Head of state: George Abela
Head of government: Lawrence Gonzi
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 0.4 million
Life expectancy: 80 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 7/7 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 92.4 per cent

The authorities failed to provide international protection to a group of Somali nationals rescued at sea. Migrants and asylum-seekers were routinely detained, and remedies to challenge rejections of asylum claims remained flawed. Abortion was still illegal in all cases.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The authorities failed to provide international protection to people rescued at sea, in breach of their obligation not to return individuals to a country where they are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The authorities also failed to ensure access to a fair and satisfactory asylum procedure.

  • On 17 July, 55 Somali nationals travelling from Libya were intercepted at sea by a Maltese military vessel. Twenty-eight were allowed on board, transferred to Malta and eventually granted asylum; the remaining 27 boarded another ship, believing they would be taken to Italy, but were returned to Libya. They were reportedly detained for days or weeks without access to asylum procedures and remained at risk of being returned to Somalia where they could face persecution. All of the males were reportedly beaten with batons, and some were tortured with electric shocks during interrogation.

Malta maintained its system of mandatory detention of all asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants it considered had landed or remained in the island unlawfully.

In July, in the case Louled Massoud v. Malta, the European Court of Human Rights found Malta in breach of the right to liberty, as domestic law did not provide the applicant with an effective and speedy remedy for challenging the lawfulness of his detention.

In January, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report on Malta following its 2009 visit there, reiterating its criticism of the mandatory detention regime for irregular migrants and asylum-seekers, the lack of a clearly defined time limit for detention under Maltese law and of genuine and effective judicial remedies to challenge the detention.

Concerns remained about the right of rejected asylum-seekers to appeal effectively against adverse decisions, due to the lack of independence of the Refugee Appeals Board, the limited expertise of its members, and the fact that its sessions were held behind closed doors.

Conditions in detention and in open centres – and support to vulnerable groups including people with mental illness – remained poor, despite the authorities' commitment to improve living conditions and recruit more social workers.

Women's rights – sexual and reproductive rights

In November, the CEDAW Committee adopted its Concluding Observations on Malta. The Committee criticized the complete ban on and the criminalization of abortion, urging Malta to introduce exceptions for cases of therapeutic abortion and when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The Committee also expressed concern at the prevalence of violence against women.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.