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Malta in strong reaction to CoE report on treatment of migrants

The Maltese government has accused the Council of Europe of behaving in Malta’s regard “as a collection of bodies acting and reacting at the beck and call of some NGOs” and focusing exclusively on the problem of illegal immigration in reports by the Commissioner of Human Rights, the European Commission on Racial Intolerance (ECRI) and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

The charge was made in the Government’s response to a report by the CoE’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (known by its acronym CPT) which visits prisons and detention centres for illegal immigrants.

The CPT presented a report after its last visit to Malta on September 26-30. The Maltese government transmitted its response on April 12 (by letter of its ambassador J. Licari) but did not give its approval for the publication of either the CPT report or its own response.

In an interview with Patrick Cook in The Times of Malta, during his official visit to Malta on June 17 June, CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland called on the Maltese government to publish the two documents.  They have now been published on the CoE website.

Accusing the CPT of using “harassing tactics by its concentration on the problem of illegal immigrants”, the Maltese government complained that the Committee had not been true to its obligation to visit “the different States … on an equitable basis”.

A table shows that the CPT made six visits each to Malta, Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary despite the latter countries being “much larger in terms of population, prison population and number of prisons”. Other countries, like Belgium, Austria, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland were visited only five times.

The Maltese government added that visits to Malta had followed a pattern. “Illegal immigrants in detention centres, whether spontaneously or not, go on a riot which is quelled by the forces of law and order. The NGOs, through the media, exaggerate any injuries suffered by the rioting illegal immigrants. Then the CPT says it received information about the incidents” and sends its inspectors.

The Maltese government went on to complain that: “The accounts of and comments on the incidents in the CPT reports are unashamedly biased. They systematically try to minimize the responsibility of the rioting illegal immigrants while maximizing the responsibility of the forces of law and order.”

As an example, it said that the latest CPT report described as mere “disturbances” the incidents in the detention centres in April and August 2011 which were “unprovoked riots with the use of violence by detained illegal immigrants”, while it omitted to mention that several members of the police force suffered injuries and that some of the rioting illegal immigrants had been condemned by the courts in accordance with the law.

Among other things, the CPT report:

- highlights major shortcomings in several areas of the Corradino Correctional Facility, exacerbated by the prevailing overcrowding and the lack of organised activities for many prisoners, and called for a comprehensive plan to renovate the entire prison

- expresses concern about the frequency and seriousness of allegations received from foreign nationals about the force used by soldiers and police officers in the context of disturbances which had occurred in August 2011 at the Safi Detention Centre

- noted very poor conditions under which foreign nationals were being held in the two Warehouses at Safi Barracks and clearly insufficient healthcare services both there and at the Lyster Detention Centre

- expressed serious misgivings about the manner in which agitated or suicidal patients had on occasion been managed at Mount Carmel Psychiatric Hospital

- made a number of specific recommendations to improve living conditions in the Forensic Ward and the Ward for Irregular Migrants.

See the report and the government response in pdfs below.

Attached files

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