UN racism committee concerned about migrants' riots on detention conditions

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has expressed concern about the recurrence of riots by asylum seekers against conditions of their detention in Safi Barracks, and the reported excessive use of force to counter them.

CERD’s concluding observations on Malta have called on the authorities to take appropriate measures to improve conditions of detention and refrain of resorting to excessive use of force to counter riots by immigrants in detention centres, and to avoid such riots.

“The Committee recommends that [Malta] pursue the implementation of the recommendations made in the Depasquale report on events occurred in the detention centre Safi Barracks, in 2005.”

In its official reaction, the Justice and Home Affairs ministry said that during the riot one migrant suffered minor injuries, while 14 officers were injured, albeit not seriously.

“These facts clearly illustrate that the Maltese authorities did not exercise excessive use of force, but only the minimum use of force necessary to restore order and calm in the centre,” the ministry said.

The operation to quell a protest by a group of migrants from the 271 detainees at Safi Barracks involved 85 Armed Forces of Malta personnel and 120 police officers. Whilst 23 were arrested on the day, government never specified the actual number of detainees involved. Government later admitted that baton rounds (rubber bullets) had also been used, but four detention centre officers have denied, under oath, using rubber bullets. One of them also said that the riot escalated after tear gas was fired at the immigrants.

The ministry today said that it had already adopted proposals made in the Depasquale report. “In particular the media has been given access to detention centres, further to a specialised Detention Service having been established pursuant to the events dealt with in the Depasquale report. Personnel at the Detention Service have also received apposite training.”

The media has no access to the Safi closed detention centre. Meanwhile, a number of human rights NGOs have since been calling for government to conduct an independent inquiry into the August riots - something which government has so far refused to do.

A call for an inquiry into the incident is given more weight when one considers some of what happened at Safi Barracks in the past. Last May, some 200 immigrants rioted over food; in April six migrants – one of which later died – managed to escape; in January 2009, some 300 Somalis protested against their detention and three days later another protest was staged at around 9pm; on March 2008 migrants held a protest, which led to a clash between 13 migrants and officials; and in 2005, 27 illegal immigrants were beaten during a peaceful protest.

The highly questionable policy seems to have created the perfect storm, when 271 asylum seekers in detention received rejections to their claims that, in the most part, meant they would be further detained for a full 18 months.

The Maltese authorities detain migrants for a maximum duration of 12 months, if they have applied for asylum but have not yet received a final decision on their claims. If an asylum application is still pending after 12 months, the person is released.

However, if before this time their asylum claim for protection is rejected by the Commissioner of Refugees and then rejected by the Refugee Appeals Boards, their detention is automatically extended to 18 months.

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Last week I was at Mater Dei Hospital and saw illegal immigrants having free medical care and so forth. I think the immigrants are having better treatment in Malta than their country - so if their detention centres are not to standard maybe that is a deterrent (sadly to say) from others to land on our shores. Our survival now is at stake - we cannot simply take more of these immigrants - Malta is at saturation point even for Maltese.
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They riot because they want to go illegally to mainland Europe, after having entered Malta illegally. The illegal immigrants in the detention centres are not really detainees. They are all free to go back to their own countries if they wish to. The government will probably even pay them a one-way air ticket. If they decide to stay in Malta they should abide by Maltese laws, especially as they are being given free board and lodging from our taxes.
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Does the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) think they should have been feathered into laughing submission? ** If they don't like it they should take them with express speed to their own countries or SHUT UP.