Detention centres opened to the media [SLIDESHOW]

Members of the press given tour of Safi and Lyster barracks as detention services head warns both centres are at full capacity.

At Lyster Barracks (Photo: Gilbert Calleja/MediaToday)
At Lyster Barracks (Photo: Gilbert Calleja/MediaToday)

Nine hundred and 22 migrants are currently being kept at the Safi and Lyster detention centres, with the head of the detention services warning that both centres were almost at full capacity.

Both detention centres were opened to the media where journalists, photographers and camerapersons were given open access to film and interview the migrants.

During the short interviews, many migrants made it a point to thank the Maltese authorities for the help but at the same time insisting that their goal was not to remain in Malta but to seek work abroad.

As Lt Col Brian Gatt, head of the detention services, briefed the media about the current situation, he warned that both centres were running close to capacity.

"We are currently overwhelmed with the situation. Resources are stretched to the limit and accommodation is almost full. If another boat were to come in, we don't have space where to put them," Gatt said.

Human resources were so stretched, he added, that 36 mobile home compounds - brand new - at Lyster barracks couldn't be used.

As soon as migrants land in Malta, they are escorted by the police to the detention centres. Women, families and vulnerable persons are taken to Lyster barracks while men are taken to Safi barracks.

According to the colonel, the average release time from these centres is of five months. Once released, migrants are transferred to the open centres, such as the one in Marsa.

"As much as we can, we try and avoid having families with children coming to the detention centres. However, when we have no other option but to bring them here, we try and relocate them to the open centres within a week," Gatt said.

The Safi detention centre currently holds 664 migrants, while 258 - 153 of which are females - are being held at Lyster barracks.

The total number of arrivals between March and July 2013 amounted to 1,079 on 14 boats.

Last year, 1,890 irregular migrants came to Malta on 27 boats.

To some extent I feel vindicated. 1. I have been saying that Hotel Malta is full and cannot accept any more illegal immigrants. 2. These illegal immigrants do not want to stay here in Malta. Their first intention was to continue on to Mainland Europe and not be kept in Malta against their will. Why are these illegal immigrants kept here incarcerated against their will. They want out and with "PUSH Forward" that can easily be accomplished. After all Mainland Europe is only sixty miles away. I am sure the majority agrees with me. It is the EU and the profitable NGOs that are keeping these people stuck here in Malta. Our livelihood is in jeopardy.