Update: Commissioner for Children speaks about migrants' children rights

The Ministry of Interior and National Security in reply to Commmissioner for Children Helen D'Amato said in a short statement, that the government is considering to change the detention policy regarding children. The ministry added that this policy, was inherited from the previous government.

The Office of the Commissioner for Children in a statement said in the light of the public debate that has developed around the issue of irregular migration by adding its children’s rights perspective to the debate and highlighting its concerns also in the light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that Malta ratified in 1990.

In a press release the Commissioner said that the rights of children are fundamental and universal. This means that these rights have no boundaries and that children carry their rights with them wherever they go irrespective of their status. Moreover, the responsibility for the realization of these rights lies with the state in whose jurisdiction the children may happen to be.

"In the light of reports in the media that Government was considering the adoption of a pushback policy in respect of irregular immigrants, the Office of the Commissioner for Children formally expressed its concern to the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security in a letter dated 9th July, 2013, that such a policy was in violation, amongst others, of Article 22 of the said Convention, which guarantees the right of “a child seeking refugee status….to receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance…”, and in breach of Malta’s non-refoulement obligations deriving from international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law," the Commissioner of Children said.

However, beyond the concerns arising from a potential pushback policy, the Office is also apprehensive about the situation of irregular migrant children who are granted the right to seek asylum in Malta. Although Malta has a policy of non-detention of migrant children or migrant families with children, the reality is that children are kept in detention pending the outcome or completion of administrative procedures and medical clearances, which can take several days.

The Commissioner voiced her concerns to the Minister for Health in a letter dated 12th July, 2013 about this situation in the light that at present there are four families in detention with the children’s age varying between 3 months and 7 years as well as a number of unaccompanied minors.   

While Detention Services are doing their best in the circumstances, detention is intrinsically harmful to children and so the Office requested that the required health checks are speeded up in the best interest of children. The families with children and the unaccompanied minors cannot be released until health clearance is obtained. The Office’s proposals for this sector can be seen in the Manifesto for Children 2013 that was sent to political parties prior to the General Election.

Another issue of concern is that regarding the statelessness of migrant children who are born at sea due to the fact that the sea vessel on which they are born is unregistered.  Together with the Office of the Ombudsman this Office had already made representations to the Ministry for Justice for an amendment to the law that would allow such children to be registered at the first port of call. In the absence of such a registration, the risk of trafficking of children is increased.

The Office recently made this same proposal to the Commission for Justice Reform as well as to the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice. Such a proposal was also made to political parties through the Manifesto for Children 2013.

"It is very important that throughout the public debate, the problem of irregular migration is not to be identified with the people who migrate irregularly, a mindset that invariably fuels resentment against migrants, but with the phenomenon of irregular migration and its root causes. Irregular migrants, including children, should not be seen as problems but should be seen primarily as human beings and holders of rights that Malta is duty-bound to uphold and promote. The phenomenon of irregular migration is undoubtedly a challenge given its scale relative to the size of our country. However, any solutions that are adopted in respect of this phenomenon can never run afoul of the fundamental and inalienable rights of the children who are the hapless victims of this phenomenon and its complex social and political causes," the statement concluded.

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Comments (8)


- Mon 15-Jul-2013, 08:30

Mela issa qamilha din? Jidher li l-wirdien u l-grieden kollha hergin mid-drenagg.


- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 16:04

Children are children and usually arrive with parents.
They should not be kept in detention at all, but neither in the usual open centers for children but an appropriate place before medical and any other form of clearance is completed, to safe guard the safety and health of their future maltese carers.
This is easy to arrange.


- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 10:45

Bongu Helen,

Mela qomt? Meta ergajt bdejt tahdem? Kont qed nahseb li kont qed tirrcievi s-salarju ta' xejn. Kompli bil-hidma tieghek u kompli aqa' ghac-cajt u r-redikolu, xejn ma' nghidlek. La tispicca mir-renju imissek tmur il-PA ta' Simon. Ghandu bzonnok hafna ghax fil-politika ghadu tifel!!


- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 08:44

Alla jbierek kemm ghamlet differenza il-bidla fil-gvern , ghax issa kulhadd sar jipprotesta, u jghid x'ghandu bzonn jaghmel il-gvern. Mela din il-kummissarju tat-tfal kienet vaganza? Ghax la l-gvern miexi fuq l-istess proceduri ta' qabel, mela din imissha tkellmet qabel, imbghad nemmnuha li qeda vera taqbez ghad drittijiet tat-tfal.
L-istess bhal din tal-pushbacks, ma sarux u xorta hargu jaghmlu plejtu u jdawwru l-media internazzjonali kontra l-gvern. Din bhal ta'meta Sant kien qal li se jirrevedi ir-rati fuq l-elettriku u ma kienx hareg kont wiehed u xorta ghamlu plejtu u ghadhom jirrepetu l-istess haga sal-lum. Irridu nitghallmu darba ghal dejjem li lill dawn ma tista tafdhom f'xejndawn.

Anthony Mifsud

- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 07:50

I really wonder were was the Commissioner all these days that passed by? who deported children? who endangered the lively hood of these children? crossing the desert is enough answer
But The Honourable Commissioner for Children ought to wake up as it was her Govt that deported and kept behind bars children of all ages

Then and now

- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 06:51

May I invite Mrs Damato, ex-PN with a responsible role under Labour, to also speak about and visit the homes of Maltese children living in poverty. These are important too, you know. May I also congratulate maltastar.com for allowing readers' comments below articles and news items. The "democratic" maltarightnow does not allow us to comment. Xokkanti!


- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 06:03

Well said Kiss. Why not to put the cherry on the cake provide accomodation in Sliema area instead of allocate them in the middle of nowhere. I'm sure Sliema envirment will encurage many others to come and stay with us. Sliema area will do them the best of good.

Kriss Camilleri

- Sun 14-Jul-2013, 03:32

Were their any children held in detention, during your [p n] Govt. 'rule', jew issa qomt ?

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