The Ministry for Home and Parliamentary Affairs refers to Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 2012, published earlier on Thursday. Regrettably, this report follows the same formula underlining the other Amnesty International reports concerning Malta, whereby outdated information is provided as if it were accurate and any positive developments are systematically and methodically overlooked to give a very partial picture of the migration and asylum scenarios in the country.
In the first place, the report reiterated a number of points that have already been made by Amnesty International on other occasions, in particular vis-à-vis the 2010 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Louled Massoud v Malta. Once more, Amnesty International argued, on the basis of this case, that the Maltese legal system does not provide for a procedure capable of avoiding the risk of arbitrary detention pending deportation.
It should however be noted that the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Malta because Mr. Massoud had been detained without any reasonable prospect of deportation, particularly as insufficient efforts were made with a view to deport him. In view of this scenario, the Maltese Government reiterates its disagreement with the interpretation of the facts being promulgated by Amnesty International.
In fact, the Maltese system contrary to what was stated does provide for the possibility to challenge detention before the Immigration Appeals Board, a judicial body whose members enjoy security of tenure and who can be dismissed only on the same grounds applicable to the judiciary. It is for this reason that the Maltese authorities have taken no legislative measures pursuant to the judgement since they are already in conformity with the said court decision.
It should also be made clear that the Maltese authorities have over the past years multiplied their efforts 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 more than 160 such persons have been repatriated 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 its asylum applications. 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.
In this regard, it would also not be amiss to remind Amnesty International that Malta has an excellent asylum track record. Notwithstanding its exposure to disproportionate asylum pressures, as confirmed by successive UNHCR “Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialised Countries” reports, including the one for 2011 which states that Malta received the largest number of asylum applications per capita of the 44 industrialised countries worldwide, Malta has a very high asylum recognition rate, consistently exceeding the 50% mark. These facts are also supported by other EUROSTAT reports.
The Ministry also takes this opportunity to reiterate that it will stand by its detention policy, which is in compliance with Article 5(1) (f) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Finally, it would have to be pointed out that the remaining tent village is being replaced by Mobile Homes, which means that the information being cited by Amnesty International in their report is now outdated. Amnesty International should also be reminded that the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers has undertaken several integration-oriented programmes for beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers utilising relevant EU funding streams.
As regards conditions in detention, the competent authorities conduct refurbishment on a practically ongoing basis. This is another fact – among many others – that has been ignored by the report.
It is also regrettable that Amnesty International has remained one of a handful of international institutions which consistently fail to support Malta in its appeal for international assistance and solidarity in this field. Ironically, the various institutions which Amnesty found it convenient to quote in today’s report about Malta, have all expressed support for Malta and acknowledged the difficulties that it is facing. Naturally, such support would ultimately benefit the beneficiaries of international protection present in Malta.
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