TO:         The Editor

FROM:    Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Graffiti, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Koperattiva Kummerc Gust (KKG), Kopin, Third World Group, and STOPoverty!

DATE:     June 22, 2006

Launch of the International Coalition on the Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants

As the international community commemorates World Refugee Day, hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers all over the world are deprived of their liberty in closed camps and detention centres, which are often little more than prisons.

“Slowly but surely we have criminalised asylum and demonised migration,” said Anna Gallagher, Coordinator of the International Coalition on Detention of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants.

The International Detention Coalition is made up of more than one hundred organizations and individuals, working or advocating for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in 36 countries around the world. These organizations have come together to network, share information on detention in their countries and promote better respect for the rights of detainees. 

The coalition is committed to: 

  • raise awareness of detention policies and practices in different countries and regions of the world;
  • prevent or limit the use of detention of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants;
  • advocate for alternatives to detention;
  • promote respect for the rights of detainees; and
  • encourage the development and adoption of best practices in the use of detention.  

The International Detention Coalition is being launched worldwide this week, with events organised by member organizations in various countries.

Speaking at the coalition launch event in Rome earlier this week, Cardinal Martino, President of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace said: “Arbitrary imprisonment poisons human society. It also harms those who practice it as well as those who suffer it…I hope that governments will listen to the recommendations of the coalition and that detention should only be used as a last resort, and that alternatives to it should always be considered.” 

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Graffiti, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Koperattiva Kummerc Gust (KKG), Kopin, Third World Group, and STOPoverty! are local members of the International Detention Coalition. 

“Today, we join our voices with those of hundreds of other organizations and individuals across the world and call upon states to seek alternatives to detention,” said Fr Paul Pace SJ, NGO spokesperson, speaking at a press conference organized by local members to mark the launch of the International Detention Coalition.

During the press conference the NGOs highlighted their most pressing concerns regarding the policy of detention in Malta. 

The greatest concern is the fact that, as evidenced by various reports on the local situation, during the past year since the National Conference, very little has changed both as regards the physical conditions in which immigrants are detained as well as the manner in which the detention policy is implemented. 

The issues highlighted by the NGOs present include the lack of judicial oversight of detention and the procedure for identification, assessment and release of vulnerable detainees, which is still lengthy and inadequate. “In many cases this procedure takes months, which is totally unacceptable when you are talking of vulnerable people, such as persons with disability or serious medical conditions.” 

“This day is especially significant as it is also the day when the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment enters into force. Malta was the first state to sign and ratify the Convention on 24 September 2003,” he said.

The Optional Protocol binds state parties to put in place independent national protection mechanisms authorised to conduct regular visits to detention centres, monitor conditions and make recommendations for improvement. The NGOs present called upon the government to set up such a mechanism within the shortest time possible.