Migrant’s death intensifies call to revisit detention policy
NGOs call for comprehensive, inclusive review of Malta’s mandatory detention.
2 July 2012, 12:00am
Malta detains all migrants arriving irregularly and without documentation to 12 months before being released, a policy that has been condemned internationally. Asylum seekers whose claims for protection are turned down before the 12-month detention period can spend up to 18 months in detention, a policy which the European Court of Human Rights considers to be illegal.
The NGOs - aditus foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), SOS Malta, Integra Foundation, Migrants Network for Equality, Emigrants' Commission, GetUpStandUp, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, KOPIN, and the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants - called on Lawrence Gonzi to include the implementation of non-custodial alternatives for asylum seekers and irregular migrants for whom there is little or no prospect of removal.
The NGOs also called for the strengthening of the mandate and capacity of the Detention Visitors Board, the body established by law to monitor conditions in detention, and make its recommendations binding on the Commander of the Detention Service, Lt. Col. Brian Gatt.
"Appalled and saddened by the tragic death of Mamadou Kamara in detention service custody, we unequivocally condemn this act of violence and call upon the Government to take all the steps necessary to ensure that his death, not the first to occur in such circumstances, is the last," the NGOs said in a statement.
Three detention services officers have been charged with the murder of Kamara, believed to have been beaten to death during his interception by the officers in Safi village. He was captured by DS officers, who took him to Paola polyclinic in the early hours of Saturday 30 June, and found to be dead on arrival, having sustained various injuries to his groin and lower back, presumably as a result of being severely beaten.
"We believe that these and other violent incidents that have occurred over the years demonstrate that Malta's initial reception system has repeatedly failed and that the costs of the mandatory detention policy far outweigh the potential benefits for all concerned," Dr Katrine Camilleri, Jesuit Refugee Service director, said.
"We are also concerned that political discourse on the part of the government and the main opposition has contributed to the dehumanization of asylum seekers. The consequences of this are nothing less than horrific," Camilleri said.
The NGOs said Malta's human rights obligations demand that the individual officers involved in the incident are called to account for their actions, yet we believe that this alone is insufficient.
"Malta is duty-bound to ensure that all persons deprived of their personal liberty - for whatever reasons - are effectively protected from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Their right to life must be safeguarded and any alleged violations must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. Importantly, any institutional failures should be addressed in order to prevent future violations," Dr Neil Falzon, aditus foundation director, said.
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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