Building walls | Transnational Institute

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  • Border security with drones and databases

    The EU’s borders are increasingly militarised, with hundreds of millions of euros paid to state agencies and military, security and IT companies for surveillance, patrols and apprehension and detention. This process has massive human cost, and politicians are planning to intensify it.

    Europe is ringed by steel fences topped by barbed wire; patrolled by border agents equipped with thermal vision systems, heartbeat detectors, guns and batons; and watched from the skies by drones, helicopters and planes. Anyone who enters is supposed to have their fingerprints and photograph taken for inclusion in an enormous biometric database. Constant additions to this technological arsenal are under development, backed by generous amounts of public funding. Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are more walls than ever at Europe’s borders,[1] and those borders stretch ever further in and out of its territory. This situation is the result of long-term political and corporate efforts to toughen up border surveillance and controls.

    The implications for those travelling to the EU depend on whether they belong to the majority entering in a “regular” manner, with the necessary paperwork and permissions, or are unable to obtain that paperwork, and cross borders irregularly. Those with permission must hand over increasing amounts of personal data. The increasing automation of borders is reliant on the collection of sensitive personal data and the use of algorithms, machine learning and other forms of so-called artificial intelligence to determine whether or not an individual poses a threat.

    Those without permission to enter the EU – a category that includes almost any refugee, with the notable exception of those who hold a Ukrainian passport – are faced with technology, personnel and policies designed to make journeys increasingly difficult, and thus increasingly dangerous. The reliance on smugglers is a result of the insistence on keeping people in need out at any cost – and the cost is substantial. Thousands of people die at Europe’s borders every year, families are separated, and people suffer serious physical and psychological harm as a result of those journeys and subsequent administrative detention and social marginalisation. Yet parties of all political stripes remain committed to the same harmful and dangerous policies – many of which are being worsened through the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.[2]

    The EU’s border agency, Frontex, based in Warsaw, was first set up in 2004 with the aim of providing technical coordination between EU member states’ border guards. Its remit has been gradually expanded. Following the “migration crisis” of 2015 and 2016, extensive new powers were granted to the agency. As the Max Planck Institute has noted, the 2016 law shifted the agency from a playing “support role” to acting as “a player in its own right that fulfils a regulatory, supervisory, and operational role.”[3] New tasks granted to the agency included coordinating deportations of rejected refugees and migrants, data analysis and exchange, border surveillance, and technology research and development. A further legal upgrade in 2019 introduced even more extensive powers, in particular in relation to deportations, and cooperation with and operations in third countries.

    The uniforms, guns and batons wielded by Frontex’s border guards are self-evidently militaristic in nature, as are other aspects of its work: surveillance drones have been acquired from Israeli military companies, and the agency deploys “mobile radars and thermal cameras mounted on vehicles, as well as heartbeat detectors and CO2 monitors used to detect signs of people concealed inside vehicles.”[4] One investigation described the companies that have held lobbying meetings or attended events with Frontex as “a Who’s Who of the weapons industry,” with guests including Airbus, BAE Systems, Leonardo and Thales.[5] The information acquired from the agency’s surveillance and field operations is combined with data provided by EU and third country agencies, and fed into the European Border Surveillance System, EUROSUR. This offers a God’s-eye overview of the situation at Europe’s borders and beyond – the system also claims to provide “pre-frontier situational awareness.”

    The EU and its member states also fund research and development on these technologies. From 2014 to 2022, 49 research projects were provided with a total of almost €275 million to investigate new border technologies, including swarms of autonomous drones for border surveillance, and systems that aim to use artificial intelligence to integrate and analyse data from drones, satellites, cameras, sensors and elsewhere for “analysis of potential threats” and “detection of illegal activities.”[6] Amongst the top recipients of funding have been large research institutes – for example, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute – but companies such as Leonardo, Smiths Detection, Engineering – Ingegneria Informatica and Veridos have also been significant beneficiaries.[7]

    This is only a tiny fraction of the funds available for strengthening the EU’s border regime. A 2022 study found that between 2015 and 2020, €7.7 billion had been spent on the EU’s borders and “the biggest parts of this budget come from European funding” – that is, the EU’s own budget. The total value of the budgets that provide funds for asylum, migration and border control between 2021-27 comes to over €113 billion[8]. Proposals for the next round of budgets from 2028 until 2035 are likely to be even larger.

