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MaltaToday 21 December 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 21 DECEMBER 2022 2 SHUTDOWN NOTICE: The Authority would like to notify its clients and the public that the offices will be closed from the 24th December 2022 until the 1st January 2023, both days included. The Authority's emergency services will still be available through 2292 3500, throughout the shutdown except for Christmas and New Year's Day. The Chairman, Board, Management and Employees wish everyone A peaceful Christmas and a Prosperous New Year MATTHEW VELLA THE European Court in Stras- bourg has ruled that Malta vi- olated the fundamental human rights of an asylum seekers when it failed to properly assess his fear of being returned to his home country. The European Court of Hu- man Rights (ECHR) published an important judgement con- demning a series of failings in Malta's asylum procedure in the landmark case S.H. v. Mal- ta, opening the door for hun- dreds of identical cases against Malta. S.H. v. Malta has raised sever- al red flags in Malta's treatment of refugees from the moment of their arrival, his Bangladeshi nationality was given overdue consideration rather than the ample evidence he had brought to substantiate his claims. S.H. worked for Vairab KTV Bangla, a news TV channel in the Kishorganji District in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in- sisted he had suffered death threats from the governing Bangladesh Awami League for his reports on corruption and fraud committed by the AL. Despite his amply evidence of his claims filed in three asylum claims, the International Pro- tection Agency (IPA) declared the first application to be 'man- ifestly unfounded', whilst it threw out the subsequent two as it decided that S.H. did not present any relevant new facts or information. All decisions were confirmed by the Interna- tional Protection Appeal Tri- bunal (IPAT). But the ECHR has questioned how Malta's asylum procedure simply dismissed S.H.'s claims without ever actually assess- ing their substance. "Clearly spelled out threats were also considered not to be detailed enough." The ECHR said the Maltese system required a far too high level of proof, and berated the IPAT carrying out only a "su- perficial assessment of all the documentation presented... The brief stereotype decision, confirming the incongruous conclusions reached at first instance and providing no fur- ther reasoning, support such a conclusion." Malta also designates certain countries as 'safe' countries of origin so that such asylum claims can be given an acceler- ated procedure, usually auto- matically rejected on the basis that the applicants come from a country the Home Affairs Minister decrees as safe. Furthermore, rejected asy- lum-seekers are not permitted to appeal this negative deci- sion. The IPAT merely reviews these decisions and in an often automatic and speedy rub- ber-stamping of the original rejection. "Aditus foundation has on several occasions flagged that Malta's accelerated pro- cedure violates the rights of asylum-seekers. It determines applications on countries of origin, rather than on merits, and does not permit any real appeal. For refugees coming from countries designated as safe by the Home Affairs Min- ister, it is close to impossible to have their applications heard fully and fairly," the NGO said, which represented S.H. in his European human rights claim. "Malta's accelerated proce- dure applies to persons com- ing from countries the Home Affairs Minister has designated as safe, including when these countries criminalise LGB- TIQ+ behaviour or identities. In our #Safe4All campaign, we are flagging this incongruity in Malta's system by stressing that a country may and should not be considered safe if it has laws and national practices that imprison people simply for their LGBTIQ+ identity! Without a change to this sys- tem, Malta runs the risk of returning refugees to places where they might be arbitrari- ly arrested, detained, beaten or even killed." Significantly, the ECHR once again lamented the inadequacy of Malta's own system for the protection of human rights: the Constitutional remedy. It not- ed that S.H. was not able to re- ceive protection from Malta's judicial system because Malta's Constitutional regime does not automatically suspend the de- portation of a person alleging that such a deportation could lead to a violation of their rights. The Strasbourg Court has re- peatedly insisted that the Eu- ropean Convention on Human Rights requires this automatic suspensive effect in order to prevent human rights viola- tions occurring as a result of a forced removal. If a judicial system does not offer automat- ic, albeit temporary, suspen- sion of a removal until it fully examines all relevant claims, then that judicial system is simply not up to the Conven- tion's standards. "The conclusion is clear: until Parliament strengthens Malta's Constitutional protection of the fundamental human rights of a person facing removal to perilous places, the Strasbourg Court will continue to declare our system 'ineffective'," Adi- tus said. Refugee denied protection by 'ineffective' Maltese asylum system, ECHR rules European human rights court identif ies various failures in Malta's asylum procedure The European Court of Human Rights

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