The Procedural Regulations provide that asylum seekers have to be informed, in a language that they understand, or they may reasonably be supposed to understand, of, among other things, the procedure to be followed and their rights and obligations during the procedure. The Regulations also state that asylum seekers have to be informed of the result of the decision in a language that they may reasonably be supposed to understand, when they are not assisted or represented by a legal adviser and when free legal assistance is not available.
The Regulations also cover the information about the consequences of an explicit or implicit withdrawal of the application, and information on how to challenge a negative decision. However, the law does not state in which form such information has to be provided except for the first instance decision which has to be provided in a written format.
Newly arrived applicants are detained on health grounds and the very basic document provided to them does not mention any kind of information on the procedure and is generally not provided in a language the applicant can understand (see Detention).
Due to their limited access to detention, NGO are not able to inform all newly arrived asylum seeker and most of them never get the chance to access a lawyer before their asylum interview. The UNHCR provides information sessions but has not been able to do so for all asylum seekers due to their limited capacity. It reported having carried out only 4 information sessions in 2022.
NGOs reported they received consistent testimonies of asylum seekers who arrived in 2022 claiming that the first people they met were individuals from the Returns Unit from the Ministry for Home Affairs, who reportedly tried to coerce them into signing declarations of voluntary departure by telling them that if they apply to asylum, they will remain in detention for 2 years before they are sent back to their country of origin. Asylum seekers also claimed that they were later given the same options by inspectors of the Immigration Police which they could identify by name. This, they claimed would happen weeks or months before they could access a lawyer or apply for international protection. The UNHCR confirmed having received such testimonies as well.
NGOs also reported meeting some individuals who were visibly minors who nonetheless opted for voluntary return for fear of staying 2 years in detention.
Unless they are visited by the UNHCR or NGOs, detained applicants will not be provided with information on the asylum procedure prior to the lodging of their application, during which they receive information about the asylum procedure and are given a leaflet on the Dublin procedure. The IPA’s ability to process applicants and inform them in a prompt manner largely depends on the number of arrivals by boat. The lodging of the application can happen several weeks or months after the arrival.
Legal Notice 488 of December 2021 introduced provisions for applicants held in detention facilities or present at border crossing points whereby “the relevant authorities shall provide them with information on the possibility to do so and shall make arrangements for interpretation to the extent necessary to facilitate access to the asylum procedure”. However, these provisions were not followed by any meaningful change in practice.
The EUAA operating plan with Malta for 2020 foresaw the development of information material “covering the various procedural steps with simple and clear content, appropriate for the age and level of understanding of the applicants, in a language that the applicant is reasonably supposed to understand and using appropriate dissemination tools”. It seems this material has not been produced, or is not accessible to detained applicants and no information was shared with NGOs in relation to this.
There is no systematic and structured way to provide comprehensive information to asylum seekers outside detention and they have consistently raised their lack of awareness about the procedure to NGOs assisting them. They only receive basic information about the asylum procedure but not about their rights regarding reception. For example, they do not have access to information about access to healthcare or education, while asylum seekers in detention see their basic needs covered.
However, it must be noted that recent years saw some positive improvement with the creation of the Migrant’s Advice Unit (MAU) by AWAS staffed with welfare officers who provide information on employment, housing, education and health. The Unit reportedly gives group sessions on services and activities to assist with integration into the community. Each open centre has a member of the team operating as a focal point for referrals to other stakeholders. AWAS reported that a total of 2947 information sessions were delivered by Migrants Advice Unit in 2021.
NGOs welcomed this improvement and aditus foundation’s lawyers met with the team in June 2022 to exchange on the needs of residents and answer questions from the MAU members. An informal referral system was put in place, where the MAU can call or send an email to aditus’ lawyers to inquire about a more complex issue and refer the person appropriately.
Alternative sources of information are available mostly through NGOs and the UNHCR.
 Regulations 4 and 5 of the Procedural Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.07 of the Laws of Malta.
 Regulation 14 of the Procedural Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.07 of the Laws of Malta.
 Information provided by the UNHCR, November 2022.
 Regulation 5A of the Procedural Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.07 of the Laws of Malta.