• The #Frontex_files

    #Glock, #Airbus, #Heckler_&_Koch. Die Teilnehmerliste der 16 Lobby-Treffen der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex in den Jahren 2017 bis 2019 liest sich wie das Who-is-Who der Rüstungsindustrie. Kataloge mit Handfeuerwaffen wurden herumgereicht und in bunten PowerPoint-Präsentationen die Vorzüge von Überwachungsdrohnen erklärt.

    Externe Beobachter*innen gab es bei den Treffen nicht. Und Frontex hat die Inhalte dieser Treffen nicht öffentlich zugänglich gemacht. Ein Lobby-Transparenzregister, wie es EU-Parlamentarier*innen vor zwei Jahren gefordert haben, hat Frontex bis heute nicht veröffentlicht. Auf Anfrage des ZDF Magazin Royale schrieb die EU-Agentur Ende Januar:

    »Frontex trifft sich nicht mit Lobbyisten.«

    Weil Frontex seiner Verantwortung als EU-Agentur nicht gerecht wird, hat das ZDF Magazin Royale diese Aufgabe übernommen. Hiermit veröffentlichen wir die FRONTEX FILES. Das erste Lobby-Transparenzregister der Grenzschutzagentur Frontex.

    Was haben wir gemacht?

    Gemeinsam mit den Rechercheurinnen Luisa Izuzquiza, Margarida Silva and Myriam Douo sowie der NGO „Frag den Staat“ hat das ZDF Magazin Royale 142 Dokumente von 16 Industry-Meetings, die Frontex zwischen 2017 und 2019 veranstaltet hat, ausgewertet. Darunter Programme, Teilnehmer*innenlisten, Powerpoint-Präsentationen und Werbekataloge.

    Wie sind wir an die Dokumente gekommen?

    Die Dokumente haben wir durch Anfragen nach dem Informationsfreiheitsgesetz der Europäischen Union erhalten.

    Was ist besonders und neu daran?

    Frontex hat die Einladungen zu den Treffen bisher nur teilweise auf der Webseite veröffentlicht. Wer dazu eingeladen war und was dort präsentiert wurde, jedoch nicht.

    Was sagt Frontex und was stimmt?

    Auf die Frage eines EU-Parlamentsabgeordneten im Jahr 2018 antwortete Frontex:

    »Frontex trifft sich nur mit Lobbyisten, die im Transparenzregister der EU registriert sind und veröffentlicht jährlich einen Überblick der Treffen auf der Website. 2017 gab es keine solcher Treffen.«

    Das stimmt nicht. Allein 2017 hat Frontex vier Meetings mit Lobby-Vertreter*innen abgehalten. 58 Prozent der Teilnehmenden waren nicht im EU-Transparenzregister gelistet. In den Treffen 2018 und 2019 waren 72 Prozent (91 von 125) der Lobbyist*innen nicht registriert.

    Auf Anfrage des ZDF Magazin Royale schreibt Frontex:

    »Frontex trifft sich nicht mit Lobbyisten. Es lädt Firmenvertreter ein, um an den Industrie-Tagen der Agentur teilzunehmen, die Grenzschutz-Offiziellen helfen sollen, über neue Technologien und Innovationen in Bezug auf Grenzkontrolle zu lernen.«

    Auch das ist falsch: Die Auswertung der Präsentationen und Kataloge zeigen, dass Unternehmen versucht haben, Einfluss auf die Politik der Agentur zu nehmen. Teilweise wurden Vorschläge bereits umgesetzt.

    Wer war bei den Frontex-Lobbytreffen?

    An den Treffen haben 138 Vertreter*innen privater Einrichtungen teilgenommen: 108 Vertreter*innen von Unternehmen, 10 Think Tanks, 15 Universitäten, eine Nichtregierungsorganisation.
    Keine einzige Menschenrechtsorganisation war bei diesen Treffen dabei.

    Neben Vertreter*innen von EU-Grenzschutzbehörden hat Frontex zu den Treffen auch Internationale Organisationen wie Interpol, Europol oder die OSZE eingeladen und Vertreter*innen aus Staaten, die für ihre brutale Grenzschutzpolitik bekannt sind: die australische Regierung, das Homeland Security Department der USA, das angolanische Innenministerium, Vertreter des General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs der Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate oder die belarussische Grenzschutzbehörde.

