Immigrants riot in Malta

2009-02-19 17:04

Valetta - Dozens of Tunisian would-be immigrants awaiting deportation from Malta on Thursday set mattresses on fire and smashed window panes at an immigrant detention centre, officials said.

Maltese police and soldiers cordoned off the area around the Lyster Barracks centre, amid reports that some of the immigrants had escaped.

The incidents were sparked off by members from a group of 71 Tunisians who are demanding to be repatriated, but whose documentation has not been sorted out, a Home Affairs Ministry spokesperson told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The group arrived in Malta on February 1 on a boat which was carrying at total of 262 would-be immigrants. They said they were on their way to Italy.

Thursday's riots took place a day after another group of 227 would-be illegal immigrants landed in Malta, further compounding the tiny Mediterranean island's illegal immigration problems.

A Eurobarometer survey released last week showed that illegal immigration is the biggest concern among Malta's 400 000 inhabitants. The anger has been especially fuelled as more immigrants attempt to make the treacherous sea crossing during the winter months. - Sapa-dpa