Feilazoo v Malta: The ECtHR finds multiple violations of detainee’s rights

Thursday, March 11, 2021

On 11 March 2021, the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment in Feilazoo v Malta (application no. 6865/19).
After serving a sentence of twelve years in relation to drug related offences, the applicant was informed that he would be returned to Nigeria and held in an immigration detention centre until his removal. Following another incident, the applicant was sentenced to a further two year imprisonment, suspended for three years and a fine. His deportation was also ordered and on the same day, the applicant was transferred to a closed detention centre for immigrants.
The applicant complained about the conditions of his immigration detention under Article 3 ECHR. The ECtHR reiterated that it had already expressed concerns about the Safi Barracks detention facility. It placed significant emphasis on the 75 days that the applicant spent alone in a container without any access to natural light and with no possibility for exercise during the forty days of his isolation. It stated that although accommodation in a container might not necessarily violate Article 3, the limited light and ventilation are important factors in this assessment.
The ECtHR considered that the severity and duration of the isolation measure was excessive and it seemed that the authorities did not consider other alternatives. Moreover, it found it equally concerning that after this period of isolation the applicant was transferred to a different part of the facility where newly arrived asylum seekers were placed in Covid-19 quarantine. It was deemed that this could have posed a risk to the applicant’s health and therefore, could not be considered as complying with basic sanitary requirements. In that regard, the ECtHR considered that the conditions of the applicant’s detention violated Article 3 ECHR.
In relation to the applicant’s complaint that his detention was unlawful under Article 5 because his deportation was not feasible, the Court noted inter alia that the applicant was detained for fourteen months with a view to his deportation and there were no pending legal proceedings to delay the applicant’s deportation. The only step that the authorities took was to contact the Nigerian authorities for the issue of a passport and only one note verbale was shared in those fourteen months. The Court considered this could not amount to “diligent steps with a view to deportation” and as such, found a violation of Article 5(1) ECHR.

The ECtHR also considered that the applicant’s right to a petition before the Court had been hindered due to interference by the prison authorities with his communication, resulting in a violation of Article 34 ECHR.

An extended EDAL summary can be found here.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.                               

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