Drones for Frontex: Unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders

Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

It is not easy to obtain majorities for legislation in the European Union in the area of migration – unless it is a matter of upgrading the EU’s external borders. While the reform of a common EU asylum system has been on hold for years, the European Commission, Parliament and Council agreed to reshape the border agency Frontex with unusual haste shortly before last year’s parliamentary elections. A new Regulation has been in force since December 2019, under which Frontex intends to build up a „standing corps“ of 10,000 uniformed officials by 2027. They can be deployed not just at the EU’s external borders, but in ‘third countries’ as well.

In this way, Frontex will become a „European border police force“ with powers that were previously reserved for the member states alone. The core of the new Regulation includes the procurement of the agency’s own equipment. The Multiannual Financial Framework, in which the EU determines the distribution of its financial resources from 2021 until 2027, has not yet been decided. According to current plans, however, at least €6 billion are reserved for Frontex in the seven-year budget. The intention is for Frontex to spend a large part of the money, over €2 billion, on aircraft, ships and vehicles. Continue at Statewatch (PDF)

Europol steers arms companies for security research

Following the example of the US Department of Defense, Europol should coordinate European security research. In October, the EU interior ministers had decided on an „Innovation Laboratory“ at the Police Agency. Due to potential confusion, the department will now be renamed.

Since 1984, the European Union has organised its civil security research in multi-annual framework programmes, the current programme is called „Horizon 2020“. Arms companies are involved in many of these projects; they are conducting research with institutes and authorities on drone tanks for border control, stopping „non-cooperative vehicles“ with electromagnetic pulses or observing cities and borders by satellite. International agreements enable the involvement of third countries, for example Israel’s largest drone manufacturer has been involved in numerous projects for decades. „Europol steers arms companies for security research“ weiterlesen

Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one“

Customs authorities are seen as „gatekeepers of EU borders for the flow of goods“. They increasingly rely on „risk analysis“ and new information systems. Now the EU customs cooperation with police and border authorities will be enhanced.

Since 1968, the European Economic Community has been a Customs Union for industrial products, and from 1970 for agricultural products as well. All customs formalities at the internal borders of the member states have been dropped. Even the level of customs duties at the external borders, on which all countries had previously decided on their own responsibility, has since been regulated by a common customs tariff.
The framework for today’s EU customs union is the Union Customs Code (CCC) adopted in 1992. It provides uniform rules for customs tariffs on imports from outside the EU. The European Commission constantly proposes updated customs regulations and monitors their implementation. The Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) in Brussels has responsibility for this. It also operates the tariff system (TARIC3), which displays the current rates.

Customs duties are generally paid where the goods first arrive. The revenue generated is considered the EU’s „traditional own resources“ and covers around 14 percent of its total budget. The member states retain 20 percent of this amount for expenses incurred by their customs authorities and their control activities. In 2016, for example, the EU collected around 25 billion euros in customs duties, leaving 20 billion after deduction of national expenditure. In the last three years, around four billion euros of the total revenue came from Germany. „Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one““ weiterlesen

Backdoors vs. Trojans: Europol is examining „solutions“ against end-to-end encryption

The German police also uses a „decryption platform“ at Europol. The system belongs to an „innovation laboratory“ and is currently being equipped with new technology. The EU Commission will soon decide whether Europol should also handle the decryption of secure connections.

Since 2014, Europol has been offering Member States support in decrypting data carriers or mobile phones. The unit is based at the „Centre for Combating Cybercrime“ (EC3), which was set up a year earlier at the headquarters of the EU Police Agency in The Hague. What forensic tools Europol uses for this purpose is not answered by the European Commission, which is responsible for the functioning of the EU agencies.

According to Europol’s annual report for 2018, the „decryption platform“ has been requested 32 times since its creation, in 12 cases successfully. Operations are carried out in various fields, including cybercrime, drug trafficking and migrant smuggling. According to the German government, the services are also available to third states. „Backdoors vs. Trojans: Europol is examining „solutions“ against end-to-end encryption“ weiterlesen

France and Germany launch new joint police force

Together with the Gendarmerie Nationale, the German Federal Police will be sent to former French colonies. The joint unit is already deployed during summit protest, football matches and in „border areas“

At present, the German Federal Police sends around 200 officers on missions outside the European Union. In „Police Reconstruction Aid“, they are working as „trainers, mentors and observers“. The Federal Police also regularly train police forces in third countries, mostly in the field of air and border security and the recognition of false identity documents. In Africa, the Federal Police is particularly active in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. In the summer, German officers travelled to Niger for an „exchange of experience“.

