UNHCR, Alternattiva call for comprehensive review of ‘outdated’ detention policy
Three to be arraigned over death of Malian asylum seeker 'Zoto'.
1 July 2012, 12:00am
The three officers were arraigned in the court of Magistrate Audrey Demicoli, Sunday evening.
"UNHCR was shocked and saddened to hear that a Malian migrant, who arrived in Malta as an asylum seeker, has died while in the custody of detention staff," a spokesperson for the UN's High Commission for Refugees in Malta said.
"We cannot comment on the specific circumstances of this tragic case, but we add our voice to the call for justice to be served. We trust that the ongoing inquiry will assess all relevant responsibilities and identify accountabilities in a fair manner," UNHCR said, echoing calls for justice to be made by political parties and other stakeholders.
But UNHCR said it was time that Malta's detention policy gets a comprehensive policy review. "The prevailing policy framework dates from 2005 - a time when Malta had much less experience with managing the arrival of asylum seekers. Since then, court decisions and multiple assessments by international bodies have confirmed the need to address various aspects of the detention system.
UNHCR representative Jon Hoisaeter said that one urgent issue for the agency was that even vulnerable individuals, including children, are entering the regular detention system during the initial screening phase.
"In UNHCR's view, Malta should explore alternatives to the current detention arrangements. Whatever form such a system review could take, it should aim to urgently solve several key problems that can place asylum seekers and staff at risk.
"UNHCR is ready to provide further support to the Maltese Government in improving the reception system. Much can be achieved, even without additional resources. We urge the authorities to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, in a joint effort towards achieving this goal."
Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party expressed its concern over the murder, and called for an immediate review of Maltas detention policy.
"This terrible news is shocking. It only confirms that populist politics, racism and unreasonable detention of asylum seekers are the real problem with respect to the politics of migration," AD chairperson Michael Briguglio said.
"Whilst I welcome Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's strong words this morning on the situation, the fact is that both the Nationalist and Labour Parties have done next to nothing to have a humane politics of migration, with Labour even venturing on far right rhetoric in certain instances.
"Together with the UNHCR and progressive NGOs, AD reiterates its call for an immediate review of Malta's detention policy. AD has made concrete proposals in this regard".
Robert Callus, AD spokesperson for migration and citizenship, said: "For 10 years the government tried to give the impression that migration is a temporary phenomenon when they knew pretty well it wasn't. The Government ignored detention problems, exploitation at the place of work and only paid lip service to integration policy. Addressing these serious problems would have exposed what they knew all along - that some migrants are here to stay."
Matthew Vella is editor MaltaToday.com.mt and MaltaToday on Sunday.He joined Mediat...
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