Judges ruled today that Malta breached the human rights of two irregular migrants, fining the country a total of 60,000 euros.
In the first case, a Somali migrant suffered degrading conditions in an immigration detention centre, the court ruled.
In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Aden Ahmed v. Malta (application no. 55352/12), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights;
a violation of Article 5 §§ 1 and 4 (right to liberty and security) of the convention.
The court held that Malta was to pay Ms Ahmed €30,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and €3,000 in respect of costs and expenses.
The case concerned a Somali national, Ms Ahmed, and her detention in Malta after entering the country irregularly, by boat, to seek asylum in February 2009. This is the first time the court found a violation of Article 3 against Malta concerning immigration detention conditions.
The court was concerned about the conditions in which Ahmed was detained in Lyster Barracks detention centre (Hal Far), notably the possible exposure of detainees to cold conditions, the lack of female staff in the detention centre, a complete lack of access to open air and exercise for periods of up to three months, an inadequate diet and the particular vulnerability of Ahmed due to her fragile health and personal emotional circumstances.
Taken as a whole, those conditions, in which she had lived for 14 and a half months as a detained immigrant, amounted to degrading treatment. Moreover, deportation proceedings were not in progress while Ahmed was being detained and the Maltese authorities had taken no steps whatsoever to remove her, so her continued detention for 14 and half months was therefore unlawful.
The court also found that the domestic remedies in Malta had not provided Ms Ahmed with a speedy review of the lawfulness of her detention.
In another ruling on the case of Suso Musa v. Malta (application no. 42337/12), which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights; and,
a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) of the Convention
The case concerned an alleged Sierra Leonean asylum seeker who complained in particular that his detention had been unlawful and that he had not had an effective means to have the lawfulness of his detention reviewed.
The Court found that Mr Suso Musa’s detention preceding the determination of his asylum request had been arbitrary. Indeed, the conditions of his place of detention had been highly problematic from the standpoint of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment). Moreover, it had taken the authorities an unreasonable amount of time to determine whether the applicant should have been allowed to remain in Malta. As regards the period of detention following the determination of Mr Suso Musa’s asylum request, it found that the deportation proceedings had not been prosecuted with due diligence. Moreover, the applicant had not been allowed to have a speedy review of the lawfulness of his detention.
The Court considered that the problems detected in this case could give rise to further similar applications. Therefore, it requested the Maltese authorities to establish a mechanism to allow individuals seeking a review of the lawfulness of their immigration detention to obtain a determination of their claim within a reasonable time-limit. It further recommended Malta to take the necessary steps to improve the conditions and shorten the length of detention of asylum seekers.
The court held that Malta was to pay the applicant €24,000 in respect of non- pecuniary damage, and EUR 3,000 in respect of costs and expenses.