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

No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash

Several Member States use EU services for unmanned maritime surveillance of different sizes. Operations for Frontex were stopped since January.

The border agency Frontex will not use Israeli drones to monitor the external borders of the European Union until further notice. This is what the EU Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, writes in response to a written question by left-wing MEP Özlem Demirel. The background is the crash of a long-range drone of the Israeli armament company Elbit on January 8th of this year on Crete. The incident with the „Hermes 900“ occurred on the runway of Tympaki airport in Crete.

For the first time, the Commission is now giving details of the incident. According to the commission, it was a „hard landing“ after sensors of the drone had displayed „unexpected readings“. The aircraft then deviated from the runway, which, as Greek media reported, led to considerable damage. The Commission confirms that the fuselage, wings and sensors were damaged, but that „no casualties nor damage on the running way“ occurred. The „Hermes 900“ was apparently flown by pilots of the manufacturer Elbit. „No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash“ weiterlesen

North and Baltic Sea: German authority orders EU drone surveillance

In several projects, the German Federal Police is testing drones in maritime environments. So far, the unmanned aircrafts have to fly in restricted areas, but soon they could be integrated into civil airspace. The Ministry of Transportation, which responsible for this, is now asking the European Union to provide drone flights.

The German Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) has requested drone flights from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). In coordination with the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), to which the BSH is accountable. The BMVI is now providing details in its response to a parliamentary question.

Accordingly, it is a three-month test phase which is intended to supplement the BSH’s ship exhaust gas measurement network. The authority will use it to examine the gas plumes of passing ships and calculate the fuel sulfur content, which in Germany may only contain 0.1 percent.The drones should also map tidal flats and shallow water areas. The ministry is not writing whether this is done for the construction of further offshore facilities. „North and Baltic Sea: German authority orders EU drone surveillance“ weiterlesen

Corona and the situation of refugees in Germany

Restrictions on movement and contact, border closures, travel bans – the Covid 19 pandemic also means considerable limitations on civil liberties and fundamental rights in Germany. Many measures, however, particularly affect refugees.

On 16 March the European Union closed its external borders. Although the application for asylum was supposed to be one of the exceptions to entry permits, de facto the official border crossings for asylum seekers remained largely insurmountable. The EU is also stepping up the surveillance at „green“ and „blue“ borders. The border agency Frontex has suspended some of its operations, for example in the Western Balkans, because of the Corona crisis. But on the other hand, Frontex has extended its missions in Greece, which has seen a high number of arrivals of refugees due to tensions with Turkey, by two „Rapid Border Interventions“ at the Evros border river and in the Aegean Sea. At the beginning of April, the governments involved also suspended the „Malta deal“ for sea rescue in the central Mediterranean. Rescued persons are no longer being redistributed to the states willing to receive them; this affects a total of 731 refugees, most of whom were supposed to come to Germany. Malta and Italy completely closed their ports to private rescue vessels a little later, only with much public pressure could 150 rescued persons from the German ship „Alan Kurdi“ disembark in Malta in mid-April, most of the others were brought back by the Libyan coast guard – even from waters for which Malta is responsible. „Corona and the situation of refugees in Germany“ weiterlesen

Frontex launches new operations in Greece

In two RABIT missions, the EU Border Agency is sending 100 additional officials to the Greek-Turkish land and sea border. Frontex currently has around 600 operational forces stationed in Greece.

Frontex has started two new missions in Greece. Following a decision by Director Fabrice Leggeri, the EU Border Agency is sending border guards with technical assets to the Aegean Sea. A further mission has been launched today to reinforce police and military units for border surveillance on the land border with Turkey. This follows a request by the government in Athens.

Frontex is coordinating the new operations with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who visited the Greek-Turkish land border with the President of Parliament and the President of the Council on 3 March. Von der Leyen did not say a word about the one-month suspension of asylum applications imposed by Greece, nor did she comment on Greek attacks on refugees. Instead, she praised the government’s measures as a „European shield“ and promised emergency financial aid of 700 million euros for „migration management“. „Frontex launches new operations in Greece“ 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)

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

Frontex expands operations in EU neighbouring countries

After Albania and Montenegro, the EU Commission has concluded a Frontex status agreement with Serbia, to be followed by Northern Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. A first deployment of the EU border troops has meanwhile been increased.

The European Commission has now also signed an arrangement with Serbia on „cooperation on border management“. The so-called status agreement regulates the implementation of „Joint Operations“ with the EU border agency Frontex at the common borders with the European Union. It was already published by the Commission in January and has now been ratified by the Serbian Parliament. Kosovo’s territory is excluded.

The objectives of the agreement include the fight against irregular migration and cross-border crime in accordance with the Frontex Regulation. The EU also promises „increased technical and operational assistance“ to the Serbian border police. „Frontex expands operations in EU neighbouring countries“ weiterlesen

Eurodrone delayed by two years

The envisaged date for series production of a European long-range drone is not tenable. The German Ministry of Defence is to be responsible for the delay of at least two years. In the meantime, the project has been transferred to „Permanent Structured Cooperation“. Further governments could join the initiative.

The series production of the so-called Eurodrone cannot begin before 2027. This was written by the Federal Ministry of Defence in response to a small inquiry. At the beginning of the year, the German government had still declared that it „still assumes unchanged“ that the development would be completed by 2025. The Ministry of Defence had also published this timetable for the presentation of a model at the International Aviation Exhibition in Berlin. „Eurodrone delayed by two years“ weiterlesen

EU extends maritime surveillance with drones

Three EU agencies are responsible for maritime safety, in an agreement they want to benefit from joint reconnaissance capabilities. Drone flights are used for border, fisheries and customs controls, law enforcement and environmental protection. Seven European states are currently participating and an enlargement is planned.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has extended its drone flights to a total of six EU Member States and Iceland. According to EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, unmanned aerial vehicles of various sizes fly in Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Croatia, Italy.

The drone surveillance services are carried out for the coastguards of each country. They cover irregular immigration, smuggling, illegal fishing and air or sea pollution. If necessary, the drones can also be used for rescue at sea. EMSA works with the European Aviation Safety Agency to integrate the drones into civil airspace. „EU extends maritime surveillance with drones“ weiterlesen