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 Aerial Service: Reconnaissance for the so-called Libyan coast guard

The EU Border Agency charters private aircraft to monitor the EU’s external borders. First Italy and Croatia have ordered the flights, now Frontex also flies in the Aegean Sea, above the Black Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The service will soon be supplemented by large drones.

Five years ago, Frontex installed a new service for the monitoring of the EU’s external borders. For flights of this „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), the agency charters twin-engine airplanes from European companies. Initially, the private aircraft were deployed on EU missions in the maritime „pre-frontier area“ of the European Union. These missions „Poseidon“, „Themis“ and „Indalo“ are under the leadership of Greece, Italy and Spain. Normally, all planes and helicopters inserted there come from police or border police from the EU Member States.

With the FASS airplanes, Frontex for the first time used their own assets, which is possible after a change of the Frontex regulation in 2016. Since 2017, Frontex offers the FASS service in bilateral agreements to EU Member States. Their operational differs from a regular Frontex mission, the agency sends the chartered surveillance flights in the central Mediterranean also to the Libyan Sea rescue zone and thus further south than in „Themis“. „Frontex Aerial Service: Reconnaissance for the so-called Libyan coast guard“ weiterlesen

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)

Shots fired at sea rescuers: EU supports competing militias in Libya

A German public prosecutor’s office is investigating the shooting of the ship „Alan Kurdi“. Its crew could be caught between the fronts of two coastguards equipped and trained by different EU missions.

With the General Administration for Coastal Security (GACS) and the Libyan Coast Guard and Port Security (LCGPS), two authorities with overlapping functions exist in Libya. The Ministry of Interior Coast Guard is a law enforcement agency operating within the 12-mile zone and along the coast, while the Ministry of Defence Coast Guard is responsible for territorial waters.

In a „marine strategy“, the Libyan unity government in Tripoli intends to reorganise the responsibilities of LCGPS and GACS. The two responsible ministries are supported in these efforts by the European Union in a „Maritime Sub-Working Group on Libya“ (MSWG). Central actors are the military mission EUNAVFOR MED, which cooperates with the Ministry of Defence, and the EUBAM Libya police mission, in which the EU cooperates with the Libyan Ministry of the Interior. „Shots fired at sea rescuers: EU supports competing militias in Libya“ weiterlesen

Germany’s rescue drone will not fly in the Mediterranean

Unmanned systems could help to rescue shipwrecked boats in the Mediterranean. However, a new German sea rescue drone is only to be used in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Under the name „LARUS“, the German Government develops drones for the rescue of ships in distress. The abbreviation of the drone stands for „Situation support during sea rescue operations by unmanned aeronautical systems“. The system is financed from civil security research funds, for which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is paying 2.8 million euros.

Several German manufacturers of optical sensors and communications technology, including Deutsche Telekom, are involved in the development under the direction of the Technical University of Dortmund. Because the drone is to be used for sea rescue in Germany, the German Shipwreck Rescue Association and the Federal Maritime Police Inspectorate based in Warnemünde are also on board of the project. „Germany’s rescue drone will not fly in the Mediterranean“ weiterlesen

„In fact, Frontex is now flying for the Libyan coastguard“

Frontex gets more resources and powers. Setting the course before elections to the EU Parliament. A conversation with Matthias Monroy

The EU wants to perfect the moat of its Fortress Europe and transform the European Agency for Border and Coast Guard (EBCG), or Frontex for short, into a border police force. What are the concrete plans?

First of all, there is the establishment of a force of 10,000 troops to prevent border crossings at the external borders or to carry out deportations. This is something completely new, because so far the Border Agency only has civilian staff. This „Standing Corps“ will be set up gradually. By 2021 5,000 officials are to be recruited, by 2024 7,000. They will report directly to the Warsaw Headquarters. In addition, the Member States are to send their own national officials to the „Standing Corps“ for two years. „„In fact, Frontex is now flying for the Libyan coastguard““ weiterlesen

EU Military in the Mediterranean: Mission accomplished

EUNAVFOR MED and Frontex now fly for Libyan Coast Guard

The European Union only wants to observe sea rescue operations off Libya from the air and no longer send its own ships. The warships involved in the EUNAVFOR MED military mission are therefore being withdrawn, while the operation is „strengthening surveillance by air assets“. With this decision, the EU Member States have temporarily settled a dispute with the government in Rome. Italy’s Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini does not want EUNAVFOR MED to let rescued persons come to Italy. The head of Lega is calling for their disembarkation in all the other states that take part in the mission with planes, ships or submarines. Since EUNAVFOR MED was founded, its ships have taken around 49,000 people on board. Almost all were disembarked in Italian ports. „EU Military in the Mediterranean: Mission accomplished“ weiterlesen

Interpol investigates war crimes in Syria and Iraq

Many „foreign fighters“ return to their home countries, 40 Germans and 130 French citizens alone are to be transferred from Kurdish prisons. The authorities are collecting „battlefield evidence“ to bring them to court.

Many „foreign fighters“ in Syria or Iraq are citizens of EU member states, and after the defeat of the „Islamic State“ they return in part to their home countries. A total of 500 fighters and 900 supporters as well as 1,200 children and adolescents from 44 countries are said to be in the custody of Kurdish militias, but the figures are not substantiated. Without giving a source, the German magazine „Spiegel“ writes of 800 jihadists in total.

At least a dozen (Kurdish reports talk about 40) „foreign fighters“  are said to be detained by Kurdish militias, perhaps 130 from France. The Kurdish autonomous government is urging that they return to their country of origin and be brought to justice. Also the U.S. Government demands to bring these people to court at home, the issue was discussed at the recent meeting of the Global Coalition against IS. „Interpol investigates war crimes in Syria and Iraq“ weiterlesen

Drones watching Fortress Europe

The market for military long-endurance drones is dominated by two companies from Israel and one from the USA. Their products are now flying missions to monitor the Mediterranean Sea.

The Israeli company Elbit has been commissioned by the European Union to monitor the Mediterranean Sea. The company, which specializes in defence and surveillance technology, announced this at the beginning of November. For two years unarmed drones of the type „Hermes 900“ are to be launched from Portugal for reconnaissance missions. The flights will probably take place in the western Mediterranean around the Strait of Gibraltar. Responsible is the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which announced such plans two years ago. Last summer, EMSA tested two different drones in a pilot project. With their long endurance, they also belonged to the so-called MALE class, but are considerably smaller than the „Hermes 900“. „Drones watching Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen

EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean

The European Union has mandated Italy to set up several maritime control centres in Libya. The Coast Guard and Maritime Police will be linked to European surveillance systems, the authorities will communicate directly with Frontex. The project costs 46 million euros and starts in July. But the Libyan Coast Guard has since long been connected to Italian counterparts.

According to media reports, as of last week Libya has an official sea rescue zone. This SAR region has therefore been officially notified by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Libya had already submitted such an application last summer, but withdrew due to a lack of prospects of success. With the support of the Italian Coast Guard, the Libyan authorities launched a new attempt in December, which is now said to have been approved by the IMO.

In order to set up an SAR region, the competent authorities must, among other things, designate a maritime rescue coordination centre (MRCC). The notified SAR regions and MRCC’s are officially available on a Canadian website, but there is no entry for Libya. In fact, it is unclear how the government in Tripoli will meet the IMO requirements. „EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean“ weiterlesen