The updated AIDA Country Report on Malta provides the latest developments in the country concerning the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention and content of international protection.

Asylum procedure: In 2018, the debate on asylum was dominated by a number of stand-offs between the Malta and Italy over the disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea, following the decision of the new Italian government to no longer accept disembarkation on its territory of persons rescued within the Maltese territorial waters or by the Maltese Armed Forces. Beyond the fact that the safety and health of migrants and ship’s crew were put at risk, Maltese NGO’s have highlighted several flaws the treatment of the migrants concerned following disembarkation in Malta following ad hoc informal relocation agreements with other EU Member States.

In practice, many asylum seekers were prevented from having access to the asylum procedure in Malta and could not lodge an asylum application. Having no access to the procedure, these potential asylum seekers were systematically detained (at times for prolonged periods of time) and they had limited access to assisting NGOs and lawyers. They also lacked information regarding the rights and obligations of asylum seekers prescribed by Maltese and EU law as well.

Concerns continue to exist with regard to access to an effective remedy following inadmissibility decisions. Recommendation taken by the Refugee Commissioner do not mention the possibility for the applicant to challenge the inadmissibility decision while applicants sometimes receive a rejection within a timeframe that makes an appeal against inadmissibility decision impossible, leading to standard decisions of the Refugee Appeals Board confirming first instance inadmissibility decisions without proper individual assessment. In 2018, a Palestinian asylum seeker challenged the compatibility of Malta’s asylum legislation with the Procedures Directive before the Court because of the lack of an effective remedy against inadmissibility decisions based on the first country of asylum concept.

Detention of asylum seekers: Applicants arriving irregularly by plane or by boat are referred to the Initial Reception Centre (IRC) where they are detained for a period ranging between some days and a couple of weeks. In 2018, the IRC has been converted from an open centre to a closed centre as a matter of administrative practice.

In 2018, according to NGOs’ experiences, vulnerable persons arriving in Malta by boat were detained in the IRC, often for more than 14 days. Alleged minors were mixed with adult asylum seekers upon arrival. In some cases, children were detained in the IRC even after having been found to be minors as a result of the age assessment procedure.

Content of international protection: Access to housing remained an issue for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection as rental prices have increased greatly over the past few years. Problems such as shortage of space and lack of light are common as the overall quality of the dwellings rented by the migrant population is usually poor and/or their size is not suited for the number of individuals living in them. NGOs working in the social sector have signalled that access to private accommodation is increasingly challenging for several sectors including migrants and protection beneficiaries, resulting in higher numbers of homeless persons or of persons living in squalid conditions in Malta.

*This information was first published by AIDA managed by ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.