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NEWS | Sunday, 15 June 2008

Detention centres to be opened to journalists

Karl Schembri

The new minister in charge of immigration and detention centres, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, has decided to let journalists into detention centres (Interview, pages 10-11) in a policy that marks a new measure of openness in what has so far been marked by his predecessor’s determined refusal to open immigrants’ closed centres to public scrutiny.
“The idea is that we have nothing to hide,” he says. “So within the coming days, journalists will be able to request to go inside a detention centre and they will be allowed in.”
His predecessor, Tonio Borg, was widely criticised from various quarters, from European Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini to human rights NGOs and the absolute majority of Malta’s editors and journalists clamouring for transparency.
Meanwhile Mifsud Bonnici explained that two new open centres are about to be opened, one in Hal Far and one in Santa Venera, while the tents currently used in detention centres will be replaced with prefabricated units. “We want to improve conditions drastically in detention centres,” he says. “We will be removing tents and housing immigrants in new centres, and we are working on an education programme for people in detention that would give them language and skills training. We are more or less taking the same line that Malta used to take when Maltese citizens were about to migrate to Australia – they used to learn English and trades. In this way, we will be making the best use of their period of detention. We are slowly changing conditions so these people can live better, while giving them a sense of responsibility.”

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