A group of 10 human rights-related NGOs have insisted the inquiry into the death of Malian migrant Mamadou Kamara should be completely transparent.

Malta’s initial reception system has repeatedly failed

In a statement issued yesterday, the group drew parallels between Mr Kamara’s death and that of Nigerian Ifeanye Nwokoye in April 2011.

Mr Kamara, whose name in court documents appeared as Muhammed Abdalla, died in the early hours of Saturday morning while in official custody. Two soldiers have been charged with his murder, and another accused of tampering with evidence. All three denied the charges.

Mr Nwokoye died while also in the custody of detention officials. An inquiry report into his death was never made public, with the government only publishing a summary of its findings.

The summary found that procedures had not been correctly agreed and that grounds existed for disciplinary action to be taken against some detention officials.

It had called for officials to receive special training in handling complex situations and for greater use of CCTV and handheld video cameras within detention centres.

“We are not aware whether the findings and recommendations were actually ever implemented,” the NGOs noted.

The government last night said it had appointed Judge Jeffrey Valenzia to head the inquiry into Mr Kamara’s death. He has been asked to investigate whether there was negligence, non-observance of procedure or abuse of power.

Judge Valenzia will also look into whether the recommendations made by the Nwokoye inquiry were taken up, and to what extent.

He will scrutinise related aspects of both cases, the organisational structure of detention centres and what procedures are followed, the government said in its statement.

It also invited the 10 NGOs to a meeting with the Prime Minister today: Aditus Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), SOS Malta, Integra Foundation, Migrants Network for Equality, Emigrants’ Commission, Get Up Stand Up, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Kopin, and the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants.

Jesuit Refugee Service director Katrine Camilleri said Mr Kamara’s death was further proof that “Malta’s initial reception system has repeatedly failed and that the costs of a mandatory detention policy far outweigh its potential benefits”.

Asylum seekers arriving in Malta are automatically placed in detention centres for up to 18 months while their application for asylum is processed.

The 10 NGOs called for a comprehensive review of this policy as well as for the government to bolster the Detention Visitors Board – the body responsible for monitoring detention conditions – and make its recommendations binding on the Commander of the Detention Service.

Echoing the NGOs’ call, refugee agency UNHCR said Malta’s reception system, devised in 2005, was “in dire need of a policy review”.

“Malta should explore alternatives to the current detention arrangements,” a UNHCR spokesman said. The agency offered the government its support in improving the existing system.

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