JRS Malta event puts detention under the spotlight

26 June 2024|JRS Malta

Image by JRS Malta

On 29 May, JRS Malta organised Detention under the Spotlight. The event was held to shed light on the detention of asylum seekers in Malta, detailing what has and hasn’t changed over the years, the impact that it has on the people who live through it and why NGOs like ours advocate for the creation of a system that is more humane, and ultimately, an end to immigration detention in Malta.

The event was also an important opportunity to mark the lives of those who never made it out of detention, documenting the stories of individuals who died while in the system.

The event consisted of four main elements. In the main room, we exhibited a timeline of events surrounding detention, from 1998 up until the present day. In particular, this detention timeline covered the number of migrant arrivals, local and international court cases, government decisions affecting the asylum procedure and detention practices, as well as riots and protests that erupted over the years.

Image by JRS Malta.

In another area at the venue for this event, we invited photojournalist Joanna Demarco to exhibit her photos which were part of a project that documented life inside detention during the time of the pandemic. Her work was part of a project supported by National Geographic.

Finally, we invited the public to walk into a ‘reflective space’. In this room, attendees could read hand-written letters sent to JRS from inside detention over the past years. While safeguarding the writer’s anonymity, the public read words which echoed sorrow, desperation and pain from life behind closed doors. Other letters emitted simple requests asking for basic things like skin cream and chocolate for Christmas.

In this space, we also commemorated those individuals who lost their lives while under the responsibility of detention services. We remembered, among others, the brutal murder of Mamadou Kamara, who was killed after repeated kicks in the groin in the back of a detention services van. We created what looked like ‘funeral cards’ to remember the people who died in detention.

Attendees were invited to use this space for reflection and had the opportunity to share their thoughts over a blank canvas. “Detention is a place that shouldn’t even exist”, someone wrote after reading the letters.

Image by JRS Malta.

This event was made possible with the support of JRS Europe and OAK Foundation, as part of the Detention Under the Spotlight project. Alongside initiatives such as this event, this project supported our visits to detention to provide legal support. As part of the project, fact sheets for the participating countries were produced, highlighting issues of concern. Two comparative reports were also developed, one looking into what visiting detention centres look like across Europe, and the other focusing on legal assistance in detention. This project served as a great opportunity to better record and document our work in detention as well as to raise awareness about detention in Malta and to advocate for change.

The event was held at the Capuchin Friars in Floriana. We thank them for their support.

Originally published on JRS Malta website.