Access to NGOs and UNHCR


Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 19/05/21


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National legislation provides that UNHCR shall have access to asylum applicants, including those in detention and in airport or port transit zones.[1] Moreover, the law also states that a person seeking asylum in Malta shall be informed of his right to contact UNHCR.[2] There is no provision in the law with respect to access to asylum applicants by NGOs, however, it states that legal advisers who assist applicants for asylum shall have access to closed areas such as detention facilities and transit zones for the purpose of consulting the applicant.[3] Thus, NGOs have indirect access to asylum applicants through lawyers who work for them. In practice, however, asylum seekers located far from the centre or in closed centres do not face major obstacles in accessing NGOs and UNHCR.

Access to the IRC is regulated by AWAS and is not granted to family members or NGOs on grounds of the medical clearance conducted in this facility. However, access to the open section of the IRC is granted to UNHCR and NGOs requesting access in order to provide services.

Since all applicants arriving irregularly in Malta were detained, access to detention became a priority for UNHCR and NGOs. In 2019, access was revoked after two leading NGOs filed Habeas Corpus cases which led to the acknowledgment of the unlawfulness of detention and the release of several applicants.[4] Access was subsequently denied for NGOs for several weeks without any explanation. In 2020, access was denied again for several months to NGOs but also UNHCR, officially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Access was authorised again in July 2020 before being denied again from August until October 2020.

In 2020, group sessions for NGOs with applicants were no longer authorised. Meetings were only possible with individual clients, limiting the monitoring activities of visiting NGOs and lawyers.


[1]   Regulation 16(a) Procedural Regulations.

[2]  Regulation 3(3)(c) Declaration Regulations.

[3]  Regulation 7(3) Procedural Regulations.

[4] Court of Magistrates, 7 October 2019, Mohammed Abdallah Mohammed 19O-030, available at:; Court of Magistrates, Zeeshan Saleem 19N-24, 8 October 2019, available at:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation