Court orders immediate release of 6 detained migrants from Safi Barracks

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A Magistrates court has deemed the detainment of 6 migrants for more than 10 weeks at the Safi Barracks, illegal.

Habeas corpus proceedings were lodged with the court by the lawyers from the Aditus Foundation and Jesuit Refugee Services, on the behalf of the migrants affected.

They stated that by continuing to detain them had deprived them or their freedom of movement.

According to the applicant’s testimony to the court, they had been questioned by the police without the help of an interpreter immediately after their rescue. They were then taken to Safi Barracks.

A document was given to them informing them that their movement would be restricted on the grounds that they could be carrying diseases that they require medical assessment for.

Despite being required to undergo a medical X-Ray, the applicants were not informed of the results.

The court also heard how the applicants had been transported to the Office of the Refugee Commissioner and the health centre, in handcuffs. This is all the while the applicants had applied for asylum. They were officially registered as ‘regular and lawful’ in Malta.

Lawyers representing the applicants presented to the court that the measures taken had been highly restrictive and unlawful. The medical procedure in question was only instituted for migrants that were being rescued from the sea. The applicants said that this treatment was not a procedure that other in-bound tourists or Maltese would face if they were arriving from countries deemed to be high-risk.

While the law states that the period of detention can be extended from 4 to 10 weeks ‘for the purpose of finalizing such microbiological tests as may be necessary,’ there had not been any further tests for disease, the applicants said.

They also said that there hadn’t been informed by the Superintendent of Public Health, on what ground there had been a ‘reasonable suspicion’, nor were there any provisions for quarantine put in place.

The lawyers surmised that the measures taken amounted to nor more than, ‘a migration management policy that is concerned with other considerations – considerations that, whilst potentially valid from a public policy perspective, do not constitute valid legal ground.’

Following the statements from the applicant’s lawyers, the Health Authorities and the Attorney General, the court ruled in favour of the applicants calling for them to be released from Safi Barracks.

Lawyer Neil Falzon told the court, ‘For a number of months now, Malta has been detaining asylum-seekers on these above-mentioned health grounds. We have repeatedly communicated with the authorities, alerting them to the serious issues this detention raised in terms of its lack of conformity with human rights standards.’

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