15 police officers, 3 soldiers and a detainee were slightly injured at the Safi Detention Centre today after protests turned violent, the Detention Services said.
In a statement, the Detention Services said that at around 0715h, 2 detainees climbed up the fence at Warehouse 1 and stood on the barbed wire to protest their continued detention. The 2, who were soon joined by another 2, were lamenting that they remained in detention even though they were minors.
The Refugees’ Commissioner was informed, and replied that the people in question were found not to be minors when verifications were made. This was relayed to the group, which came down on its own accord after talks.
But at the same time, a more sizeable group gathered outside the Warehouse 1 compound to protest the fact that they were not deemed eligible for humanitarian protection. Detention Services head Lt Col Brian Gatt attempted negotiations but the situation only escalated, with the detainees throwing sewage water at him and at whoever approached.
The situation escalated further when most of Warehouse 1’s 271 detainees rioted, dismantling beds and walls, setting skips on fire and throwing rocks against Detention Services staff. The group even managed to breach the fence.
The army and the police were called in to help and once both showed up, the decision was taken to retake control of the compound, an operation which was successfully concluded by around noon.
In the process 15 police officers and 3 soldiers were slightly injured and were treated on site by an army physician. A detainee who was also slightly injured was taken to a health centre.
Extensive damage had been inflicted on the site. A newly-erected watchtower, 2 skips and a number of wooden partitions, beds and windows were destroyed, while the fence and a number of nearby vehicles were extensively damaged.
23 detainees were arrested after they were identified as being the main instigators, and are set to be arraigned shortly.
The Home Affairs Ministry said that 1,535 people arrived in Malta irregularly since March 28, and 722 cases have already been concluded. Of these, 574 received humanitarian protection.
The ministry defended the proceedings, and said that it was clear that those in need of protection were receiving it relatively quickly.