Sea rescue off Libya: Flight bans by Tripoli violate international law

The Scientific Services of the German Bundestag consider it against two international conventions that Libya prohibits a private rescue organisation from flying over high seas. The Berlin government agrees, but does not change the problem. Therefore, the International Civil Aviation Organisation cannot intervene either.

The ban on civilian flights for sea rescue in the central Mediterranean by Libyan authorities violates international law. This had already been confirmed by the Scientific Services of the Bundestag in an assessment at the end of June. Now the German government agrees with this assessment. The demand for permission to fly outside state territory is „contrary to the principle of freedom of overflight on the high seas“, according to the answer to a parliamentary question.

According to the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the Libyan aviation authority oversees a Flight Information Region (FIR) that extends outside the twelve-mile zone over large parts of the southern Mediterranean. Before entering a FIR, pilots must register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and declare their destination. However, the central Mediterranean is considered uncontrolled airspace where no such declaration is required. Aviation authorities are not allowed to impose restrictions there, at best, they can only provide indications and information, the Bundestag assessment explains. „Sea rescue off Libya: Flight bans by Tripoli violate international law“ weiterlesen

Secret aerial surveillance: What does an hour’s flight with a Frontex drone cost?

With a new regulation, the EU border agency has set up its own aerial surveillance with aircraft. With the arrival of drones, migration control with the „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ has become much more effective, but presumably also more expensive.

For more than a year, the EU border agency has stationed an Israeli Heron 1 long-range drone in Malta, and another drone now patrols the airspace around the Greek island of Crete. Frontex, however, does not want to disclose how much money a flight hour costs. Thus, it cannot be compared whether the drones are more expensive than manned aircraft on behalf of Frontex, as suspected.

With a new regulation, Frontex received permission in 2016 to purchase its own equipment. Immediately, the agency began leasing charter aircraft for aerial surveillance as part of a „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ (MAS). This made Frontex independent of borrowing planes and helicopters, which previously had to be requested from EU Member States in the framework of Agency missions. „Secret aerial surveillance: What does an hour’s flight with a Frontex drone cost?“ weiterlesen

Following airplanes and drones: Frontex wants helicopters for border surveillance

The EU border agency wants to repeat a failed tender to procure rotary-wing aircraft. These could be used in areas where there is a lack of runways. The scenarios fit a Greek border river where many dead bodies wash up.

The European border agency Frontex is sticking to plans to add helicopters to its fleet of aircraft. A failed tender is to be made up this year, and procurement could then take place next year. This is what the new Frontex director Aija Kalnaja writes in her answer to a parliamentary question by MEP Özlem Demirel. Accordingly, the rotorcraft are to fly in operational areas where there is a lack of suitable landing sites for aircraft and drones.

Frontex had already targeted a three-million-euro framework contract for helicopter services across Europe two years ago. The helicopters were part of a tender for long- and medium-range flights with manned aircraft, on which Frontex planned to spend another €100 million. They were to be used in land and sea operations, Frontex wrote, „even if they are more oriented on the land domain.“ „Following airplanes and drones: Frontex wants helicopters for border surveillance“ weiterlesen

Secret border surveillance: Italy drastically restricts freedom of information

Italian media no longer receive information about their country’s cooperation with the Libyan coast guard. Whether many millions of euros for equipment have been wasted there can now hardly be clarified. It also makes the EU border agency Frontex more opaque.

The Italian government has drastically restricted the right of access to administrative documents. In the future, information on cross-border security cooperation is to be kept secret from the public. A corresponding decree restricting freedom of information was signed by Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese as early as mid-March 2022, reports the newspaper Altreconomia. The reason given is the threat to national security or defense.

Particularly affected is the intergovernmental „border and immigration management“ with neighboring countries. For example, cooperation agreements and technical agreements between the military and police will no longer be issued. Separately mentioned in the decree is information on „problems in border areas.“ „Secret border surveillance: Italy drastically restricts freedom of information“ weiterlesen

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

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

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

EU development aid: Italy is gifting more surveillance technology to the Libyan coastguard

With a mobile maritime monitoring centre, EU member states hope to improve the migration deterrence of authorities in Libya. The delivery with an Italian warship is also a signal to Turkey.

Libya has received new technology for monitoring the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. The equipment, financed with EU funds, is installed in containers and was brought to Tripoli by the „San Giorgio“ helicopter carrier. The daily newspaper „Repubblica“ describes the transfer as a „covert operation“. However, it is the long-announced delivery of a mobile Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).

It is being financed from development aid funds within the framework of the EU project „Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya“ (SIBMMIL). In a first phase, the EU had approved €46 million from the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for this purpose, followed by another €15 million in 2018. With this money, the EU wants to equip the Libyan coast guard for better migration deterrence. „EU development aid: Italy is gifting more surveillance technology to the Libyan coastguard“ 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