    Cooperation between the EU, its member states and third countries on migration control comes in a variety of forms: diplomacy, short and long-term projects, formal agreements and operational deployments. Whatever form it takes, it is frequently extremely harmful. For example, to try to reduce the number of people arriving across the Mediterranean, member states have withdrawn national sea rescue assets (as deployed, for example, in Italy’s Mare Nostrum operation) whilst increasing aerial surveillance, such as that provided by the Israel-produced drones operated by Frontex. This makes it possible to observe refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean, whilst outsourcing their interception to authorities from countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

    This is part of an ongoing plan “to strengthen coordination of search and rescue capacities and border surveillance at sea and land borders” of those countries. [9] Cooperation with Tunisia includes refitting search and rescue vessels and providing vehicles and equipment to the Tunisian coastguard and navy, along with substantial amounts of funding. The agreement with Egypt appears to be structured along similar lines, and five vessels have been provided to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard in 2023.[10]

    Frontex also plays a key role in the EU’s externalised border controls. The 2016 reform allowed Frontex deployments at countries bordering the EU, and the 2019 reform allowed deployments anywhere in the world, subject to agreement with the state in question. There are now EU border guards stationed in Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.[11] The agency is seeking agreements with Niger, Senegal and Morocco, and has recently received visits from Tunisian and Egyptian officials with a view to stepping up cooperation.[12]

    In a recent report for the organisation EuroMed Rights, Antonella Napolitano highlighted “a new element” in the EU’s externalisation strategy: “the use of EU funds – including development aid – to outsource surveillance technologies that are used to entrench political control both on people on the move and local population.” Five means of doing so have been identified: provision of equipment; training; financing operations and procurement; facilitating exports by industry; and promoting legislation that enables surveillance.[13]

    The report highlights Frontex’s extended role which, even without agreements allowing deployments on foreign territory, has seen the agency support the creation of “risk analysis cells” in a number of African states, used to gather and analyse data on migration movements. The EU has also funded intelligence training in Algeria, digital evidence capacity building in Egypt, border control initiatives in Libya, and the provision of surveillance technology to Morocco. The European Ombudsman has found that insufficient attention has been given to the potential human rights impacts of this kind of cooperation.[14]

    While the EU and its member states may provide the funds for the acquisition of new technologies, or the construction of new border control systems, information on the companies that receive the contracts is not necessarily publicly available. Funds awarded to third countries will be spent in accordance with those countries’ procurement rules, which may not be as transparent as those in the EU. Indeed, the acquisition of information on the externalisation in third countries is far from simple, as a Statewatch investigation published in March 2023 found.[15]

    While EU and member state institutions are clearly committed to continuing with plans to strengthen border controls, there is a plethora of organisations, initiatives, campaigns and projects in Europe, Africa and elsewhere that are calling for a different approach. One major opportunity to call for change in the years to come will revolve around proposals for the EU’s new budgets in the 2028-35 period. The European Commission is likely to propose pouring billions more euros into borders – but there are many alternative uses of that money that would be more positive and productive. The challenge will be in creating enough political pressure to make that happen.

    This article was originally published by Welt Sichten, and is based upon the Statewatch/EuroMed Rights report Europe’s techno-borders.

    Notes

    [1] https://www.tni.org/en/publication/building-walls

    [2] https://www.statewatch.org/news/2023/december/tracking-the-pact-human-rights-disaster-in-the-works-as-parliament-makes

    [3] https://www.mpg.de/14588889/frontex

    [4] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/dec/06/fortress-europe-the-millions-spent-on-military-grade-tech-to-deter-refu

    [5] https://frontexfiles.eu/en.html

    [6] https://www.statewatch.org/publications/reports-and-books/europe-s-techno-borders

    [7] https://www.statewatch.org/publications/reports-and-books/europe-s-techno-borders

    [8] https://www.statewatch.org/publications/reports-and-books/europe-s-techno-borders

    [9] https://www.statewatch.org/news/2023/november/eu-planning-new-anti-migration-deals-with-egypt-and-tunisia-unrepentant-

    [10] https://www.statewatch.org/media/4103/eu-com-von-der-leyen-ec-letter-annex-10-23.pdf

