Update from June 2022:
In its latest Global Trends report, UNHCR reports a figure of 11 stateless refugees in Malta.
Detention was used throughout 2021 to systematically detain the vast majority of asylum-seekers, with reliance on the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretence to do away with procedural guarantees. In particular, detention was used for asylum-seekers that Malta deemed to be returnable. Recent restrictions on access to detention centres limit the possibility for NGOs and other actors to identify stateless people.
Changes in 2021 restrict access to employment for some asylum seekers. Asylum seekers released from immigration detention and coming from any of the countries listed as safe in the International Protection Act are only granted access to employment after 9 months. Additionally, refused asylum-seekers coming from any of the countries listed as 'safe' in the International Protection Act are not granted access to employment.
There are no specific safeguards against derivative loss of nationality. However, in a recent court case regarding the deprivation of Maltese nationality of a family, the court referred to national and ECtHR case law as well as the European Convention on Nationality and found that the deprivation did not trigger the application of Articles 6 and 8 ECHR. The Maltese Government also confirmed that the children would not be deprived of their Maltese nationality. New resources on Malta now available include:
- 2021 Statelessness Index Survey
- Briefing note calling for the introduction of a statelessness determination procedure in Malta (December 2021)
- ENS blog, Will Malta’s accession to the 1954 Convention help change a culture of ‘outright exclusion’ of stateless persons? (January 2021)
- First Hall Civil Court (Constitutional Jurisdiction), Application No. 149/2020 GM (30 November 2021)
Malta acceded to the 1954 Convention in 2019, but still provides very limited protection for stateless people, and is not party to the 1961 Convention. Malta has no mechanism to identify and determine statelessness, and no stateless protection status, although it has other routes through which some stateless people may regularise their stay, including temporary humanitarian protection. Since 2020, Malta is no longer accepting new applications for a route to regularisation it had introduced in 2018 for people refused asylum and unable to leave the country or be returned. Data on the stateless population is therefore limited, with figures available only for the very small number of stateless people who acquire Maltese nationality, and refused asylum seekers recorded as ‘nationality unknown’ who cannot be returned and may or may not be stateless. Maltese law provides some protections against arbitrary detention, but rights afforded to those detained for removal purposes are very limited and there have been recent reports of people detained on arrival on public health grounds or without legal basis, without sufficient safeguards. Recent restrictions on access to detention centres limit the possibility for NGOs and other actors to identify stateless people.
There are some safeguards in Maltese law to prevent statelessness, but implementation is problematic and there are some key gaps. The law prevents statelessness in cases of adopted children and new-born foundlings whose parents remain unidentified. There is a provision granting children born stateless on the territory a conditional right to acquire nationality following five years’ legal residence, but, although in line with the 1961 Convention, the provision does not prevent statelessness in all cases and is not currently implemented in practice. Discriminatory provisions in both law and practice relating to conferral of nationality by descent remain in force despite a European Court of Human Rights judgement ruling against Malta on this matter in 2011. Malta has only partial safeguards to prevent statelessness as a consequence of provisions for deprivation of nationality.
Information below by theme was last updated in March 2021.
Neil Falzon, aditus foundation