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Human rights jurists say migrant detention ‘at odds with international obligations’

Malta should abandon its policy of mandatory detention of migrants, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a new report.

Matthew Vella
21 May 2012, 12:00am
ICJ director Róisín Pillay said the commission found cases of detention and reception conditions which may have amounted to degrading treatment, against the European Convention on Human Rights.
Malta should abandon its policy of mandatory detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers and significantly improve reception conditions, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has said in a new report published today.

The global network of human rights lawyers said Malta's mandatory detention policy is 'at odds with its international human rights obligations', in a report entitled Not here to stay.

In the report, which is the result of an ICJ study mission in September 2011, the report highlights serious shortcomings in expulsion procedures, detention policy and conditions, and living conditions of migrants in reception centres.

"Malta's international human rights law obligations require it to provide decent reception conditions for migrants, even if they arrive in large numbers. They should not be detained except where strictly necessary, and should not be held in unsuitable emergency facilities," Róisín Pillay, director of the ICJ Europe Programme, said.

"During our visit, we found cases of detention and reception conditions, which may have amounted to degrading treatment against the standard imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights."

The report stresses that Malta is in a particularly difficult situation as a small country that receives proportionately much higher numbers of arrivals of undocumented migrants than other Member States of the European Union. It insists the EU should do more to help Malta cope with arrivals of migrants.

"The EU and its Member States cannot exempt themselves from sharing responsibility for the burden Malta is facing," ICJ legal advisor Massimo Frigo, said. "They must accept long-term responsibility for a proportion of resettlements, and not only as a voluntary gesture."

The ICJ quotes the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, according to which policies on border checks, asylum and immigration and their implementation "shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing or responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States."

"However, this cannot be a justification for Malta to neglect its international human rights obligations," Frigo added. "Twelve or eighteen months of administrative detention for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers will not solve the country's migration problems. The accommodation of families in the unhealthy conditions experienced in 2011 should not be repeated."

The ICJ study mission was conducted between 26 and 30 September 2011 and included visits to administrative detention centres (closed centres) and reception centres (open centres) in Malta.

Composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world, the International Commission of Jurists promotes human rights using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems. Established in 1952 and active on the five continents, the ICJ aims to ensure the progressive development and effective implementation of international human rights.

Matthew Vella is editor of MaltaToday.com.mt.

After graduating in a...

Louise Vella
“The EU and its Member States … must accept long-term responsibility for a proportion of resettlements, and not only as a voluntary gesture.” Yes, ask Spain, unemployment 23%, youth unemployment 50%, to accept our illegal immigrants. Ask Greece where unemployment, austerity and a surfeit of immigrants have given rise to a strong neo-Nazi party, to take our illegal immigrants.
Louise Vella
“Malta’s international human rights law obligations require it to provide decent reception conditions for migrants, even if they arrive in large numbers.” They say. Tajba wkoll! So let them come in large numbers, as many thousands as they like and we are still bound to give them what they expect. What about Malta’s own poor? What about our needs for health, education, pensions etc? Should they have a lower priority to the so-called rights of illegal immigrants?
Louise Vella
Same words, same source. Which Maltese NGO is at the origin of this report? There will be no prize for guessing! So let’s repeat (as they repeat) that Malta’s mandatory detention policy for illegal immigrants has the support of both political parties (= 100% of MPs) and if put to a referendum will have the support of the vast majority of the common people of Malta. The report is “The result of an ICJ study mission in September 2011”, it says. Which Maltese NGOs did the mission meet? The international jurists have forgotten many truths, the first one being that laws are made for men, not men for the laws. And no law can make Maltese men, and women, receive an infinite number of illegal, unwanted and unneeded immigrants.
Trebuchet
No names as to who these jurists are. I say we should deport straight away these illegal immigrants. From day 1. Otherwise we will never hear the end of this story. This, at a time when the whole of Europe is creaking under unemployment issues.
John Mercieca
For further information about what dangerous diseases the Maltese people are being exposed to by illegal immigration go http://www.cnimalta.org/il.html and scroll down to the World Health Organization links.
John Mercieca
ICJ, you don't tell us what to do. Your countries were the ones who colonized them so now YOU take them.