The Malta Independent 27 September 2020, Sunday

Updated (7): 107 migrants arrested in Hal Far centre riot

Monday, 21 October 2019, 07:30 Last update: about 12 months ago

The Home Affairs Ministry issued a statement on Monday afternoon about the Hal Far Open Centre riots, saying that around 300 were involved.

In Parliament, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said that as a democratic country, peaceful protests can take place, but breaking the law is not allowed and it applies to everyone even migrants.

He said that a magistrate was conducting a magisterial inquiry, after which more details would be able to be given. The minister said that 107 people have been arrested. Some of the people that were arrested have had their identities confirmed and will have measures taken against them.

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The minister, at this point rased the number of injured officers from one to three. "three police suffered light injuries and were sent home." In terms of the damage to vehicles, he said that the government will pay for them.

In a statement prior to the minister's Parliamentary intervention, the Home Affairs Ministry said that incidents at the Hal Far Open Centre occurred when a migrant tried to enter the Open Centre while drunk, "against the centre's regulations."

"While a small group of immigrants incited a riot that spread to around 300 people, a considerable number of other migrants did not take part in any way," the Home Affairs Ministry said.

"Through work that began at night and continued Monday morning, the police launched investigations and eventually arrested 60 people who allegedly incited the incidents." This number seemed to have risen given that the minister in Parliament said 107 were arrested.

The Home Affairs Ministry thanked the AWAS agency for their work and the police, while expressing solidarity with those who suffered damages. The ministry said that over the past two years, various meetings took place with the employees, that even ended in a collective agreement and more investment in human resources. The minister on Monday met with the employees and it was agreed that a meeting with the GWU will take place Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, riot police were called in to arrest the migrants who are believed to have been behind the uprising that took place on Sunday night.

The incident had seen three cars burnt and a police vehicle damaged. One police officer was also slightly injured. 

The arrests were made hours after the riot at the Hal Far Open Centre was brought under control.

They were taken to the police headquarters on police buses, escorted by traffic policemen. Some of the migrants were led away in handcuffs.

The UNHCR also spoke about the incident, and expressed its concern.

UNHCR Malta said that Malta and it's Armed Forces has made a commendable job in rescuing the lives of many at sea and in leading solutions on disembarkations.

"This has, however, led to considerable pressure on Malta's resources and to overcrowding in the reception centres - both closed and open, and are thereby falling far short on acceptable standards."

"UNHCR urges the Maltese government to take immediate action in improving the conditions in the centres."

While they said that they understand the frustration and anxiety the current conditions can create for the people detained, they insisted that resorting to violence can never be a solution as it puts both the residents and staff at risk.

"We also call on the law enforcement agencies to reach out in dialogue and avoid action that might exasperate the situation further."

UNHCR continues to offer support to the Maltese Government and authorities.


 

At around 1pm, Hal Far Detention Centre employees - visibly shocked by what had taken place earlier - were also seen protesting outside Castille, holding signs reading "security for everyone" and "safety for everyone."

During the uprising, migrants threw objects at the officers, with one of the policemen being slightly injured. A spokesman for the police said that the protest started inside the Hal Far Centre but other migrants who are not detained went on site to join in.

The police had elevated evidence which will help in the prosecution of the masterminds behind the uprising, including CCTV footage.

The police had also carried out searches to look for illicit items that could have been in the migrants' possession at the time of the uprising, the minister said, saying that some of the migrants will be taken to court.

Photos Michael Camilleri

Photo: Net News

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