This is not Justice! Statement on the prosecution and imprisonment of two Turkish women for use of false documents

A statement read out on 5 August 2021 during a demonstration outside the Courts of Laws with Moviment Graffitti and the Maltese Association of Social Workers.

aditus foundation unequivocally condemns last week’s prosecution and punishment of the two Turkish women who came to Malta in search of safety for themselves and for their young children. We are appalled that a system intended serve the interests of justice could be so unfair and brutal. This is not justice.

This is certainly not the first time that Malta punishes people who, attempting to flee their homes due to persecution or wars, have no other option but to resort to illegal means to by-pass stringent border laws and regulations. Of course, it is the right and duty of ever State to control its borders. Yet, since time immemorial, refugees and other persons fleeing human rights violations perpetrated by their own Governments have had to illegal and unsafe routes to escape and find safety. 

They use false documents, pay smugglers and traffickers, cross borders at night, jump into unsafe boats to cross the sea, bribe border guards, and so much more, so much worse. How else do we think refugees are able to escape? Are they able to apply for passports? Will they be given a Schengen visa to come to Malta legally and safely? Will the check-in desk flag them as escapees?

Human rights law recognises this reality, and back in 1951 Governments introduced a rule in the Refugee Convention, in Article 31, prohibiting States from imposing penalties on refugees who enter their territory without authorisation. Last week’s case, like so many others before it, is a clear example of Malta flouting its international obligations by arresting, prosecuting and jailing people who claim to be fleeing persecution by their own Governments. This is not justice. 

The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

Article 31, 1951 Refugee Convention.

For years we have been asking the Maltese authorities to change its laws or at least its prosecution procedures for cases where refugees are forced to use illegal means to seek safety. This case reminds us of the inhumanity of our current system and of the urgent need to have it reformed. As always, ours is an invitation to dialogue, and we hope it will not fall on deaf ears. This is not justice.

There are alternatives, there are always alternatives. This is not justice.