Court upholds Maltese birth for asylum seeker’s child born at sea

Child was born at sea before being transferred to Maltese rescue ship, but remained unregistered

A child born at sea to Somali migrants eight years ago is to be registered as having been born in Malta, after a judgement disallowing this, was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Muna was born to Chama Hatra in November 2008 while at sea on a boat that had left Libya with some 67 migrants seeking refuge in Europe.

While pregnant with the child, Chama had left Somalia in 2008, passing through Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, where she set sail for Europe together with 70 others.

Just after the baby was born, the migrants were rescued from rough seas by a Russian ship and was eventually brought to Malta. The family has since relocated to France.

But the child remained unregistered, as she had not been born on the boat on which she had arrived in Malta.

Although the Civil Code was eventually amended to enable the director of Public Registry to accept registration of births at sea, the authorities still refused to register the child as she was not born on the boat that had entered Malta.

Requests to the Courts filed by the Emigrants’ Commission, requesting Muna’s registration were not upheld. The commission then wrote to the Ombudsman in November 2012 explaining that despite of all the attempts made, Hatra had left Malta for France with the her daughter’s birth still unregistered.

Eight years after Muna’s birth, the situation was finally rectified in a judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal, presided by Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri together with judges Tonio Mallia and Joseph Azzopardi.

The court held that such cases were the reason behind the 2015 amendments to the Civil Code which had come into force after her initial court application was not accepted.

While it was true that the ship on which the child had arrived was not the same one on which she had been born, it was evident to the Court that the intention behind the legal amendments had been to address such a situation.

Due consideration had to be made for the dire circumstances which had made the transfer to the second vessel necessary, the court said, by force majeure the latter vessel had become an extension to the vessel on which the child was born.

Therefore the child was to be considered as having been born on the ship that entered Malta as it upheld the request for her registration as having been born in Malta, as it was the ship’s next port call.