    [11] https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu

    [12] https://www.statewatch.org/news/2023/november/eu-planning-new-anti-migration-deals-with-egypt-and-tunisia-unrepentant-, https://www.statewatch.org/publications/events/secrecy-and-the-externalisation-of-eu-migration-control

    [13] https://privacyinternational.org/challenging-drivers-surveillance

    [14] https://euromedrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Euromed_AI-Migration-Report_EN-1.pdf

    [15] https://www.statewatch.org/access-denied-secrecy-and-the-externalisation-of-eu-migration-control

    https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2024/border-security-with-drones-and-databases
    #frontières #militarisation_des_frontières #technologie #données #bases_de_données #drones #complexe_militaro-industriel #migrations #réfugiés #contrôles_frontaliers #surveillance #sécurité_frontalière #biométrie #données_biométriques #intelligence_artificielle #algorithmes #smugglers #passeurs #Frontex #Airbus #BAE_Systems #Leonardo #Thales #EUROSUR #coût #business #prix #Smiths_Detection #Fraunhofer_Institute #Engineering_Ingegneria_Informatica #informatique #Tunisie #gardes-côtes_tunisiens #Albanie #Monténégro #Serbie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #Macédoine_du_Nord #Egypte #externalisation #développement #aide_au_développement #coopération_au_développement #Algérie #Libye #Maroc #Afrique_du_Nord

    • The EU has built #1000_km of border walls since fall of Berlin Wall

      European Union states have built over 1,000km of border walls since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a new study into Fortress Europe has found.

      Migration researchers have quantified the continent’s anti-immigrant infrastructure and found that the EU has gone from just two walls in the 1990s to 15 by 2017.

      Ten out of 28 member states stretching from Spain to Latvia have now built such border walls, with a sharp increase during the 2015 migration panic, when seven new barriers were erected.

      Despite celebrations this year that the Berlin Wall had now been down for longer than it was ever up, Europe has now completed the equivalent length of six Berlin walls during the same period. The barriers are mostly focused on keeping out undocumented migrants and would-be refugees.

      The erection of the barriers has also coincided with the rise of xenophobic parties across the continent, with 10 out of 28 seeing such parties win more than half a million votes in elections since 2010.

      “Europe’s own history shows that building walls to resolve political or social issues comes at an unacceptable cost for liberty and human rights,” Nick Buxton, researcher at the Transnational Institute and editor of the report said.

      “Ultimately it will also harm those who build them as it creates a fortress that no one wants to live in. Rather than building walls, Europe should be investing in stopping the wars and poverty that fuels migration.”

      Tens of thousands of people have died trying to migrate into Europe, with one estimate from June this year putting the figure at over 34,000 since the EU’s foundation in 1993. A total of 3,915 fatalities were recorded in 2017.

      The report also looked at eight EU maritime rescue operations launched by the bloc, seven of which were carried out specifically by the EU’s border agency Frontex.

      The researchers found that none of the operations, all conducted in the Mediterranean, had the rescue of people as their principal goal – with all of them focused on “eliminating criminality in border areas and slowing down the arrival of displaced peoples”.

      Just one, Operation Mare Nostrum, which was carried out by the Italian government, included humanitarian organisations in its fleets. It has since been scrapped and replaced by Frontex’s Operation Triton, which has a smaller budget.

      “These measures lead to refugees and displaced peoples being treated like criminals,” Ainhoa Ruiz Benedicto, researcher for Delàs Center and co-author of the report said.

      At the June European Council, EU leaders were accused by NGOs of “deliberately condemning vulnerable people to be trapped in Libya, or die at sea”, after they backed the stance of Italy’s populist government and condemned rescue boats operating in the sea.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eu-border-wall-berlin-migration-human-rights-immigration-borders-a862

    • Building walls. Fear and securitization in the European Union

      This report reveals that member states of the European Union and Schengen Area have constructed almost 1000 km of walls, the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Walls, since the nineties to prevent displaced people migrating into Europe. These physical walls are accompanied by even longer ‘maritime walls’, naval operations patrolling the Mediterranean, as well as ‘virtual walls’, border control systems that seek to stop people entering or even traveling within Europe, and control movement of population.
      Authors
      Ainhoa Ruiz Benedicto, Pere Brunet
      In collaboration with
      Stop Wapenhandel, Centre Delàs d’Estudis per la Pau
      Programmes
      War & Pacification

      On November 9th 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, marking what many hoped would be a new era of cooperation and openness across borders. German President Horst Koehler celebrating its demise some years later spoke of an ‘edifice of fear’ replaced by a ‘place of joy’, opening up the possibility of a ‘cooperative global governance which benefits everyone’. 30 years later, the opposite seems to have happened. Edifices of fear, both real and imaginary, are being constructed everywhere fuelling a rise in xenophobia and creating a far more dangerous walled world for refugees fleeing for safety.

