Alexander Scerri Herrera and Maria Cardona, political appointees recently employed as ambassadors to the Maltese government, also serve as members of the ‘independent’ and ‘impartial’ Immigration Appeals Board, The Shift can report.
Cardona, who is disgraced former minister Chris Cardona’s former wife, and Scerri Herrera, who is former minister José Herrera’s nephew were appointed as non-resident ambassadors to Latvia and Lithuania respectively.
While serving as government representatives, Cardona and Scerri Herrera are also members of the Immigration Appeals Board, which adjudicates cases levelled against the government. They join Juliana Scerri Ferrante on the appeals board, who was similarly politically appointed as ambassador to Kosovo by former minister Evarist Bartolo in 2021.
Neil Falzon, Director of humanitarian NGO aditus Foundation said that the board, which “takes decisions on fundamental aspects of people’s lives,” deciding whether to grant residency permits and curtail illegal detentions among other duties, “suffers from Malta’s institutionalised nepotism”.
Falzon questioned how such a board could be fair and impartial, asking how Cardona, Scerri Herrera, and Scerri Ferranti could ever hope to be independent “when they know they are appointed because of their family relations to key Labour Party officials”.
Falzon noted how how Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri can “effectively appoint Board members, with close to nil requirement of technical expertise or experience”, further noting how the same board is “is entirely dependent on the Ministry for its budget, administration and resources,” further compromising its impartiality.
He said that “the Immigration Appeals Board is an adjudicating body taking final decisions on fundamental aspects of peoples’ lives. It decides whether they are considered children or adults, if their detention is legal, if their residence permits should be granted or if their family members are permitted to join them in Malta.”
“In a functioning democracy, such a body should be independent and impartial in order to ensure a fair, efficient and just process in accordance with clear legal standards,” he said.
On Monday, The Shift revealed how the incumbent government continues to hand out non-resident ambassadorial posts to a select few well-connected sympathisers, keeping a sprinkling of legitimately experienced diplomats in the loop to counterbalance the partisan choices.
The Maltese government has been continuously criticised for its treatment of asylum seekers both on our shores and at sea, accused of “non-response tactics” and pushback strategies, ignoring the deaths of hundreds of migrants.
On Monday, A group of four humanitarian NGOs dealing with the rescue of irregular migrants in the central Mediterranean accused Malta of coordinating a “criminal mass pushback” of 500 migrants to prison in Libya straight from Malta’s own search and rescue area.