    Welche Produkte wurden präsentiert?

    In den teils themenspezifischen Treffen wurden unterschiedliche Gerätschaften präsentiert, die zur Verteidigung der EU-Außengrenzen dienen sollen. Dazu gehören Handfeuerwaffen, Munition und Überwachungsgeräte wie Sensoren, Drohnen, Kameras und Server für die Speicherung von biometrischen Daten. Die Produkte wurden in Powerpoint-Präsentationen vorgestellt.

    Welche Produkte wurden präsentiert?

    In den teils themenspezifischen Treffen wurden unterschiedliche Gerätschaften präsentiert, die zur Verteidigung der EU-Außengrenzen dienen sollen. Dazu gehören Handfeuerwaffen, Munition und Überwachungsgeräte wie Sensoren, Drohnen, Kameras und Server für die Speicherung von biometrischen Daten. Die Produkte wurden in Powerpoint-Präsentationen vorgestellt.

    Wo kann ich mich weiter über das Thema informieren?

    Die Rechercheurinnen Luisa Izuzquiza, Margarida Silva and Myriam Douo haben zu den Dokumenten einen ausführlichen Bericht geschrieben und bei Corporate Europe Observatory veröffentlicht. Hier geht es zu dem Bericht: https://corporateeurope.org/en/lobbying-fortress-europe

    https://frontexfiles.eu
    #mensonges #frontières #frontières_extérieures #Fabrice_Leggeri #Leggeri #droits_humains #push-backs #refoulements #droits_fondamentaux #complexe_militaro-industriel #lobby #ZDF #enquête #Frag_den_Staat #FragDenStaat

    –—


    https://fragdenstaat.de/dokumente/sammlung/49-fx-files
    #rencontres #liste

    ping @isskein @karine4 @_kg_

    • Lobbying Fortress Europe. The making of a border-industrial complex

      The massive expansion of the budget, personnel, and powers of the EU’s border agency Frontex has also seen increasingly privileged access for industry. This perpetuates a vision of border control based on more and more firearms and biometric surveillance that has major human rights implications.
      Executive Summary

      The massive expansion of EU border agency Frontex in recent years has not been matched by a corresponding increase in transparency, accountability, nor scrutiny.

      Access to document requests reveal a disturbing trend by which arms, surveillance, and biometrics companies are being given an outsized role – unmatched by other voices – in shaping EU’s border control regime.

      This report gives the first comprehensive overview of this phenomenon, finding that:

      - Frontex holds special events for security industry lobbyists where they work hand in hand to promote ’solutions’ based on techno-fixes, from biometric surveillance to firepower.
      - These corporate interests are not neutral parties but de facto seek to shape Frontex’s approach to border control in their interests, and benefit from procurement contracts.
      - Meanwhile the agency has no real transparency or lobbying accountability mechanisms in place, and indeed denies that it is a target for lobbyists at all.
      – At the same time as the agency has open doors for corporate lobbyists selling defence and surveillance solutions which have major human rights implications, groups working to defend human rights are left on the sidelines.

      The European Union’s response to travellers, migrants, and refugees should be guided by the protection of human rights. This is too important an issue to be shaped by the interests of defence companies instrumentalising migration for profit.

      https://corporateeurope.org/en/lobbying-fortress-europe

      #surveillance #biométrie

      ping @etraces

  • ATLAS D’UTOPIES. LES VILLES TRANSFORMATRICES ONT PRÉSENTÉ DES INITIATIVES

    À propos de l’Atlas des utopies

    « L’utopie est à l’horizon. Je fais deux pas en avant, elle s’éloigne de deux pas. Je fais dix pas de plus, l’horizon s’éloigne de dix pas. J’aurai beau marcher, je ne l’atteindrai jamais. A quoi sert l’utopie ? Elle sert à ça : à avancer. »
    – Fernando Birri, cité par Eduardo Galeano

    L’#Atlas_des_Utopies présente des #transformations collectives qui garantissent l’accès aux #droits_fondamentaux : #eau, #énergie, #logement et #alimentation.

    L’Atlas des Utopies rassemble les finalistes des trois éditions du Concours du Choix du Public des Villes Transformatrices qui vise à illustrer les villes et les collectifs travaillant sur des #solutions pour garantir l’accès à l’eau, à la #nourriture, à l’énergie et au logement.

    L’Atlas n’est en aucun cas une #cartographie exhaustive des #pratiques_transformatrices, mais un échantillon représentatif, résultat d’un processus d’évaluation effectué par des pairs, et mené par une équipe interdisciplinaire de chercheurs et chercheuses, de militant-e-s, de responsables politiques et de représentant-e-s d’ONG internationales.

    Partant de la conviction qu’il existe de nombreuses tentatives de transformation en cours - contrairement au mantra néolibéral d’ « il n’y a pas d’#alternative » - l’objectif de l’Atlas est de présenter celles qui, selon les critères d’évaluation du #Concours_des_Villes_Transformatrices, sont considérées comme uniques et particulièrement inspirantes. Tout comme un télescope se concentre sur certaines constellations au cœur de l’univers infini, l’Atlas signale certaines initiatives dans l’intention d’aider les technicien-ne-s et les étudiant-e-s à voguer sur les flots d’alternatives remarquables et stimulantes déjà en cours, afin de les découvrir.

    Les cas dévoilent comment les solutions publiques, fondées sur les principes de #coopération et de #solidarité plutôt que sur la concurrence et le profit privé, ont mieux réussi à répondre aux besoins fondamentaux des personnes et, ce qui est peut-être tout aussi important, à créer un esprit de #confiance et d’#autonomisation qui consolide les communautés pour de nombreux autres défis. Ces cas présentent des mouvements de la communauté de base à #Cochabamba et en #Palestine, mais aussi au cœur de villes mondiales comme #Paris ou #Barcelone, et ont vaincu les sociétés transnationales et les gouvernements nationaux hostiles pour apporter des solutions démocratiques, centrées sur la population, pour l’accès des communautés aux besoins fondamentaux, quelles que soient les différences de culture ou d’échelle entre les contextes géographiques variés. Tous les êtres humains ont besoin d’eau, de nourriture, d’énergie et de logement pour survivre, et l’Atlas montre des exemples extraordinaires d’organisations qui garantissent l’accès aux droits fondamentaux de leur intégrant-e-s.

    Ces initiatives démontrent en pratique qu’un autre monde est non seulement possible, mais qu’il est déjà en processus de réalisation !

    L’initiative Villes Transformatrices et Atlas des Utopies vise à attirer l’attention d’une ample gamme de groupes et d’organisations qui explorent ce qui fonctionne en termes de transformation des relations de pouvoir afin de garantir la justice sociale et écologique, et favoriser un apprentissage mutuel et une coopération à grande échelle.

    https://transformativecities.org/fr/atlas-of-utopias

    #atlas #utopie #villes #urban_matter #TRUST #Master_TRUST #droits_humains

  • Artificial intelligence : #Frontex improves its maritime surveillance

    Frontex wants to use a new platform to automatically detect and assess „risks“ on the seas of the European Union. Suspected irregular activities are to be displayed in a constantly updated „threat map“ with the help of self-learning software.

    The EU border agency has renewed a contract with Israeli company Windward for a „maritime analytics“ platform. It will put the application into regular operation. Frontex had initially procured a licence for around 800,000 Euros. For now 2.6 million Euros, the agency will receive access for four workstations. The contract can be extended three times for one year at a time.

    Windward specialises in the digital aggregation and assessment of vessel tracking and maritime surveillance data. Investors in the company, which was founded in 2011, include former US CIA director David Petraeus and former CEO’s of Thomson Reuters and British Petroleum. The former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gabi Ashkenazi, is considered one of the advisors.

    Signature for each observed ship

    The platform is based on artificial intelligence techniques. For analysis, it uses maritime reporting systems, including position data from the AIS transponders of larger ships and weather data. These are enriched with information about the ship owners and shipping companies as well as the history of previous ship movements. For this purpose, the software queries openly accessible information from the internet.

    In this way, a „fingerprint“ is created for each observed ship, which can be used to identify suspicious activities. If the captain switches off the transponder, for example, the analysis platform can recognise this as a suspicuous event and take over further tracking based on the recorded patterns. It is also possible to integrate satellite images.

    Windward uses the register of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as its database, which lists about 70,000 ships. Allegedly, however, it also processes data on a total of 400,000 watercraft, including smaller fishing boats. One of the clients is therefore the UN Security Council, which uses the technology to monitor sanctions.

    Against „bad guys“ at sea

    The company advertises its applications with the slogan „Catch the bad guys at sea“. At Frontex, the application is used to combat and prevent unwanted migration and cross-border crime as well as terrorism. Subsequently, „policy makers“ and law enforcement agencies are to be informed about results. For this purpose, the „risks“ found are visualised in a „threat map“.

    Windward put such a „threat map“ online two years ago. At the time, the software rated the Black Sea as significantly more risky than the Mediterranean. Commercial shipping activity off the Crimea was interpreted as „probable sanction evasions“. Ship owners from the British Guernsey Islands as well as Romania recorded the highest proportion of ships exhibiting „risky“ behaviour. 42 vessels were classified as suspicious for drug smuggling based on their patterns.

    Frontex „early warning“ units

    The information from maritime surveillance is likely to be processed first by the „Risk Analysis Unit“ (RAU) at Frontex. It is supposed to support strategic decisions taken by the headquarters in Warsaw on issues of border control, return, prevention of cross-border crime as well as threats of a „hybrid nature“. Frontex calls the applications used there „intelligence products“ and „integrated data services“. Their results flow together in the „Common Integrated Risk Analysis Model“ (CIRAM).

    For the operational monitoring of the situation at the EU’s external borders, the agency also maintains the „Frontex Situation Centre“ (FSC). The department is supposed to provide a constantly updated picture of migration movements, if possible in real time. From these reports, Frontex produces „early warnings“ and situation reports to the border authorities of the member states as well as to the Commission and the Council in Brussels.

    More surveillance capacity in Warsaw

    According to its own information, Windward’s clients include the Italian Guardia di Finanza, which is responsible for controlling Italian territorial waters. The Ministry of the Interior in Rome is also responsible for numerous EU projects aimed at improving surveillance of the central Mediterranean. For the training and equipment of the Libyan coast guard, Italy receives around 67 million euros from EU funds in three different projects. Italian coast guard authorities are also installing a surveillance system for Tunisia’s external maritime borders.

    Frontex now wants to improve its own surveillance capacities with further tenders. Together with the fisheries agency, The agency is awarding further contracts for manned maritime surveillance. It has been operating such a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS) in the central Mediterranean since 2017 and in the Adriatic Sea since 2018. Frontex also wants to station large drones in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, it is testing Aerostats in the eastern Mediterranean for a second time. These are zeppelins attached to a 1,000-metre long line.

    https://digit.site36.net/2021/01/15/artificial-intelligence-frontex-improves-its-maritime-surveillance
    #intelligence_artificielle #surveillance #surveillance_maritime #mer #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #AI #Windward #Israël #complexe_militaro-industriel #militarisation_des_frontières #David_Petraeus #Thomson_Reuters #British_Petroleum #armée_israélienne #Gabi_Ashkenazi #International_Maritime_Organisation (#IMO) #thread_map #Risk_Analysis_Unit (#RAU) #Common_Integrated_Risk_Analysis_Model (#CIRAM) #Frontex_Situation_Centre (#FSC) #Frontex_Aerial_Surveillance_Service (#FASS) #zeppelins

    ping @etraces

    • Data et nouvelles technologies, la face cachée du contrôle des mobilités

      Dans un rapport de juillet 2020, l’Agence européenne pour la gestion opérationnelle des systèmes d’information à grande échelle (#EU-Lisa) présente l’intelligence artificielle (IA) comme l’une des « technologies prioritaires » à développer. Le rapport souligne les avantages de l’IA en matière migratoire et aux frontières, grâce, entre autres, à la technologie de #reconnaissance_faciale.

      L’intelligence artificielle est de plus en plus privilégiée par les acteurs publics, les institutions de l’UE et les acteurs privés, mais aussi par le #HCR et l’#OIM. Les agences de l’UE, comme Frontex ou EU-Lisa, ont été particulièrement actives dans l’#expérimentation des nouvelles technologies, brouillant parfois la distinction entre essais et mise en oeuvre. En plus des outils traditionnels de surveillance, une panoplie de technologies est désormais déployée aux frontières de l’Europe et au-delà, qu’il s’agisse de l’ajout de nouvelles #bases_de_données, de technologies financières innovantes, ou plus simplement de la récupération par les #GAFAM des données laissées volontairement ou pas par les migrant·e·s et réfugié∙e∙s durant le parcours migratoire.

