The authority responsible for registering asylum applications in Malta is the Refugee Commissioner (RefCom). The RefCom is also the authority responsible for taking decisions at first instance on asylum applications.1
The law no longer provides for time limits for an asylum seeker to apply for international protection and it also specifies that the Commissioner shall ensure that applications are neither rejected nor excluded from examination on the sole ground that they have not been made as soon as possible.2
With respect to asylum seekers who arrive undocumented by boat, the registration of their asylum application is relatively unhindered since they are almost immediately intercepted, registered and channelled into the IRC where they are given the opportunity to apply for asylum. On the other hand, with respect to asylum seekers who arrive documented but who do not express a wish to apply for asylum to the immigration officials present or who become refugees sur place, problems may arise as a result of the fact that they could not readily know how or where to apply for asylum.
Generally, due to the particular circumstances of persons arriving by boat, asylum applications are registered a few days or – at most – a couple of weeks after arrival by boat. The applications of persons approaching the RefCom directly are immediately registered.
Applications must be made at the RefCom. Any person approaching any other public entity, particularly the Malta Police Force, expressing his or her wish to seek asylum, is referred to the RefCom. Detained asylum seekers complete a Preliminary Questionnaire that indicates their intention to seek asylum, which is followed by the formal application that is completed during their first interview with RefCom case-workers.