A young Sudanese man who died last year after trying to escape detention was left three hours before the alarm was raised, a damning report by a Council of Europe committee has found.
A delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited Malta soon after the incident and has asked for a copy of the man's death certificate.
In a report in which it accuses Malta of breaking international human rights law by subjecting detained migrants to harsh treatment, the CPT says the incident happened on September 2, at approximately 5.30am at Lyster Barracks.
Around 20 detained migrants tried to escape from the barracks by dismantling an outer wall on the second floor, climbing down the building and attempting to climb the three-storey high wire perimeter fence.
The incident was captured on video footage by a detention services staff member and showed at least two migrants falling back from the fence and injuring themselves.
According to CPT, an analysis of the footage and interviews with investigating police, the man, described as 'Mr A' in the report is seen to fall to the ground on his side, then get up and walk unaided back to the accommodation block.
"Review of the police report and other information clearly shows that it was not until after 8.15am (three hours after the injury and, reportedly, despite repeated calls for help), at the time of morning shift headcount, that the attention of staff was drawn to Mr A, following which the nurse attended him and an ambulance was called. Mr A. was declared dead soon after his arrival at the hospital," the report reads.
The CPT said it could not “reassure itself that staff, including health-care staff, had reacted sufficiently promptly when crucial help was needed to attempt to save this young man’s life from the effects of suspected internal bleeding over a period of at least three hours.”
The committee is asking for a copy of the death certificate of the migrant and a copy of the Magistrate’s report that would be submitted to the Attorney General.
In its report, the CPT meanwhile noted that although it received very few allegations from migrants of deliberate physical ill-treatment when apprehended or detained, it did receive a few allegations of excessive use of force by detention service and private security staff at Lyster Barracks.
At least three migrants alleged that the staff purposefully shook the perimeter fence that they were climbing to escape, causing them to fall to the ground where they were beaten with batons.
One of them suffered a fracture of the scaphoid bone in his right hand, sustained a laceration on his head and spent four days at Mater Dei Hospital.
The delegation also received four separate allegations of unwarranted use of pepper spray by custodial staff against detained migrants at Lyster Barracks as a form of de facto punishment. One incident involved a migrant being allegedly pepper-sprayed by a detention service guard for looking out through the corridor’s window bars and refusing to go back into his dormitory.
The CPT, which considers pepper spray as a potentially dangerous substance, recommended that the authorities ensure that no more force than is strictly necessary and proportionate should be used to bring those migrants who are being violent under control.
It also called for an investigation into the alleged cases of ill-treatment and wants to receive a copy of the reports.
Additionally, although a private security guard who discharged an unauthorised firearm was arrested and charged, the incident raised “serious questions” over the recruitment and training of private security contractors, who make up a third of the total detention custody staff.
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