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
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
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)
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
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
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
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
The EU border agency Frontex is responsible for the security of the external borders. Its tasks also include testing new surveillance technologies. The Portuguese National Guard, among others, provides support.
The Greek coast guard has completed the test of an airship to monitor its maritime borders off the island of Samos. An aerostat attached to a 1,000 metre long cable was used and provided by the EU border agency Frontex. The pilot project was part of the Frontex operation „Poseidon“ in the eastern Mediterranean, which started more than ten years ago and lasted one month. The German Federal Police has also been present in „Poseidon“ since 2016 with two ships off the Turkish coast.
The 35-meter-long zeppelin comes from the French manufacturer A-NSE. The company specializes in civil and military aerial observation. According to the Greek Marine Ministry, the equipment included a radar, a thermal imaging camera and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the tracking of larger ships. „EU external borders: Frontex ends test with unmanned airship“ weiterlesen
A German company builds special vehicles with surveillance technology. They film demonstrations, wiretap telephones or coordinate swarms of drones at EU external borders.
In the EU security research project ROBORDER, European border authorities are testing various drones for controlling land and sea borders. An unmanned ground vehicle, a long-range drone, a surface drone and an underwater drone operate independently and in swarms. Several sensors deliver videos and geodata of suspicious vehicles or ships. Unauthorised border crossings on land are monitored using thermal imaging cameras or radar equipment.
Tests are carried out on the Greek island of Kos in the Aegean Sea. All recordings converge in a mobile situation centre. The vehicle comes from the German manufacturer Elettronica from Meckenheim in North Rhine-Westphalia and is based on a Mercedes Sprinter. Under the product line „Public Security“ it is sold as „Multirole operations support vehicle“ (MUROS). Elettronica receives around 430,000 euros from the EU Commission for its participation in ROBORDER. The Greek Ministry of Defence is also involved in the research into swarms of drones, so the results could be used for military purposes. „„Discover, identify and interfere“: The MUROS from Meckenheim“ weiterlesen
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