A group of migrants tried to break free from a holding centre in Malta, setting at least five staff and police cars on fire and injuring a policeman.

The riot took place late Sunday evening in a Hal Far camp occupying a former British army barracks near island’s main airport. The migrants torched several rooms and staff cars and, as a result, managed to take control over a part of the compound for a while.

Migrants burn cars in protest against detention
Image: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The riot was contained only in the early hours of Monday, after the detention centre called for the Rapid Intervention Unit of Malta Police Force. The police later said an officer was slightly injured during the operation.

A series of similar incidents happened in the neighbouring Hal Safi Detention Center during summer months and in September. Migrants protested against their detention on the pretext of medical screenings by climbing on the camp’s fence and securing banners saying ‘freedom’ on it, setting their mattresses on fire, while others even managed to escape the facility.

Many of the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean were brought to Malta following the island country’s agreement with three other EU nations – namely Germany, France and Italy – on a “temporary emergency redistribution mechanism”. However, the subsequent gathering of EU leaders failed to cement that agreement, with less than a half of 28 member nations agreeing to accept rescued migrants. Now most of the migrants brought to Malta during that period are still on the island, stretching its limited reception capacities.