Comprehensive data-driven Risk and Threat Assessment Methods for the Early and Reliable Identification, Validation and Analysis of migration-related risks

Rational & Goals of CRiTERIA

EU borders are constantly faced with a multiplicity of challenges, from increased waves of illegal migration to human trafficking and public health threats. The FRONTEX Risk Analysis 2020 reported a total of 141.846 detections of illegal border-crossing (many aided by human traffickers) along the EU’s external borders in 2019. Migration is increasingly framed as a security issue because immigrants are presumed to bring risks of terrorism, cross-border crime and illegal immigration (Dekkers et al., 2016). Compared to the previous year, in the first-half of 2020, FRONTEX has reported a fall by one-fifth of the number of illegal border crossings, mainly as a result of the COVID pandemic1. Despite this decrease, the pandemic created new challenges for border security across Europe, with entry and exit checks having to expand in scope to include health checks, the unexpected closure of internal EU borders and the vulnerability of border security personnel to catch and spread the infection.

This situation indicates that contemporary security challenges are highly complex and inter-related, requiring more cross-sectoral, transdisciplinary and cross-country cooperation in all risk management phases both at the EU and Member States levels. To prepare for such complex situations and to enhance the effectiveness of border security, the involved agencies use risk analysis models, such as CIRAM and vulnerability assessment frameworks. These models however, have a number of shortcomings, which prevent the unfolding of their full potential. CIRAM, for example, has limitations in its scope (e.g. does not consider people’s attitudes/perceptions and the behaviours those attitudes may induce and does not take into consideration risk interactions and risk cascading, especially when it comes to cross-border and hybrid threats); the data sources used (limited exploitation of open source information and social media); its methodology (limited consideration of humanitarian aspects) and the ease of use (over-reliance on manual analysis).

In the CRiTERIA project we will seek to strengthen and expand existing risk analysis methods, by introducing novel approaches, such as identifying risk factors from qualitative evidence (e.g. narrative analysis), building composite indicators (e.g. using sentiment indicators to predict behaviour), incorporating risk interaction and risk cascading assessments and consolidating the human security and human rights dimensions of border security.

Strong and accurate risk and vulnerability analysis models have to be backed by effective intelligent analysis technology and tools, which can serve the identified complex indicators in an effective and efficient way. Building upon existing text, media, data and network analysis technology, in CRiTERIA, we will develop and evaluate advanced analysis technologies and tools that are tailored to the new comprehensive risk and vulnerability indicators of the CRiTERIA methodology. Special focus will be given to the role of narratives, events, attitudes, perception of situations for migration-related decisions as well as for the evolution of migration-related situations, the vulnerability of borders and humans and the development of threats.

However, the complexity of the analysis tasks requires further technology support beyond collecting evidences for risks and vulnerabilities. It has to be ensured that evidences and indicators can be understood and validated for reliably and efficiently basing decisions and actions upon them. For this purpose, the CRiTERIA project will also develop technology for explaining automatically extracted findings following the ideas of explainable AI as well as technology for automated validation of risk and vulnerability related findings.

In summary, the goal of the CRiTERIA project is a novel, comprehensive but feasible and human-rights sensitive risk and vulnerability analysis framework for border agencies, which backs a novel multi-perspective risk and vulnerability analysis methodology with multi-source, multi-lingual analysis technologies and tools for serving the complex indicators of the methodology and for making them accessible in a verifiable and understandable way.

The methodology will be developed in close collaboration with practitioners from border agencies, which will also validate the developed methods and technologies in piloting activities and experimental laboratories.