Human rights violations in Malta: Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer criticises own air surveillance

An emergency at sea in May this year shows how Maltese authorities lets unseaworthy boats pass unrescued so that refugees are taken on board much later by neighbouring Italy or drown. Frontex’s acting Fundamental Rights Officer has clearer words for this than his predecessor.

Since 2017, the Warsaw-based European Union border agency is monitoring the migration route in the central Mediterranean Sea with specially leased planes. Meanwhile, the service is supported by two large drones from Malta and Crete. The deployment of the aircraft opens a backdoor for refoulement in violation of international law: Frontex takes over the aerial surveillance for the Tripoli coast guard, so that they take the discovered refugees back to Libya. This even happens regularly when boats are in Malta’s sea rescue zone.

Jonas Grimheden, the Fundamental Rights Officer at Frontex, has strong words for this practice. This is what it says in a „Serious Incident Report“ that the agency had to release in response to my Freedom of Information request. According to this, Frontex employees lack criteria for classifying when a boat must be rescued immediately by units in the vicinity. The border agency is therefore to start a „dialogue“ on definitions of vessels in distress with Malta, which is also criticised in the report for its inaction. „Human rights violations in Malta: Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer criticises own air surveillance“ weiterlesen

Criticism also of COP 27: Egyptian blogger still on hunger strike

Egyptians in exile are currently protesting for the release of blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah. A Berlin based solidarity group has also criticised Germany, which is an important trading partner of the regime in Cairo and wants to import „green energy“.

The Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd el-Fattah is considered one of the faces of the 2011 revolution, but the government keeps imprisoning him. He has been on hunger strike since 2 April, eating only 100 calories a day. Alaa also has British citizenship, so his supporters are protesting in front of British consulates and embassies. The new solidarity group OccupyCOP27 from Berlin responds about this. „Criticism also of COP 27: Egyptian blogger still on hunger strike“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: EU agencies with surveillance program

After secret data collection on migrants, Frontex hires 250 new officers to profile travelers

Europol, the Hague-based EU police agency, is tasked with investigating criminals and preventing imminent crimes. Europol can coordinate investigations if they involve two or more EU member states and stores information in its own databases to do so. For several years, the border agency Frontex has also been collecting data on persons suspected of committing cross-border crimes and forwarding it to Europol. The medium „Balkan Insights,“ „Spiegel“ and other international press reported on this last week after a joint investigation. However, Frontex, which was once established in Warsaw to monitor and control borders, does not have a sufficient mandate for this. „Frontex and Europol: EU agencies with surveillance program“ weiterlesen

First deployment on the edge of a war zone: EU sends Frontex to Moldova

In just a few days, the Republic of Moldova could command units of the EU border force, the deployment is already being prepared. However, a status agreement currently being negotiated with the government in Chisinau would have to exclude operations in Transnistria, where Russia has stationed military forces.

The EU Commission and the member states in the Council want to conclude a so-called status agreement with the government of the Republic of Moldova in an urgent procedure. Subsequently, the EU border agency Frontex is to send units for „migration management“ to the border with Ukraine there. This is according to the Commission’s press release of yesterday, Thursday.

Both the Commission and the Council are working at full speed on the planned deployment, and only yesterday the ambassadors of all EU member states were informed about it in a special meeting. Before negotiations for a status agreement with Moldova can begin, the Council must give the Commission a mandate to that effect. The Commission has submitted a proposal for this in an urgent procedure. „First deployment on the edge of a war zone: EU sends Frontex to Moldova“ weiterlesen

Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs

Following a review by other Schengen states, the Greek government is improving surveillance and control of its external borders, funded by EU funds. This could encourage pushbacks in violation of international law.

European Union member states are likely to oblige Greece to further upgrade its external borders. A draft decision by the EU Commission, published by the civil rights organisation Statewatch, states that surveillance at land and sea borders will be stepped up. Greek authorities would also have to improve controls at border crossings.

