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)

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

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

Frontex stations long-endurance drones in the Mediterranean Sea

For the next two years, the EU Commission is looking for an operator of large drones at airports in Malta, Italy or Greece. They should remain in the air for at least 20 hours and carry up to 230 kilograms of surveillance equipment. The high requirements are likely to lead to a competition between companies from the USA and Israel.

The new Frontex regulation came into force on 4 December. The border agency of the European Union wants to build up a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 police officers by 2027. In this way, Frontex is to become a „European Border Police“ and will be given powers that were previously reserved for the EU member states. The agency, based in Warsaw, can now conduct its own operations and use police coercive measures. This affects joint operations at the EU’s external borders as well as deportations. „Frontex stations long-endurance drones in the Mediterranean Sea“ weiterlesen

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

Maritime Walls

How armaments companies benefit from Fortress Europe

Several agencies in the European Union are responsible for the maritime regions of the Member States. The tasks of the Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) include the control of shipping, while Frontex coordinates the surveillance of maritime borders. Both use modern technologies, and the agencies have now pooled their capabilities. The EU Fisheries Control Agency is another partner to benefit from this tripartite working agreement.

Frontex specialises in satellite reconnaissance using the EUROSUR border surveillance system. With this platform, the agency wants to detect irregular refugee camps in Morocco or suspicious ship movements in the Mediterranean. The images come from an EU satellite programme for monitoring environmental and security matters. „Maritime Walls“ weiterlesen

New Frontex Regulation: Fortress Europe to be upgraded

The European Union is setting up a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 border guards, most of whom will be provided by the German Federal Police. The new President of the Commission wants the unit to be complete by 2024. Frontex will also be given more powers and change its organisational structure.

With a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 deployed personnel, the EU border agency Frontex enhance the shielding of the European Union. This is what the EU Commission’s proposal of 12 September 2018 to amend the Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) states. The new border troops are to prevent crossings at Europe’s external borders and carry out returns and deportations.

Frontex currently has only civilian personnel and „borrows“ forces for Joint Operations from the Member States. Until now, each mission has been the responsibility of a Member State of deployment. The Border Agency will be able to manage these operations itself under the new Regulation. „New Frontex Regulation: Fortress Europe to be upgraded“ weiterlesen

Does Frontex arrange illegal push backs?

The EU Border Agency’s air surveillance could have triggered unlawful deportations at external borders. Such operations took place off Libya and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

For two years now, the Frontex Border Agency has been offering EU Member States the possibility of airborne monitoring of their external borders. The flights of this „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ (MAS) are part of the surveillance system EUROSUR, with which Frontex monitors all external borders of the European Union and its „pre-frontier area“. EUROSUR provides so called Fusion Services, including satellite reconnaissance and drone flights.

Frontex installed the manned air surveillance service in the summer of 2017. The agency therefore commissioned a charter company in an operating agreement to fly a twin-engine aircraft of the type „Diamond DA-42“ . Their recorded video data will be transmitted in real time to the Frontex headquarters in Warsaw. Several national EUROSUR contact points, including in Spain, Portugal and Italy, can also receive the live images. „Does Frontex arrange illegal push backs?“ 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

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