Rioting migrants in Malta injure policeman, set cars ablaze at holding center: reports

Migrants in Malta reportedly injured a police officer and burned several cars during a violent riot Sunday night after a group of migrants took control of a holding center and demanded their freedom.

Maltese authorities regained control of the Hal Far compound Monday around 4 a.m., but the reeking odor of burnt plastic still hung in the air over the former British army barracks, Malta Today reported.

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Rioting migrants torched at least five cars during the nighttime fracas, with some exploding as they became engulfed in flames, according to the outlet. One vehicle was believed to be a police car. A guardhouse and several other rooms were also set on fire and left scorched.

Migrants also reportedly threw objects at law enforcement attempting to put down the riot.

By Monday afternoon, at least 75 migrants had been arrested in connection to the riot, Malta Today reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear what set off the incident, with some telling Malta Today that people were trying to enter the center late at night and were denied. However, Reuters reported the migrants turned violent over demands they be freed.

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An influx of several hundred migrants arriving over the summer has stretched Malta’s migrant reception and detention centers, Reuters reported.

European Union countries have been at odds over how to handle the refugees and migrants arriving at their borders since the numbers spiked in 2015, reaching over a million. Most of them were considered refugees from war-torn and impoverished countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Mediterranean neighbors Malta and Italy have taken a hard-line stance on the issue, blocking humanitarian ships that have rescued migrants stranded at sea from docking.

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The stance has resulted in standoffs that kept rescued migrants at sea for weeks until other EU nations pledged to take at least some of the people seeking safety or better lives in Europe.

A “fast-track” plan to quickly get migrants off boats in the Mediterranean Sea and distribute them among willing EU partners was drawn up by Germany, France, Italy and Malta earlier this month. However, a large majority of EU member countries have refused to back the plan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.