Malta: priest highlights cruel treatment of refugees

 Malta's treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers is extremely poor and getting worse, according to reports from a number of human rights organisations. The situation has been highlighted this week by the case of a refugee detained in prison for 16 months after being accused of a crime that doctors say he could not have committed. Fr Mark Montebello OP, head of Mid-Dlam gad-Dawl, an NGO that works with prisoners and their families, reported the case of Ahmed Abubaker, a 19-year-old Somali man who was accused of rape in March 2007. Mr Abubaker (immigration number 04F002) was arrested near the Marsa Open Centre. Mr Abubaker has been wearing a catheter for about two years, which means he is physically incapable of raping anyone. This was recently re-affirmed by Dr Robert Marquet, a doctor from the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) who examined him. In spite of the doctor's evidence, the police prosecutors have failed to drop their accusations, and Abubaker is still in detention. Mr Abubaker's health has deteriorated in prison and he contracted a number of infections. Fr Montebello has accused local courts and the police of insensitivity, and called for his immediate release. Institutions including UNHCR, the Council of Europe and Amnesty international have all testified to the depressing, painful and degrading conditions in Malta's detention centres, where asylum seekers are jailed for up to 18 months. Once they are set free, immigrants have to face rampant semi-institutional and informal racism and discrimination.

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