Detention centres must provide detainees with humane conditions, if they are to be used to contain people, the Malta Chamber of Psychologists said.

Referring to a video appearing on Times of Malta in which the migrants appeal to be sent back home, as well as to an accidental death during an escape attempt form the Ħal Far detention centre, the chamber said the migration issue was a challenge around the world and in Malta.

People who were fleeing for their lives had a legal right to enter into a country through irregular channels for the purpose of seeking asylum. Sometimes, the person would risk losing their life if they tried to secure the required documents before fleeing.

Others were denied the possibility of legal and safe travel. A significant portion of people held in detention did eventually provide the necessary proof that they either had been personally persecuted or escaped an active conflict. “They have a right to be here.”

The chamber said that many residing in detention centres in Malta passed through traumatic experiences that made them deserving of the highest level of care.

Some also endured inhumane treatment because of their religion, gender, political beliefs, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Being subjected to further undignified conditions in detention might be beyond what they could cope with.

The experiences of desperation and helplessness that often accompanied detention had a major negative impact on mental health. Research showed that loss of control of what happened in one's life had a huge impact on both physical and mental health.

The sense of being in control, and the desire for such control, were crucial and pervasive aspects of the human psyche.

It urged the government and civil society to ensure that the value given to human life and dignity was not lost when dealing with the challenge of migration. “Detention centres must provide detainees with humane conditions, if they are to be used to contain people.”

While acknowledging the disproportionate pressure Malta has been experiencing from migration for a number of years, the chamber called on the authorities to put human rights at the centre of its responses to the issue and to ensure that some degree of dignity, essential to mental health is afforded these people.

“The goal of protecting our borders is a just one, but it does not give us a right to ignore anyone's human rights. We must be consistently reminded of our legal and moral obligations. We can and should do better,” it said.

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