Strasbourg court orders Malta to release migrant children from detention

European Court of Human Rights orders Malta to release a group of seven children from detention centre

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Malta to release a group of seven children from a detention centre.

On 18 November 2022, a group of 47 people were rescued and brought to Malta.

Amongst them were seven children travelling without their parents or any responsible adult.

Following their disembarkation, they were all immediately detained in the so-called ‘China House’ detention centre in Ħal Far. On 30 November the Police issued them all with Detention Orders.

During the review of their detention before the Immigration Appeals Board, on 6 December 2022, the Board effectively conducted a mass collective hearing of all 47 persons and issued one single collective decision. Many of the migrants were not present for their detention hearing.

It was during this review that six of the migrants declared that they are children. Whilst the Board requested that legal guardians be appointed to safeguard their interests, it nonetheless declared that their detention was perfectly legal. 

One month later, on 10 January 2023, Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers has still not recieved any information about thiese children from either the Board or the Police.

In a press release, NGO Aditus Foundation said its lawyers, Alexis and Kirsten met four of the minors on the same day in the boardroom at the Safi Detention Centre. During this meeting, the boys confirmed that they had informed several people about their age, but that nobody had yet approached them to assess them.

Instead, they remained detained at China House, together with unrelated adult men in atrocious conditions. “At China House they were not allowed any fresh air or sunshine time, let alone any time for leisure and play activities.”

“We were particularly upset to notice that two of the boys had already been referred by us to AWAS, flagging that two children in need of care and protection were being detained. Our referral had been made on 22 December 2022. We immediately referred the group to AWAS in order to secure their care,” the NGO said.

Given the urgency of the situation, the NGO filed a request for interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights. “In our application of 10 January, we asked the Court to confirm that the detention of these children was in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights. We requested the Court to intervene for their release from detention. 

On the same day, the Court upheld our request for interim measures. It ordered Malta to “release the minor applicants to an accommodation with reception conditions compatible with Article 3 of the Convention having regard to their age”.

The application to the Strasbourg Court and its decision can be found here.