With regard to vulnerable applicants, including minors and alleged unaccompanied minors, the amended legislation along with the new policy prohibit their detention. Reception Regulations state that “whenever the vulnerability of an applicant is ascertained, no detention order shall be issued or, if such an order has already been issued, it shall be revoked with immediate effect.”1
Upon arrival at the border, alleged unaccompanied minors, family groups with children and other manifestly vulnerable persons would be prioritised during the preliminary screening. When an asylum seeker is deemed vulnerable, following a vulnerability assessment conducted during their stay at the IRC, he or she will not be detained and will be accommodated immediately in a reception centre and assisted according to his or her vulnerability. Minors will have access to leisure and open-air activities. According to the Regulations, whenever the vulnerability becomes apparent at a later stage, assistance and support would be provided from that point onwards.
In order to give effect to this policy, two procedures are in place to assess ‘vulnerability’ in individual cases. These procedures are known as the Age Assessment Procedure and the VAAP (see section on Identification). Both of these procedures are officially implemented by AWAS.2
In practice, asylum seekers entering Malta irregularly by plane are immediately detained and not sent through the IRC, with the possibility of any vulnerability not being identified.