Immigration Police Arrest 2 Minors Hosted in Shelter for Children

Minors being hosted in the Dar Il-Liedna open shelter for unaccompanied children now live in fear of being arrested and detained at any moment following the arbitrary arrest of two Bangladeshi minors by the Principal Immigration Officer (PIO), based on controversial evidence that they were allegedly adults. 

The two teenagers had been rescued at sea by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and were disembarked in Malta on the 26th of May 2022.  They were directly taken to detention in the so-called “China House” detention centre in Ħal Far and declared that they are minors at a later stage. They were released on the 21st of June 2022 after being confirmed as minors following an interview with social workers from the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) which is the Agency responsible for carrying out such assessments for unaccompanied minors (UMAS). 

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We’ve commented on proposals to amend Malta’s asylum regime

On Monday 13 June we sent the Home Affairs Ministry and the Opposition our comments on proposals to amend Malta’s asylum regime.

Bill No. 2, the International Protection (Amendment) Bill, was presented in Parliament on 7 May 2022. At the time of writing these Technical Comments, the Bill was before Parliament, yet we received no invitation to discuss or consult.

We appeal to the Ministry and to Parliament to promote a consultative approach to law-making, particularly in situations involving highly technical matters that require in-depth knowledge and experience working in the relevant fields of law, such as EU asylum law.

Our comments (.pdf) are available here.

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Three Children Released From Illegal Detention Following Court Action

They had been detained illegally for 58 days.

On Friday 21 January, lawyers from aditus foundation secured the released of six men from their illegal detention at Safi Barracks. Three of them were children, as also confirmed by the Government’s agency responsible for assessing the age of unaccompanied children reaching Malta. In a similar Court application filed the same day by another detained young man, also represented by aditus’ lawyers, the Court of Magistrates regretfully failed to require the Government to explain the legal basis for his detention at Safi Barracks.  

The first application filed by the seven men was rejected on a pure formality, yet the immediate release of six of them was quickly confirmed by the same Government entities that, just a few minutes earlier, had denied having the legal authority to detain them. Although we remain baffled at this twist in events and in the dark as to who exactly was detaining them, we cannot hide the immense joy we felt when the six left the Court as free men. 

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Project update: Stakeholders discuss policy reform on Unaccompanied Minor asylum-seekers

On 6 May, with the support of the Voices Foundation, aditus foundation held ‘Unaccompanied Minor Asylum Seekers in Malta: A Technical Workshop on Age Assessment and Legal Guardianship Procedures’. According to UNHCR, 25% of sea arrivals to Malta in 2013 were found to be unaccompanied minors (UAMs) — meaning persons younger than 18 who had made the journey alone. That percentage is expected to grow.

The workshop facilitated a constructive discussion on age assessment and legal guardianship procedures among key stakeholders working locally with UAMs. The participants included Maltese government representatives, UNHCR, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and local and international NGOs.

The workshop coincided with ongoing government reforms of law and policy relating to UAMs. The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) is currently in the process of reviewing the age assessment procedure, and the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity presented a Child Protection Act to Parliament in March, which is currently in its second reading. The Act contains revised provisions on the guardianship of children, including UAMs.

“We are glad for the government’s current attention to UAMs,” said Pauline Hilmy, Project Officer with aditus foundation. “However reforms must ensure that UAMs have access to the full spectrum of rights to which they are entitled according to regional and international standards.”

The technical workshop began with brief presentations from the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta (JRS), AWAS, EASO, aditus and the Nidos Foundation, a Dutch NGO which presented on best practices in the Netherlands. These were followed by a structured discussion on possible areas for legal and policy reform of age assessment and guardianship procedures.

The workshop was organised as part of a broader programme currently being implemented by aditus foundation, ‘Supporting the Fulfilment of Rights of Specific Asylum-Seeking Groups’. The program aims for a deeper and more accurate understanding of the extent of UAMs’ fundamental rights access in Malta’s migration- asylum regime and supports sustainable services for UAM asylum seekers.

At the end of May, aditus foundation will publish a report examining the current and proposed procedures in light of regional and international standards, and presenting detailed recommendations for reform.

The .pdf version of this press statement is available here.

We’re recruiting!

We’re happy to announce a vacancy for a Paid Intern/Consultant to work in one of our projects with unaccompanied minors.  Download the call here, we’re looking forward to receiving your application documents!