Government discredits HRW claim on minor migrants in detention

The government said that the to the report titled “Boat Ride to Detention: Adult and Child Migrants in Malta,” published by Human Rights Watch (HRW), that claimed that under-18 migrants spend months in detention was totally misguided.
“On average, minors are released from detention in 18 days,” the statement said.

The government said that Malta’s detention policy did not apply across the board, and that vulnerable persons, including unaccompanied minors, women with children, pregnant women, elderly persons and disabled persons were not subject to detention. 

“The claim by HRW that persons who are found to be under-18 spend an average time of 3.4 months in detention while their request for release is being determined is totally misguided and absolutely does not reflect current statistics. Out of the 1,065 persons who landed in Malta irregularly since the start of the current year, 175 have claimed that they were minors, of which 46 have been issued with a care order. The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) has processed and determined all of these cases, except for 12 of the latest arrivals which are being processed this week. On average, it takes AWAS 18 days to determine each request and secure the release of a person who has been positively identified as a minor. This period also takes into account the time taken for the same person to be granted medical clearance from the health authorities. Some persons under-18 have indeed been released from detention in six days. This is a far cry from the periods claimed by HRW.”

With reference to the allegation by HRW that persons claiming to be minors are beaten or bullied by older persons while in detention, the statement noted that the Detention Service immediately refer such instances of serious violence between migrants directly to the police and steps are taken in court when necessary against the perpetrators of such violence.

“The Maltese authorities pursue efforts to make the necessary arrangements to remove the person throughout the 18 months of detention, which is the maximum period of detention dictated by policy. In the case of asylum seekers this period is reduced to a maximum of 12 months. In practice, most asylum cases are determined within 6 months, which means that persons who are recognised as in need of international protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) are not detained for more than six months.”

“Over the past years, efforts have been intensified to ensure that irregularly staying third-country nationals are removed to their respective countries of origin, thus increasing the prospects of them being repatriated in the shortest timeframe possible. In fact, almost 200 such persons have been returned to various African countries since the beginning of the year.”

“Such returns are affected in full compliance with Malta’s international obligations, including in particular those relating to asylum, as all irregular migrants have the opportunity to apply for international protection, and are duly informed of such right. This is fully confirmed by the fact that the overwhelming majority of irregular migrants apply for international protection, thereby demonstrating that the system is readily accessible.”

“The Maltese government is currently engaged in a consultation process with relevant stakeholders with a view to improving policies in the sector of irregular migration and asylum. This in light of its consistent commitment towards ensuring and promoting the dignity and rights of every person and its willingness to collaborate with all parties in these efforts.”
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