      This report reveals that member states of the European Union and Schengen Area have constructed almost 1000 km of walls, the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Walls, since the nineties to prevent displaced people migrating into Europe. These physical walls are accompanied by even longer ‘maritime walls’, naval operations patrolling the Mediterranean, as well as ‘virtual walls’, border control systems that seek to stop people entering or even traveling within Europe, and control movement of population. Europe has turned itself in the process into a fortress excluding those outside– and in the process also increased its use of surveillance and militarised technologies that has implications for its citizens within the walls.

      This report seeks to study and analyse the scope of the fortification of Europe as well as the ideas and narratives upon which it is built. This report examines the walls of fear stoked by xenophobic parties that have grown in popularity and exercise an undue influence on European policy. It also examines how the European response has been shaped in the context of post-9/11 by an expanded security paradigm, based on the securitization of social issues. This has transformed Europe’s policies from a more social agenda to one centred on security, in which migrations and the movements of people are considered as threats to state security. As a consequence, they are approached with the traditional security tools: militarism, control, and surveillance.

      Europe’s response is unfortunately not an isolated one. States around the world are answering the biggest global security problems through walls, militarisation, and isolation from other states and the rest of the world. This has created an increasingly hostile world for people fleeing from war and political prosecution.

      The foundations of “Fortress Europe” go back to the Schengen Agreement in 1985, that while establishing freedom of movement within EU borders, demanded more control of its external borders. This model established the idea of a safe interior and an unsafe exterior.

      Successive European security strategies after 2003, based on America’s “Homeland Security” model, turned the border into an element that connects local and global security. As a result, the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) became increasingly militarised, and migration was increasingly viewed as a threat.

      Fortress Europe was further expanded with policy of externalization of the border management to third countries in which agreements have been signed with neighbouring countries to boost border control and accept deported migrants. The border has thus been transformed into a bigger and wider geographical concept.
      The walls and barriers to movement

      The investigation estimates that the member states of the European Union and the Schengen area have constructed almost 1000 km of walls on their borders since nineties, to prevent the entrance of displaced people and migration into their territory.


      The practice of building walls has grown immensely, from 2 walls in the decade of the 1990s to 15 in 2017. 2015 saw the largest increase, the number of walls grew from 5 to 12.

      Ten out of 28 member states (Spain, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) have built walls on their borders to prevent immigration, all of them belonging to the Schengen area except for Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.

      One country that is not a member of the European Union but belongs to the Schengen area has built a wall to prevent migration (Norway). Another (Slovakia) has built internal walls for racial segregation. A total of 13 walls have been built on EU borders or inside the Schengen area.

      Two countries, both members of the European Union and the Schengen area, (Spain and Hungary) have built two walls on their borders for controlling migration. Another two (Austria and the United Kingdom) have built walls on their shared borders with Schengen countries (Slovenia and France respectively). A country outside of the European Union, but part of of the so-called Balkan route (Macedonia), has built a wall to prevent migration.


      Internal controls of the Schengen area, regulated and normalized by the Schengen Borders Code of 2006, have been gone from being an exception to be the political norm, justified on the grounds of migration control and political events (such as political summit, large demonstrations or high profile visitors to a country). From only 3 internal controls in 2006, there were 20 in 2017, which indicates the expansion in restrictions and monitoring of peoples’ movements.


