There are currently real concerns about detention conditions in Malta’s immigration detention facilities after riots took place at the Safi detention centre on the island. One migrant who was questioned by a journalist said:
“I am going mad here…, we want freedom. We are human beings, not criminals. Why are we being kept in prison? We have families who need us. We fled a war. We never wanted to come to Malta illegally.” (LiveLeak.com)
IDC members JRS Malta and aditus as well as UNHCR have been critical in their response to the riots with calls for conditions to be improved in immigration detention facilities, particularly in relation to healthcare and overcrowding. There was also a strong reaction by many NGOs and refugee advocates over the use of rubber bullets to quell the riot, described by some as disproportionate and unnecessary. JRS Malta went further and suggested a governmental inquiry shold take place into why rubber bullets were used in this particular situation.
The riots have also shone the spotlight further on Malta’s controversial 18-month detention policy, which two of the three political parties agree with. Dr Neil Falzon, Director of NGO aditus has referred to a previous European Court of Human Right’s decision, suggesting that Malta’s current policy of detaining individuals for up to 18 months violates section four of article five of the Convention. aditus also questioned the reasonableness and necessity of detaining children, even if only for a short period of time. The Maltese government however continues to stand by its detention policy and does not believe that the force used in the Safi detention centre riot was beyond reason.
The IDC urges all governments to ensure that detention is only ever used as a last resort and that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants’ human rights are maintained and upheld at all times. Furthermore, the IDC encourages all governments to explore and adopt alternatives to detention.
IDC Member news:
Malta news reports:
- Safi riots shed light on inhumane 18 month detention policy (Malta Today)
- Malta: Refugees violent protests indicate desperation (Spero Forum)
- “We are saddened by violence”- JRS on migrant protests (Malta Today)
- A sustainable detention policy (Times of Malta)
- Migrant detention has unclear objectives (Times of Malta)
- Migrants riot as police and army fight back (Times of Malta)
- UNHCR continues to call for improvements after detention centre protest (UNHCR Malta)
There are also ongoing concerns about detention conditions elsewhere in Europe, see news reports below:
Amnesty International: Enough is enough: End appalling migrant detention conditions in Greece
MSF: More than 60 percent of the medical problems faced by detained migrants in Greece caused by inhumane living and hygiene conditions
Ukraine: Inhumane rights (Kyiv Post)
Russia: Inside Russia’s ‘race abuse’ asylum camp at Ochyor (BBC)