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

Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war

Turkey’s best-selling armed drone is equipped with cameras from German company Hensoldt, a spokesperson confirms. The device could guide missiles developed with German help to a target. The government in Berlin also has a stake in the defence company. Turkey uses the drones for attacks that violate international law.

For almost two decades, companies from the USA and Israel were the undisputed market leaders for armed drones, but now China and Turkey can count more and more exports in their favour. The Turkish „Bayraktar TB2“, which has been used by the government in Ankara since 2016 in the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi parts of Kurdistan in violation of international law, is particularly attracting attention. In the four-month Operation Olive Branch in Kurdish Rojava alone, the „TB2“ is said to have scored 449 direct hits and enabled fighter planes or helicopters in 680 occasions to do so.

The drone with a payload of 65 kilograms is manufactured by Baykar; its namesake and founder is Selçuk Bayraktar, who is now also the son-in-law of the Turkish president. The „TB2“ has also flown attacks on enemy troops for the Tripoli government in Libya and on behalf of Azerbaijan; it may even have been decisive in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. After Qatar, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkmenistan, Baykar is to sell the drone as the first NATO country to Poland, interest is also reportedly coming from Lithuania. „Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war“ weiterlesen

WhatsApp to Libya: How Frontex uses a trick to circumvent international law

The EU is not allowed to return refugees to countries where they face persecution. In 2017, the Commission therefore set up a backdoor for refoulement to North Africa. Published text messages now reveal how Frontex is providing aerial reconnaissance for the Libyan coast guard.

Four years ago, Frontex began setting up its aerial surveillance over the central Mediterranean. Under a new regulation from 2016, the European Border Agency is allowed to buy or lease its own equipment. With the change, the EU wanted to respond to the increasing number of people seeking protection at its external borders. Frontex has since invested hundreds of millions of Euros in charter flights with small planes from European companies that monitor the central Mediterranean and the so-called Balkan route with cameras and radar equipment.

For the now increasingly powerful agency, this flight service is of central importance, which is also reflected in the annual expenditure. This year alone, Frontex is spending a third of the budget earmarked for operations on aerial reconnaissance. Meanwhile, Frontex has supplemented its chartered aircraft with a drone with much greater endurance. „WhatsApp to Libya: How Frontex uses a trick to circumvent international law“ weiterlesen

New unmanned capabilities: When will the EU use drones for practical sea rescue?

Two leading drone manufacturers report readiness to equip their aircraft with life rafts. These can be dropped with pinpoint accuracy over a maritime emergency. But perhaps this would also encourage violations of the Geneva Refugee Convention.

The Portuguese company Tekever can now equip its drone „AR5“ with life rafts for eight people. The new capability has already been tested in several trials over the Atlantic, the manufacturer now shows this in a video.

With the help of on-board computers, the system calculates the optimal drop point. The rescue device is to be placed at a sufficient distance from the emergency at sea so that those affected are not put at additional risk. „New unmanned capabilities: When will the EU use drones for practical sea rescue?“ weiterlesen

Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance

The border agency spends one-sixth of its budget on flights at the EU’s external borders. With the service, the Frontex director makes himself independent of the governments of the member states. A contract for helicopter operations does not materialise for the time being. In the meantime, however, Libya has ordered helicopters from Airbus.

Frontex has awarded two new contracts for aerial maritime surveillance. These are two of the original four tenders for medium-range and long-range flights. According to the European procurement portal, the contracts worth €53.6 million and €30.9 million were awarded to five charter companies from the Netherlands, the UK and Austria. All beneficiaries had previously provided flight services for Frontex. Several companies also fly for coastguards in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK.

Frontex currently spends one-sixth of its budget this year on its „Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS). The EU border agency began setting it up in 2013. Initially, it was a pilot project with the British company Diamond Executive Aviation (DEA), which was followed by service contracts with a total of nine companies from 2017. It was based on the renewed Frontex Regulation of 2016, according to which the agency can procure, lease or rent its own equipment. This makes Frontex independent of the Member States, from which the agency usually has to request personnel and equipment for “ Joint Operations“. „Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance“ weiterlesen