21 inmates at Safi detention centre, all wearing identical orange t-shirts and cable tied in pairs were marched into the courtroom to face charges of rioting last night.
The riot is the second at the detention centre in less than a fortnight.
Only last week, a violent riot took place at the Hal Far open centre that resulted in five cars being burnt, staff members being pelted and offices ransacked.
In yesterday’s riot the migrants are understood to have started pelting detention centre staff at the end of an otherwise peaceful protest.
Just like they did in previous protests over the past month, the migrants were demanding their freedom. However, at one point a small group reportedly got aggressive and riot police moved in to apprehend them. No injuries were reported.
Migrants held in detention pending identification and the initial processing of their asylum applications, have been protesting over the length of time it is taking the authorities to release them. They claim their rights are being breached.
The men from Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Somalia and Nigeria, were charged with causing voluntary damage, participating in an unlawful assembly, disobeying police orders and breaching the peace.
The accused are aged between 18 and 38, with the majority in their twenties. They denied committing the offences.
Bail was not requested at this stage. The men were remanded in custody. The court explained to the men that they would be detained in prison for the time being until the case is assigned to a magistrate by rota.
The sitting risked descending into chaos as some of the migrants started to loudly protest their innocence, leading the police to escort them out of the courtroom.
Inspector Roderick Attard prosecuted.
Lawyer Noel Bartolo was legal aid counsel to the accused.
Photos: Alenka Falzon