'Detention centre' at City Gate
Volunteers who work among illegal immigrants are camping out at City Gate to raise awareness of conditions suffered by migrants in detention.
They have set up a tent ringed by guard wire and will stay there overnight in conditions which they said are similar to conditions suffered for months by many migrants.
The protest is being held to mark World Migration Day, being celebrated today.
Various NGOs, including Graffitti and the Jesuit Refugee Service, in a joint press conference this morning spoke against the detention policy, saying the migrants were not criminals and removing their freedom was a denial of basic rights.
They insisted that detention, while being expensive, was counter-productive in that it instilled in the Maltese a perception that the migrants were criminals. It also instilled bad feeling among the migrants themselves.
Detention, they said, was not a deterrent since the migrants did not wish to come here in the first place.
"Detention is a problem, not a solution," Graffitti spokesman Andre' Callus said, arguing that it would be better if the migrants were placed in controlled open centres.
He also complained that the detention centres were so overcrowded, and conditions were so bad, that the migrants actually preferred going to prison.
The government, he said, should at least improve conditions at the detention centres and reduce the period which migrants spend there, which currently is up to 18 months.
Adel, a migrant from Somalia, said migrants came without documents because in war-torn countries, access to documents was very difficult. He said conditions in the detention centres were very difficult, and the situation was compounded by the fact that the migrants did not know how long they would be held there, and what the future held for them.