The Malta Police Force is the national agency responsible for law enforcement and the prevention of crime. In addition, the MPF is responsible for border control since the Commissioner of Police also serves as the Principal Immigration Officer. The MPF, in collaboration with the Department of Information Policy and Governance at the University of Malta, is involved with the EU Horizon 2020 funded project called MIRROR (short for: “Migration-Related Risks caused by Misconceptions of Opportunities and Requirement”). The project is built on the fact that, in the minds of the citizens who consider migrating to Europe, the perception of Europe plays an important role.
MIRROR seeks to build a platform that allows stakeholders to understand this perception, see how this perception differs from reality, spot instances of media manipulation, and develop their abilities to counteract such misconceptions as well as resulting security threats which may affect various actors (e.g. migrants, border authorities, community citizens, etc.). One of the main research foci of the MPF and the University of Malta is to explore novel ways of extending threat assessment procedures specifically by including the perspective of open-source intelligence analysis.
Malta plays a key role in the movement of migrants towards Europe. Therefore, it is especially important for the MPF to develop the ability to deal effectively with security threats that arise from perceptions and misconceptions. Thus, the MPF has taken the proactive step of collaborating with academia not just to develop such a capacity, but also to strengthen its collaboration with similar national border agencies from all over Europe. The project will enable the generation of new networks and allow the MPF to share best practices in border management and understanding the perception of migration processes in countries of origin, transit and target countries.
The project’s success would not have been possible without key networking and dissemination events, such as the first progress meeting which the MPF hosted together with the University of Malta. A visit to the General Headquarters of the MPF was organised on 20 November 2019, where two presentations were given on the project and the operation of the immigration section within the MPF. Following the presentation, the session on queries from the audience resulted in a discussion that covered details on the type of reporting that MPF generates for migrants travelling across the Mediterranean on boats, the methods of interpretation used for interviews with such migrants, and other general procedures.
The MPF also attended several meetings of different work packages within the MIRROR project, especially in relation to the mock-up for the user-interface of the MIRROR platform. During these meetings, the MPF actively provided the necessary input regarding the display of the platform and the addition of certain functionalities that would be required by both the MIRROR Project and by the MPF in the near future once the platform is validated. The MPF also participated in early validation activity meetings, where the new features added to the platform by the University of Malta and other consortium partners were explained. The early validation activities served as a pre-testing stage for the MPF, since the MPF will have the privilege to pilot and validate the MIRROR platform in the upcoming months, with the aim to give feedback on its perceived strengths and weaknesses.
The association between the University of Malta and the MPF has highlighted the need for partnerships between law enforcement and academia. While the MPF has extensive experience in the field of law enforcement and border control, academic partnerships allow for that experience to be translated into effective solutions through the technical and analytical expertise provided by the University.