The report was previously updated in November 2015.
Asylum procedure / Reception conditions
Transposition: In the course of 2015, Malta finalised the introduction of the recast asylum package into national legislation with the transposition of the recast Reception Conditions Directive and the recast Asylum Procedures Directive. This transposition reforms key aspects of the reception of asylum seekers in Malta.
No detention upon arrival: The main feature of the new reception system is that detention is now no longer either mandatory or an automatic consequence of the decision to issue a removal order. Asylum seekers arriving irregularly in Malta are now taken to an Initial Reception Centre (IRC).
Detention of asylum seekers
Grounds for detention: The amended Reception Regulations have transposed the six grounds for detention of asylum seekers foreseen in the recast Reception Conditions Directive. According to the authorities, 20 asylum seekers were detained in 2016. For most of the cases, the detention was based on the ground that the identity of the individual had yet to be determined and that the elements of the claim could not be ascertained in the absence of detention i.e. risk of absconding.
Alternatives to detention: According to the amended Reception Regulations, when a detention order of an asylum seeker is not taken, alternatives to detention such as reporting or financial guarantees may be applied to non-vulnerable applicants when the risk of absconding still exists, for a period not exceeding 9 months. NGOs’ concerns that alternatives to detention could be imposed when no ground for detention was found to exist proved to be true, as in 2016, several persons were released from detention after 2 months and placed under alternatives to detention without any ground to extend the detention as they had already applied for protection and provided all the required information.
Content of international protection
Family reunification: The Family Reunification Regulations provide that family members shall be granted a first residence permit of at least one year’s duration which shall be renewable. In the past, the reuniting family members were given a one-year residence document indicating “Dependant family member – refugee”, causing difficulties when public service providers (e.g. hospitals) failed to recognise the holder’s entitlements as being equal to those of his or her refugee sponsor. Policy has recently changed and reunited family members are now granted a residence permit of 3 years, with the mention “Dependant family member”.