At least 500 wives, husbands and children remain trapped in their home countries and unable to be reunited with their families in Malta, three human rights NGOs have said. 

The situation arises because local law makes a distinction between asylum seekers granted full refugee status and those granted subsidiary protection. Unlike many EU member states, Malta only allows refugees the right to be reunited with their families. 

Subsidiary protection is renewed every three years. Like refugee status, it acknowledges that it is impossible for beneficiaries to return to their homes. Many of those granted subsidiary protection have been living in Malta for several years. 

In a statement issued today, Aditus Foundation, Integra Foundation and the Jesuit Refugee Service also argued that Malta was being inconsistent in the way it handled asylum seekers using forged documents. 

While they welcomed Malta's review of its detention policy, the three NGOs noted that existing policy effectively punished asylum seekers who entered Malta irregularly, in contravention of the 1951 Refugee Convention. 

They cited the example of Mohamed, a refugee who chooses not to risk his life by crossing the Mediterranean by sea and instead uses a fake passport to fly to Malta. Under current rules, Mohamed would be arrested and face jail time. 

The three NGOs asked the government to consider two changes: that of allowing subsidiary protection beneficiaries the opportunity to be reunited with their families, and granting refugees an exemption from prosecution for using false documents.  

They said they were eager to explore possibilities of cooperating with the government to implement the measures. 

To highlight the urgency of this call, JRS Europe yesterday launched a collection of personal encounters with men, women and children as they struggle to reach safety in Europe. 

The collection, titled 'Journeys of Hope', gathers stories from Greece, the
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Austria and

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