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Malta: Migrants say detention is not ‘inevitable’
Fecha: 10/07/2012 - 13:56
"The detention policy criminalises migrants and is the main cause for racism in Malta," Osman Dicko from the Migrants' Network for Equality said. During a press conference held this afternoon in Valletta, Dicko together with a number of representatives from other NGOs announced a Walk Against Institutional Racism to be held on Wednesday at 5pm in Valletta.
Dicko explained that the walk will be held in the light of the death of Mamadou Kamara who dies while in detention two weeks ago. He said that Kamara's death is not only the result of individual actions "but also of a system which has for years institutionalised violence against migrants."
The migrants present at the press conference made it clear that the walk is not against Maltese people, soldiers or workers of the Detention Services. They explained that the situation at detention centres has a detrimental effect on both migrants and soldiers. "Through this walk we want to send the message that the Detention Centre system is not working and is leading to much suffering, even to the death, of people who have to go through it." The NGOs and migrants said the current policy creates a barrier between the migrants and the Maltese people and "an atmosphere of tension which criminalises the migrants in the eyes of the Maltese."
Andre Callus from Moviment Graffitti said that "both the migrants and the Detention Services workers are the victims of the system." He added that detention centres are a very hard place to live and work in. Callus added that "as long as the current system remains in place the repetition of cases such as Kamara's death is inevitable." He explained that detention has a detrimental effect on the popular perception of migrants. "Detention leads to events such as the 2005 riots, which paint a picture of caged individuals who are trying to escape." Callus questioned the utility of detention especially since at one point or another the migrants will be either realised or deported. He also argued that migrants should not be kept in detention while during the process of identification and while processing the asylum application.
All NGO representatives who addressed the press emphasised the need to change the detention policy. In comments to MaltaToday, Dicko said the policy must change immediately because it victimises migrants and has a terrible psychological affect on migrants. He said that "if migrants are to be kept in detention for long periods sometimes up to 18 months and more it would be better to deport them back." Dicko explained that migrants staying in detention centres face systemic beatings and are sometimes "handcuffed and taken out of the barracks in Safi at 5am and kept outside in the sun till 1pm, in the presence of senior Detention Service officers." He also explained that migrants who voluntary return to the detention centres are subject to harsh beating "unless they are accompanied back to the centre by representatives of human rights NGOs." The migrant said that when migrants who suffer beatings at the hands of soldiers and members of the Detention Services are taken to hospital or health centres the official explanation given to doctors is that the migrants got injured after getting involved in scuffles with other migrants.
Dicko also said that militant migrants who take active part in NGOs and who call for justice and equality are "singled out by the authorities and often suffer beatings." Kamara, who died while in the custody of members of the detention services, was refused treatment at a health centre because he had no identification. Asked whether this is common practice, Dicko said that even if a migrant is on the verge of death staff at the health centres refuse to provide treatment unless the migrant produces identification documents and a work permit.
A migrant who is active within the Jesuit Refugee Service questioned the utility of detention and called for a serious and mature public debate on the policy. The migrant who spent one year in detention said "Is detention really needed? Beyond the question of human rights, detention does not benefit anyone." He added that the policy does not work as a deterrent because "even if detention is 10 years long, people still escape from something worse."
Robert Callus from Alternattiva Demokratika Zghazagh said that detent ion is "unsustainable" and explained that although politicians portray detention as a deterrent, this is not the case.
The Green Party spokesperson said detention should be limited to a maximum of six months and explained that other methods of monitoring exist. "Innocent people are being treated worse than Maltese nationals accused of murder and other hideous crimes who are granted bail and only need to show up and sign at police stations."
Callus added that detention is only implemented so "politicians look tough." He said that the current policy is used as a vote grabbing strategy by the two big parties. The walk will be held on Wednesday at 5pm at City Gate and is being organised by the Migrants' Network for Equality, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Moviment Graffitti, Aditus Foundation, Third World Group, Koperattiva Kummerc Gust, Alternattiva Demokratika Zghazagh, Get Up Stand Up and Integra Foundation.
Ali Konate from the Migrants' Network said the walk will be peaceful and silent to remember Kamara and Ifeanyi Nwokoye, a Nigerian migrant who died in 2011, in similar circumstances to Kamara's.
Source: Malta Today
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