Access to detention facilities



JRS Malta

According to the 2015 policy,1 UNHCR, relevant international organisations, health officials, legal counsels and relevant accredited NGOs shall have access to applicants in detention. Moreover, the legislation provides for the possibility for detainees to receive visits from family members and friends up to once per week.  The Detention Service administration shall determine dates and times once the Principal Immigration Officer (PIO) approves such visits.2

In practice, the possibility for family members and friends to visit detainees remains very difficult and totally discretionary as people need to request permission to the Detention Service administration which does not always reply and grant appointments. When authorisation is granted, lack of privacy for visits remains an issue.3

Representatives of the media may be given access to Detention Centres subject to authorisation by the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security.

There is no published policy position regarding visits by politicians, but politicians have visited the detention centres on occasion.

Access to detention centres is regulated by the Immigration Police, which in turn needs to provide authorisation. No formal procedures exist for friends and family members to visit detained persons and practice is erratic and largely discretionary.  When such visits are allowed, logistical modalities are also extremely erratic and discretionary with no clear procedures and rules.

UNHCR, legal advisers and NGOs are allowed access at any time in order for them to provide their services to detained persons.  No specific criteria seem to apply, except possibly the provision of services or support to detained asylum seekers.  Persons in detention centres encounter difficulties communicating with legal advisers, UNHCR and NGOs primarily due to the fact that little or no information is provided on the existence and means of contacting these entities, and actual contact is only possible to a limited extent and due to the limited means available to NGOs and UNHCR.

  • 1. Strategy Document, November 2015, 17.
  • 2. Regulation 6A Reception Regulations.
  • 3. Information provided by Katrine Camilleri, Director of JRS Malta, January 2017.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti