Moviment Graffitti has expressed concern about “forms of institutionalised racism" in Malta's criminal justice system, after a court sentenced two Turkish mothers to six months in prison for using forged passports. 

In a statement on Friday, it described that sentence as “inhumane and unjust judgment”, noting that the mothers' children had been left orphaned by the system. 

According to the Immigration Act, the use of forged documents is punishable by jail terms ranging from six months to two years. But the courts can also choose to punish perpetrators through community-based sanctions provided for under the Probation Act, such as a conditional discharge, probation order, a community service order or a combination order.

Graffitti noted that the courts regularly used such sanctions for offences that carry a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment and that cause more harm to victims of crime and society when compared to the use of forged documents by asylum seekers.

“This discriminatory use of sentencing towards migrants and asylum seekers demonstrates that the criminal courts are being deliberately over punitive towards the most vulnerable.

“Indeed, one of the factors for the overpopulation crisis in the prison system can be attributed to the fact that persons found guilty under the Immigration Act are being handed out cruel prison sentences without any humanitarian consideration to their particular circumstances – a blatant case of abuse of power and institutionalised racism,” Graffitti added.


It said it was also deeply concerned about the move towards greater “crimmigration” processes whereby immigration is increasingly being enmeshed in criminal justice processes and criminalised rather than addressed as a humanitarian issue.

“While it is understandable that the criminal justice system needs to seriously address organised crime and human trafficking, it is clearly the case that through such inhumane and discriminatory practices, it is only targeting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged,” Graffitti said.

This, it added, is not the scope of the criminal justice system which is supposed to provide a fair and just treatment to all as well as to ensure that the severity of the punishment is proportionate to the offence committed.

It called for a more humane and just application of punishment and an immediate end to institutionalised racism by the criminal justice system.

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