Two Egyptian migrants have been jailed for four years each for their involvement in last December's riots at Safi detention centre and complicity in arson which caused damages of €86,914.69.

Guma Mohammed and Yousef Halef Abdel Hamid, who had initially claimed to be  Palestinian and Libyan respectively, were among 22 migrants who were arrested  during the disturbance shortly before Christmas.

What started out as a peaceful protest had degenerated into a riot, with stones and other items thrown at staff and the police. 

At one point the two accused, along with some eight other migrants, had headed into one of the tents, which served as a dormitory to 170 residents.

Soon after, the tent was engulfed by a raging fire, the court was told.

A detention officer who described the incident, told the court that the tent cost €70,000, while each of the 170 beds cost €75. Those figures, added to the cost of linen that went up in smoke, resulted in €86,914.69 in damages.

Magistrate Joseph Mifsud said that complicity in the arson attack, wilful damage to third party property, disobedience of legitimate orders and breach of peace, had been sufficiently proven.

“Public order applies to all,” he said. Unfortunately, a minority of those who sought refuge in Malta refused to abide by the law, opting instead to embark upon a violent route, setting fire to the place which afforded them shelter.

Such behaviour could not be tolerated in a democracy based on rule of law rather than damage and arson, the magistrate said as he condemned each of the accused to a 4-year effective jail term.

They were also ordered to fork out €8,691, their share in damages caused alongside the eight other migrants who are undergoing separate proceedings.

The court finally ordered their repatriation after jail time.

Magistrate Mifsud suggesting the introduction of temporary travel documents whenever lack of personal documents proved to be an obstacle to travel or repatriation of migrants.

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