      The maritime environment, particularly the Mediterranean, provides more barriers. The analysis shows that of the 8 main EU maritime operations (Mare Nostrum, Poseidon, Hera, Andale, Minerva, Hermes, Triton and Sophia) none have an exclusive mandate of rescuing people. All of them have had, or have, the general objective of fighting crime in border areas. Only one of them (Mare Nostrum) included humanitarian organisations in its fleet, but was replaced by Frontex’s “Triton” Operation (2013-2015) which had an increased focus on prosecuting border-related crimes. Another operation (Sophia) included direct collaboration with a military organisation (NATO) with a mandate focused on the persecution of persons that transport people on migratory routes. Analysis of these operations show that their treatment of crimes is sometimes similar to their treatment of refugees, framed as issues of security and treating refugees as threats.

      There are also growing numbers of ‘virtual walls’ which seek to control, monitor and surveil people’s movements. This has resulted in the expansion, especially since 2013, of various programs to restrict people’s movement (VIS, SIS II, RTP, ETIAS, SLTD and I-Checkit) and collect biometric data. The collected data of these systems are stored in the EURODAC database, which allows analysis to establish guidelines and patterns on our movements. EUROSUR is deployed as the surveillance system for border areas.

      Frontex: the walls’ borderguards

      The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) plays an important role in this whole process of fortress expansion and also acts and establishes coordination with third countries by its joint operation Coordination Points. Its budgets have soared in this period, growing from 6.2 million in 2005 to 302 million in 2017.


      An analysis of Frontex budget data shows a growing involvement in deportation operations, whose budgets have grown from 80,000 euros in 2005 to 53 million euros in 2017.

      The European Agency for the Border and Coast Guard (Frontex) deportations often violate the rights of asylum-seeking persons. Through Frontex’s agreements with third countries, asylum-seekers end up in states that violate human rights, have weak democracies, or score badly in terms of human development (HDI).


      Walls of fear and the influence of the far-right

      The far-right have manipulated public opinion to create irrational fears of refugees. This xenophobia sets up mental walls in people, who then demand physical walls. The analysed data shows a worrying rise in racist opinions in recent years, which has increased the percentage of votes to European parties with a xenophobic ideology, and facilitated their growing political influence.

      In 28 EU member states, there are 39 political parties classified as extreme right populists that at some point of their history have had at least one parliamentary seat (in the national Parliament or in the European Parliament). At the completion of this report (July 2018), 10 member states (Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Sweden) have xenophobic parties with a strong presence, which have obtained more than half a million votes in elections since 2010. With the exception of Finland, these parties have increased their representation. In some cases, like those in Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden, there has been an alarming increase, such as Alternative for Germany (AfD) winning 94 seats in the 2017 elections (a party that did not have parliamentary representation in the 2013 elections), the Law and Justice party (PiS) in Poland winning 235 seats after the 2015 elections (an increase of 49%), and Lega Nord’s (LN) strong growth in Italy, which went from 18 seats in 2013 to 124 seats in 2018.

      Our study concludes that, in 9 of these 10 states, extreme right-wing parties have a high degree of influence on the government’s migration policies, even when they are a minority party. In 4 of them (Austria, Finland, Italy and Poland) these parties have ministers in the government. In 5 of the remaining 6 countries (Germany, Denmark, Holland, Hungary, and Sweden), there has been an increase of xenophobic discourse and influence. Even centrist parties seem happy to deploy the discourse of xenophobic parties to capture a sector of their voters rather than confront their ideology and advance an alternative discourse based on people’s rights. In this way, the positions of the most radical and racist parties are amplified with hardly any effort. In short, our study confirms the rise and influence of the extreme-right in European migration policy which has resulted in the securitization and criminalization of migration and the movements of people.

      The mental walls of fear are inextricably connected to the physical walls. Racism and xenophobia legitimise violence in the border area Europe. These ideas reinforce the collective imagination of a safe “interior” and an insecure “outside”, going back to the medieval concept of the fortress. They also strengthen territorial power dynamics, where the origin of a person, among other factors, determines her freedom of movement.

      In this way, in Europe, structures and discourses of violence have been built up, diverting us from policies that defend human rights, coexistence and equality, or more equal relationships between territories.

      https://www.tni.org/en/publication/building-walls
      #rapport

      Pour télécharger le rapport:
      https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/building_walls_-_full_report_-_english.pdf

      #murs_virtuelles #surveillance #murs_maritimes #murs_terrestres #EUROSUR #militarisation_des_frontières #frontières #racisme #xénophobie #VIS #SIS #ETIAS #SLTD