Updated 2.55pm with UNHCR's reaction

The police made 24 arrests late on Monday after a violent protest by migrants at Safi Detention Centre.

The protest started at about 7.30pm, with several people banging on fences and trying to rush the gate.

Police said the migrants, many of them with hooded, also started removing stone slabs from their dorms, smashing them and throwing stones at the police.

The administrative offices were also damaged.

The police deployed reinforcements and a number of arrests were made.

No one was injured. 

The reason for the disturbance was not immediately clear, but migrants held several violent protests last year, demanding their freedom. Cars were torched and property extensively damaged in one of the protests.

On Sunday, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia revealed that a Maltese request for assistance for the relocation of rescued migrants has not drawn a single offer of help.

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The minister was replying in a tweet to a story carried on Times of Malta on Saturday where the outgoing Malta representative of the UNHCR said 1,400 asylum seekers are being held illegally at the Marsa and Safi centres, some of them detained for five months.

While the UNHCR had no specific information as to what caused last night's riot, a spokesman reiterated that the detention situation in Safi was untenable.

“We urge the government to identify an alternative to detention for asylum seekers. UNHCR’s position remains that detention of asylum seekers should be a measure of last resort and always within the legal framework.”  

“Minors should never be detained for migration control purposes and we remain concerned regarding the ongoing detention of unaccompanied minors in Safi with adults”, the spokesman added.

Just a few days ago, UNHCR's Kahin Ismail acknowledged that the unprecedented number of boat arrivals in 2019, roughly 3,400, put a strain on the system, and that asylum seekers were being detained at Safi and Marsa centres because there was no space in the open centres.

 

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