27 November 2015

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Malta breached the human rights of a Somali national, detained for over eight months for immigration purposes.

Farhiyo Mahamed Jama arrived in Malta by boat in May 2012 and was detained at the Lyster Barracks while her claim to be a minor was being considered by age assessment procedures. In January 2013 she was found to be an adult, granted subsidiary protection in February 2013, notified of this decision and released five days later. She complained that the conditions of her detention amounted to degrading treatment, in particular due to the lack of activities and access to the outdoors, inability to communicate with the outside world, overcrowding, conditions of overheating in the summer, unbearable cold in the winter and lack of provision of basic items of clothing and hygiene. The Court was concerned about the lack of access to outdoor exercise, as well as the lack of heating and of female staff. However, given the sufficient living space, the provision of basic as well as other needs and appropriate hygienic standards the court found that the cumulative effect of these conditions did not amount to degrading treatment.

Conversely, the Court considered that she had no effective opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of her detention in Maltese law. In addition, the fact that she was detained for an additional five days after being granted international protection, was not justifiable. It therefore found that Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to liberty, was violated. 

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 27 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.