With its aerial surveillance, from space and soon possibly from the stratosphere, the EU border agency is becoming a quasi-secret service
Twice in the past six years, the EU has drastically expanded Frontex’s powers. In 2016, the agency was allowed to purchase its own equipment, and first began leasing its own aircraft. As a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), they observe the central Mediterranean, the so-called Balkan route and the Aegean. Frontex is thus saying goodbye to the principle of always borrowing personnel and equipment for its missions from the member states.This gives the agency considerably more creative power with less control over its activities at the same time.
The FASS flights can be requested by any EU member state with an external border. The decision whether to deploy lies with Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri. Italy first made use of this in 2017, followed by the first deployment at a land border in Croatia in 2018. In the meantime, FASS aircraft are also flying in Montenegro, Greece and other countries. „Frontex has air superiority“ weiterlesen
Until now, only asylum seekers and visa applicants had to hand over their biometric data before entering the EU. With an Entry/Exit System, this will be extended to all other travellers from third countries. Border controls will be significantly delayed from 2022. Entry apps and automatic „eGates“ should save this time again.
The EU border agency Frontex has completed a series of tests on the storage and processing of biometric data at land borders. At three checkpoints in Bulgaria and Spain, four fingerprints and the facial image, as well as the date and place of entry or exit, were taken and stored, in addition to the travellers‘ names and documents. The border controls were carried out by volunteers, for which Frontex spent 1.5 million Euros.
The background to the pilot project is the imminent introduction of an Entry/Exit System (EES). All travellers from non-EU countries must register biometrically each time they cross an external EU border. This applies in particular to short-term visa holders and visa-free travellers from around 60 countries. „New control system: Frontex ends pilot project on facial recognition at EU borders“ weiterlesen
High-flying drones are to reconnoitre the EU’s external borders from the stratosphere, a static zeppelin is already observing close to the ground. With interception systems in space, the EU border agency wants to locate and possibly tap satellite telephones in the Mediterranean. So far, the technology has only been installed in aircraft.
The European Union‘s border agency Frontex is expanding its „surveillance capability“ with high-flying platforms. In a call for tenders, systems are being sought for use in the stratosphere. At an altitude of 20 kilometres, they are to close the gap between the aircraft, drones and satellites already in use.
The systems sought include so-called high-altitude platforms (HAPS) or lighter-than-air (LTA) solutions, such as those currently being developed to series maturity by the European armament company Airbus with the glider „Zephyr“ or its French competitor Thales with the zeppelin-like „Stratobus“, which can last for months or even years. Suppliers of microsatellites, which can be launched into space extremely cheaply these days, can also apply.
The launch of HAPS has been driven by the EU Space Agency since 2017, and its market share at the time was estimated to be over €7 billion by 2024. Frontex could therefore be one of the first users of the new technology, as with the „Space Data Highway“. „Frontex closes surveillance gaps in the air and in space“ weiterlesen
Following Freedom of Information requests, the EU Border Agency has released over one hundred presentations, most of which feature companies promoting their military technologies for securing Europe’s external borders. Deployments to counter migration use drones, satellites, high-resolution cameras and radars, pattern and behaviour recognition, and lead-free ammunition.
As announced in advance, the German TV „ZDF Magazin Royale“ published the „Frontex Files“ last night: a compilation of more than a hundred presentations given by a few dozen manufacturers of surveillance technology to the EU border agency over the past four years. Frontex regularly invites to so-called „Industry Days“, where the companies exchange information with interior ministries and border forces.
The documents come from freedom of information requests, brought to light by Luisa Izuzquiza, who works for Corporate Europe Observatory in Brussels, and Margarida Silva and Myriam Douo. With the platform „Frag den Staat“, Izuzquiza is being sued by Frontex for 24,000 Euros in legal fees after losing a case at the European Court of Justice. The agency was asked to provide information on which see-going units it deploys for migration defence in the Mediterranean. With the names of the ships, the activists wanted to track whether they were involved in illegal deportations back to Libya. Now the „Frontex Files“ are on the servers of „Frag den Staat“. „Frontex Files: The Military-Border Police Complex“ weiterlesen
A EU research project is testing the combination of different surveillance technologies on refugees. This involves telephone and motion detectors, cameras, radar systems, electromagnetic sensors as well as eavesdropping microphones. In addition to drones, „stratospheric platforms“ will also be used.
On its research website, the EU Commission states that „irregular migration has dramatically increased, and is no longer manageable with existing systems“. This is why the Commission wants to improve the detection of undocumented border crossings with new technology. The focus is on densely wooded land borders, which are difficult to monitor with patrols. The security research project is entitled „Through-foliage detection, including in the outermost regions of the EU“ (FOLDOUT) and is led by the Austrian Institute of Technology. Among those involved are the French armaments group Thales and border police forces from Bulgaria, Finland, Lithuania and Poland. „Border with Turkey: EU Commission wants to track down refugees with „foliage detection““ weiterlesen
More and more states have unmanned land vehicles that can be armed or used for surveillance. Programmed missions are carried out completely autonomous.
The Rheinmetall armaments group has developed a „Multimission Unmanned Ground Vehicle“ (MMUGV) that is about to go into series production. The „Mission Master“ is currently on display at various military trade fairs. Rheinmetall is advertising that the drone tank can be used in combat, for troop supply, surveillance, reconnaissance, for evacuation of wounded soldiers or for fire-fighting. The Mission Master is also intended to transport troops.
The vehicles can be operated either remotely, semi-automatically or completely as robots. The „Mission Master“ covers all three possible options. In fully autonomous operation, the operating soldier only has to program the mission and observe its progress. If necessary, the sequence can be interrupted by the user. „Rheinmetall builds armed drone tank“ weiterlesen
Until now, army drones fly in segregated airspace, but soon they will also be allowed for civil airspace. For this purpose, military companies are developing automatic avoid systems. The „Eurodrone“ will be the first to implement this as standard; in Germany, the „Triton“ spy drone may be faster.
The European defence companies Airbus, Dassault and Leonardo want to develop the armed „Eurodrone“ to production readiness by 2025. The medium-altitude-long-endurance drone (MALE) should then be flown by the Bundeswehr and other armies of the EU. In Germany, military drones have so far been operating exclusively in specially reserved airspaces. That could change soon: The Eurodrone is to be fully integrated into the so-called controlled airspace. „European military drones to fly alongside civilian aircraft“ weiterlesen
The shifting of the EU’s external borders to North Africa is generating profits for defence companies
The European Union is stepping up efforts to protect its external borders. The focus is on developing the Frontex Border Agency into a European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Another pillar of EU migration policy is the transfer of border security to third countries. Particular attention is paid to the maritime borders in Libya and neighbouring countries. Furthermore, most of the migrants reaching the European Union via the Mediterranean come from Libya. Their absolute number is declining, yet in 2017 almost 119,000 people fled.
The fragile „unity government“ in Tripoli controls only a fraction of the land borders. However, their military coastguard and civilian maritime police are responsible for those stretches of the coast from which many depart for the EU. Shortly after the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, the EU wanted to integrate the Libyan coastguard into its surveillance systems. Control centres in Tripoli and Benghazi should be connected to a Mediterranean Cooperation Centre (MEBOCC) based in Rome. Border authorities from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus are joining forces there and communicating via the „Seahorse Mediterranean“ network. „European border surveillance in Libya“ weiterlesen