UNHCR welcomes new reception policy: important improvements but concerns remain

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UNHCR welcomes new reception policy: important improvements but concerns remain
©Darrin Zammit Lupi/ Islelanders.com
UNHCR welcomes new reception policy: important improvements but concerns remain
The UN Refugee Agency welcomes Malta's revised legal and policy framework for the reception of asylum seekers. UNHCR considers that Malta has taken important steps towards improved reception standards to end the automatic and mandatory detention of all asylum seekers who arrive in anirregular manner.


The revised legislative and policy framework introduces a number of important changes which, once implemented in practice, should lead to improved reception standards and treatment for many asylum applicants who arrive in Malta in anirregular manner.

In particular, the revised legislation no longer supports the automatic andmandatory detention of asylum seekers, who have entered in Malta in anirregular manner, but provides for legal grounds for detention, free legal assistance, the possibility to challenge detention orders, and establishes the automatic review of detention orders. As such, the new legislation provides amuch improved basis for the Maltese authorities to manage future irregular arrivals of asylum seekers and migrants, in line with international and EU law standards.

While these are improvements which are essential, UNHCR's remaining concerns relate to the interpretation of the legal grounds for detention, lack of clarity on the applicability of alternatives to detention,and the need to establish safeguards to ensure that detention is always used inproportionality to a legitimate purpose.

UNHCR considers that some of the guidelines for immigration authorities contained in the new policy document, Strategy for theReception of Asylum Seekers and Irregular Migrants, are not fully in line with well-established international human rights and refugee law standards, and could potentially lead to situations of arbitrary and unlawful detention.

It is acknowledged that in order to fully assess the revised law and policy framework, there is a need to first observe how the Maltese authorities will implement this inpractice. In line with its general mandate, UNHCR will also continue to monitor Malta's reception framework and support the relevant authorities in implementing the new system.

UNHCR appreciates the close cooperation with Maltese authorities and stands ready to contribute to the further development of Malta's reception framework, including by providing guidance and advice relating to interpretation of relevant legal principles.


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