Human rights violations in Malta: Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer criticises own air surveillance

An emergency at sea in May this year shows how Maltese authorities lets unseaworthy boats pass unrescued so that refugees are taken on board much later by neighbouring Italy or drown. Frontex’s acting Fundamental Rights Officer has clearer words for this than his predecessor.

Since 2017, the Warsaw-based European Union border agency is monitoring the migration route in the central Mediterranean Sea with specially leased planes. Meanwhile, the service is supported by two large drones from Malta and Crete. The deployment of the aircraft opens a backdoor for refoulement in violation of international law: Frontex takes over the aerial surveillance for the Tripoli coast guard, so that they take the discovered refugees back to Libya. This even happens regularly when boats are in Malta’s sea rescue zone.

Jonas Grimheden, the Fundamental Rights Officer at Frontex, has strong words for this practice. This is what it says in a „Serious Incident Report“ that the agency had to release in response to my Freedom of Information request. According to this, Frontex employees lack criteria for classifying when a boat must be rescued immediately by units in the vicinity. The border agency is therefore to start a „dialogue“ on definitions of vessels in distress with Malta, which is also criticised in the report for its inaction. „Human rights violations in Malta: Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer criticises own air surveillance“ weiterlesen

Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs

Following a review by other Schengen states, the Greek government is improving surveillance and control of its external borders, funded by EU funds. This could encourage pushbacks in violation of international law.

European Union member states are likely to oblige Greece to further upgrade its external borders. A draft decision by the EU Commission, published by the civil rights organisation Statewatch, states that surveillance at land and sea borders will be stepped up. Greek authorities would also have to improve controls at border crossings.

The demands are based on an evaluation of the application of the so-called Schengen acquis in Greece from the summer of 2021. Such reviews take place regularly in each member state and are intended to determine whether a government is complying with Schengen rules. The evaluation teams consist of volunteers from other EU countries. The „deficiencies“ found are documented in a report. „Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs“ weiterlesen

Land, sea and air: EU Member States test drones for border surveillance

In the ROBORDER security research project, border authorities and the military are testing various drones for controlling land and sea borders. They are supposed to operate in swarms. The border agency Frontex should benefit from the results. German companies are also involved in the research.

Ministries of the Interior and Defence from Portugal, Hungary and Greece are testing manned and unmanned platforms for border surveillance. In the EU project ROBORDER, Hungary is interested in securing land borders with an unmanned ground vehicle, while Greece is using a long-range drone and an aircraft. Portugal uses a surface and an underwater drone in the Atlantic.

The drones should operate independently and in swarms. They are equipped with various sensors whose images are combined in a mobile situation centre. Different communication links are examined for transmission. „Land, sea and air: EU Member States test drones for border surveillance“ weiterlesen

The contested Mediterranean

Private rescue organizations are put on the chain. In the middle of the standoff about the ship „Aquarius“ Frontex starts the surveillance with drones and wants to give the coordinates of refugee boats to Libya.

The Libyan coastguard becomes the doorkeeper of the European Union. The body will receive intelligence data from Frontex to stop boats with refugees in coastal waters if possible. The information could come from long-range drones with which the Border Agency has been monitoring the Mediterranean since Thursday. Initially, this is a pilot project for the use of two military drones from Italy and Israel; regular operations could start from 2019. At least this is what it says in an earlier draft of the work programme for EU satellite surveillance. „The contested Mediterranean“ weiterlesen

The European Border Intelligence Service

With EUROSUR, the EU Commission has a powerful border surveillance system at its disposal. It brings together reconnaissance data from aircraft, drones and soon also aerostatic balloons. Based on the images, a Frontex unit then decides on further measures in the „pre-frontier area“.

The EU border agency Frontex has launched a series of new surveillance methods in the Mediterranean. This was written by EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in response to several questions from MEP Sabine Lösing. The capabilities are part of the EUROSUR border surveillance system launched by the European Union five years ago. It links the Frontex headquarters in Warsaw with the border authorities of the 28 Member States. Through their national coordination centres, Frontex is informed of all important incidents at the external borders of the European Union. According to the latest figures, around 148,000 irregular migration incidents have been reported since EUROSUR was set up, and around 33,000 have concerned organised crime. „The European Border Intelligence Service“ weiterlesen

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] „Germany assists Tunisia with electronic border surveillance system“ weiterlesen