Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones

Last week, the EU Border Agency decided on the multi-year deployment of large drones in the Mediterranean, now Italy is following suit. The contractors have already carried out tests for Frontex over the past two years.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior is providing €7.2 million for the operation of drones in the central Mediterranean. The police and the financial police, who is also responsible for border security, will use the unmanned aerial vehicles by day and night against irregular migration from countries such as Libya and Tunisia. The EU Commission is funding 50% of the procurement with money from the Internal Security Fund.

The contract was apparently awarded to the Italian arms company Leonardo. The firm is to provide up to 1,800 flight hours for an initial year. The drones will be stationed at the Sicilian airports of Trapani, Lampedusa or Ragusa. The Ministry of the Interior demands a deployment radius of about 550 kilometres. The contract has an initial term of one year and can be extended twice. „Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones“ weiterlesen

New arms deal: Ukraine wants armed drone fleet from Turkey

Turkey is one of the few countries that manufactures, exports, deploys armed drones abroad and even at home. The unmanned offensive weapons could soon be manufactured in Ukraine. A jointly produced drone-bomber is also expected to go into series production soon.

The government of Ukraine plans to purchase up to 48 Turkish combat drones and with control stations for the military. Because the order is for a considerable quantity, the governments in Kiev and Ankara might conclude an agreement to produce the aircraft in Ukraine.

The information comes from an interview with Vadim Nozdrya, head of the state organisation Ukroboronprom, published by the Ukrainian web portal „LB“ on Monday. Ukroboronprom is the umbrella organisation of defence companies in Ukraine. „New arms deal: Ukraine wants armed drone fleet from Turkey“ weiterlesen

Shipowners are not allowed to bring refugees back to Libya

The disembarkation of rescued refugees in Libya is punishable under German law, including for merchant ships. This is documented by a Bundestag assessment. However, the Foreign Office and the public prosecutors are not interested in pursuing captains and shipowners

The central Mediterranean is probably one of the best monitored sea areas in the world. The border agency Frontex runs the border police operation „Themis“ there, the External Action Service is responsible for the military operation „EUNAVFOR MED“. In addition to large and small aircraft and ships, submarines, drones and satellite surveillance are used. In addition, NATO is also stationed in the Mediterranean with its „Sea Guardian“ mission an its „Standing NATO Maritime Group“. „Shipowners are not allowed to bring refugees back to Libya“ weiterlesen

Ukraine and Serbia are new European drone powers

Four European states now have armed drones, two of which already use them to combat „terrorism“. Another four might consider to weaponize units which have already been ordered, including Germany. All leading manufacturers of unmanned weapons systems from the USA, China, Turkey and Israel could then be represented in Europe.

The Serbian government has received a delivery of armed drones from China. Six CH-92A („Rainbow“) drones and 18 air-to-ground missiles arrived at a military airport near Belgrade a few days ago, according to local media.

The two systems are comprised of three drones each and the respective ground stations. Serbia had ordered a total of nine drones, which together are said to have cost around 27 million Euros. According to reports, a follow-up order for a further 15 drones has been agreed. „Ukraine and Serbia are new European drone powers“ weiterlesen

EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis

A new monitoring system for Tunisian coasts should counter irregular migration across the Mediterranean. The German Ministry of the Interior is also active in the country. A similar project in Libya has now been completed. Human rights organisations see it as an aid to „pull backs“ contrary to international law.

In order to control and prevent migration, the European Union is supporting North African states in border surveillance. The central Mediterranean Sea off Malta and Italy, through which asylum seekers from Libya and Tunisia want to reach Europe, plays a special role. The EU conducts various operations in and off these countries, including the military mission „Irini“ and the Frontex mission „Themis“. It is becoming increasingly rare for shipwrecked refugees to be rescued by EU Member States. Instead, they assist the coast guards in Libya and Tunisia to bring the people back. Human rights groups, rescue organisations and lawyers consider this assistance for „pull backs“ to be in violation of international law.

With several measures, the EU and its member states want to improve the surveillance off North Africa. Together with Switzerland, the EU Commission has financed a two-part „Integrated Border Management Project“ in Tunisia. It is part of the reform of the security sector which was begun a few years after the fall of former head of state Ben Ali in 2011. With one pillar of this this programme, the EU wants to „prevent criminal networks from operating“ and enable the authorities in the Gulf of Tunis to „save lives at sea“. „EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis“ weiterlesen

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

Frontex aircraft: Below the radar against international law

For three years, Frontex has been chartering small aircraft for the surveillance of the EU’s external borders. First Italy was thus supported, then Croatia followed. Frontex keeps the planes details secret, and the companies also switch off the transponders for position display during operations.

The European Commission does not want to make public which private surveillance planes Frontex uses in the Mediterranean. In the non-public answer to a parliamentary question, the EU border agency writes that the information on the aircraft is „commercially confidential“ as it contains „personal data and sensitive operational information“.

Frontex offers EU member states the option of monitoring their external borders using aircraft. For this „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), Frontex charters twin-engined airplanes from European companies. Italy first made use of the service in 2017, followed a year later by Croatia. In 2018, Frontex carried out at least 1,800 flight hours under the FASS, no figures are yet available for 2019. „Frontex aircraft: Below the radar against international law“ weiterlesen

Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal

„Hera“ is the only Frontex maritime mission on the territory of a third country. A new agreement might extend this joint border surveillance

The EU border agency Frontex wants to bring back refugees picked up in the Atlantic Ocean to Senegal. The EU Commission should therefore negotiate a so-called Status Agreement with the government in Dakar. The proposal can be found in the annual report on the implementation of the Regulation for the surveillance of external sea borders. It regulates the maritime „operational cooperation“ of Frontex with third countries.

It would be the first agreement of this kind with an African government. So far, Frontex has only concluded Status Agreements with a number of Western Balkan countries for the joint surveillance of land borders. The only operation to date in a third country was launched by the Border Agency in Albania a year ago. „Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal“ 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)

Drone power Turkey

For many years, only the USA, Israel and Great Britain used armed drones. Now Turkey is ahead in the everyday use and sale of the weapons.

Last week, the government in Ankara transferred an armed drone to Northern Cyprus. This makes Turkey one of those countries whose military is stationing drones outside its territory. The „Bayraktar TB2“ had landed at the Geçitkale military airport near Famagusta after a five-hour flight from a Turkish air base in Dalaman. This was preceded by a permit from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. According to the Turkish government, unarmed drones were also flown to Famagusta for reconnaissance, and according to Turkish newspapers, more will follow.

The „Bayraktar TB2“ is intended to secure Turkish gas drillings off the island, which has been divided since 1974, and to exert pressure on Cyprus and Greece, which are claiming gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. The move is also likely to be directed against Israel after the Turkish navy intercepted an Israeli research vessel recently. Turkish Transportation Minister Tolga Atakan described the deployment as a reaction to the purchase of Israeli drones by Cyprus. To monitor its exclusive economic zone, the government in Nicosia had purchased four „Aerostar“ drones from the company Aeronautics for 13 million euros in October. With a take-off weight of 230 kilograms, they are significantly lighter than the „Bayraktar TB2“, but with a payload of 50 kilograms they carry a similar payload. Both drones have a range of around 200 kilometres. „Drone power Turkey“ weiterlesen