20 June 2014

The updated AIDA Report, compiled by ECRE member organisations aditus foundation and Jesuit Refugee Service Malta (JRS), shows that Malta has not yet improved its detention system following the 2013 judgment in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) indicated measures that Malta is required to take in order to prevent the detention regime for asylum seekers from violating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECtHR requested the Maltese authorities to establish a mechanism to allow individuals seeking a review of the lawfulness of their immigration detention to obtain a determination of this claim within a reasonable time-limit. It further recommended taking the necessary steps to improve the conditions and shorten the length of detention of asylum seekers.

The ECtHR ascertained violations of Articles 3 (Prohibition of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment) and 5 (Right to liberty and security and Right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) in the cases of Aden Ahmed v. Malta and Suso Musa v. Malta, which were decided in July 2013 and became final in December.

Anyone who enters the Maltese territory without the necessary documents is detained upon arrival. In 2013, around 1,900 individuals went through detention in Malta.

The report notes that asylum seekers who arrive in Malta in an irregular manner are not always effectively informed of the possibility and/or of the means of challenging the removal order issued against them.

Finally, the Report highlights that, in 2013, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner raised the level of protection granted to Syrian asylum seekers to subsidiary protection (a status granted to people recognised as fleeing war, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment), mainly by eliminating the distinction made earlier between Syrians reaching Malta after the start of the conflict and those who arrived in Malta prior to the start of the hostilities. Where those who had been in Malta for some time and who only applied for asylum after the start of the conflict were found not eligible for refugee status, instead of being granted subsidiary protection, they were granted ‘Temporary Humanitarian Protection’ a domestic form of protection which, while still providing protection from forced return and a selection of the same rights of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, is not set out in law and is granted on a discretionary basis. In a number of cases, the Refugee Appeals Board overturned first instance and granted the asylum seekers concerned subsidiary protection. At the same time, all Syrian applicants who had been granted Temporary Humanitarian Protection had their protection changed to subsidiary protection.

Currently, all Syrian applicants who prove their Syrian nationality are granted, as a minimum, subsidiary protection. Only 1% was recognised as refugees.

This report is part of the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), a project of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), in partnership with Forum Refugiés-Cosi, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Irish Refugee Council. AIDA focuses on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention of asylum seekers in EU Member States.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 June 2014.
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