The Malta Independent 22 February 2018, Thursday

Commissioner urges Malta to improve the protection and integration of migrants

Thursday, 1 February 2018, 11:22 Last update: about 21 days ago

Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Mui?nieks has urged Malta to improve the protection and integration of migrants, particularly in the areas of detention, relocation, family relocation, housing, and labour exploitation, in a letter addressed to Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Michael Falzon.

The Commissioner also highlighted shortcomings and called for a judicial review of the Refugee Appeals Board.

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Expressing appreciation for Malta’s policy changes to end the automatic detention of migrants and its participation in the EU refugee relocation programme, the Commissioner underscored the need to lift obstacles to migrant integration, such as the lack of affordable housing.

He noted that the Hal far migration reception centre had improved since his predecessor’s visit in 2011, but observed that the single men’s unit currently consists of containers with poor sanitation facilities.

“Reception centre should be transitional accommodation solutions, and migrants and the beneficiaries of international protection should have access to adequate housing. However, many of them continue to remain in reception centre because of a lack of affordable housing, which also effects nationals with low incomes.”

This, Mui?nieks explained, is an obstacle to migrant integration and may generate tension with the local population, as evidenced in Marsa.

In his reply, Farrugia acknowledged that there is always room for improvement in this area.

Labour exploitation and social security.

Distinctions between refugees and beneficiaries of other forms of international protection concerning social security benefits, he said, should also be removed.

The Commissioner also highlighted concerns over bureaucratic barriers to migrants’ access to the labour market and their exploitation.

During my visit, I noted that many migrants work, a number of them reportedly undeclared. Facilitating migrants' access to the legal employment market is both a condition for their integration and an opportunity for the national economy which is currently booming and needs the additional workforce.”

He noted that the first migrant integration strategy, which will soon be discussed, addresses some of these concerns, as well as other issues such as access to language courses and training programmes tailored to the needs of migrants.

Family reunification

Mui?nieks also raised concerns over barriers to quick and effective family reunification and access to citizenship.

“Family reunification and access to citizenship are crucial elements to get migrant integration right. Malta should ensure that all migrants in need of international protection are entitled to family reunification in a prompt, flexible and effective manner and should facilitate the access of long-term residents to citizenship.”

Farrugia said that the state is currently compliant with the provisions on family reunification, and pointed towards Malta’s active participation in the EU relocation program.

Shortcomings on the Refugee Appeals Board

The Commissioner also called on Malta to tackle shortcomings in the work of the Refugee Appeals Board and to provide a full judicial review of its decisions.

Reportedly while some decisions include a comprehensive examination of the elements of fact and law of the case, others do not include any reasoning at all, rejecting the case on the basis of one sentence. Concerns have also been expressed about the lack of asylum-related training and capacity of the Board Members.”

Farrugia noted these observations and said that Malta is currently reforming aspects of the country’s migration and asylum system

“In fact, discussions have started with the European Asylum Support Office to develop training programmes for our second instance body.”

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