Authorities are adding beds to open centres in an attempt to ease reception system pressures caused by a large influx of asylum seekers, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said on Tuesday.
The government is also in talks with the Church to make some of its facilities available to asylum seekers brought to Malta, the minister added.
“There was a large influx [of people] and the infrastructure is what it is,” the minister told journalists.
“We are adding beds at open centres to ensure people do not spend longer than necessary in detention,” Dr Farrugia said.
A "public social partnership" deal being negotiated with the Church would further alleviate pressures, he added.
The minister was defending the government’s asylum reception policy and infrastructure one day after hundreds of people currently locked up at a detention centre in Safi protested, in the second such disturbance in a week.
NGOs have said that asylum seekers brought to Malta are being held in detention for longer than necessary under the pretext of medical screening, and have called on authorities to bolster reception services to cope with the numbers.
A large number of those currently in Safi are there pending relocation to other EU member states, following relocation deals negotiated in Brussels.
One former detainee told Times of Malta that they were given no information about their fate and ignored by authorities.
Tensions boiled over last week, the asylum seeker said, after two letters the detainees wrote to authorities went unanswered.
Open centre eviction
Dr Farrugia also touched on controversy surrounding decisions to evict migrants living in open centres.
All migrants, he said, were told that they would be placed there for up to one year.
During this time, they were given the opportunity to find a job and integrate into Maltese society “from day one”, the minister said.
Asked about reports that minors were being held in Safi detention in the same area as adults, the minister assured journalists that any minors were being kept in a separate part of the building.
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