Inquiry board calls for disciplinary steps over escape, death of migrant

Government releases recommendations of independent inquiry into escape and death of detained asylum seeker.

A board of inquiry has found reasonable grounds for disciplinary procedures to be taken against detention services officials responsible for the escape of detainees from the Safi closed detention centre, that later resulted in the death of one of the escaped asylum seekers back on 17 April 2011.

The case concerns the death of a migrant who escaped from a detention centre in a group of seven migrants who escaped from Safi detention. The migrant died in hospital at 12.30 am where he was taken after fainting soon after his recapture. A soldier was also injured during the escape. The escaped migrants had been in detention for some months and were about to be repatriated.

The recommendations - prepared by former defence advisor Martin Scicluna, Maryanne Agius and Natalino Attard - were passed on to the government on 26 August while a concurrent magisterial inquiry has been ongoing. However, an autopsy on the dead man has yet to be performed to determine the conditions of his death and disciplinary steps so far have not yet been taken.

The ministry said the concerned authorities were considering in detail whether disciplinary procedures will be taken, without compromising the ongoing magisterial inquiry.

The board recommended that the head of the Detention Services Unit ensures there are detailed procedures on the opening and closure of secure entry points, with continuous instructions in writing and orally to all detention services officials.

Other recommendations were:

Regular training in first aid for all DSU officers;

Regular training for DSU officers in containing events like those that took place on 16-17 April;

The need for an isolation cell, CCTV and hand-held video cameras in all closed centres for use during serious incidents;

Responsibility for all shortcomings in the training of detention services officers is borne by the DSU commander.

The justice and home affairs ministry said it had taken immediate steps to address the recommendations by forwarding them to the DSU and the Armed Forces of Malta commanders.

The ministry also said that a training programme was being prepared with the Corradino Correctional Facility, the AFM and other NGOs to address pending training matters for the DSU officers.

The board’s full report will be published in its entirety once the magisterial inquiry is finalised.