Soldiers and police have surrounded the Ħal Far open centre which has been put on lockdown from Sunday evening after eight residents tested positive to COVID-19.
All 1,000 migrants and asylum seekers living at the centre will be kept in quarantine for 14 days.
The decision was announced on Sunday evening by the government, which acted on the basis of a risk assessment.
Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that since the place was not designed as a prison, the Armed Forces of Malta and the police will be used to ensure that no one leaves..
Maria Pisani from human rights NGO Integra Foundation told Times of Malta that the news that eight residents had contracted the virus had increased the level of racism.
“Overnight the level of racism online escalated with news of more refugees contracting COVID-19… Have we learnt anything?”
She said this was a result of institutional racism brought about by maintaining policies such as the "warehousing" of refugees in Ħal Far in "substandard housing" - resulting in an outbreak that is detrimental to their health and everyone elses. These policies have come back to bite us, she said.
She said NGOs reached out to offer support to the management and staff at the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) - that runs the centre. "We have offered our support and we're ready to go in," Pisani said.