‘Automatic migrant detention breach of Malta’s human rights obligations’ - Amnesty

Amnesty International warn that Malta's search and rescue operations at sea are too 'restrictive' and that the conditions in detention centres are 'sub-standard' 

The automatic detention of undocumented migrants for up to 18 months and of asylum seekers for up to 12 months is “in breach of Malta’s international human rights obligations”, human rights experts have warned.

In its annual ‘State of the World’s Human Rights’ report, human rights organisation Amnesty International said that Malta’s search and rescue operations at sea, limited at disembarking refugees and migrants in its territory, is too “restrictive.

“On 30 March, the Prime Minister publicly pledged to end migrant children’s detention,” Amnesty said. “However, children and other vulnerable people continued to be routinely detained, as well as unaccompanied minors detained alongside adults while awaiting the outcome of their age and vulnerability assessment.”

They said that migrants’ appeal procedures to challenge the length and lawfulness of their detention are in breach of Malta’s international human rights standards and that the conditions in detention centres are “sub-standard”.

“Many migrants experience lack of privacy and poor recreation and leisure facilities,” Amnesty said, while noting the government's refusal to disclose information about the search and rescue operation regarding a trawler carrying over 400 people, mostly Syrian families, which sank on 11 October 2013.

“Survivors’ testimonies and available data indicated that rescue may have been delayed due to failures by Maltese and Italian authorities,” the organisation said.

‘Abortion still prohibited, even when women's lives are at risk’

Amnesty also pointed out that abortion in Malta remains prohibited under all circumstances, including to save the life of a pregnant woman.

“In October, the UN Human Rights Committee, considering Malta Amnesty International Report 2014/15 under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, raised concern about the compatibility of the prohibition with the right to life,” the organisation pointed out.

However, they positively noted Malta’s passing of the Civil Unions Act last April, a law that grants same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals in a civil marriage, including the right to jointly adopt children.