Malta: not here to stay

Malta should abandon its policy of mandatory detention of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers and dedicate resources to significantly improve their reception conditions, says a new ICJ report.

The report Not here to stay found that Malta’s mandatory detention policy is at odds with its international human rights obligations.

The result of an ICJ study mission in September 2011, the report highlights serious shortcomings in expulsion procedures, detention policy and conditions, and living conditions of migrants in reception centres.

“Malta’s international human rights law obligations require it to provide decent reception conditions for migrants, even if they arrive in large numbers. They should not be detained except where strictly necessary, and should not be held in unsuitable emergency facilities”, said Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe Programme. “During our visit, we found cases of detention and reception conditions, which may have amounted to degrading treatment against the standard imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Difficult situation

The report stresses that Malta is in a particularly difficult situation as a small country that receives proportionately much higher numbers of arrivals of undocumented migrants than other Member States of the European Union. It insists the EU should do more to help Malta cope with arrivals of migrants.

“The EU and its Member States cannot exempt themselves from sharing responsibility for the burden Malta is facing,” said Massimo Frigo, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Europe Programme. “They must accept long-term responsibility for a proportion of resettlements, and not only as a voluntary gesture.”

Principle of solidarity

The ICJ quotes the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, according to which policies on border checks, asylum and immigration and their implementation “shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing or responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States”.

“However, this cannot be a justification for Malta to neglect its international human rights obligations”, Massimo Frigo added. “Twelve or eighteen months of administrative detention for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers will not solve the country’s migration problems. The accommodation of families in the unhealthy conditions experienced in 2011 should not be repeated.”

For more information:

Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe Programme, T: +41 22 979 3830 C: +41 79 742 7128, E: roisin.pillay(at)

Massimo Frigo, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Europe Programme, T: +41 22 979 3805, E: massimo.frigo(at)


  • The ICJ study mission was conducted between 26 and 30 September 2011 and included visits to administrative detention centres (closed centres) and reception centres (open centres) in Malta
  • Malta-migrants-detention-Mission Report 2012 (download in English)


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