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

Predator by Cytrox: Spyware discovered on phone of Greek journalist

A committee of enquiry in the EU Parliament is to look into the use of mercenary spyware against opposition members and media workers in Europe. German clients could also be in the spotlight, according to an analysis by the Meta Group.

On 10 March, the European Parliament decided to set up a committee of enquiry into the Pegasus trojan programme, which met for its constituent session yesterday. Background to the case are the known operations of the spying software produced by the Israeli NSO Group against opposition members and journalists in Hungary and Poland. The company claims to have sold its tools to almost all European countries, reports the New Yorker magazine.

The investigation, which goes by the acronym „PEGA“, involves members of parliament who were themselves intercepted by the NSO spying software, including Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont. This „CatalanGate“ was made public by the Canadian research group Citizen Lab at the start of „PEGA“. The EU Commission was also investigated with the trojan. „Predator by Cytrox: Spyware discovered on phone of Greek journalist“ 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

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

EU and NATO: Military, police, secret services against migration as „hybrid threat“

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU Commission and the Council intertwined internal and external security and thus closer cooperate with NATO. In 2015, a fighting word was created for this, which is being positioned against disinformation, cyber attacks and migration.

Several thousand refugees have attempted to cross the Belarusian border with Lithuania and Poland in recent weeks, subsequently seeking asylum in countries such as Germany. The two Eastern European states have responded by hastily erecting fences and a martial, including military, build-up. Lithuania was the first EU state to activate the European Crisis Reaction Mechanism (IPCR) in the area of migration. Poland is relying solely on measures without EU involvement, even though Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sees „Europe, our common house“ in danger. Great Britain and Estonia are therefore offering to send troops to the government in Warsaw.

Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refer to migrants as a „weapon“. This framing is echoed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who threatens that the Washington administration will keep up the pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as long as Belarus is „undermining peace and security in Europe „. On Thursday, G7 countries also showed solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, condemning „this provocative use of irregular migration as a hybrid tactic“. „EU and NATO: Military, police, secret services against migration as „hybrid threat““ weiterlesen

Pistols and ammunition: Frontex chooses weapons manufacturer from Austria

With a „Standing Corps“, the European Union has a uniformed and armed police unit for the first time. Whether Frontex is allowed to buy, store and transport weapons at all, however, is controversial. A planned loan agreement with Greece has not yet materialised.

The European border agency Frontex is equipping its new „Standing Corps“ with firearms from the Austrian arms manufacturer Glock. The company is supplying 2,500 9×19 mm semi-automatic pistols, according to the procurement portal for pan-European tenders, and will receive €3.76 million. The contract, initially concluded for a period of four years, can be extended several times. Glock must guarantee the availability and supply of all parts offered for at least 15 years.

The weapons are supplied with the usual accessories, including additional magazines, holsters, attachable torches, tool kits and cleaning kits. A framework contract also includes training for Frontex shooters and their trainers. „Pistols and ammunition: Frontex chooses weapons manufacturer from Austria“ weiterlesen

EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?

For the first time, drones are flying on behalf of an EU agency with rescue equipment on board. On the high seas, the actually useful technology could encourage illegal refoulements to countries like Libya. Perhaps the new function will only be used for minor maritime emergencies in European waters.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has awarded a new €30 million contract for drone services. It has gone to the Portuguese company Tekever, which is flying an „AR5“ for EMSA since 2016. Reconnaissance missions of this fixed-wing drone are carried out for coast guards of the Schengen member states, that have to submit a corresponding request to the agency for this purpose. According to the tender, the EMSA drones are also to monitor the Mediterranean Sea within the framework of missions of the border agency Frontex.

Tekever equips the „AR5“ with radars, day and night cameras as well as receivers for signals from ships or emergency systems. They can stay in the air for more than 12 hours. In Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, among others, the „AR5s“ have completed more than 1,200 flight hours in almost 250 missions, including surveillance and safety at sea, detecting pollution or combating illegal fishing. „EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally

EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.

Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.

Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen

New camps in Greece: Panopticon for refugees

A „hotspot“ for asylum seekers is opening on Samos, which inmates describe as „Guantanamo“. The EU Commission finds such facilities dignified, and therefore finances them completely. The pilot project will be monitored with motion detectors, behavioural recognition and drones.

Two weeks ago, the Greek government opened the first of six new camps for refugees on the island of Samos. The new „Closed Controlled Access Centre“ is located about eight kilometres from the nearest small town in the middle of nowhere. It consists of hundreds of containers with air-conditioning, recreational rooms, a food bank, sports facilities and a playground, which, like all the other installations, are behind a double fence secured with NATO razor wire. Up to 3,000 people can be fenced in there, currently it started with 600.

The camp is divided by colour into regions and languages; green housing units are reserved for Arabic speakers, blue for Afghans and red for people of African origin. A purple area marks the COVID-19 quarantine station, and there is also a deportation prison on the premises. Announcements can be made to all inmates via a loudspeaker system. „New camps in Greece: Panopticon for refugees“ weiterlesen

Flight campaign in the UK: Military drone operates in civilian airspace for the first time

Throughout Europe, military drones are only allowed to fly in restricted areas. This is a major obstacle for training and missions inside the country. A British flight series with a US drone is now set to bring a breakthrough for flights in civilian airspace.

For the past two weeks, US drone manufacturer General Atomics has been flying a „SeaGuardian“ in the UK’s civilian airspace. The unmanned aerial vehicle, designed for maritime surveillance, has a wingspan of 24 metres, can climb up to twelve kilometres and remain in the air for 40 hours. With these flights, the British Ministry of Defence wants to prepare the introduction of the almost identical „SkyGuardian“. From 2024, it is to replace the current armed drone fleet of the Air Force, where it operates under the name „Protector“.

For the flight tests, the drones are equipped with a „Detection And Avoidance“ system (DAA). It shows the pilot which other aircraft are in the vicinity and warns of danger. In the event of an imminent collision, an avoidance procedure is automatically initiated. The British Civil Aviation Authority has provisionally approved the operation of the system. „Flight campaign in the UK: Military drone operates in civilian airspace for the first time“ weiterlesen