Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 21/09/23

National legislation literally transposes the recast Reception Conditions Directive regarding the definition of applicants with special needs and provides that “an evaluation by the entity responsible for the welfare of asylum seekers, carried out in conjunction with other authorities as necessary shall be conducted as soon as practicably possible”.[1]

The amendments of December 2021 (Legal Notice 487 of 2021) introduced new provisions for vulnerable applicants to the Reception Regulations, which now transposes the Directive more faithfully. The amendments include a more comprehensive implementation of provisions related to the material reception conditions of vulnerable individuals and the guardianship and care of minors.

In particular, the Reception Regulations now provide that “the entity for the welfare of asylum seekers shall also ensure that support is being provided to applicants with special reception needs, taking into account their special reception needs throughout the duration of the asylum procedure, whilst conducting appropriate monitoring of their situation” and that “an unaccompanied minor shall be accommodated in centres specialised in accommodation for minors”.[2]

The Regulations, however, still provide that unaccompanied minors aged sixteen years or over may be placed in accommodation centres for adult asylum seeker.

Specific measures provided by law for vulnerable persons are as follows: the maintenance of family unity where possible;[3] and particular, yet undefined, attention to ensure that material reception conditions are such to ensure an adequate standard of living.[4]

AWAS is responsible for implementing government policy regarding persons with special reception needs and is in charge of these assessments that are now mainly conducted in detention.  Despite some positive improvements in 2022, delays and oversights in the identification procedure remain regular with a system barely able to cope even with the decrease in arrivals (see Identification).

In practice, nearly all applicants are de facto detained under health grounds, including unaccompanied minors and other manifestly vulnerable persons. Furthermore, applicants coming from countries where removals take place are likely to be detained under the Reception Regulations once they are medically cleared, this includes persons claiming to be minors and other vulnerable individuals (See Detention of vulnerable applicants).

In 2021, the agency conducted 823 assessments, including 610 in the open centres, 174 in closed centres and 39 in private accommodation. 159 were considered as vulnerable, 29 as “very urgent” (level 1) and 130 as “urgent” (level 2).

In Malta in 2022, EUAA personnel identified 273 persons presenting vulnerability indicators through vulnerability assessment for residents of reception facilities.[5]

The psychologists working in the therapeutic unit at AWAS provide psychosocial support to applicants following a referral from the Assessment Team. The support provided includes regular sessions and referral to psychiatric care if required. The psychologist will draft a report which can be requested by the the applicant’s lawyer. However, delays in receiving the report oftentimes precludes lawyers from raising the vulnerability of their client before the competent authorities and appeal bodies (see Identification).

Families are usually accommodated in Ħal Far Hangar. Single women are accommodated at Ħal Far Open Centre, and Ħal Far Hangar, and unaccompanied minors are generally accommodated in a section of HTV, within the “buffer zone” or the UMAS zone, or in a dedicated reception centre (Dar il-Liedna) where they receive a higher level of support than that available in the other, larger centres. The centre has an official capacity of 58 persons and is staffed by care workers from AWAS.

There are no other facilities equipped to accommodate applicants with other special reception needs. All other vulnerable individuals are treated on a case-by-case basis by AWAS social workers, with a view to providing the required care and support.

Despite recent improvements in the guardianship system, with the appointment of a social worker from AWAS to each minor after a care order is issued, the system appears to struggle to cope due to limited staff capacities and various administrative obstacles. The qualifications of the social workers of this unit is reported to be adequate, however it appears that each social worker is in charge of a substantial number of minors and therefore unable to provide specific and targeted care to them. As a consequence some minors are at risk of being neglected, be more vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. Unfortunately, a significant number of minors eventually go missing, in the relative indifference from the competent authorities.




[1] Regulation 14 of the Reception Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.06 of the Laws of Malta.

[2] Regulation 14 (b) of the Reception Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.06 of the Laws of Malta.

[3] Regulation 7 of the Reception Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.06 of the Laws of Malta.

[4] Regulation 11(2) of the Reception Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 420.06 of the Laws of Malta.

[5] Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.

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