EU agency awaits requests for new maritime rescue drone

The Maritime Safety Agency EMSA has signed a four-year contract for new drone flights. But operational locations are still unclear because required flight permits and approvals are causing problems.

The European Union’s seas are increasingly becoming testing tracks for drone surveillance. The border agency Frontex has been monitoring the Libyan sea rescue zone for a year with an Israeli „Heron 1“; boats with refugees are reported to the coast guard in Libya for forced returns. Now Frontex wants to station such a long-range drone on Crete.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) also uses drones for maritime surveillance and was even significantly faster than Frontex in doing so. After a joint test six years ago, EMSA had been looking for companies to fly drones, and in the meantime the Lisbon-based agency has spent a three-digit million sum on them. „EU agency awaits requests for new maritime rescue drone“ weiterlesen

Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones

After in Malta, the EU border agency is now stationing a long-range drone on Crete. There is contradictory information on the surveillance technology on board.

According to its own figures, Frontex has detected at least 13,000 refugees in 300 cases with the help of long-range drones and reported them to the responsible coast guards. Since May last year, the EU border agency has stationed a Heron 1 from the Israeli arms company IAI in Malta for such missions. The drone is officially registered to the Maltese Air Force.

The contract for Frontex drones was awarded to the German branch of the Airbus Group in Bremen, which also flies four Heron 1s for the German armed forces in Mali. They are controlled from a mobile facility located at the international airport near the Maltese capital Valletta. Other Airbus technicians are responsible for maintenance and repairs there. „Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones“ weiterlesen

Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases

An EU agency is building a recognition system with biometric data on 400 million travellers. The contractors seem to have overstretched themselves

In future, anyone wishing to enter the European Union without a visa will have to register in a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) via a form on the internet, providing information on the purpose and course of the journey. Only with a travel authorisation can the border be crossed. In an Entry/Exit System (EES), all travellers must then submit four fingerprints and a facial image. The biometric data will end up in a huge archive that will be merged with other databases.

In the EU, the introduction of the new information systems is known as Interoperability. Various difficulties in implementation have already delayed the project by several months, and now more complications are on the horizon. This is stated in a presentation by the French Council Presidency, published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. According to it, a questionnaire answered by 24 EU member states showed delays in several countries. „Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases“ weiterlesen

Frontex: Migration control from space

In EUROSUR, EU member states use various satellite services for maritime surveillance. Frontex and the Maritime Security Agency conclude cooperation agreements with the „Copernicus“ programme for this purpose.

All the information Frontex collects at the EU’s external borders is fed into the EUROSUR border surveillance system, which went into operation in 2014. From space, this data comes from the satellites of the EU’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme, which is used for security, civil protection, environmental management and climate change research. To date, the EU has launched several optical and radar-based reconnaissance satellites for the programme. The space data are received and processed by the EU Satellite Centre (SatCen) in Torrejón, Spain, which has the status of an agency.

In the first years of its existence, Copernicus was known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES). After the European satellite navigation system „Galileo“, the European Commission described the platform as the „second flagship“ of European space policy, tailored to increased security needs. While the purpose of GMES in public was emphasised to be the monitoring of climate change and natural resources, there was rather silence about the „S“ for „security“. The first security-oriented GMES offshoots were LIMES (Land and Maritime Monitoring for Environment and Security), G-MOSAIC (GMES services for Management of Operations, Situation Awareness and Intelligence for regional Crises), MARISS (European Maritime Security Services), GMOSS (Global Monitoring for Security and Stability). „Frontex: Migration control from space“ 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

New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex

Although the EU agencies can now cooperate more closely with selected third countries, there have hardly been any formats for the political and strategic agreement of border police measures outside the Schengen area. Austria has now created facts for South Eastern Europe.

After a two-day „Return Conference“, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior announced on Tuesday this week further measures of the „Joint Coordination Platform“ (JCP) „against illegal migration“. The network, which is only one year old, is to conclude „flexible return partnerships“ with Western Balkan states. Behind the term are deportations of people whose request for protection in the EU has been rejected or who decide to return „voluntarily“ for this reason.

