[WATCH] Private guard now monitoring access to public paths at Fomm ir-Riħ

Moviment Graffitti received a number of reports from the public of harassment by private security guards while walking through public paths at Fomm ir-Riħ

Moviment Graffitti activists have filmed an encounter with private security guards barring them walking through public paths in Fomm ir-Riħ.

In a video uploaded on Facebook, the NGO said over the past months they have received accounts of the public “finding it difficult to peacefully enjoy Fomm ir-Riħ.”

“Recently, members of Moviment Graffitti went on site to investigate claims of harrassment by private security guards and found that the landowners have been illegally and aggressively restricting access to public land and intimidating people by threatening to report them to the police.”

They said various signs, barbed wire and observation posts that have been installed, have “turned one of Malta’s most scenic areas into one that feels more like a militarised zone.”

Controversy erupted last year when Sandro Chetcuti, who owns the private estate that includes Fomm ir-Riħ, put up a gate on a path used by the public to access the secluded bay below the cliffs.

However, a 1983 deed by previous landowners granted government and the public perpetual access to the foreshore and the bay at Fomm ir-Riħ.

While walking through the publicly accessible land, private security guards used airhorns to attract the activists’ attention, telling them they could not stay there. When the activists ignore the warning, the guard can be seen approaching the activists to tell them they cannot stay there.

“This is private land here, you cannot stay here,” the guard says. “You only have access to the bay.”

Later, a second man, who is allegedly one of the landowners, approaches the activists to tell them to move on. He goes on to say that people are prevented from staying on the land so as to prevent them from littering the area.

“The security guard is filming you, and if we find any litter, it’s you who we will fine,” the owner warned activists. They rebutted by stating they were only bird-watching, to which the owner replied they should do so by the bay.

The owner then goes on to say that people are only allowed within five metres from the coastline, to which activists reply that legislation actually stipulates 15 metres.

“As if (U mur ‘l hemm),” he replies. “We are letting you pass out of our good will.”

He later brings up the excuse that the area is a Natura 2000 site. “You can’t even lift a stone here, this is a protected area.”

Natura 2000 sites have been designated specifically to protect core areas for a sub-set of species or habitat types listed in the Habitats and Birds Directives. They are deemed to be of European importance because they are endangered, vulnerable, rare, endemic or present outstanding examples of typical characteristics of one or more of Europe’s nine biogeographical regions.

Despite having protection status, the areas are still accessible to the public.

The owner later tells the security to leave the activists alone as police would be arriving to tell them to leave.

The NGO called on authorities to investigate activities being carried out by landowners which amount to harassment.

“We wish to reassure the public that, when walking along the coast, it is their right to have access to, and enjoyment of, the first 15 metres from the shoreline, as specified in the Public Domain Act,” it said.