Watch: “An allegation is sufficient to trigger a police investigation”

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

An allegation is sufficient to trigger a police investigation, Assistant Commissioner Dennis Theuma explained during an interview with Newsbook.com.mt.

During the interview, Dr Theuma explained the police role when investigating cases of human trafficking and forced labour.

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Asked on what triggers an investigation, Dr Theuma explained that a police investigation could only be triggered after it receives information. The information could either come from an anonymous source, an article in a newspaper, or a Facebook post.

Explaining abuse of power in simple terms, Dr Theuma said that when lacking reasonable suspicion the police cannot just raid say the several massage parlours in Birkirkara. He added that similarly, the police does not have the power to stop all those transiting through Malta’s airport since this would mean that the police has reasonable suspicion in everyone. “Lack of reasonable suspicion would mean abusing of one’s executive powers,” the Assistant Commissioner remarked.

Once a police investigation is triggered, the police would need to obtain the necessary warrants from a Magistrate.

Identifying victims of human trafficking

Deception is the most common form of “recruitment” when it comes to forced labour, Dr Theuma explained. 

Speaking about massage parlours and possible victims of human trafficking, Dr Theuma said that the red flags include evidence of being controlled, inability to leave home or place of work alone, and loss of control of one’s identification documents such as ID card or passport.

Dr Theuma mentioned the Leisure Clothing case which is still sub-judice, where the victims’ documents were allegedly kept by the management. 

In cases of human trafficking, the police would contact the relevant authorities to find alternative accomodation to the victims. Dr Theuma highlighted that sometimes one would have identified one victim, however others would then come forward and speak up. 

The assistant commissioner highlighted that the Police has a duty towards the victim and safeguarding their dignity.

The necessary arrangements are made so that victims of human trafficking can stay legally in Malta during the investigation. A reflection period is also given to the victim so that they may decide whether they would like to move forward with the case.

Footage and editing: Miguela Xuereb