Special reception needs of vulnerable groups

Malta

Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 23/05/22

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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.

In practice, upon arrival, alleged unaccompanied minors and other manifestly vulnerable persons are immediately de facto detained either in pursuance of the Health Regulations or most of the time without any legal basis and without any form of assessment until they are released or detained under the Reception Regulations,

As mentioned in the section of the report on Identification, 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. This poses important issues as to the level of independence of the Agency and the people in charge of the assessments as they are both assessors and caregivers.

When someone will be deemed to be vulnerable, he or she will be released and should be immediately accommodated in open centres or centres for unaccompanied minors, depending on availability.    However, even if AWAS claims that age assessments are conducted immediately, practice shows that it can take weeks or months for assessments to be conducted, resulting in minors staying in detention for a long time pending their assessment. Moreover, if the assessment concludes the individual is an adult, he or she has the right to appeal but is not released or considered minor before a final decision is taken.

Such assessments are conducted by people deployed by EASO under the supervision of AWAS. As already mentioned, the team consists of 20 assessors, all deployed by EASO, and translators are also now available. The team operates both in the reception centres and the detention centres.

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).

The assessment will generally be composed of a small narrative of the visit and complains of the individual and recommend actions to be taken, including access to legal aid, family tracing, psychosocial support or medical support. However, NGOs working with asylum seekers indicated that the assessment lack the necessary depth and remain very superficial in their identification. Some lawyers reported that some assessment mentioned torture or inhuman and degrading treatment in Libya and concluded that “these events do not seem to impact the health of the PoC”.

A therapeutic unit will also carry out sessions with identified individuals upon referral.

Beyond the general principle, 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]

Families are usually accommodated in Ħal Far Hangar. Single women are accommodated at Hal Far Open Centre, and Hal 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.

With regard to ongoing monitoring, whilst no formal monitoring system exists within detention, vulnerable individuals may be referred to AWAS at any point of their stay in detention. Within open centres, no formal monitoring mechanism is established, yet vulnerable individuals may approach or be referred to open centre management and staff.

 

 

 

[1] Regulation 14 Reception Regulations.

[2] Reception Regulations, Regulation 14 (b).

[3] Regulation 7 Reception Regulations.

[4] Regulation 11(2) Reception Regulations.

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