Migrants are driven away on police buses after disembarking on Malta in September 2019 | Photo: EPA/Domenic Aquilina
Migrants are driven away on police buses after disembarking on Malta in September 2019 | Photo: EPA/Domenic Aquilina

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has said that the conditions to which detained migrants are subjected on Malta could be considered as "inhuman and degrading treatment."

In a report published on Wednesday (March 10), the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) expressed worry about the treatment of migrants in Malta. They said that migrants faced "poor conditions ... which verged on institutional mass neglect by the authorities."

They said that Malta needed to urgently improve its immigration system, to ensure that migrants are treated with dignity.

The CPT found that the treatment of migrants may violate human rights coventions. They said that "the living conditions, ... lack of due process safeguards, treatment of vulnerable groups and some specific COVID-19 measures ... so problematic that they may well amount to inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

Locked in overcrowded rooms

What specific problems did migrants detained in Malta face?

The CPT said that at detention centers, "migrants were generally locked in accommodation units with little, if any, access to time outside, in severely overcrowded spaces, and essentially forgotten for months on end."

The CPT also found "a lack of maintenance of the buildings (especially the sanitary facilities), insufficient personal hygiene products and cleaning materials and an inability to obtain a change of clothes."'

They also said that migrants were usually kept in the dark about their cases by the authorities. "There was also a systematic lack of information provided to detained persons about their situation, compounded by minimal contact with the outside world or even staff," CPR said.

No protection for vulnerable migrants

The watchdog also found that there were no protection measures for vulnerable migrants. "Not only were young children and their parents as well as unaccompanied/separated minors being detained, but they were held in very poor conditions, together with unrelated adult men."

The CPT said that while Malta did face significant challenges due to a surge in migrant arrivals and the coronavirus pandemic, "this situation cannot absolve Malta from its human rights obligations and the duty of care owed to all migrants deprived of their liberty by the Maltese authorities."

Visit to Malta in September

The report by the CPR was based on visits the committee conducted to various immigration detention facilities on Malta in September of last year. The CPT delegation reportedly visited the Marsa Initial Reception Centre, Hermes Block (Lyster Barracks), Hal Far Reception Centre / "China House", Safi Detention Centre, Floriana Police Station and Lock-Up, and Zejtun Police Station.

The CPT is a body of the Council of Europe -- a human rights organization somewhat similar to the United Nations, which has as its members 47 European countries.


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