The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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ECHR orders Malta not to forcibly remove two Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity

Tuesday, 17 January 2023, 15:10 Last update: about 12 months ago

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ordered Malta not to forcibly remove two Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity, aditus Foundation said.

“We had filed the application on Friday 13 January, following our clients’ detention in Safi Barracks. They were on the path to being deported to China, a path thankfully interrupted by the Court’s order to Malta not to remove them,” aditus said.


The application was filed together with the NGO Safeguard Defenders (Spain).

The applicants are married Chinese nationals of Uyghur ethnicity and Muslim faith. They came to Malta in Malta in 2016. Following rejection of their application for International Protection in 2017, the applicants spent years living in hiding in Malta and were issued with a return decision and removal order on 1 August 2022. The applicants raised a claim based on the principle of non-refoulement before the competent authorities. This was rejected on 12 January, aditus said.

The applicants flagged to the Court that, if returned, they would face a real risk of being subjected to serious violations of their human rights on account of their ethnicity and religion.

The Chinese nationals, according to aditus, also informed the Court that Malta did not provide them with an effective remedy whereby they could raise their human rights complaints, as required by European human rights law.. 

On 12 January, Malta’s immigration authorities informed the two that their return was imminent. They detained them at Safi Barracks, where foundation lawyers met with them to discuss the next steps. In Safi Barracks, their mobile phones were confiscated, meaning they would have been unable to call us should the removal have been carried through.

Aditus said that in a mere four pages, the Maltese Board blatantly ignored the extensive documentation produced by the applicants in stating that “appellants failed to produce further evidence to substantiate the principle of non-refoulement”.

That documentation included clear-cut evidence of transnational persecution of the couple by Chinese authorities through reprisals against their family members in Xinjiang since 2017, as well as the growing series of reports and decisions by competent national and international authorities, including the hard-fought report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of August  2022 that states: “In light of the overall assessment of the human rights situation in XUAR,” or Xinjiang, “countries hosting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities from XUAR should refrain from forcibly returning them, in any circumstance of real risks of breach of the principle of non-refoulement.” 

The fear and uncertainty the couple has been put through is highly emblematic of the continuous strain felt by those at risk of the PRC’s gross human rights abuse and long-arm policing efforts in a European Union where many Member States remain alarmingly negligent in upholding their international obligations.

This order from the European Court of Human Rights is yet another condemnation of Malta’s asylum procedure, aditus said. It keeps on failing those who need in most: persons fleeing persecution and atrocious human rights violations, it added.

It is high time that Malta reviews its approach to asylum to ensure that it fulfils its core mission of protecting refugees. In the meantime, aditus foundation said it will continue itshard work to ensure that asylum-seekers are able to effectively present their claims and that refugees enjoy the protection they are entitled to.


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