Today’s European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Chamber judgment in the case of Suso Musa v. Malta draws attention to both the legality of detention and the conditions of detention for those who are confined. In this case, Mr Suso Musa, a Sierra Leonean asylum seeker, complained to the ECHR that “his detention had been unlawful and that he had not had an effective means to have the lawfulness of his detention reviewed.” Following his detention in April 2011 after irregular arrival by boat, Mr Suso Musa spent 546 days in immigration detention until his release in March 2013. His application for asylum was rejected in April 2012 and his removal was set for March 2013.

The ECHR unanimous judgment held that there had been: (1) “a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights;” and (2) “a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court) of the Convention.

The Lyster Barracks detention centre. Source: TimesofMalta.com
The Court also remarked that “the conditions of his place of detention had been highly problematic from the standpoint of Article 3.” Indeed, Mr Suso Musa submitted to the Court that he was detained in an apartment-style building that was part of a larger military barracks and surrounded by chicken wire and guarded at all times by soldiers or security officers. Mr Suso Musa argued that these detention facilities were unsuitable for the special situation of asylum seekers and contradicted the Maltese government’s detention policy.

In its judgment, the ECHR expressed concern that Mr Suso Musa’s case could result in similar applications. The Court therefore

  • requested the Maltese authorities to establish a mechanism to allow individuals seeking a review of the lawfulness of their immigration detention to obtain a determination of their claim within a reasonable time-limit”; and
  • recommended Malta to take the necessary steps to improve the conditions and shorten the length of detention of asylum seekers.

The Suso Musa v. Malta judgment can be found here.

For recent scholarly work on immigration detention in Malta, please see the following:

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