The demands are based on an evaluation of the application of the so-called Schengen acquis in Greece from the summer of 2021. Such reviews take place regularly in each member state and are intended to determine whether a government is complying with Schengen rules. The evaluation teams consist of volunteers from other EU countries. The „deficiencies“ found are documented in a report. „Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs“ weiterlesen

„Migrant smuggling“ via Belarus: Europol wanted 455 internet accounts deleted

The Internet Referral Unit in The Hague also monitors social media for the purpose of prosecuting people who help refugees. However, the removal of content is not obligatory for providers.

The EU police agency has reported at least 455 accounts on social media „promoting illegal immigration services from Belarus to Europe“ to internet companies for deletion. The information comes from a Europol press release from December last year and can now also be found in the current annual report of the Europol-based Centre against Migrant Smuggling (EMSC). The extent to which companies have complied with the reports is not known; Europol gives the number as „many“. Their compliance remains voluntary, even after the transposition deadline of the EU regulation on combating the spread of terrorist content online starts on 7 June.

The deletion requests related to fleeing via Belarus were made in cooperation with Europol’s Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU) in The Hague, which is based at the anti-terrorism centre there. Shortly afterwards, EU governments agreed to extend its remit to include prohibited support for irregular migration. However, reports on „terrorism“ continue to make up the majority of the content objected to by Europol. „„Migrant smuggling“ via Belarus: Europol wanted 455 internet accounts deleted“ weiterlesen

New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy

With a new steering group, the French EU Presidency wants to monitor the coordinates of asylum and migration policy in Europe. The basis is a new measuring instrument for „migratory pressure“.

EU interior ministers have followed the suggestion of French President Emmanuel Macron and decided to set up a Schengen Council at their recent meeting in Lille. The French EU presidency calls it the „most appropriate forum for essential exchange of views at the political level“, according to a document from the Council published yesterday by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch. It will be constituted at the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 3 and 4 March.

As a steering group, the Schengen Council is to monitor the situation at the EU’s external borders and dovetail it with measures within the Schengen area. In this way, the member states are to prevent further erosion of the freedom of movement and ensure a reduction of internal border controls. Their temporary reintroduction is permitted under the Schengen Borders Code, but since 2015 some states have made excessive use of them. „New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy“ 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

Relaunch of the EU-US Migration Platform

Twice a year the USA and the EU want to meet to talk about migration and asylum policies

At their most recent meeting in Washington last December, the justice and interior ministers of the EU and the USA revived their „Migration Platform“, which had fallen asleep in 2015. The EU also launched a „migration platform“ with Canada in 2016.

Twice a year, the responsible EU-US ministries now want to exchange information on developments in their respective migration and asylum policies. These include the „the prevention of irregular migration, the „fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking“ and „challenges arising from the situation in Afghanistan“. „Relaunch of the EU-US Migration Platform“ weiterlesen

EU and NATO: Military, police, secret services against migration as „hybrid threat“

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU Commission and the Council intertwined internal and external security and thus closer cooperate with NATO. In 2015, a fighting word was created for this, which is being positioned against disinformation, cyber attacks and migration.

Several thousand refugees have attempted to cross the Belarusian border with Lithuania and Poland in recent weeks, subsequently seeking asylum in countries such as Germany. The two Eastern European states have responded by hastily erecting fences and a martial, including military, build-up. Lithuania was the first EU state to activate the European Crisis Reaction Mechanism (IPCR) in the area of migration. Poland is relying solely on measures without EU involvement, even though Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sees „Europe, our common house“ in danger. Great Britain and Estonia are therefore offering to send troops to the government in Warsaw.

Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refer to migrants as a „weapon“. This framing is echoed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who threatens that the Washington administration will keep up the pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as long as Belarus is „undermining peace and security in Europe „. On Thursday, G7 countries also showed solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, condemning „this provocative use of irregular migration as a hybrid tactic“. „EU and NATO: Military, police, secret services against migration as „hybrid threat““ weiterlesen