Review of temporary humanitarian protection leaves beneficiaries in the dark

Beneficiaries of the protection status known as ‘Temporary Humanitarian Protection (new)’ and human rights NGOs have been left in the dark over a review of the process that is underway since a new Commissioner for Refugees took over

Recently-appointed Refugee Commissioner Martine Cassar, launched a review of THP-n
Recently-appointed Refugee Commissioner Martine Cassar, launched a review of THP-n

Beneficiaries of the protection status known as ‘Temporary Humanitarian Protection (new)’ and human rights NGOs have been left in the dark over a review of the process that is underway since a new Commissioner for Refugees took over.

Information of what the review entails has left several failed asylum seekers clueless as to how the changes will affect their future. 

Lawyer Katrine Camilleri, director of the Jesuit Refugee Services, and Neil Falzon, of aditus foundation, told MaltaToday that the review was completely new to them. 

Introduced in 2010, THP-n was described by the then Refugee Commissioner, Mario Guido Friggieri, as “an ex gratia type of protection” that was left up to the commissioner’s discretion to grant to failed asylum seekers who had not been deported from Malta.

It now appears that upon taking office, recently-appointed Refugee Commissioner Martine Cassar, launched a review of THP-n. 

“The Refugee Commissioner is currently reviewing THP-n,” a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry would only say, in reply to questions sent by MaltaToday to explain what the process entails.

Asylum seekers whose status is protected by temporary protection have contacted MaltaToday expressing their concern over the uncertainty which this is creating: THP-n grants beneficiaries a form of protection – but not a legal status – which gives them a residence permit and a work permit, making it possible to join the labour market, and therefore minimising abuse by employers.

However, being temporary, THP-n is valid for 12 months and is renewed at the discretion of the Refugee Commissioner.

“Since it’s not stable, we have been calling for a review of the THP-n for a number of years now,” Falzon said, adding that any changes should aim at making it more reliable. 

Falzon, who urged the Home Affairs Ministry to open dialogue with human rights organisations, said NGOs would like to sit down with the Refugee Commissioner and the Minister to discuss how the review could be a change for the better.

Katrine Camilleri urged the policy makers to take into consideration how the changes will affect a large number of people.

“Clarity is of the essence: right now people don’t know whether the change is going to be for the better or for the worse and these fears need to be addressed. What are the changes going to mean in practice?” she asked. Lives, she added, depended on it.

The Refugees Act provides for the recognition of two forms of protection: refugee status and subsidiary protection status, following the submission of an application for the recognition of international protection. 

When an asylum applicant fails to qualify for refugee status or subsidiary protection, it is up to the Refugee Commissioner, at his discretion, to recommend on a case-by-case basis the granting of THP-n. 

Such cases would involve unaccompanied minors, or individuals who cannot be repatriated on medical or other humanitarian grounds. It can also be applied for former applicants for international protection who cannot be returned to their country of origin due to legal or factual reasons and through no fault of their own.

It entitles the beneficiary for a one-year special leave to remain in Malta and is renewable on a yearly basis. This recommendation is not subject to appeal. THP-n entitled the beneficiary to the same rights as those granted to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Up until the end of 2010 the Office of the Refugee Commissioner processed 555 applications.

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