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
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
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 station its own drones in the Mediterranean. Until then, the EU border agency will use a drone service provided by the Maritime Safety Agency. This service is also being expanded; numerous European governments have now ordered drone missions.
A long-range drone, which monitors Greek maritime borders on behalf of the EU border agency Frontex, crashed during take-off. This was reported by the Greek platform Protothema which documented the crash on January 8 with a photo. According to the image, it was a „Hermes 900“ of the Israeli armament company Elbit.
The report states that the incident occurred on the runway of Tympaki airport in Crete. Protothema says the possible cause was a malfunction in the propulsion system or human error. The aircraft is said to have been severely damaged and will be replaced within two weeks. However, there have been no reports as to when the drone surveillance of Crete was resumed. „Against Migration: EU drone crashed in Crete“ weiterlesen
How armaments companies benefit from Fortress Europe
Several agencies in the European Union are responsible for the maritime regions of the Member States. The tasks of the Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) include the control of shipping, while Frontex coordinates the surveillance of maritime borders. Both use modern technologies, and the agencies have now pooled their capabilities. The EU Fisheries Control Agency is another partner to benefit from this tripartite working agreement.
Frontex specialises in satellite reconnaissance using the EUROSUR border surveillance system. With this platform, the agency wants to detect irregular refugee camps in Morocco or suspicious ship movements in the Mediterranean. The images come from an EU satellite programme for monitoring environmental and security matters. „Maritime Walls“ weiterlesen
In the new Frontex budget, more than two billion euros have been reserved for the procurement of the company’s own ships, aircraft and automobiles. After drones, the EU Commission is now testing other technologies for aerial border surveillance
The Greek coast guard is using an unmanned airship in the Aegean Sea. The so-called Aerostat is used to monitor the sea area off the island of Samos. The pilot project is carried out in cooperation with the EU border agency Frontex and is part of Operation „Poseidon“ in the eastern Mediterranean. The tests last one month and are intended to determine the suitability for the detection of irregular border crossings.
If Frontex detects boats that are not seaworthy while still sailing in Turkish territorial waters, the Agency may inform the responsible Turkish sea emergency centre in accordance with maritime law. Aerial images are also to be used to track smugglers. „Frontex monitors sea border with unmanned airship“ weiterlesen
Unmanned systems could help to rescue shipwrecked boats in the Mediterranean. However, a new German sea rescue drone is only to be used in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.
Under the name „LARUS“, the German Government develops drones for the rescue of ships in distress. The abbreviation of the drone stands for „Situation support during sea rescue operations by unmanned aeronautical systems“. The system is financed from civil security research funds, for which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is paying 2.8 million euros.
Several German manufacturers of optical sensors and communications technology, including Deutsche Telekom, are involved in the development under the direction of the Technical University of Dortmund. Because the drone is to be used for sea rescue in Germany, the German Shipwreck Rescue Association and the Federal Maritime Police Inspectorate based in Warnemünde are also on board of the project. „Germany’s rescue drone will not fly in the Mediterranean“ weiterlesen