A broken water boiler sparked a commotion at the Safi detention centre last night, with some 200 immigrants using the mishap to protest against being locked in.

The incident occurred at 7.30 p.m. when the immigrants realised that their source of boiling water for hot drinks had broken down, army sources said.

In the pandemonium that ensued in Block B, an employee was slightly injured when he was hit in the head by a can of shaving foam. The immigrants pushed their way into the recreational yard, chanting loud protestations.

Police reinforcements, including the Special Assignment Group, were called in as Commander Brian Gatt, who oversees the detention centres, attempted to calm the situation down. Things began to return to normal after a couple hours.

An army source said immigrants tend to use minor incidents to highlight their plight.

Similar incidents have taken place within the same centre. Just three weeks ago about 300 immigrants staged a five-hour protest to demand their freedom.

Last month, Block B immigrants, who were denied humanitarian status to remain in Malta, caused a similar racket.

Asylum seekers who reach Malta's shores illegally can stay in detention for up to 12 months, while rejected asylum seekers or immigrants who do not apply for asylum can remain locked up for a maximum of 18 months.

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