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. 

“It was a particularly rewarding experience since three of the released men are teenagers. They can now receive the care and support all children need and deserve, irrespectively of their immigration or other status.

We just hope they are not permanently scarred by the trauma of being locked up for 58 days with adults unknown to them.” 

Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director

A second Court petition filed by the seventh man, also a teenager, was rejected on the basis of the claim that he suffers from a contagious illness. The Court also noted that “it cannot be said that any public authority ordered the applicant’s detention…because he is presently not under any detention order but limitedly under an order that restricts his movement in relation to which Article 409A of the Criminal Code does not apply.” We regret these conclusions for a number of reasons. 

Firstly the Court failed to appreciate our observation that Maltese nationals are not locked up in Safi Barracks to receive medication. Secondly, no medical evidence was brought in support of the claim that our client’s illness was actually contagious. In Safi, he is not in medical isolation and at no point was the Court alerted to any public health danger posed by his presence in Court. 

Thirdly, it sounds incongruent to hear that our client is not being detained when everything about his situation shouts administrative detention:

  • his present address is Safi Barracks, unequivocally described by Maltese law as “a place of detention for the purposes of the Immigration Act”;
  • a public entity called ‘Detention Services’ is responsible for every logistical aspect of his life, including meals, medical services, clothing, communications, and transportation;
  • he ticks all the boxes repeatedly listed by the European Court of Human Rights as descriptors of a situation of detention, such as the impossibility to leave the centre, limited communication with the outside world, and being under the constant supervision of a Government entity.

Finally the Court failed to even consider the fact that the applicant is a teenager seeking asylum in Malta and, therefore, entitled to a higher level of protection from the State. 

“Overall Friday’s nine-hour proceedings were a human rights success. Our interventions gave six men their deserved freedom.

Three children are now in a safer and more secure place under the care of trained professionals.

We are of course saddened that Malta still insists on detaining children, simply because they are here seeking refuge. It’s high time for this to change!”