Last week a young Italian couple, desperate to catch their Ryanair flight back to Bari after arriving late at Malta International Airport, broke through security and dashed onto the airport apron to stop the flight leaving without them.

A week before this security breach, an English woman inveigled her way into the luggage unloading area – a secure area to which outside members of the public do not have access unless they hold a security pass – by waving her passport at the soldier on duty at the gate.

She then proceeded to help herself to somebody else’s luggage on the conveyor belt and walked out with it.

Two breaches of security at MIA in the space of a few days tells us something about the vigilance of those on duty at the airport, exposes a number of vulnerable points in the system and gives a worrying indication of the standards of security in place.

While thankfully nothing untoward happened, the fact is it could have.

The Manager Airport Security’s spokeswoman said that after looking into the incident and procedures in place, the manager was satisfied with the response time and the way the incident was handled.

“The passengers were apprehended in under five minutes” after breaching the emergency fire exit located near Gate 10 in the Departure’s area.

There seems a level of complacency about this response which is unsettling. The measure of good security is to ask what might have happened if this breach (and the one the week before in the luggage area) had been committed by somebody with mal-intent? Five minutes is an extremely long time for a terrorist to commit an atrocity.

The excuse that all seven fire emergency doors in Departures have been designed “in line with fire emergency evacuation guidelines and regulations” which, “when opened, trigger a local sounder and an alarm in the airport’s control room” leading to the immediate despatch of armed forces guards and police to the scene, still leaves the fact that by the time security personnel arrived those wishing to breach security were already through.

Security is only as strong as the weakest link. Almost invariably, breaches of security occur because human beings are lax, distracted, not well trained, or simply because those in charge of security – as in this case – have not anticipated what could happen. Since the emergency fire doors are not physically patrolled, they are inevitably vulnerable to what happened with the Italian couple last week.

To plead that because the passengers “had already been screened for any security threat since they had already accessed the highest level of security in the airport” is to miss the point somewhat. The bottom line is that, despite that earlier “high level” check these people still went on to breach security.

Given the crucial importance of the security reputation of the airport to the country’s tourism economy and our proximity to some of the most desperate terrorists, it behoves those responsible for the security of millions of passengers each year to respond to any public concern by ensuring that security arrangements at MIA are as tight and fool-proof as possible. The maintenance of public confidence is vital.

MIA, in conjunction with the government, should immediately launch an internal inquiry into the events of last week and the week before to establish the facts; to examine whether any human lapses occurred; to consider what steps should be taken to avoid a recurrence; and to make recommendations for the future.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.