The authorities meant what they said when, a few months ago, they declared that the country was full up for irregular migrants, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said on Monday.

He was reacting, when asked by Times of Malta, to a magistrate's condemnation of the policy of detaining migrants against their will when open centres are full up. 

Earlier on Monday a court ordered the release of four migrants who had been detained for 166 days and condemned the policy adopted by the authorities of holding migrants in detention centres when there is no space in open centres.

The minister said this issue highlighted the difficult situation in which the authorities found themselves in when caring for migrants. 

“I never contradict the courts and I respect the court’s decisions,” the minister said.

“However, I think this confirms that our country suffers a lot on the issue of migration and that when we said that we are full up we really meant we are full up.”

Camilleri said that Malta had been left to tackle the issue alone for many years, although he pointed out that the relocation of  five groups of migrants in two months to other European countries helped alleviate a small part of the big problem.

Asked what the solution was for migrants to be housed without facing unjust detention, Camilleri said: “The long term solution is to stop people from arriving in our country.”

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