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UN Refugee Agency Condemns Marsa Open Centre Arson But Warns Against Long Detention Periods

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The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has condemned yesterday’s arson attack at the Marsa open centre but has warned of the negative effects that long periods of detentions have on people’s mental and physical health.

“While condemning all forms of violence and vandalism, we reiterate that detaining people, including children, for prolonged periods has a detrimental effect on mental and physical wellbeing,” the UNHCR said. “The substandard conditions in the centres contribute to the feeling of frustration among asylum-seekers, many of whom arrived in Malta after having experienced inhumane treatment when fleeing their country and on their journey.”

“Detention of asylum-seekers in a manner that is not within strict legal basis needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.”

It called for responsible discourse when discussing issues related to asylum-seekers and refugees and reminded everyone of the importance of avoiding inflammatory rhetoric.

 “The increase of sea arrivals in Malta has strained the asylum system, particularly the reception space in open and closed centres,” it said. “UNHCR has repeatedly emphasised that countries such as Malta, located at the external borders of the EU, need practical solidarity and support from other EU countries, including the establishment of predictable and effective mechanisms for disembarkation and relocation of asylum-seekers”.

In the meantime, UNHCR called on the Government to take urgent action in tackling the conditions and increase capacity to mitigate the situation of overcrowding.

“The situation in the centres has been tense for several months now and it is clear that a rapid solution needs to be found as the status quo is untenable”, it concluded.

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