Words to Action: End the Detention of Children (NGO Statement for World Refugee Day 2014)

“My experience of detention is like being caged – it is traumatizing and an injustice.” These are the words of Farah Abdallahi Abdi, detained as a child in Malta, speaking at an event on child detention at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Farah’s words are a stark reminder of the profound suffering caused by detention. They are also an urgent call to action.

To mark World Refugee Day on 20th June, we call upon the Government to translate words into action by taking concrete steps to ensure that no child ever again sets foot in a detention centre.

On Freedom Day the Prime Minister pledged to end the detention of children, a commitment we were happy to welcome. Yet children arriving in Malta are still being detained. We also reiterate our concern that unaccompanied minors are often detained with adults pending the outcome of age assessment.

We acknowledge that in recent months there have been significant improvements in both the quality and the duration of the age assessment procedure, thanks to the unstinting efforts of the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum-Seekers (AWAS). However, we feel much more needs to be done to honour the commitment to put an end to child detention.

In particular we urge the Government to establish appropriate non-custodial reception facilities for families with children, as well as for unaccompanied minors pending the outcome of age assessment.

We reiterate our willingness to engage with this and other review processes, and to share our varied expertise and experiences. We pledge to continue to support positive efforts to improve Malta’s asylum regime, and we hope to be given the opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable and long-term strategy.

Finally, a second urgent call to action: We ask that everyone reading this statement consider signing the European Council on Refugees and Exiles petition in aid of Syria’s 2.7 million registered refugees ). To date, Malta has contributed just 21 of its 12,582 international signatures. World Refugee Day, 20th June, is the deadline. This plea simply asks Europe’s leaders “to give refugees a safe way into Europe, to protect refugees arriving at Europe’s borders, and to reunite families torn apart by crisis.”

NGO statement by: aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equaliy, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta.