Government to launch recruitment drive for police, Civil Protection personnel

Home affairs minister Michael Farrugia said pledges to increase investment in human resources started being implemented

Michael Farrugia said a recruitment was necessary due to dwindling staff numbers
Michael Farrugia said a recruitment was necessary due to dwindling staff numbers

An electoral pledge for increased investment in the Civil Protection (CPD) and Customs Departments, as well as a police recruitment drive, and improved rehabilitation for prison inmates were “closer to becoming reality” 100 days into the legislature, home affairs minister Michael Farrugia said.

Addressing a press conference, Farrugia said the CPD would be investing in better tower ladders and in upgrading emergency services’ equipment, in order for them to be better able to handle emergencies, including in high-rise buildings.

Farrugia said the CPD was also collaborating with the Planning Authority on safety and disaster prevention issues.

“Our priority is people and human life,” he said. “Fighting crime is important, but we must not do so with an iron fist. The police must be close to the people... to protect them. For the first time we are looking to increase the number of recruits who join the police force.”

The minister said this had become necessary since staff numbers were dwindling due to many officers reaching retirement age.

“We want the police presence to increase as much as possible, as it has increased in Paceville over the past weeks,” said Farrugia, adding that a number of officers – both uniformed and in plainclothes – had been deployed there to combat drug crime and the serving of alcohol to minors.

The minister added that the police had identified a number of crime hotspots in certain localities and would be carrying out operations aimed at tackling organised crime in these areas during the coming weeks.

Prison management structures to be revamped

An evaluation of Corradino Correctional Facility had also been launched to ensure the facility “was in fact correctional”.

Farrugia said inmates had to be prepared to re-enter the workforce upon release.

Farrugia stressed that inmates shouldn’t simply be working in a kitchen for the sake of being employed, but “must be trained and qualified”.

The review was also partly intended to tackle the lack of uniformity in the remuneration paid to inmates for work carried out inside, said the minister, who pointed out that inmates were currently making “cents”.

Farrugia explained that while the intentions were good, the environment at the facility did not allow for much progress to be made. In order to do so, the CCF’s Director – who the minister said currently deals with everything personally – would be changed into a role more akin to that of a CEO, with a board of governors appointed to oversee the facilities rules and policies.

On fighting drugs in prison, he acknowledged that prison employees had played a role in smuggling illicit substances to inmates and henceforth would also be the subject to greater scrutiny.

Farrugia added that high tech body scanners would soon be replacing strip searches of persons entering or visiting the facility.

Another area of proposed reform is drug rehabilitation, with the minister pledging to end the practice of offering treatment to inmates with known drug problems only towards the end of their sentence.

AFM to get new sea launch

Turning to the Armed Force, Farrugia said it would be receiving more funds, with a tender soon being issued a new vessel that would be the biggest in the Maritime Squadron’s fleet. The vessel is intended to carry out a FRONTEX support role and to assist migrants who find themselves in difficulty at sea.

On detention centres for migrants, he said government was looking into the possibility of not housing all detainees in the same place and was in discussions with the President, the Church and a number of NGOs on the issue. “As much as possible we should avoid creating ghettos in particular places.”

Farrugia lauded the creation of UNHCR and IOM assessment centres in North Africa that would process asylum applications and resettle successful candidates in Europe.

“We are conscious that a lot of migration is currently from economic migrants and not asylum seekers, ” he said. “We welcome economic migrants as long as they arrive here legally through regular paths,” he said.

Strengthening port security

More investment in port security was also announced today, after discussions concentrating on problems faced by customs and police in controlling contraband. The minister pledged his full support to these initiatives.

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