A large number of policemen and soldiers have surrounded Lyster Barracks at Hal Far, where Tunisian migrants who have been in detention since February 1 are holding a violent protest.

Informed sources said that contrary to other recent protests, the Tunisians are protesting because they want to be deported - insisting that they originally wanted to go to Italy not stay in detention here. Their papers have not yet been received from Tunisia.

The group - numbering 71, arrived on a boat carrying 262 migrants which had entered Birzebbuga.

This morning they set a number of mattresses on fire and damaged windows. Some of them could be seen dangling dangerously on sheets from third storey windows. They were heard singing patriotic songs.

A large number of soldiers and policemen fanned out amid fears that a number had escaped. However a Home Affairs Ministry spokesman said later that it did not appear that any had actually left the camp.

Labour Party Home Affairs spokesman Michael Falzon in a statement today reiterated a call for more discussion and seriousness from the governemnt on immigration.

"The Labour Party cannot but express its concern and the concern of the people over the growing problem of illegal immigration.

The latest arrival of 230 illegal migrants, at the height of winter, cannot but raise serious concern over how this problem could grow in the coming months, especially in the summer," Dr Falzon said.

He said the government was not showing sufficient commitment to tackle the problem. The PL, the spokesman added, would remain the people's voice on this issue as well.

Meanwhile, the political group Azzjoni Nazzjonali in a statement this morning said that in view of the increasing numbers of illegal immigrants, in view of the fact that migrants' crossings were no longer confined to the summer, and in view of the fact that the numbers present were becoming increasingly difficult for the authorities to handle and control, the government should immediately suspend Malta's obligations under the UNHCR Refugees Convention and the Dublin II Treaty.

The party said the government should refuse to take in any more illegal immigrants. Those that do manage to land should be given safe means to carry on with their journey.

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