Malta Church says no to the detention of asylum seekers

Malta Church, humanitarian orgs denounce “completely unlawful” detention of asylum seekers

Church and humanitarian organisations in Malta have said they are “deeply concerned” about the “completely unlawful” detention of hundreds of men, women and children asylum-seekers.

Driving the news

On Monday, the Archdiocese of Malta published on its website a statement signed by a total of 34 groups, including Catholic Voices, Christian Life Communities and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Malta.

In that statement, the organisations criticised the situation at the Initial Reception Centre and Safi Barracks.

Protests at the barracks broke out again Monday as migrants demanded their freedom and set mattresses on fire.

This latest unrest comes after soldiers in riot gear responded to another protest a week ago in which detainees banged on gates and yelled “freedom” in a bid to escape from the “nightmare” of prison-like conditions.

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Go deeper

In their statement, the Church and civil society groups denounced there are asylum-seekers in the barracks who have been kept there for up to 13 weeks.

Such a length of time could be in contravention of European Court of Human Rights rulings, the organisations stressed.

That migrants are being held “in crowded, insanitary conditions, with almost no opportunity for recreation or constructive activity, hardly any contact with the outside world, limited access to open air, and a severe shortage of basic material necessities, makes their detention even harder to bear”, the groups denounced.

“In these conditions it is not surprising that tension is building in the centres, as people are worn down by the uncertainty and the strain of their prolonged and arbitrary detention”.

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For the record

The Church and humanitarian groups called on the Maltese Government “to ensure that all of the people currently being held on medical grounds are immediately released, unless their detention is clearly and objectively justified on health grounds in the individual case”.

“While we fully appreciate the strain that the large number of arrivals has placed on Malta’s reception system, resource constraints, no matter how severe, can and should never be used to justify deprivation of liberty”, the organisations warned.

The statement signers also urged the Government “to allocate the resources necessary to strengthen our reception system and create sufficient reception spaces for asylum seekers to be hosted in accordance with Malta’s legal obligations”.

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