Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 30/11/20


JRS Malta Visit Website

According to the 2015 policy, UNHCR, relevant international organisations, health officials, legal counsels and relevant accredited NGOs shall have access to applicants in detention.[1] 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]  Therefore, 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.

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

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

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.

Following the change in the detention policy and the tensions within the detention centre where hundreds of people are detained with no information, access to detention had been limited at times during 2019.

For instance, access was revoked after some NGOs filed Habeas Corpus cases leading to the release of several applicants in October 2019. Access was denied to NGOs for several weeks without any explanation before being resumed.

Moreover, the authorities are limiting the possibility for NGOs to provide information to large groups of people. Lawyers or social workers are only allowed to meet with specific clients but cannot provide information sessions within Safi and Lister detention centres. This situation is highly problematic as NGOs have very limited resources and cannot provide information to all the persons in need on an individual basis.


[1] Strategy Document, November 2015, 17.

[2] Regulation 6A Reception Regulations.

[3] Information provided by KatrineCamilleri, Director of JRS Malta, January 2017.


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