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What is AWAS? What is its function? How does it operate? These are just a few of the questions one would be prone to asking when searching for information on the Agency.

The need for an organisation to look after asylum seekers was first felt in around 2002 when significant number of irregular migrants started reaching our shores. This was the time when the phenomenon of sustained arrivals of irregular immigrants from Africa landing in Malta commenced.

Prolonged Detention was at that time the order-of-the-day. There was not yet a plan in force to relocate migrants from a Detention centre and into an Open Centre set-up. Eventually, in 2003 MFSS entered into an agreement with Conservatorio Vincenzo Bugeja and part of its property, Dar is-Sliem began being utilised for the accommodation of unaccompanied minors, and care orders were issued under the Care Orders Act. ERF funds were sourced and utilised for this project. Towards the end of 2003, the cabinet delegated the responsibility of Integration and Welfare to MFSS.

In 2004, MFSS entered into agreement with The Franciscan Friars for part of their property to be utilised for the accommodation of unaccompanied minors - Dar is-Sliem II - but this centre later on in the year started hosting families and was renamed Dar il-Qawsalla. Following this, Agenzija Appogg set-up a Refugee services Area (RSA) and was entrusted with the running of an Open Centre at Hal-Far. RSA also undertook assessment of unaccompanied minors and vulnerables.

In the beginning of 2005, Government policy was issued on the occasion of the National Conference on Immigration.

In September of 2005 an agreement was reached by MFSS and ​Suret il-Bniedem for the transformation of ex-Marsa Trade School for the purposes of an Open Centre. As a follow-up Hal-Far Tent Village was opened in April of 2006 and Dar il-Liedna was opened in October of the same year.

in February of 2007 OIWAS (Organisation for the Integration and Welfare of Asylum Seekers) was set up informally and moved to offices in Block C Belt is-Sebh, with the appointment of its first officers for this new Organisation.

OIWAS took over all functions from Refugee Services at Agenzija Appogg including the Hal-Far open centre operations, now known as HTV and HOC as of March 2007. June 2007 was recorded as the formal opening of the new OIWAS structure. The Closed Centres Programme was launched in September of 2007 and EU funds were successfully sought for the COPE Project.

A new centre HFRC (Hal-Far Refugee Centre) for single women saw its new beginning in February of 2008. All responsibility for illegal immigrants, refugees, immigrants on humanitarian status and related issues were assigned for the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs in April, 2008.

AWAS, as we know it today, was legally set up in 2009 as a Government Agenzy, being a corporate body, by the enactment of legal Notice 205 of 2009 - Immigration Act (Cap 217), Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers Regulations 2009. The agency currently falls under the responsibility of the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security.

From its Head Office and with a staff compliment of 80 plus personnel, the Agency is now responsible for six open centre accommodation residents who have received protection status or are in the process of having their claim for Asylum processed. Also in the remit of the Agency is the guardianship of unaccompanied minors (UMAS).

LN 205 of 2009

In the performance of its functions, the Agency shall : 

     Oversee the daily management of accommodation facilities either directly or through subcontracting agreements                                                                                                                                                        
     Provide particular services to categories of persons identified as vulnerable according to current policies
     Provide information programmes to its clients in the are of employment, housing, education, health and welfare services offered under national schemes
     Act as facilitator with all public entities responsible for providing services to ensure that national obligations to refugees and asylum seekers are accessible
     Promote the Government's policy and schemes regarding resettlement and assisted voluntary returns
     Maintain data and draw up reports that are considered relevant for its own function and to provide statistics to appropriate policy-making bodies
     Advice the Minister on new Developments in its field of operation and propose policy or legalisation required to improve the service given and fulfil any legal obligations in respect of its service users
     Encourage networking with local voluntary organisations so as to increase the service standards as well as academic research
     Work with other public stakeholders and, where possible, offer its services to asylum seekers accommodated in other reception centres not under its direct responsibility

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Contact Information:

Contact Icon Contact Name 
Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS)
Block C, Beltissebh
Floriana FRN 1700
Phone Icon Telephone
2568 7200
Email Icon Email