KZN’s UPR recommendations, focusing mainly on sexual and mental health issues. Sean noted that, although Malta does offer free STD and STI  testing, it is quite hard to access these due to a long waiting list of up to several months.

This means that a good part of the population remains untested: over 25% of individuals suffering from HIV are unaware they are HIV positive.

KNZ recommends that a standardised, holistic national policy on sex education is established, that incorporates both formal and non-formal education. Further investment in quality sexual health clinics and services is also needed. Self-testing and the distribution/educational use of contraceptives among youths need to be made easier and simpler.

With regard to mental health, Sean highlighted the situation in Mount Carmel Hospital by referring specifically to the young man who was discovered dead after he had fled the hospital. Sean underlined the need to overhaul this institution, also referring to the need for further public education and awareness-raising.

KNZ commented on the Maltese legal and judicial system, where a survey carried out just after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination showed that 53% of Maltese citizens lacked trust in the system. In line with aditus’ own earlier recommendation, KNZ recommended the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.


This post is part of a series of posts on the Universal Period Review process. Malta’s review, where the country’s human rights situation will be assessed by other States, is set for 14 November 2018.

Follow our News and Updates to be kept updated on this important United Nations procedure. 


Alerting the Universal Periodic Review to statelessness in Malta

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States.

The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

Together with our colleagues at the European Network on Statelessness and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, we just submitted information to the Universal Periodic Review regarding the situation of stateless people in Malta. The UPR provides human rights NGOs with an excellent opportunity of high-level advocacy on key themes.

Our submission, largely based on the recently-launched Statelessness Index, presents an overview of the legal and policy situation whereby stateless persons in Malta are not identified and – as a consequence – are invisible and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The submission makes a series of recommendations, hoping these would be taken up within the UPR process and addressed to Malta in November.

Main recommendations include:

  • accede and fully implement the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness;
  • implement a Statelessness Determination Procedure that results in a dedicated protection status associated with clear rights and support mechanisms;
  • add the categories ‘stateless’ and ‘unknown nationality’ in national census exercises;
  • refrain from detaining migrants in respect of whom a returnable country of origin has not, or cannot, be established;
  • modify the Civil Code to ensure the birth registration of children born in international waters where their registration in another country is impossible due to legal or other considerations;

Our full submission can be downloaded here.

Do you want to raise any human rights matter before the Universal Periodic Review? You’ve got until Thursday 29 March for your issues to be considered in Malta’s November session. Should you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!


 

 

 


Statelessness Index – new online tool comparing how European countries address statelessness

Today European Network on Statelessness is launching a new online tool, Statelessness Index, for assessing how different European countries – including Malta – protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce statelessness.

The tool is aimed at sharing good practices as well as raising awareness or focusing advocacy on areas that need improvement. It is the first tool that provides comprehensive and accessible comparative analysis on statelessness in different countries in Europe.

Comparing country specific information has been made easy as the index is divided into five themes: international and regional instruments, statelessness population data, statelessness determination and status, detention and prevention and reduction. Moreover, assessing country specific information has been made easy by categorising the information to range from the most negative to the most positive.

You can find Malta in the index together with France, Germany, Macedonia, Moldova, The Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Ukraine. More countries will be added later as the index is still in its pilot phase.

Malta and statelessness

aditus foundation is the country expert for Malta, with the report compiled by our Director, Neil. According to him the most crucial aspect of statelessness in Malta is the very limited protection that Malta provides for stateless people.

Even though Malta is party to some relevant international and regional human rights treaties, it is not party to any of the core statelessness conventions, such as the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Another issue to be raised is the one of detention of stateless people. Maltese law provides some protections against arbitrary detention, but rights afforded to people detained for removal purposes, for example, are very limited.

Moreover, Malta has no mechanism to identify and determine statelessness, and no stateless protection status. Data on the stateless population is therefore limited, with figures available only for the very small number of stateless people who acquire Maltese citizenship and refused asylum-seekers recorded as ‘nationality not known’ who cannot be returned and may or may not be stateless.

To learn more about statelessness in Malta and how Malta compares to other European countries visit the Index, or get in touch with us. You can also see our other work on statelessness here.

We’d like to thank UNHCR Malta for assisting us in our research and drafting.

This post was prepared by Emma Pahkala, Intern at aditus foundation.


Our Director’s blogpost for the European Network on Statelessness

“In 2015 award-winning Greg Constantine visited Malta as part of his photographic journey around Europe, documenting the lives of detained stateless persons.

He spent much of his time with our client and friend, Alexander: a young man from Sierra Leone who, having entered Malta in an irregular manner, was detained for over one year under a regime that has since been repeatedly found by the European Court of Human Rights to be arbitrary and illegal.

When Sierra Leone’s consular representatives insisted Alexander was not Sierra Leonian, he became stateless. With no formal legal status, he had no documents, no rights, no identity and no place to call home.”

You can read Neil’s full post here.