EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis

A new monitoring system for Tunisian coasts should counter irregular migration across the Mediterranean. The German Ministry of the Interior is also active in the country. A similar project in Libya has now been completed. Human rights organisations see it as an aid to „pull backs“ contrary to international law.

In order to control and prevent migration, the European Union is supporting North African states in border surveillance. The central Mediterranean Sea off Malta and Italy, through which asylum seekers from Libya and Tunisia want to reach Europe, plays a special role. The EU conducts various operations in and off these countries, including the military mission „Irini“ and the Frontex mission „Themis“. It is becoming increasingly rare for shipwrecked refugees to be rescued by EU Member States. Instead, they assist the coast guards in Libya and Tunisia to bring the people back. Human rights groups, rescue organisations and lawyers consider this assistance for „pull backs“ to be in violation of international law.

With several measures, the EU and its member states want to improve the surveillance off North Africa. Together with Switzerland, the EU Commission has financed a two-part „Integrated Border Management Project“ in Tunisia. It is part of the reform of the security sector which was begun a few years after the fall of former head of state Ben Ali in 2011. With one pillar of this this programme, the EU wants to „prevent criminal networks from operating“ and enable the authorities in the Gulf of Tunis to „save lives at sea“. „EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis“ weiterlesen

Frontex launches new operations in Greece

In two RABIT missions, the EU Border Agency is sending 100 additional officials to the Greek-Turkish land and sea border. Frontex currently has around 600 operational forces stationed in Greece.

Frontex has started two new missions in Greece. Following a decision by Director Fabrice Leggeri, the EU Border Agency is sending border guards with technical assets to the Aegean Sea. A further mission has been launched today to reinforce police and military units for border surveillance on the land border with Turkey. This follows a request by the government in Athens.

Frontex is coordinating the new operations with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who visited the Greek-Turkish land border with the President of Parliament and the President of the Council on 3 March. Von der Leyen did not say a word about the one-month suspension of asylum applications imposed by Greece, nor did she comment on Greek attacks on refugees. Instead, she praised the government’s measures as a „European shield“ and promised emergency financial aid of 700 million euros for „migration management“. „Frontex launches new operations in Greece“ weiterlesen

Prüm Decision: European criminal police offices agree on face recognition system

The European Union is extending the cross-border query of biometric data to faces. Searches should also be possible with still images from surveillance cameras. Up to now, only individuals may be processed in the Prüm framework, but soon bulk searches could be permitted.

In 2008, the Member States of the European Union signed the EU Prüm Decision. The treaty allows law enforcement authorities to conduct cross-border searches of DNA, fingerprints and data containing vehicles and their owners. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Prüm Decision, the Council had proposed Conclusions to extend this cooperation to facial images.

For the envisaged „Next generation Prüm“ (Prüm.ng), the Commission first ordered a feasibility study from the consulting firm Deloitte. It was submitted last autumn and is being discussed in the relevant Council working groups, but remains secret. The British civil rights organisation Statewatch has published a report by a „focus group on face recognition“ in which ten criminal police offices define, on the basis of the Deloitte study, a technical framework for the comparison of faces. „Prüm Decision: European criminal police offices agree on face recognition system“ weiterlesen

Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases

Even without imminent EU accession, all third countries in South-East Europe will gradually be connected to European information systems. They will set up a fingerprint database along the lines of the EU model and, as in the Prüm Treaty, will make it possible to query biometric data. Secret services in the Western Balkans also use the Schengen Information System through a back door.

Albania, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are EU accession candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered potential candidate countries. All governments therefore receive so-called Pre-accession Assistance for the development of police and border police capabilities. They are based on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement that the countries have concluded with the EU.

