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Minister challenged over denial that Malian was refused medication

An activist with human rights NGO who worked closely with the migrants and was allowed access to the centre has challenged home affairs minister Carmelo Abela’s attempt to downplay the alleged mistreatment of a Malian migrant

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
1 January 1970, 1:00am
An activist has denied Carmelo Abela’s claims that medicine was refused: “The migrant’s allergy only improved after I personally delivered his medication to him”
An activist has denied Carmelo Abela’s claims that medicine was refused: “The migrant’s allergy only improved after I personally delivered his medication to him”
Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela’s attempt to downplay the alleged mistreatment of a Malian migrant has been directly challenged by an activist who worked closely with the migrant in question.

Abela on Friday denied reports that one of the nine migrants, Diara Diambourou, had been denied the daily pills for his hives while locked up at the Safi detention centre. Diara’s condition degenerated and rashes broke out over his skin, and he was eventually carted off to Mount Carmel Hospital after showing suicidal tendencies. 

However, Abela and detention services head Mario Schembri insisted that a doctor had visited Diara and given him medication, but that Diara had repeatedly refused them because they were of a different brand than what he had been used to taking. 

Abela said that the migrant’s condition had improved after he had been given the medication prescribed by the detention centre’s doctor at Mount Carmel. 

However, Jean-Paul Borg – an activist with human rights NGO who worked closely with the migrants and was allowed access to the centre – told MaltaToday that Diara’s allergy attacks only stopped once he [Borg] had personally delivered the original medication to him at Mount Carmel. 

Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said DIara had repeatedly refused medication • Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said DIara had repeatedly refused medication • Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
“When he originally arrived in Malta, he had difficulties visiting doctors because he was only in possession of a police card and various clinics ask for an ID card when presenting oneself for a visit,” he said. “However, at one of the clinics he was prescribed Neoclarityn.

“When he was sent to detention, he was not in possession of his pills and soon started getting allergy attacks – this at a time of great stress as he was basically behind bars under threat of deportation. No one at the detention centre bothered obtaining the pills for him and he became suicidal.

“When he was at Mount Carmel, I called personally with the pills, which were delivered to be by one of his flatmates, and from then onwards his condition went back to normal.”

Borg said that the doctor who saw Diara repeatedly refused to give him Neoclarityn, which only costs around €20 a packet, probably because they didn’t have any in stock. 

“He wanted to take his own pills. He didn’t trust other types of pills, because they had had negative effects on him in the past.”

The nine Malian migrants were released earlier this month after three months in detention, but Abela has insisted that they will be deported once the authorities receive their documentation.

While they were locked up, the minister repeatedly played down concerns that they were being subjected to inhumane conditions, arguing that maintenance works were recently carried out on the detention centre and that no NGO had personally complained about its state to him. 

Addressing nine newly promoted detention services officers on Friday, Abela announced that CCTV cameras and a telecommunications system will soon be installed at the detention centre. In his speech, he twice urged the officers to treat detained migrants with respect and dignity. 

“Although a detention centre is what it is, you must never lose sight of the fact that you are dealing with human beings, each with their personal histories that are often not so positive,” he said. “You must never lose sight of the human element, and must always treat these people who are passing through difficulties with dignity and respect.”

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday
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