[WATCH] Graffitti versus Comino profiteers: activists claim public shoreline in direct action

Moviment Graffitti activists launch direct action on the island of Comino to protest the blocking of the coastline by private concessions for sunbeds and deckchairs

Graffitti launch a direct action in Comino against a beach concession
Graffitti launch a direct action in Comino against a beach concession

Activists and members of Moviment Graffitti launched an early morning direct action on the island of Comino, protesting the private concessions blocking access to the public coastline.

The activists, around 50 in all, came to the public Comino beach shouting: “The sea, the bay, it is everybody’s… it is unacceptable to pay money to enjoy what is ours by right.”

The Graffitti activists proceeded to remove the laid-out deckchairs and folded them neatly against a retaining wall. “We are not damaging the deckchairs. It is unacceptable that all the deckchairs have been laid out without even the first tourist boat having arrived to the island.”

The activists then laid out their beach towels. “We are here to enjoy this public bay.”

Deckchairs and umbrellas have hogged Comino’s Blue Lagoon throughout many a summer. A petition in 2021 asked MPs for “the removal of sun beds and deckchairs from Comino”, gathering over 600 signatures.

The deckchairs are placed on every inch of the shoreline - jetty, beaches and rocks - before the first tourist boats arrive, by private vendors who treat the Blue Lagoon as their own personal beach lido.

Graffitti activists march to the Comino coastline. Photo: James Scicluna
Graffitti activists march to the Comino coastline. Photo: James Scicluna

“Many Maltese say they never visit Comino because of this. This should not happen,” Graffitti spokesperson Andre Callus said. “The Blue Lagoon is a public area that should be free for everyone; residents and tourists alike, to enjoy without being coerced into paying for something they do not want.”

Callus said the act of civil disobedience was prompted after Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo had kicked the can down the road when he promised to crack down on deckchair vendors but failed to specify how or when.

“Moviment Graffitti did not want the issue to be swept under the carpet for yet another summer and so we took direct action,” Callus said.

Earlier this week, Movement Graffitti wrote an open letter to five ministers outlining six demands related to Blue Lagoon and Comino as a whole.

These were: stipulating a percentage for the beach concession’s coverage with the foreshore left unencumbered, in conformity with the Public Domain Act. This number should form part of a policy document for Comino in keeping with the recommendations of ERA’s Comino Management Plan (2019);

Limiting the number and size of kiosjs around the beach to prevent congestion and over-commercialisation of the area; commercial activity must pay a financial contribution for the upkeep of the bay.

Graffitti said the government must take urgent action to ensure the upkeep and proper patrolling of the island of Comino, abolish music from kiosks and boats and loud generators, and launch a carrying capacity that sets a limit to the people visiting the island and prohibit large ferries from entering Blue Lagoon.

“Predictably, these demands have so far been met with silence,” Callus said.

“The lawlessness in the Blue Lagoon area is by no means the only issue that needs urgent attention in Comino. Also of concern is the way that the Hili Group has completely closed off access to San Niklaw Bay with gates and fences. We would like to remind everyone that according to Maltese law, the first 15 metres of shoreline are considered public domain.

“If these issues are not resolved, we will be back.”