Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government established a system for providing protection to refugees. Through October 29, a total of 2,008 migrants arrived in the country by sea compared with 1,890 arrivals between January and December 2012. Another 214 migrants arrived by plane, or sailboat.
The length of the adjudication procedure for asylum seekers was related to the authorities’ need to establish the migrant’s identity, country of origin, and other vital information, since migrants nearly always arrived without identity documents. Such migrants were detained but could file asylum claims within two months of detention; however, they remained in detention while their cases were processed.
Migrants spend an average of two months in detention. Authorities, however, detained some irregular migrants, generally in closed detention centers, for up to 18 months after they arrived in the country in instances where authorities rejected both their application for asylum and appeal. Since 2011 the country has normally granted temporary humanitarian protection in such cases. There were 870 persons in closed centers as of October.
Detainees also included persons who had not applied for asylum or those whose asylum applications and appeals were rejected or were under review. The government provided asylum applicants with free legal aid, with the same provisions as those for citizens, at the appeal stage of the application process if authorities rejected their application. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or the migrants themselves, paid for legal aid outside the appeal stage. Individuals awaiting decisions on their cases occasionally protested their detention or attempted to escape from detention centers. Within a matter of days (usually less than two weeks) after their initial detention, authorities moved “vulnerable individuals,” such as children, pregnant women, elderly persons, and parents with infants to “open centers,” where they were free to come and go. Migrant children were eligible for all government social services and assigned a caseworker.
The Detention Service, consisting of seconded armed forces personnel and civilians, was responsible for the management of the closed detention centers and reported directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS), part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, has responsibility for the welfare and accommodation of persons transferred from detention centers to open centers. Individuals were not required to stay in open centers if they could find other accommodations. Migrants living in open centers and who were eligible for benefits had to sign for the benefits received as proof they were present in the open centers.
Authorities released all detainees whose cases were not resolved within 18 months, regardless of whether the police had arranged to repatriate them. Authorities permitted them to remain in the country in “open centers” or in the community at large and issued them work permits. EU law prohibited them from travelling to other EU countries, and they were not eligible to bring family members to the EU. They were eligible for voluntary repatriation programs, but only a few chose to participate. There were no significant changes to this general pattern. As of November 8, there were 1,602 migrants living in three open centers.
The country provides “subsidiary protection” to individuals who do not satisfy the legal criteria for refugee status, but who cannot return to their country of origin due to risk of serious harm. From January to October, the country granted subsidiary protection to 1,126 persons. In accordance with EU guidelines, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection were entitled to remain in the country; move freely; receive personal identification documents, including one-year renewable residence permits; and obtain travel documents in emergencies. They could be employed; receive core social welfare benefits; seek appropriate accommodations; and benefit from integration programs, public education and training, and essential medical care. Their dependents enjoyed the same rights and benefits; however, this status did not provide for family reunification, a path to citizenship, or other benefits of refugee status. Most of the 8,898 persons granted subsidiary protection status or other humanitarian protected status between 2002 and 2013 were from Somalia.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: As an EU member state and a member of Schengen Zone, the country followed laws and policies established in those bodies related to safe country of origin and transit. The country denied asylum to applicants who arrived from a country deemed a safe country of origin. The government rarely repatriated asylum applicants, although they had the option of voluntary return to their country of origin. As of October 8, there were 46 assisted voluntary returns.
Refoulement: The government consistently provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In addition, migrants not qualifying for refugee status, but coming from countries considered unsafe to return due to war or other conditions were granted subsidiary protected status, permitting them to stay in the country on a year-to-year, renewable basis. This effectively meant authorities did not return irregular migrants to North African countries during periods of conflict. Authorities did not return any migrants to countries in conflict during the year.
Refugee Abuse: Overcrowding persisted at the country’s largest migrant open housing center in Marsa. Friable asbestos was present in one of the common areas; however, a process was underway to remove all the asbestos by March 2014. In other centers high temperatures in the summer months and inadequate ventilation in prefabricated housing units contributed to uncomfortable living conditions.
In 2011 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about occasional demonstrations in detention centers and reports of excessive force in countering them. In March 2012 police officers shot Suleiman Samake from Mali twice, claiming Samake had brandished a knife. Samake faced charges of attempted murder. In June 2012 a second Malian, Mamadou Kamara, died while in the custody of Detention Services and Armed Forces personnel following an attempted escape from Safi Detention Center. Officials charged three soldiers in connection with Kamara’s death; the investigation continued at year’s end. Authorities reportedly suspended a Detention Service officer after he made derogatory remarks against migrants held in detention.
Temporary Protection: From January through October, the government provided “temporary humanitarian protection” to 235 individuals, as part of an administrative procedure for special and extraordinary cases in which the government deemed applicants ineligible for asylum or subsidiary protection.