Reinstate temporary humanitarian protection, human rights NGOs urge government

A number of NGOs have called on the home affairs ministry to immediately revoke the decision to suspend THP-n status renewals

The decision by the Home Affairs Ministry to suspend the Temporary Humanitarian Protection N(ew) (THP-n) status in the case of a number of beneficiares has effectively stripped men, women and children of their identity documentation with severe implications on their ability to access employment, healthcare, education and other basic services, according to a number of NGOs.

The NGOs said in a statement that they were extremely concerned at the decision taken by the ministry for home affairs and national security to suspend the renewal of THP-N status, pending a review by the ministry.

“Overnight, and without a clear plan of action, the Ministry has thrown people into the dark about their future by robbing them of the little security THPN provided,” they said.

“The Ministry must be made aware of the human consequences of this decision, whereby rights granted are being unfairly and cruelly withdrawn.”

Following the media’s insistence, the Home Affairs Ministry issued a public statement confirming that on Monday, immigration police had detained 33 foreigners who have been living in Malta for a number of years “irregularly”, but who could not be deported for various reasons.

The ministry said that necessary verifications were carried out by the Refugee Commissioner and found that one person was benefitting from temporary humanitarian protection and was released. The rest of the migrants are being detained at the Safi barracks.

The statement was signed by aditus foundation, The Critical Institute, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Gender Liberation, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, MGRM, Moroccan Community in Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, the People for Change Foundation, the Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, SOS Malta and Spark 15.

The NGOs said they welcomed – in principle – a review of the THP-N status, but called for the ministry to immediately revoke the decision to suspend THP-N status renewals.

They also called for a meeting the ministry and migrant communities to discuss the THP-N status review.

THP-N beneficiaries and human rights NGOs have been left in the dark over the review of the process that is underway since a new Commissioner for Refugees took over.

Several failed asylum seekers are now clueless as to how the changes will affect their future.

Lawyer Katrine Camilleri, director of the Jesuit Refugee Services, and Neil Falzon, of aditus foundation, told MaltaToday last week that the review was completely new to them.

Introduced in 2010, THP-N was described by the then Refugee Commissioner, Mario Guido Friggieri, as “an ex gratia type of protection” that was left up to the commissioner’s discretion to grant to failed asylum seekers who had not been deported from Malta.

It now appears that upon taking office, recently-appointed Refugee Commissioner Martine Cassar, launched a review of the status. 

“The Refugee Commissioner is currently reviewing THP-n,” a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry would only say, in reply to questions sent by MaltaToday to explain what the process entails.

THP-n is valid for 12 months and is renewed at the discretion of the Refugee Commissioner.

The Refugees Act provides for the recognition of two forms of protection: refugee status and subsidiary protection status, following the submission of an application for the recognition of international protection. 

When an asylum applicant fails to qualify for refugee status or subsidiary protection, it is up to the Refugee Commissioner, at his discretion, to recommend on a case-by-case basis the granting of THP-n. 

Such cases would involve unaccompanied minors, or individuals who cannot be repatriated on medical or other humanitarian grounds. It can also be applied for former applicants for international protection who cannot be returned to their country of origin due to legal or factual reasons and through no fault of their own.