Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally

EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.

Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.

Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen

New camps in Greece: Panopticon for refugees

A „hotspot“ for asylum seekers is opening on Samos, which inmates describe as „Guantanamo“. The EU Commission finds such facilities dignified, and therefore finances them completely. The pilot project will be monitored with motion detectors, behavioural recognition and drones.

Two weeks ago, the Greek government opened the first of six new camps for refugees on the island of Samos. The new „Closed Controlled Access Centre“ is located about eight kilometres from the nearest small town in the middle of nowhere. It consists of hundreds of containers with air-conditioning, recreational rooms, a food bank, sports facilities and a playground, which, like all the other installations, are behind a double fence secured with NATO razor wire. Up to 3,000 people can be fenced in there, currently it started with 600.

The camp is divided by colour into regions and languages; green housing units are reserved for Arabic speakers, blue for Afghans and red for people of African origin. A purple area marks the COVID-19 quarantine station, and there is also a deportation prison on the premises. Announcements can be made to all inmates via a loudspeaker system. „New camps in Greece: Panopticon for refugees“ 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

Corona and the situation of refugees in Germany

Restrictions on movement and contact, border closures, travel bans – the Covid 19 pandemic also means considerable limitations on civil liberties and fundamental rights in Germany. Many measures, however, particularly affect refugees.

On 16 March the European Union closed its external borders. Although the application for asylum was supposed to be one of the exceptions to entry permits, de facto the official border crossings for asylum seekers remained largely insurmountable. The EU is also stepping up the surveillance at „green“ and „blue“ borders. The border agency Frontex has suspended some of its operations, for example in the Western Balkans, because of the Corona crisis. But on the other hand, Frontex has extended its missions in Greece, which has seen a high number of arrivals of refugees due to tensions with Turkey, by two „Rapid Border Interventions“ at the Evros border river and in the Aegean Sea. At the beginning of April, the governments involved also suspended the „Malta deal“ for sea rescue in the central Mediterranean. Rescued persons are no longer being redistributed to the states willing to receive them; this affects a total of 731 refugees, most of whom were supposed to come to Germany. Malta and Italy completely closed their ports to private rescue vessels a little later, only with much public pressure could 150 rescued persons from the German ship „Alan Kurdi“ disembark in Malta in mid-April, most of the others were brought back by the Libyan coast guard – even from waters for which Malta is responsible. „Corona and the situation of refugees in Germany“ weiterlesen

Border controls in Bavaria and Austria: Police to extract mobile phones

With the takeover of the sovereign border security, the Free State is also using new technology. The extraction of telephones is supposed to help in the detection of „smuggler networks“. Another application is „contactless identity verification“. The projects are perfecting the expansion of biometric EU databases.

Two years ago, the Bundestag passed the „law for better enforcement of the obligation to leave the country“. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) may now search mobile phones and other electronic devices of refugees in order to process their asylum applications. The information should help to determine their origin. The authorities evaluate, for example, the country codes of called telephone numbers and contacts and the domain endings of called websites. Geodata and the language used in text messages are also analysed. This practice could now be extended to border controls. „Border controls in Bavaria and Austria: Police to extract mobile phones“ weiterlesen