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Updated - 15 policemen, three soldiers injured in Safi riot

Fifteen policemen, three soldiers and an immigrant were slightly injured in a riot at the Safi Detention Centre this morning.

The Detention Service  said in a statement that while the policemen and soliders were treated on the spot, the immigrant was taken to a health centre.

The place was also extensively damaged. Beds were broken, skips and wooden partitions were set on fire, windows were broken and some vehicles were also damaged with the stones thrown by the immigrants.

The most violent 23 migrants were identified and are expected to be arraigned shortly.

Soldiers had to use tear-gas to quell the riot.

The disturbance started at about 7.15 a.m. when two migrants sat on a barbed wire in protest about their detention after their application for humanitarian protection was rejected.

They were soon joined by another two migrants who complained that although they were minors, they were still in detention.

The Refugee Commissioner was consulted that he told the Detention Service that they were not minors and the decision had been communicated to them on April 25.

They were again given this message and left the area.

At the same time, a sizeable group of migrants protested that they had not been found eligible for humanitarian protection.

They started a fire as they called for their release and insisted that the conditions they were living in were 'inhuman'. 

It was not clear what was set on fire. The migrants also damaged beds and smashed furniture as they shouted 'Freedom, freedom'.

The situation calmed down as policemen in riot gear assembled.

But the protest then flared up again at about 11.30 a.m. and involved around 100 migrants who pelted the police with stones and other objects.

Policemen and soldiers in riot gear were seen entering the compound and charging the riots as another fire blazed.

An AFM helicopter flew low overhead.

Lt Col Brian Gatt, head of the Detention Service, confirmed the use of tear-gas and said a number of the migrants would be taken to court.

He said sewage water was thrown at him when he entered the migrants' quarters.

Informed sources said water with toilet bleach was throw at the soldiers and policemen.

Army and police trucks were lined up one in front to other, blocking the view of what was happening inside. An army spokesman said the trucks were parked that way to shield cars in the courtyard from the stone-throwing migrants.

574 given protection this year - ministry

The Home Affairs Ministry said that 1,535 immigrants arrived in Malta this year. By the end of July 722 cases were decided and in 574 cases protection was given. 148 requests were refused.

The ministry said that a good number of those whose application was refused appealed and the Appeal's Board confirmed the Refugee Commissioner's decision.

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