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.

Report: How European countries can stop people without nationality being locked up in limbo

A report published today (4 May) by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) on the use of immigration detention warns that stateless people are often detained for months and even years, without any real prospect of their cases being resolved.

This is because immigration systems do not have appropriate procedures in place to identify those who are left without nationality and to protect stateless people.

The report calls on European governments to reform their immigration and detention systems to comply with their international human rights obligations and end the arbitrary detention of stateless people.

States need to put in place procedures to identify people without nationality so that they don’t end up locked up in limbo.

Chris Nash, Director of the European Network on Statelessness said:

“Across Europe a failure by states to put in place effective systems to identify stateless people leaves them exposed to repeated and prolonged detention.

These men, women and children fall between the cracks, because no country will recognise them as nationals.

This is preventable, and today we are publishing a clear agenda for change which will help end this travesty.”

Angela Li Rosi, Deputy Director of UNHCR Bureau for Europe said:

“Stateless persons across Europe risk serious violations of their right to liberty and security of person.

They can face repeated and prolonged detention not because they committed a crime but because they are not allowed to stay in the country.

They are told they don’t belong anywhere. Their children are invisible, their families do not exist. UNHCR will continue to work with ENS to support States in ending this human suffering in Europe.”

A statement signed by civil society organisations and leading lawyers and academics from over 30 European countries will be sent to governments highlighting that consensus is building in Europe that the current use of immigration detention is unsustainable, harmful, and, in many cases, unlawful.


“The documents I do have tell me I’m of ‘unknown nationality’. Officially I still don’t exist”

Angela is an ethnic Armenian from Azerbaijan. She fled to the Netherlands seeking asylum with her family in her early teens, but they were refused protection. Countless efforts to obtain new travel documents failed and both Armenia and Azerbaijan refused to facilitate their return. Angela was detained in 2012 during an attempt to forcibly remove her family, which had a huge emotional impact on her. A court ruled her detention unlawful and suspended forced return, but this did not end her limbo.

“Why did they hold me for seven years and gave me nothing?”

Anton is a stateless person from the former Soviet Union who was held in immigration detention in Bulgaria from 2005 to 2012. During this time, he was told he would be forcibly removed, but was never given any details about how and when. Anton remained in detention for seven years because the only alternative to detention in Bulgarian law could not be applied as he had no registered address. He was finally released after an intervention by the UN and now lives as an undocumented migrant.

“Detention made my mental health worse. It started when I got into detention. There they do not care if you cry.”

Muhammed is a Sahrawi in his late thirties who came to the UK as a minor. He was refused asylum and has been detained several times for a total of nearly four of the last eighteen years. His statelessness application was refused because he has a past criminal offence. Muhammed suffers from mental health issues. In 2015-2016, he spent fifteen months in detention despite the authorities accepting that he was Sahrawi and therefore had no prospects of removal.

“Immigration detention is far far worse than prison because there is no time limit.”

Okeke is in his thirties and has always lived in the UK. He was probably born there although he has no birth certificate. He believes that his parents are British but he lost contact with them as a teenager after fleeing years of domestic abuse. Okeke has faced a life of destitution and isolation due to his lack of documents and the abuse he suffered as a child. After a criminal conviction for theft, he was sent to immigration detention subject to a deportation order. Despite being classified as a person of ‘unknown nationality’, the UK attempted to deport him to Nigeria on the basis that he has a Nigerian name.


For media enquiries please call ENS Head of Communications Jan Brulc on 07522 525673 or email

  • The European Network on Statelessness (ENS) is a civil society alliance with over 100 members in 40 countries. It is committed to ending statelessness and ensuring that the estimated 600,000 people living in Europe without a nationality are protected under international law.
  • ENS has prepared a statement signed by over 65 civil society organisations, academic and leading legal experts working on the issue. The statement will be sent to government representatives and other main stakeholders across Europe to highlight the agenda for change on how to solve the issue of arbitrary detention.
  • ENS is undertaking a 3 year project aimed at better understanding the extent and consequences of the detention of stateless persons in Europe, and advocating for an end to arbitrary detention of stateless people.
  • New report “Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention: An Agenda for Change” will be available on the ENS website from 4 May onwards For embargoed copy please email
  • The report launch will take place in Budapest on 4 May as part of a two day pan-regional conference, with contributions by UNHCR Europe Bureau deputy director Angela Li Rosi, Member of the European Parliament Jean Lambert, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Manlio di Stefano and award-winning photographer Greg Constantine. Full agenda available online