The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

Institutional racism evident in migrants' sentencing – NGO

Friday, 30 July 2021, 11:32 Last update: about 3 months ago

Moviment Graffitti said it is deeply concerned about the forms of institutionalised racism manifested by the Criminal Justice System. A case in point is this week’s inhumane and unjust judgment whereby two couples arrested at the airport on their way to Belgium were arbitrarily handed down a 6-month prison sentence by the Court of Magistrates for the use of forged passports, leaving their innocent children ‘orphaned’ by the system.

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It is to be noted that whilst the Immigration Act (Chapter 217 of the Laws of Malta) provides for a term of six months to two years imprisonment for the use of forged documents, nothing in the law precludes the Court from handing any of the community-based sanctions provided for under the Probation Act (Chapter 446 of the Laws of Malta) such as a Conditional Discharge, Probation Order, a Community Service Order or a Combination Order – sanctions which are routinely utilised for offences which carry a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment and for offences which definitely cause more harm to victims of crime and society when compared to the use of forged documents by asylum seekers.

This discriminatory use of sentencing towards migrants and asylum seekers demonstrates that the criminal courts are being deliberately over punitive towards the most vulnerable, Graffitti said. Indeed, one of the factors for the overpopulation crisis in the prison system can be attributed to the fact that persons found guilty under the Immigration Act are being handed out cruel prison sentences without any humanitarian consideration to their particular circumstances – a blatant case of abuse of power and institutionalised racism.

Moviment Graffitti said it is also deeply concerned about the move towards greater ‘crimmigration’ processes whereby immigration is increasingly being enmeshed in criminal justice processes and criminalised rather than addressed as a humanitarian issue.

While it is understandable that the criminal justice system needs to seriously address organised crime and human trafficking, it is clearly the case that through such inhumane and discriminatory practices, it is only targeting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. This is definitely not the scope of the criminal justice system which is supposed to provide a fair and just treatment to all as well as to ensure that the severity of the punishment is proportionate to the offence committed.

In view of this, Moviment Graffitti calls for a more humane and just application of punishment and an immediate end to institutionalised racism by the criminal justice system.

 

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