ECHR orders Malta to not deport two Chinese of Uyghur ethnicity

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Malta not to forcibly remove from the country a married Chinese couple of Uyghur ethnicity.

The aditus foundation, which is representing the couple, filed an application along with NGO Safeguard Defenders (Spain) last Friday following their detention in Safi Barracks, from where they were to be deported to China.

The couple, of Muslim faith, had come to Malta in Malta in 2016. Following the rejection of their application for International Protection in 2017, aditus explained how they spent years living in hiding in Malta and were issued with a return decision and removal order on 1 August 2022.

The applicants raised a claim based on the principle of non-refoulment before the competent authorities, which was rejected on 12 January.

If returned, the couple flagged to the court, they would face a real risk of being subjected to serious violations of their human rights on account of their ethnicity and religion.

They also informed the court that Malta did not provide them with an effective remedy to raise their human rights complaints as required by European human rights law.

On 12 January, Malta’s immigration authorities informed them that their return was imminent.

“They detained them at Safi Barracks, where our lawyers met with them to discuss the next steps,” aditus said in a statement. “In Safi Barracks, their mobile phones were confiscated, meaning they would have been unable to call us should the removal have been carried through.”

Th ECHR order, according to aditus, “is yet another condemnation of Malta’s asylum procedure. It keeps on failing those who need in most: persons fleeing persecution and atrocious human rights violations. It is high time that Malta reviews its approach to asylum to ensure that it fulfils its core mission of protecting refugees.”

In the meantime, aditus said it “will continue our hard work to ensure that asylum-seekers are able to effectively present their claims and that refugees enjoy the protection they are entitled to”.

Safeguard Defenders (Spain) explained how “In a mere four pages, the Maltese Board blatantly ignored the extensive documentation produced by the applicants in stating that ‘appellants failed to produce further evidence to substantiate the principle of non-refoulement’.”

The NGO insisted documentation included “clear-cut evidence of transnational persecution of the couple by Chinese authorities through reprisals against their family members in Xinjiang since 2017, as well as the growing series of reports and decisions by competent national and international authorities”.

This, it said, includes the hard-fought report that states: “In light of the overall assessment of the human rights situation in XUAR,” or Xinjiang, “countries hosting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities from XUAR should refrain from forcibly returning them, in any circumstance of real risks of breach of the principle of non-refoulement.”

The NGO added, “The fear and uncertainty the couple has been put through is highly emblematic of the continuous strain felt by those at risk of the PRC’s gross human rights abuse and long-arm policing efforts in a European Union where many Member States remain alarmingly negligent in upholding their international obligations.”


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