Integra Foundation strongly condemns the violence that took place at the Safi Barracks on January 13 at what was, from accounts, intended as a peaceful protest by the asylum seekers incarcerated there.

Journalists' reports appear to indicate that the army's aggressive stance towards the asylum seekers was triggered not by defence from physical harm but by the apparent prejudice of some army personnel towards this minority group.

We sincerely hope that those responsible for such violence will be held accountable for their actions and that the authorities will take serious measures to ensure that such incidents are not repeated. We hope also that this incident will not be politicised. Such acts of violence are unacceptable and offensive and should under no circumstances be condoned, tolerated or excused.

If aggression like this is occurring in an open manner, Integra Foundation is extremely concerned about abuses that may be taking place daily, not solely within the confines of the centres housing asylum seekers but also in wider society.

Integra Foundation is a newly-established, non-profit making organisation working for the integration of minority groups into mainstream society in Malta, with a special focus on refugees and asylum seekers.

The foundation operates independently of any government, political, economic or religious organisation. It was also set up to tackle the overt and latent intolerance of minority groups and the racism that is becoming pervasive in our society.

The foundation's work involves sensitising Maltese society, foremost the media, to the rights of minorities and the dignity we should accrue them. It is worrying to note that some television presenters refer to asylum seekers as "clandestines". This is a pejorative term and only serves to sensationalise events, highlight differences and propagate racist sentiment. Such terms have the effect of isolating minorities further; a route which goes against the European Union's goal of a Europe of integrated, multicultural societies.

The incident at the Safi Barracks only serves to highlight the role for the Integra Foundation in Malta today.

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