The European Union now wants to significantly expand security cooperation with all the countries of the Western Balkans. One focus is on irregular migration. The governments in South-East Europe have already received 216 million Euros for their control since 2007, and funds of a similar amount have flowed into the construction and operation of camps for refugees. According to a proposal by the Croatian Council Presidency, the Western Balkan governments should now set up a biometric database for refugees. It will be based on the Eurodac database, in which EU member states process the fingerprints of asylum seekers. The two fingerprint systems could then be merged after possible EU accession. In addition to fingerprints, Eurodac also stores facial images, but they are not yet searchable. „Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases“ weiterlesen

New German military exercises with Israel

The Israeli military trains cyber attacks in Germany, the German air force simulates the fight for water and natural resources in the Negev desert

The German Armed Forces are planning a joint cybermaneuver with the Israeli military. The exercise entitled „Multi-Lateral Cyber Defence Exercise 20“ (MLCD20) is to take place in Germany in August, with units from Austria and Switzerland also taking part. This was stated by the Ministry of Defence in response to a written question by left-wing MP Andrej Hunko. So far, nothing is known about the scenarios. During such exercises, attacks are simulated by so-called „Red Teams“ and countered by „Blue Teams“.

Parliamentary State Secretary Peter Tauber did not want to disclose which departments the foreign armed forces would send, despite being asked. In Israel, intelligence gathering in cyberspace is carried out by the military „Unit 8200“. According to Israeli media reports, the unit is now also responsible for cyber attacks. „New German military exercises with Israel“ weiterlesen

Border with Turkey: EU Commission wants to track down refugees with „foliage detection“

A EU research project is testing the combination of different surveillance technologies on refugees. This involves telephone and motion detectors, cameras, radar systems, electromagnetic sensors as well as eavesdropping microphones. In addition to drones, „stratospheric platforms“ will also be used.

On its research website, the EU Commission states that „irregular migration has dramatically increased, and is no longer manageable with existing systems“. This is why the Commission wants to improve the detection of undocumented border crossings with new technology. The focus is on densely wooded land borders, which are difficult to monitor with patrols. The security research project is entitled „Through-foliage detection, including in the outermost regions of the EU“ (FOLDOUT) and is led by the Austrian Institute of Technology. Among those involved are the French armaments group Thales and border police forces from Bulgaria, Finland, Lithuania and Poland. „Border with Turkey: EU Commission wants to track down refugees with „foliage detection““ weiterlesen

Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism

An audit report of the „Club de Berne“ finds serious deficiencies in the Austrian domestic intelligence service. Its IT systems were not approved for secret information. The authority should also ensure that it is not infiltrated by „extremist organisations“.

The Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) is regarded as a security gap for European intelligence cooperation. This is the conclusion reached by the European „Club de Berne“ in an audit report. The document classified as „secret“ was leaked to the daily newspaper „Österreich“ and published.

Following an intervention by the government in Vienna, however, the editorial staff took essential parts offline again, and the public prosecutor’s office is now investigating for „treason of state secrets“. Netzpolitik.org was able to inspect the report, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the current Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Peschorn. It contains 156 „observations“, „recommendations“, „advice“ and „expectations“. „Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism“ weiterlesen

Border controls in Bavaria and Austria: Police to extract mobile phones

With the takeover of the sovereign border security, the Free State is also using new technology. The extraction of telephones is supposed to help in the detection of „smuggler networks“. Another application is „contactless identity verification“. The projects are perfecting the expansion of biometric EU databases.

Two years ago, the Bundestag passed the „law for better enforcement of the obligation to leave the country“. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) may now search mobile phones and other electronic devices of refugees in order to process their asylum applications. The information should help to determine their origin. The authorities evaluate, for example, the country codes of called telephone numbers and contacts and the domain endings of called websites. Geodata and the language used in text messages are also analysed. This practice could now be extended to border controls. „Border controls in Bavaria and Austria: Police to extract mobile phones“ weiterlesen

European Anti-Terrorist Force now coordinated at Europol

For four years, Austria is in charge of the EU network of special units. The head of the Cobra decided on a closer connection to the EU police agency. This also applies to military forces that assume tasks in the field of internal security.

The Network of European special units now has a permanent „Support Office“ at the Europol Police Agency in The Hague. The so-called ATLAS network has been based at Europol’s Anti-Terror Centre (ECTC) since 1 January. A corresponding decision was already taken in 2017, but only last October Europol concluded a contract with Austria’s Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl. It regulates the tasks that Europol performs for the special units and is intended to guarantee the independence of the troops. For example, the office will not be financed by Europol, but by the EU funds earmarked for ATLAS.

The now opened „Support Office“ consists of permanent staff with management functions and police or gendarmerie officers from the member states will also be seconded to The Hague. The cooperation is to be evaluated by June 2020. „European Anti-Terrorist Force now coordinated at Europol“ weiterlesen