MALTA – Shots fired during Hal Far protest (2014-02-25)

Published on February 25 2014 by admin

[[SUMMARY / COMMENTS: Asylum seekers in Malta were apparently targeted by tasers, which failed to function, in a protest over conditions in a detention centre on the island of Malta.[]]

Malta Today, by Roberta Pecorella

Over 70 detainees at Hal Far reported to have damaged furniture inside detention centre, after arrival of four MPs on fact-finding mission.

The presence of four MPs at the Hal Far migrant reception centre provoked a show of unrest by detained asylum seekers, in which shots were heard to be fired.

Earlier, MaltaToday had confirmed that four rubber pellets were fired to the ground, so that the richochet repels the detainees, but nobody had been injured or required hospitalisation from the police intervention.

Having initially denied that rubber bullets had been used – claiming that a taser gun was used which was “however not fully charged” – the ministry has now issued a statement confirming that rubber pellets had been fired as warning shots. It insisted, though, that no migrants were shot at.

Police and members of the Armed Forces were called in to calm down what was described as a “protest” taking place at the Hal Far centre, after MPs Jason Azzopardi, Deborah Schembri, Marlene Farrugia and Claudette Buttigieg – from the social affairs committee’s sub-committee on migration – arrived there on a fact-finding mission.

Eyewitnesses said 18 detainees took part in the protest outside, but as much as 70 detainees were inside the barracks, damaging bedsteads and other furniture. A large number of officers from the Rapid Intervention Unit arrived on the scene and entered the detention centre, bringing the situation under control by 1pm.

Armed Forces personnel were present outside the detention centre but did not access the area.

Four of them, of Ghanian and Nigerian nationality, are likely to be charged in court with voluntary damage of government property, and fomenting unrest.

Witnesses said detainees were appealing to MPs, saying they were not criminals and that they should not be detained.

The MPs later proceeded to an open centre in a bid to diffuse the situation inside Hal Far.

Asylum seekers in Malta are detained for a period of 12 months, unless they are released earlier pending the resolution of their claims for international protection.

Asylum seekers whose refugee claim is refused a second time on appeal before the 12-month detention period is up, are detained for another six months, pending a removal order.



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