Germany assists Tunisia with electronic border surveillance system

The German Ministry of Defence is supporting Tunisia in the development of an electronic border surveillance system. An already-existing barrier is now being extended along the Libyan border to the border town of Borj AI Khadra in the Sahara. The recipient of the initiative is the Tunisian military, while the overall project is planned in cooperation with the US government and is being implemented by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The financial assistance received from Germany is vaguely stated by the government as a „double-digit million amount“. [1]

There has already been German help in the construction of the existing 168 kilometre long, two metre high section on the Tunisian-Libyan border. The funding for transportable barrier systems and „mobile ground reconnaissance systems“ came from the Bundeswehr (Germany army) in a donation agreement. Hensoldt, a spin-off of the Airbus group, was commissioned to supply and install the systems.

Since then, the Tunisian military has acquired five more ground surveillance radars, 25 pairs of high-resolution binoculars, five ‚NightOwl M‘ night vision devices, and 25 smaller night vision devices that can be mounted on automatic weapons as rifle scopes. According to the German Ministry of Defence, the supplies „primarily served to protect against terrorist and other cross-border threats (smuggling, etc.).“ [2] Airbus itself promoted the technology as particularly suitable against a „wave of illegal immigrants“ that would hit Europe’s southern coasts – although this phrase has now disappeared from the company’s website, where it was published in 2016. [3]

The German Federal Police are also helping Tunisia with border surveillance, for example through extensive training including on the recognition of forged documents, in logistics and in the qualification of trainers of the Tunisian National Guard. Most recently, the Tunisian border authorities were instructed „in function and use“ of body scanners. Training took place on equipment produced by the US company L3 Technologies and the German company Rohde & Schwarz.

[1] Antwort der Bundesregierung, Deutsche „Ertüchtigungsinitiative“ für Militär in Tunesien, 14 December 2017 (pdf)
[2] Antwort der Bundesregierung, Deutsche Beteiligung an zivil-militärischen Ausbildungsmissionen in Libyen und Tunisien, 26 February 2016 (pdf)
[3] Archived version of Airbus Defence & Space webpage, The Wayback Machine

This article was first published here.

Image: Z: Nightowl M (Airbus/Hensoldt).