Following a night of riots by immigrants at the Ħal Far open centre, during which five cars, offices and the centre’s guard room were set on fire. During the incidents, AWAS officers were slightly injured while 107 persons believed to have participated in the riots were arrested when Police reinforcements entered the centre, shortly after 11.00am and regained control of the centre after it was practically taken over by immigrants during the night and this morning.
Trouble started when an immigrant was refused permission to enter the Ħal Far open centre because he was drunk in breach of regulations. The incident escalated with a great riot late on Sunday evening when the immigrant was supported by a group of immigrants who were inside the centre.
A government statement said that a small group of immigrants instigated the riot which spread among 300 persons of the over 1,300 persons living in the centre. The government said that the majority of immigrants did not participate in any way in the riot.
The Police requested workers of AWAS agency to exit the centre for their safety. It was at this point that the immigrants forced open the gate, set on fire offices, the guardroom and five cars belonging to AWAS workers. At a time, the centre was engulfed in flames.
The AWAS workers sought refuge at the centre occupied by immigrant families, while firemen of the Civil Protection arrived on site to control the fires.
A South Sudan immigrant alleged that as he was entering the centre on Sunday evening, he saw policemen beating the drunken immigrant.
Concurrently, the Police seemed to have prepared a coordinated plan to arrest the rioting immigrants. At around 11.15am armed police reinforcements arrived on site. It is estimated that there were 200 officers from the anti-riots section, the Rapid Intervention Unit, from the immigration section, district and traffic policemen.
They entered the centre and within three hours arrested some 60 immigrants suspected of participating in the riot. They were taken to the Depot in four police buses for further investigations. A number of Court and forensic experts also arrived on site, while an inquiry was appointed by Magistrate Nadine Lia.