Nine Sudanese men who have been trying to be recognised as refugees for the past twelve years have filed a legal claim arguing that the excessively long wait means they now have an acquired right to remain on the island they now call home. 

In a judicial protest filed against the Commissioner for Refugees, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Attorney General, the men denounced the excessively lengthy procedures which they have been forced to endure.

A court heard how local authorities insisted on applicants presenting official documents, such as passports, from their country of origin, despite them knowing that there was "zero communication" with countries such as Sudan.

Despite this, last January the men were given until October to present the documents or else face deportation - a tactic which the Maltese authorities are allegedly adopting to justify throwing immigrants out of the country.

The judicial protest further stressed a number of systemic deficiencies, including the lack of interpreters for non Arabic-speaking groups. This meant that the men had to resort to using Arabic rather than their native language.

Another shortcoming related to a new practice, adopted by Refugee Commissioner Martine Cassar, to send correspondence only to the applicants' lawyer. This effectively meant that the 20-day period to appeal a refusal could lapse before the applicants even became aware of the refusal, unless their lawyer communicated the information to them himself.

Having lived in Malta over the past 12 years under renewed temporary humanitarian protection, these men have acquired roots which they claimed amounted to “a legitimate expectation of an acquired right,” in term of EU law, the protest argued. 

Pending the definitive outcome of the proceedings, the applicants requested the First Hall, Civil Court to prevent their deportation - “a draconian measure which runs counter to the spirit of the Geneva Convention” - and a possible breach of fundamental rights.

The judicial protest was filed by lawyers David Camilleri and Joseph Gatt.

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