Locking up foreigners, deterring refugees: controlling migratory flows in Malta

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International Fact-Finding Mission

During the first quarter of 2003, the attention of FIDH was
drawn to the situation of asylum-seekers held in detention in
Malta. Subsequently this information was confirmed by a
number of sources: Amnesty International reports on the
return of Eritrean citizens; a report (dated July 2003) by the Maltese Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS Malta) association;
information communicated by the European Migreurop
network which brings together NGOs and researchers working
on the camps for foreigners in Europe; telephone calls
between GISTI and asylum seekers detained in a number of
centers describing detention conditions, incidents in the
detention camps (hunger strikes, attempted escapes,
attempted arson) and their concerns about the processing of
their asylum applications; and a report by the MAHR (Malta
Association of Human Rights), a member organisation of the

The mission took place from 21 to 26 February 2004.
The mandate assigned by FIDH covered an examination of the
situation of asylum-seekers and foreigners in Malta and in
particular of the conditions in which they are held in
administrative detention.

As the fact-finding and meetings progressed, the delegation
discovered that the conditions in which immigrants are held in
administrative detention are really problematic, but that
beyond them the entire Maltese policy of managing immigrant
flows - especially of asylum-seekers - is an issue, especially in
view of Malta’s accession to the European Union on May 1,
2004. This question is not raised in the international reports
currently available. The question is also side-stepped in the
pre-accession reports presented by the European
Commission to the Council1.

It therefore appeared necessary to broaden the scope of this
report to cover more than the initial objective. The report is therefore presented in two main parts:

1 - Systematic detention of "illegal" aliens
2 - A ’trompe-l’œil’ right to asylum
The recommendations of the FIDH delegation are structured

around these two issues, making a distinction between
emergency measures and measures that should result from a
reform of the law. Given Malta’s special geography and the
fact that this country serves as a transit point for migrant
flows from Africa to Europe, a recommendation is made to the
European institutions in addition to those made to the
Maltese authorities.

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