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
In two RABIT missions, the EU Border Agency is sending 100 additional officials to the Greek-Turkish land and sea border. Frontex currently has around 600 operational forces stationed in Greece.
Frontex has started two new missions in Greece. Following a decision by Director Fabrice Leggeri, the EU Border Agency is sending border guards with technical assets to the Aegean Sea. A further mission has been launched today to reinforce police and military units for border surveillance on the land border with Turkey. This follows a request by the government in Athens.
Frontex is coordinating the new operations with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who visited the Greek-Turkish land border with the President of Parliament and the President of the Council on 3 March. Von der Leyen did not say a word about the one-month suspension of asylum applications imposed by Greece, nor did she comment on Greek attacks on refugees. Instead, she praised the government’s measures as a „European shield“ and promised emergency financial aid of 700 million euros for „migration management“. „Frontex launches new operations in Greece“ weiterlesen
„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
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)
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
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
Two Germans are in extradition custody in Slovenia and Italy at the request of Turkish authorities. Both come from Turkey and were granted asylum in Germany for political persecution and later citizenship. Interpol should have withdrawn the request. The BKA, however, concealed the asylum status of the two.
Two months ago, the Slovenian police arrested Ismet Kilic, who lives in the German city Duisburg, on his return from holiday and imprisoned him for extradition. This was based on a request to arrest and extradite Ismet Kilic from Turkey, which was distributed as a so-called Red Notice via the police organisation Interpol.
Kilic had applied in Germany for asylum in 1997. The subsequent recognition as a politically persecuted person was based on Turkish accusations that he had founded a trade union for civil servants and was a member of a left-wing extremist organisation. His conviction before the State Security Court in Ankara was in absentia, and Interpol’s request, which now led to his arrest, relates to the prison sentence imposed at the time. „Interpol requests from Turkey: Sloppiness of German police puts own citizens into prison“ 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
After the detention of critical authors and journalists, Interpol came under criticism. All arrest warrants should be reviewed retroactively for possible political persecution. German authorities promised to check incoming warrants more strictly. Little has happened since then.
In police investigations, the border to political or religious persecution is sometimes blurred. This becomes particularly critical when international warrants come from non-democratic countries. In order not to transform the Interpol authority into an instrument of political persecution, it is therefore strictly forbidden „to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character“. However, this does not prevent some countries from issuing searches or, as in the case of Germany, from playing the game in some cases. „German Criminal Police maintains arrest warrants despite Interpol warning about political persecution“ weiterlesen
In the future, the Federal Police will also be able to deploy undercover agents. The provision is part of the new “Act to Improve Information Exchange in the Fight Against International Terrorism”, which the Grand Coalition adopted on 24 June 2016 and the parliamentary groups of the opposition voted against.
The version amended by the Committee on Internal Affairs which was finally adopted states that the deployment of undercover agents has now become “indispensible and long overdue”  for the central policing duties the Federal Police has assumed for 20 years now. In the debate over the bill, the President of the Federal Police, Dieter Romann, also spoke out. In a statement submitted late he cited the phenomenon of “illegal migration” as justification for the need for statutory undercover threat-prevention powers. He stated that the Federal Police was no longer in a position to sufficiently counter the tactics of “smuggler organisations” “using traditional, conventional methods”. “People smugglers” acted “highly conspiratorially, with division of labour, shielding themselves from police actions to a large degree”. Witnesses and victims, he claimed, were “intimidated with violence or coerced into giving false evidence”. “The most deaths”, he said, were in the area of organised crime, which “illegal people smuggling” is subsumed under. For this reason the preventive deployment of undercover agents by the Federal Police was a “tactical requirement”. This included, he went on, “discretionary investigations”. Such a possibility existed in almost all of the police laws of the Länder, or federal states, (with the exception of Schleswig-Holstein) and in the Federal Criminal Police Office Act and had proven successful. „New powers for the German Federal Police: undercover agents to combat unwanted migration“ weiterlesen