Now the German government want to extend its police engagement in Africa to former French colonies. The operations will be carried out within the framework of the new „Franco-German Task Force“ („Deutsch-Französische Einsatzeinheit“, DFEE) with the French National Gendarmerie. The two governments had agreed the set up as a „joint unit for stabilisation operations in third countries“ in the Treaty of Aachen. On the German side, the DFEE is stationed at the Federal Police in Bad Bergzabern in Rhineland-Palatinate, in France at the Prefecture of Grand Est in Metz. „France and Germany launch new joint police force“ weiterlesen

Germany: Many „silent SMS“ at federal and state level

Inquiries in parliaments and under the Freedom of Information Act show the amount of secret text messages to find out the whereabouts of telephones and their owners. Police use the method in real time for arrests, while secret services create longer-term movement profiles with it.

„Silent SMS“ are text messages whose reception is not indicated by the mobile phone. However, they generate a communication process that is logged by the telephone providers. With a court order, security authorities query this data record. Police and secret services are interested in the radio cells in which the phones are located. In this way, they obtain the location and a movement profile of the persons concerned.

For some years now, biannual inquiries to the German government have documented that the figures for „silent SMS“ at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Federal Police are at a similar level. The highest value for both authorities together was in the first half of 2016 at around 138,000, the lowest in the first half of 2019 at around 26,000. Subsequently, the figures have more than doubled again, the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced last week. „Germany: Many „silent SMS“ at federal and state level“ weiterlesen

Classified documents: Great Britain has been massively violating Schengen rules for years

Because of serious breaches, British participation in Europe’s SIS II should have been terminated long ago. With two years delay, the Commission now made proposals to remedy the shortcomings. This fuels the suspicion that the country should continue to participate in the database despite having left the EU.

The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is the largest European information system and currently contains around 90 million entries. In 2015, the EU Commission has granted access to Great Britain. However, the country is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, which regulates the abolition of border controls within the European Union, nor does it implement the free movement of persons. For this reason, British authorities are not allowed to enter or query data in the SIS II concerning irregular migration.

But Great Britain is misusing the SIS II on a large scale. The European Commission is aware of, but does not want to talk openly about it. This emerges from the reply to a parliamentary question and leaked documents on the UK implementation of the SIS II rules. Nevertheless, British authorities were given green light in 2018 to still participate in the database. „Classified documents: Great Britain has been massively violating Schengen rules for years“ weiterlesen

New investigative tools: German police receives 78 million euros for Schengen Information System

Three new EU regulations significantly expand the possibilities of the largest European police database. Four different biometric data can now be entered in SIS II. The number of storages and searches is once again increasing significantly. German authorities are among the power users.

The storage of data in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) continues to increase. This was written by Hans-Georg Engelke, State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, in response to a parliamentary question. According to the report almost 90 million people and objects were listed in Europe’s largest police database as of 1st January. In 2018 there were 82 million, in 2017 about 76 million. The current number of wanted persons, at around 983,000, is the smaller part of all alerts. One tenth of these entries come from Germany, and this number has also risen significantly. „New investigative tools: German police receives 78 million euros for Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

Against Migration: EU drone crashed in Crete

Frontex wants to station its own drones in the Mediterranean. Until then, the EU border agency will use a drone service provided by the Maritime Safety Agency. This service is also being expanded; numerous European governments have now ordered drone missions.

A long-range drone, which monitors Greek maritime borders on behalf of the EU border agency Frontex, crashed during take-off. This was reported by the Greek platform Protothema which documented the crash on January 8 with a photo. According to the image, it was a „Hermes 900“ of the Israeli armament company Elbit.

The report states that the incident occurred on the runway of Tympaki airport in Crete. Protothema says the possible cause was a malfunction in the propulsion system or human error. The aircraft is said to have been severely damaged and will be replaced within two weeks. However, there have been no reports as to when the drone surveillance of Crete was resumed. „Against Migration: EU drone crashed in Crete“ weiterlesen

German authorities improve face recognition

The Federal Criminal Police Office can search a database with almost 6 million facial images, the system is now being equipped with artificial intelligence

Last week, the German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer surprisingly moved away from plans to expand facial recognition in public spaces. He had demanded that the use of so-called intelligent video surveillance be anchored in the Federal Police Law. In the current draft of the new law, the topic is now excluded. However, it is questionable whether this really means a renunciation of the technology. The Ministry is of the opinion that § 27 of the Federal Police Act allows the automatic evaluation of camera images anyway. It states that the Federal Police may „use automatic image recording and image capturing devices“. Actually, this meant automatic continuous operation and remote control of video cameras. In the legal literature, it is therefore disputed whether the analysis of images using algorithms or artificial intelligence is covered by this. „German authorities improve face recognition“ weiterlesen