Malian migrants arrested and ‘facing deportation’ – government says they are failed asylum seekers
The government has confirmed that immigration police have arrested 33 migrants but has insisted that these were failed asylum seekers who had been living in Malta illegally for a number of years. The migrants will be held until an “African delegation” visits Malta to identify them and a decision is taken on the steps to be taken.
The Home Affairs Ministry was reacting to media reports about the arrest of a number of Malian migrants, who feared that they would be repatriated. The migrants are currently being held at the Safi Barracks. NGOs Aditus and JRS Malta said they had written to the ministry but were not given a reason for the arrests.
It is understood that some of those being held have recently been told that their Temporary Human Protection would not be renewed. Temporary Humanitarian Protection Status N (THPN) is a national status the Office of the Refugee Commissioner grants to failed asylum-seekers who Malta has not been able to return to their countries of origin and who have shown to be integrating.
THPN is currently under review by the Home Affairs Ministry and the Refugee Commissioner. NGOs working in the field of migration say they have been left in the dark. Until the review is carried out, all THPN holders whose certificates expire during the review will not have their THPN renewed. “This means that, overnight, they will have no documentation and will start suffering the consequences of being undocumented,” Aditus Director Neil Falzon wrote in a blog post yesterday.
“This constitutes a regression of rights, a potential violation of Malta’s obligations under the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights. It also raises questions as to the measure’s compatibility with other human rights obligations binding Malta to respect and protect human dignity.
“We also know that some migrants from Mali have been arrested and detained with a view to being deported. Little more information can be provided at this stage as we have yet to visit them in Safi Detention Centre. We cannot say whether any of these persons were former THPN holders,” he wrote.
Dr Falzon said “we have also met with representatives of migrant communities to share information and discuss strategies. They confirmed that many people are extremely worried, and already running into serious problems with their day-to-day affairs.”
Partit Demokratiku said yesterday it was seriously concerned by the ministry’s silence.
“These people have been living, working and paying taxes in Malta, some for several years, and it is inhuman they have been treated this way without redress or an explanation. It is indeed hypocritical that a government which is ostensibly Socialist issues passports and gives the vote to people who can buy this privilege and yet has no interest in our country whilst those who have fully integrated into our society risk sudden deportation. Our government should be protecting the more vulnerable in society not punish them for being just that.”
A few minutes later a statement was issued by the Department of Information. It said that immigration police had arrested 33 persons who have been living in Malta irregularly and who, for several reasons could not be repatriated. From verifications carried out with the Office for the Commissioner for Refugees the officers found that only one of the 33 had THP. This person was freed.
The statement said that the rest were held in light of an initiative, coordinated at EU level, in which an African delegation will visit several EU countries, including Malta, to identify these persons, after which a decision on the next steps will be taken. This European initiative falls under the European External Action Service.
The immigration police said that in June of this year the European Commission had identified five priority countries: Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia. This was communicated to the European Council and the EEAS and member states started coordinating the implementation phase.
“In light of our country’s international duties, those who enjoy protection will be granted protection and those who enter the EU illegally and have no right to protection are to be sent back to their countries, where there rights will be safeguarded under a European agreement.”
“The Maltese government is committed to observe all international rules and laws, ensure that protection is given to those who qualify for it and repatriate those who do not, as was always the practice according to European laws and directives.”
The government added that everything was being done in coordination with European institutions.