“Detention of Somali Migrant in Malta unlawful” EU Court Rules


An Asylum seeker from Somalia at a Malta detention camp

Somalilandsun – The European Court of Human Rights today ruled that Malta breached the human rights of a Somali migrant who suffered degrading conditions at the Lyster Barracks detention centre in Hal Far.

The court ruled that the women, who suffered a miscarriage during her incarceration, was detained unlawfully and in violation of her human rights.

The court unanimously decided that the Maltese State is to pay the Somali national Aden Ahmed €30,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage within three months from the judgment.

Furthermore the court ruled that Ahmed should be recompensed a further €3,000 in respect of costs and expenses.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Aden Ahmed v. Malta, which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment and granting the right to liberty and security.

All parties have three months to request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court, and if such a request is made, a panel of five judges would consider whether the case deserves further examination.

In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day.

The case concerned a Somali national, Aden Ahmed, and her detention in Malta after entering the country irregularly, by boat, to seek asylum in February 2009.

In reaction, the government shifted the blame on the previous administration and bemoaned “the difficult situation” it inherited from the Nationalist government.

“It is regretful to be condemned by the European Court of Human Rights because of events that took place under the previous administration.”

While insisting that Malta cannot cope with the current influx of migrants, the government said it was committed to improve the conditions at detention centres and avoid committing past mistakes.

“This cannot be done if the Maltese government is left to its devices, therefore, as already demonstrated the government is making its voice heard loudly with European politicians and institutions.”

The statement added that the government “expects” political consensus in addressing the migration issue in Malta, especially from persons who were in government when these events took place.

“Since the government is taking these rulings very seriously, it is weighing up the implications and all available legal avenues.”

This is the first time the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 3, prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment, against Malta concerning immigration detention conditions.

The court was concerned about the conditions in which Ahmed was detained in Lyster Barracks detention centre in 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.

The court said that given that Ahmed endured these conditions for 14 and a half months as a detained immigrant, it 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 Ahmed with a speedy review of the lawfulness of her detention.

In February 2009 Ahmed entered Malta irregularly, by boat. She was registered by the immigration authorities and served with a removal order before being detained.

She applied for asylum and in May 2009 her application was rejected by the office of the Refugee Commissioner.

Soon afterwards she escaped from detention, making her way to the Netherlands where she hoped to travel to Sweden to be reunited with her father, siblings and young son.

She was returned to Malta in February 2011 under the Dublin II Regulation and was charged with escaping from public custody and giving false information.

Ahmed was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. She was pregnant at this time, and during her imprisonment was admitted to hospital where she miscarried in March 2011, also contracting an infection which required hospitalisation.

Having served her sentence, Ahmed was again detained for immigration purposes in view of her deportation from Malta. In November 2011 Ms Ahmed requested a reconsideration of her application for asylum.

The Refugee Commissioner decided against her application. In February 2012 she also applied to the Immigration Appeals Board (“IAB”) to be released from detention, arguing that there was no reasonable prospect that the authorities would be able to remove her to Somalia within a reasonable time and that in fact no such removal had ever occurred in practice, that her psychological health was suffering due to her detention, and that she had miscarried while in prison.

The Principle Immigration Officer responded negatively, however her application was never actually set for hearing by the IAB and in August 2012 she was released in line with Maltese government policy, as she had spent a total of 18 months in “immigration detention” since her arrival in Malta.

Ahmed complained about the conditions in which she had been held throughout most of her time in Maltese government custody.

She also complained that her detention had been unlawful and that she had not had an effective remedy to challenge its lawfulness.

Source : Malta Today