Safi barracks protestors arrested by police

Some 100 asylum seekers in detention have been arrested by police after organisning a protest inside Safi barracks.

Beds were reportedly broken and stones dislodged from walls according to confirmed reports.

Soldiers had to use riot gears, including tear gas, batons and shields to protect themselves from the stones thrown by the rioters. Mattresses were reportedly set on fire as four platoons of soldiers and two platoons of police had to be deployed.

The protest followed news that some 271 appeals on rejected asylum claims had been confirmed. The asylum seekers are believed to be now awaiting deportation to their countries of origin in the Horn of Africa, although some of them say they entered Malta after fleeing the Libyan civil war.

In practice, deportation is unlikely to happen at this moment in time given the state of the countries in the Horn of Africa, NGO sources said. Since the deportation of some 250 Eritreans back in 2002, which earned international criticism after a revealing report from Amnesty International of inhumane treatment at the hands of Eritrean authorities, Malta has never deported failed asylum seekers to  Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Lt Col Brian Gatt told journalists that following the news that their call for asylum status had been rejected twice, the immigrants broke beds, set mattresses on fire and hurled stones at the officers.

“The situation escalated to the point that we had to call in the Police and the Armed Forces,” Gatt said. “Those arrested will be taken to court and arraigned over damages caused amongst others.”

Gatt added that those immigrants who did not form part of the riots complied with their orders. He also said that the majority of the rioters were from West Africa, even though they were mixed.

Asylum seekers told journalists that they “wanted freedom” and complained that whenever they are sick they are only administrated paracetamol tablets.

They also complained of being given “bad treatment at hospital”.

The protest got underway early at 7:45am, reportedly after sewage was thrown at the Head of Detention Services after breaking the news that their call for asylum had been rejected. 

Army public relations officer Major Ivan Consiglio said the situation "was contained". He was not however able to say whether anyone had been injured in the riots.

One asylum seeker who covered his face with a white shirt so as not to be recognised, told MaltaToday that he had fled Libya when the war broke out, leaving behind him his wife and children.

He claimed that “Malta had taken away my mobile phone and money” and that the country “is like Libya and not Europe”.

Other asylum seekers said they wanted to leave the island and go to Italy.

Another one asked journalists: “How would you feel if you were put in detention for six months?” 

Asked what would they do should they be given freedom - even though they had no money - the asylum seekers said they would ask for their money back and seek work.

As protesters were handcuffed and taken to the Police Depot for interrogation, the asylum seekers started shouting “they want to take our brothers to prison.”

Once it has been found that many of these people do not qualify for humanitarian status, surely the answer - now - is not to leave them in detention, but to repatriate them without further ado.
Send them back to their native countries. Malta is ours and we have the right to defend it against such acts. The Police and the Army did their job because they where deliberately attacked by these aliens which should not even be here. Now it is about time that the government speeds up the repatriation process for these aliens.
Krista Sullivan