The Malta Independent 23 January 2020, Thursday

Child migrants being kept in detention centre

Albert Galea Tuesday, 10 September 2019, 19:34 Last update: about 5 months ago

The Malta Independent has learnt that minors are being kept in Malta's detention centre, a fact which was confirmed by Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia on Tuesday.

Asked by The Malta Independent about this, Farrugia said that these child migrants are being kept in a place which is isolated from adults, but also noted that many of those who come to Malta claim to be minors but in actual fact are not. 

When there are such cases, those migrants are treated as adults as opposed to minors, Farrugia said.


When asked whether the procedure of keeping child migrants in detention centres was to be a permanent measure or a more temporary one, the Minister was coy, instead saying that one must first assess whether those who claim to be minors are in actual fact minors or not.

Pushed on what happens to those who are indeed found to be minors, the Minister simply replied that "they will then be treated as minors".

Back in March 2013, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said that the detention of child migrants should end, and then-Minister for Family and Social Solidarity Marie-Louise Colero Preca - who went on to become Malta's President - had also championed this cause.

Farrugia noted that it should be recognised that the government never brushed off its responsibilities, and in fact went above and beyond them, noting the most recent news with regards to the disembarkation of migrants onboard the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi.

Unrest broke out at Safi detention centre on Monday, with migrants scaling fences and setting fire to mattresses in order to demand their release. Around 20 migrants shouted and banged on the fence in one part of the complex. They held up placards with messages such as 'Freedom', 'This is not detention' and 'No Justice in Malta.' Some of the migrants scaled up the fence, stopping just short of the barbed wire on top, and screamed 'Freedom' at the detention staff and police watching from below.

Asked about claims by NGOs that migrants were being held at the detention centre for longer than is permitted, Farrugia said that these delays were due to medical checks which have to be administered to them.

Farrugia noted a number of initiatives taking place at the open centres, saying that some 10 pre-fabricated containers and a number of beds having been added to them.

"This is being purposely done so that persons do not spend more time than they should at the detention centre, as we believe that there should be balance between humanity and security", Farrugia said.

He also noted that the Church is working with the government to enter into a public-social partnership to provide facilities and accommodation to migrants as well, while also noting that there has been a recent influx in migrants due to disembarkations from NGO ships, and that there are currently groups of migrants getting ready to go to countries such as Germany, France, and Lithuania amongst other countries.

He noted that Malta, unlike other countries, offers a number of opportunities to migrants, such as accommodation at the open centre when they leave the detention centre and also opportunities to find work through JobsPlus. 

"This is to give them the possibility to prepare themselves, even financially, to integrate into society while also offering them a roof over their heads", Farrugia said.

He also made reference to a summit between the Home Affairs Ministers of Malta, Italy, Germany, and France which will be held on 23 September, where they will attempt to reach a common consensus about regulating disembarkations, relocations, and thresholds for automatic relocations if a country is under too much pressure due to numbers being disembarked.  He noted that he hoped that this  will be presented to the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg on 8 October.


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