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

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

Shots fired at sea rescuers: EU supports competing militias in Libya

A German public prosecutor’s office is investigating the shooting of the ship „Alan Kurdi“. Its crew could be caught between the fronts of two coastguards equipped and trained by different EU missions.

With the General Administration for Coastal Security (GACS) and the Libyan Coast Guard and Port Security (LCGPS), two authorities with overlapping functions exist in Libya. The Ministry of Interior Coast Guard is a law enforcement agency operating within the 12-mile zone and along the coast, while the Ministry of Defence Coast Guard is responsible for territorial waters.

In a „marine strategy“, the Libyan unity government in Tripoli intends to reorganise the responsibilities of LCGPS and GACS. The two responsible ministries are supported in these efforts by the European Union in a „Maritime Sub-Working Group on Libya“ (MSWG). Central actors are the military mission EUNAVFOR MED, which cooperates with the Ministry of Defence, and the EUBAM Libya police mission, in which the EU cooperates with the Libyan Ministry of the Interior. „Shots fired at sea rescuers: EU supports competing militias in Libya“ weiterlesen

Does Frontex arrange illegal push backs?

The EU Border Agency’s air surveillance could have triggered unlawful deportations at external borders. Such operations took place off Libya and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

For two years now, the Frontex Border Agency has been offering EU Member States the possibility of airborne monitoring of their external borders. The flights of this „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ (MAS) are part of the surveillance system EUROSUR, with which Frontex monitors all external borders of the European Union and its „pre-frontier area“. EUROSUR provides so called Fusion Services, including satellite reconnaissance and drone flights.

Frontex installed the manned air surveillance service in the summer of 2017. The agency therefore commissioned a charter company in an operating agreement to fly a twin-engine aircraft of the type „Diamond DA-42“ . Their recorded video data will be transmitted in real time to the Frontex headquarters in Warsaw. Several national EUROSUR contact points, including in Spain, Portugal and Italy, can also receive the live images. „Does Frontex arrange illegal push backs?“ weiterlesen

„In fact, Frontex is now flying for the Libyan coastguard“

Frontex gets more resources and powers. Setting the course before elections to the EU Parliament. A conversation with Matthias Monroy

The EU wants to perfect the moat of its Fortress Europe and transform the European Agency for Border and Coast Guard (EBCG), or Frontex for short, into a border police force. What are the concrete plans?

First of all, there is the establishment of a force of 10,000 troops to prevent border crossings at the external borders or to carry out deportations. This is something completely new, because so far the Border Agency only has civilian staff. This „Standing Corps“ will be set up gradually. By 2021 5,000 officials are to be recruited, by 2024 7,000. They will report directly to the Warsaw Headquarters. In addition, the Member States are to send their own national officials to the „Standing Corps“ for two years. „„In fact, Frontex is now flying for the Libyan coastguard““ weiterlesen