Parading of migrants under arrest into court ‘institutionalised racism’, NGOs say

‘The manner in which they were brought to court portrays them as guilty and dangerous, in clear violation of this fundamental principle’

Handcuffed migrants brought to court after a protest at the Hal Far open centre in October
Handcuffed migrants brought to court after a protest at the Hal Far open centre in October

A coalition of NGOs has denounced the way a group of arrested migrants were brought to court on yesterday morning.

Migrants involved in a riot at the Safi Detention Centre on Monday were brought to court tied together in pairs with cable ties, wearing the same clothes they were arrested in and escorted from Republic Street. According to the NGOs some were also not wearing any shoes.

“We believe this treatment to be inhumane and prejudicial to the presumption of innocence principle,” they said.

The NGOs, aditus foundation, Integra Foundation and the Jesuit Refugee Service, said that the treatment received by the migrants amounted to “institutionalized racism”, as the parading of accused persons seems to only be reserved to non-Maltese nationals.

“We are unclear as to why the men and children were paraded in public in such a manner. It is customary for arrested persons to be brought to Court from the back entrance in Strait Street, and attempts are generally made to respect their privacy and dignity,” the statement read.

The NGOs said the manner in which migrants are being brought to court, not only after yesterday’s incident but in every instance of protests at detention and open centres, is leading them to believe that it is an intentional conduct of members of the Police Force or the result of a policy decision.

“The manner in which they were brought to Court portrays them as guilty and dangerous, in clear violation of this fundamental principle,” the NGOs stated.

The NGOs demanded an explanation from the police as to why the 22 individuals were brought to court in such an “inhumane manner”.

“We further urge the police to codify and implement procedures for escorting accused persons to Court, without discrimination on the basis of the person’s country of origin.

The coalition also lamented the presence of children among the arrested migrants, stating that the police should exercise an added level of caution when dealing with minors.

“We urge the Police Force, the correctional facilities and also the Courts to ensure that all children benefit from the guarantees afforded to children in criminal proceedings,” they said.

The NGOs ended the statement by calling out the authorities for their treatment of asylum seekers, stating that prolonged detention of migrants at the Safi Detention Centre and the Marsa Initial Reception Centre was illegal.

“We question whether this is the best Malta is truly able to offer people fleeing war, persecution and other human rights abuses in their home countries,” the NGOs stated.

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