Malta acceded to the 1954 Convention in 2019, but still provides very limited protection for stateless people, and is not party to the 1961 Convention. Malta has no mechanism to identify and determine statelessness, and no stateless protection status, although it has other routes through which some stateless people may regularise their stay, including temporary humanitarian protection. Since 2020, Malta is no longer accepting new applications for a route to regularisation it had introduced in 2018 for people refused asylum and unable to leave the country or be returned. Data on the stateless population is therefore limited, with figures available only for the very small number of stateless people who acquire Maltese nationality, and refused asylum seekers recorded as ‘nationality unknown’ who cannot be returned and may or may not be stateless. Maltese law provides some protections against arbitrary detention, but rights afforded to those detained for removal purposes are very limited and there have been recent reports of people detained on arrival on public health grounds or without legal basis, without sufficient safeguards.
There are some safeguards in Maltese law to prevent statelessness, but implementation is problematic and there are some key gaps. The law prevents statelessness in cases of adopted children and new-born foundlings whose parents remain unidentified. There is a provision granting children born stateless on the territory a conditional right to acquire nationality following five years’ legal residence, but, although in line with the 1961 Convention, the provision does not prevent statelessness in all cases and is not currently implemented in practice. Discriminatory provisions in both law and practice relating to conferral of nationality by descent remain in force despite a European Court of Human Rights judgement ruling against Malta on this matter in 2011. Malta has only partial safeguards to prevent statelessness as a consequence of provisions for deprivation of nationality.
Neil Falzon, aditus foundation