Human rights experts Mads Andenas and Roland Adjovi, assistant professor of historical and political studies at Arcadia and Vice Chair-Rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, arrived in Malta on June 23 to meet with civil leaders and government members on the detention of migrants. The Working Group met with Malta’s president and minister of Foreign Affairs and visited detention centers to evaluate the conditions of detainees. They shared their observations at a June 25 press conference.
In 2009, the Working Group discovered mistreated detainees in Malta that included an 8-year-old boy and a Somali man suffering from HIV and chicken pox. Malta detains all arriving immigrants, with asylum-seekers repatriated after up to 12 months and irregular migrants up to 18. However, of almost 12,000 people detained in the last decade, only about 2,000 have reportedly been freed.
During the press conference, the Working Group welcomed Malta’s decision to remove automatic detention of migrants and asylum-seekers. They also highlighted a planned change in detention length, as well as the introduction of a reception system. (A reception center has already been set up for migrant children; plans for an adult reception center are underway). Despite these positive steps, Adjovi and Andenas expressed concerns about the conditions of detainees, noting that many experience difficulties integrating into Maltese society and that their access to legal aid is limited.
Established in 1991, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has addressed complaints regarding detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Egypt, Algeria, Israel, Iran, China, Thailand, Iraq, and Uzbekistan.
At Arcadia, Adjovi teaches international human rights law and is a member of the Pan-African Studies Collective. In addition to his voluntary position on the Working Group, Adjovi also works with Civitas Maxima, a nonprofit that provides legal representation for victims of war crimes.