Malian mi­grants ar­rested and ‘fac­ing de­por­ta­tion’ – govern­ment says they are failed asy­lum seek­ers

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.”

Govern­ment replies

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.

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