HAL FAR, MALTA - JUNE 21: Two 15 months twins, children of Michael (25 years old from Ethiopia) cry in their crib in a Swiss Red Cross tent in the Hangar Open Center in Hal Far (which translates as "Rat's Town") on June 21, 2011. Michael and his wife left Libya on a boat that got lost in sea for 10 days, with no food nor water. They fed their twins with toothpaste and sea water for the entire trip. Michael's friend, Mubak (23 years old from Ethiopia), said military planes and ships saw them on the second and sixth day. On the 10th day they set their boat on fire in order to get rescued. That's when the Maltese forces noticed them. A pregnant woman died on the 10th day, a few hours before the other passengers were rescued.
The Hangar Open Center is a field with an ex-aircraft hangar which includes Swiss Red Cross tents in a dark, non lit space, and external containers. The conditions are very poor and the has inflamable oil on the floor.
The Open Centres in Malta serve as a temporary accomodation facility, but they ended becoming permanent accomodation centres, except for those immigrants who receive subsidiary protection or refugee status and that are sent to countries such as the United States, Germany, Poland, and others. All immigrants who enter in Malta illegally are detained. Upon arrival to Malta, irregular migrants and asylum seekers are sent to one of three dedicated immigration detention facilities. Once apprehended by the authorities, immigrants remain in detention even after they apply for refugee status. detention lasts as long as it takes for asylum claims to be determined. This usually takes months; asylum seekers often wait five to 10 months for their first interview with the Refugee Commissioner. Asylum seekers may be detained for up to 12 months: at this point, if their claim is still pending, they are released and transferred to an Open Center.
Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
- ©2011 Gianni Cipriano
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