Manuel Delia demands access to detention centres, prison

Manuel Delia said the access was necessary to allow him to investigate and report on the several allegations about the degrading treatment of immigrants and prisoners

Journalist Manuel Delia has filed a judicial protest, asking to be authorised to access and report from the Corradino Correctional Facility and detention centres.

In the court document, filed before the First Hall of the Civil Court, this morning, Delia said the access was necessary to allow him to “investigate and report on the truth or otherwise of several allegations about incorrect and illegal behaviour, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of immigrants and/or prisoners…”

The request comes after media reports about immigrants who were allegedly involved in riots at the detention centres being mistreated, tortured and subjected to degrading treatment whilst in detention.

Some inmates were allegedly ordered to strip off and be washed with a hosepipe “like animals,” reads the judicial protest, which was signed by lawyer Paul Borg Olivier.

Despite several requests made by Delia to ministers Byron Camilleri and Michael Farrugia, under whose remits the detention facilities fell, in an email dated 17 February, he was referred to make the requests directly to the Director of Prisons and the heads of the Detention Centres, as well as the Principal Immigration Officer.

Delia argued that it was the minister who had power to authorise the visits and pointed out that the post of Head, Detention Services, was vacant.

A formal request was later refused, he said.

The Prisons Act specifically gave the Minister for Home Affairs and not the Director of Prisons the power to authorise such visits, argued the journalist.

The Principal Immigration Officer on the other hand, had categorically refused to allow access to detention centres, a customer care representative replying in an email that access to the centres was limited solely to lawyers, NGOs and agencies.

Delia argued that it was “fundamental” that journalists have a right to report on their own research about the living conditions of detained immigrants and other prisoners.

The refusal and the absence of any supporting reasoning to conduct visits, conducted with measures to protect the privacy of the prisoners, breached the right to freedom of expression, he said. This, together with the delay in answering requests for access had a chilling effect on journalists, he said.

More in Court & Police