Lawrence Gonzi to meet migrants’ rights NGOs

NGOs to tell Prime Minister why Malta's detention system is not working.

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie during her visit in 2011 to the Lyster Barracks detention centre. NGOs are seeking non-custodial alternatives to detention.
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie during her visit in 2011 to the Lyster Barracks detention centre. NGOs are seeking non-custodial alternatives to detention.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi will step up efforts to quell the backlash from the murder of a Malian asylum seeker, with a meeting with migrants' rights activists and humanitarian workers at Castille this afternoon.

On Monday evening, Gonzi announced Judge Geoffrey Valenzia will be carrying out an independent inquiry into the running of the Detention Services following the death of 32-year-old Mali national Mamadou Kamara.

Kamara was killed in an alleged beating he suffered at the hands of three DS officers, who form part of the Armed Forces, on Saturday 30 June after he was apprehended in Safi having evaded his custodians before being taken to a clinic for mental treatment.

Three DS officers have been charged with his wilful homicide.

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 are expected to tell Gonzi to consider non-custodial alternatives for asylum seekers and irregular migrants who are not being removed from the island.

The NGOs are seeking a comprehensive and inclusive review of Malta's policy of mandatory detention.

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 will also ask 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.

Gonzi has asked Judge Valenzia to establish whether any negligence, non-observance of procedures or abuse of power from any other detention service officials involved in the case also took place.

Gonzi also asked Valenzia to look at the recommendations made by another board of inquiry in 2011 following the escape and subsequent death of Nigerian migrant Infeanyi Nwokoye, and to establish the outcome of the implemented recommendations.

A spokesperson for the home affairs ministry, which now falls under Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's tenure, insisted that government will first await the outcome of the inquiry before taking any steps over Detention Services commander Lt. Col. Brian Gatt.

Gatt, an Armed Forces of Malta officer who has been the head of detention services ever since its setting up, has declined comment over whether he is considering to resign after the incident, in which three DSU officers are being charged with the wilful homicide of Kamara.

Labour MP and shadow home affairs minister Michael Falzon would not commit himself on whether Gatt should resign, ahead of the inquiry's completion.

"Gatt should carry the responsibility for the death of Kamara," Falzon said, but stopped short of saying that the DSU commander should resign. "Whether he resigns or not is up to Gatt. The judicial process and an inquiry are underway and one must await the conclusions reached by these two separate processes."

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Michael Briguglio has also expressed caution over passing judgement on Gatt. "One should await the result of the inquiry... in any case, AD together with UNHCR and other progressive NGOs are calling for a review of Malta's detention policy."

Dr Gonzi, how about asking the MGO's about their LIES to the international media that are causing great harm to Malta and the Maltese people? Asylum seeker beaten to death in Malta