At the invitation of the Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner (ÖVP), the governments of 22 countries met in the Vienna Hofburg to discuss the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the so-called Balkan route. Among the participants were, besides the Western Balkan third countries, numerous EU members and Switzerland as the only Schengen state. The Union was represented by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, the border agency Frontex, the new Asylum Agency and the External Action Service. „New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex“ weiterlesen

EU Commission continues to upgrade surveillance in Libya – and worries about its reputation

The EU is using development aid funds to finance a deployable radar system for the Libyan coast guard. The force, known for its brutality, wants to use it to detect refugees crossing to Europe. Then they will be intercepted by three new patrol boats.

Since 2017, the European Union has been investing in increased surveillance of Libya’s maritime borders. As part of the project „Support to Integrated Border Management and Migration Management in Libya – SIBMMIL“, Italy was tasked with installing a Maritime Coordination Centre in the capital Tripoli and defining a sea rescue zone, where the Libyan Coast Guard has been responsible ever since.

The establishment of the centre was initially financed by the EU with €42 million from the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, and a further €15 million was approved for a second phase of the project. However, neither the EU Commission nor the EU Council could say where the facility is located. It is therefore unclear what the money was spent on and where the purchased equipment has remained. „EU Commission continues to upgrade surveillance in Libya – and worries about its reputation“ weiterlesen

New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy

With a new steering group, the French EU Presidency wants to monitor the coordinates of asylum and migration policy in Europe. The basis is a new measuring instrument for „migratory pressure“.

EU interior ministers have followed the suggestion of French President Emmanuel Macron and decided to set up a Schengen Council at their recent meeting in Lille. The French EU presidency calls it the „most appropriate forum for essential exchange of views at the political level“, according to a document from the Council published yesterday by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch. It will be constituted at the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 3 and 4 March.

As a steering group, the Schengen Council is to monitor the situation at the EU’s external borders and dovetail it with measures within the Schengen area. In this way, the member states are to prevent further erosion of the freedom of movement and ensure a reduction of internal border controls. Their temporary reintroduction is permitted under the Schengen Borders Code, but since 2015 some states have made excessive use of them. „New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy“ weiterlesen

Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time

The border agency in Warsaw could deploy drones, vessels and personnel. It would be the first mission in a country that does not directly border the EU. Mauretania might be next.

As a „priority third state“ in West Africa, Senegal has long been a partner for migration-related security cooperation with the EU. The government in Dakar is one of the addressees of the „North Africa Operational Partnership“; it also receives technical equipment and advice for border police upgrading from EU development aid funds. Now Brussels is pushing for a Frontex mission in Senegal. To this end, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled personally to the capital Dakar last week. She was accompanied by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who said that a contract with Senegal might be finalised until summer. For the matter, Johansson met with Senegal’s armed-forces minister and foreign minister.

For operations outside the EU, Frontex needs a so-called status agreement with the country concerned. It regulates, for example, the use of coercive police measures, the deployment of weapons or immunity from criminal and civil prosecution. The Commission will be entrusted with the negotiations for such an agreement with Senegal after the Council has given the mandate. The basis would be a „model status agreement“ drafted by the Commission on the basis of Frontex missions in the Western Balkans. Frontex launched its first mission in a third country in 2019 in Albania, followed by Montenegro in 2020 and Serbia in 2021. „Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time“ weiterlesen

Frontex has air superiority

With its aerial surveillance, from space and soon possibly from the stratosphere, the EU border agency is becoming a quasi-secret service

Twice in the past six years, the EU has drastically expanded Frontex’s powers. In 2016, the agency was allowed to purchase its own equipment, and first began leasing its own aircraft. As a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), they observe the central Mediterranean, the so-called Balkan route and the Aegean. Frontex is thus saying goodbye to the principle of always borrowing personnel and equipment for its missions from the member states.This gives the agency considerably more creative power with less control over its activities at the same time.

The FASS flights can be requested by any EU member state with an external border. The decision whether to deploy lies with Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri. Italy first made use of this in 2017, followed by the first deployment at a land border in Croatia in 2018. In the meantime, FASS aircraft are also flying in Montenegro, Greece and other countries. „Frontex has air superiority“ weiterlesen