300 migrants arrived in Malta this afternoon. A second group of approximately 250 is expected to arrive this evening. The migrants are believed to be Sub-Saharan asylum seekers from Libya.
Under Maltese law, the arriving asylum seekers will be detained. The law purports to authorise detention for up to 18 months. Malta’s detention centres are at present largely empty due to the lack of recent migrant arrivals. COE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg concluded a visit to Malta just last week. The Commissioner’s report pertaining to his visit has not yet been released, but a statement was released in which the Commissioner called for “the policy of mandatory detention of all irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, [to] be reconsidered.”
Excerpts from the Statement:
“‘Malta and Europe need each other if the challenges of migration are to be met in a manner that respects human rights,’ said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, following his visit to Malta from 23 to 25 March. According to the Commissioner, Malta needs to move away from a reactive approach to migration and establish a system that is fully in line with European standards concerning the human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. At the same time, a much more generous and collegial approach is needed on the part of other European states, by accepting to host some of the persons to whom Malta has rightly accorded international protection. ‘However, with the exception of France and Germany – and further afield the US – this has not been the case so far.’
The Commissioner underlined that the current uncertainty related to the events in Libya and possible forced migration towards Malta and Europe should not deter the Maltese authorities from undertaking the necessary reforms. ‘Instead this is another reason for more European solidarity to support these reforms’ said the Commissioner, noting also that the substantial decrease in the number of irregular arrivals in Malta over the last two years has taken considerable pressure off Malta.
In this context, the policy of mandatory detention of all irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, should be reconsidered. The Commissioner notes that the mandatory detention of migrants can hardly be reconciled with the requirements set by the European Convention on Human Rights, as also reflected in a July 2010 judgment of the Strasbourg Court in the case of Louled Massoud, which found that Malta had violated the Convention by detaining an asylum seeker, whose claim had been rejected, for almost 18 months. ‘Malta should take all necessary legislative and other measures in order to implement fully and effectively this important judgment of the European Court of Human Rights’ said the Commissioner. Alternatives to the detention of migrants should be provided for in law, in accordance with the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 1707 (2010). …”
Click here for the Commissioner’s full statement
Click here for link to Commissioner’s thematic web page on human rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.