      La pandémie #Covid-19 est arrivée à point nommé pour dynamiser les orientations déjà prises, en permettant de tester ou de généraliser des technologies utilisées pour le contrôle des mobilités sans que l’ensemble des droits des exilé·e·s ne soit pris en considération. L’OIM, par exemple, a mis à disposition des Etats sa #Matrice_de_suivi_des_déplacements (#DTM) durant cette période afin de contrôler les « flux migratoires ». De nouvelles technologies au service de vieilles obsessions…

      http://www.migreurop.org/article3021.html

      Pour télécharger le rapport :
      www.migreurop.org/IMG/pdf/note_12_fr.pdf

      ping @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @i_s_

    • La #technopolice aux frontières

      Comment le #business de la #sécurité et de la #surveillance au sein de l’#Union_européenne, en plus de bafouer des #droits_fondamentaux, utilise les personnes exilées comme #laboratoire de recherche, et ce sur des #fonds_publics européens.

      On a beaucoup parlé ici ces derniers mois de surveillance des manifestations ou de surveillance de l’espace public dans nos villes, mais la technopolice est avant tout déployée aux #frontières – et notamment chez nous, aux frontières de la « forteresse Europe ». Ces #dispositifs_technopoliciers sont financés, soutenus et expérimentés par l’Union européenne pour les frontières de l’UE d’abord, et ensuite vendus. Cette surveillance des frontières représente un #marché colossal et profite grandement de l’échelle communautaire et de ses programmes de #recherche_et_développement (#R&D) comme #Horizon_2020.

      #Roborder – des essaims de #drones_autonomes aux frontières

      C’est le cas du projet Roborder – un « jeu de mots » entre robot et border, frontière en anglais. Débuté en 2017, il prévoit de surveiller les frontières par des essaims de #drones autonomes, fonctionnant et patrouillant ensemble. L’#intelligence_artificielle de ces drones leur permettrait de reconnaître les humains et de distinguer si ces derniers commettent des infractions (comme celui de passer une frontière ?) et leur dangerosité pour ensuite prévenir la #police_aux_frontières. Ces drones peuvent se mouvoir dans les airs, sous l’eau, sur l’eau et dans des engins au sol. Dotés de multiples capteurs, en plus de la détection d’activités criminelles, ces drones seraient destinés à repérer des “#radio-fréquences non fiables”, c’est-à-dire à écouter les #communications et également à mesurer la #pollution_marine.
      Pour l’instant, ces essaims de drones autonomes ne seraient pas pourvus d’armes. Roborder est actuellement expérimenté en #Grèce, au #Portugal et en #Hongrie.

      Un #financement européen pour des usages « civils »

      Ce projet est financé à hauteur de 8 millions d’euros par le programme Horizon 2020 (subventionné lui-même par la #Cordis, organe de R&D de la Commission européenne). Horizon 2020 représente 50% du financement public total pour la recherche en sécurité de l’UE. Roborder est coordonné par le centre de recherches et technologie de #Hellas (le #CERTH), en Grèce et comme le montre l’association #Homo_Digitalis le nombre de projets Horizon 2020 ne fait qu’augmenter en Grèce. En plus du CERTH grec s’ajoutent environ 25 participants venus de tous les pays de l’UE (où on retrouve les services de police d’#Irlande_du_Nord, le ministère de la défense grecque, ou encore des entreprises de drones allemandes, etc.).

      L’une des conditions pour le financement de projets de ce genre par Horizon 2020 est que les technologies développées restent dans l’utilisation civile, et ne puissent pas servir à des fins militaires. Cette affirmation pourrait ressembler à un garde-fou, mais en réalité la distinction entre usage civil et militaire est loin d’être clairement établie. Comme le montre Stephen Graham, très souvent les #technologies, à la base militaires, sont réinjectées dans la sécurité, particulièrement aux frontières où la migration est criminalisée. Et cette porosité entre la sécurité et le #militaire est induite par la nécessité de trouver des débouchés pour rentabiliser la #recherche_militaire. C’est ce qu’on peut observer avec les drones ou bien le gaz lacrymogène. Ici, il est plutôt question d’une logique inverse : potentiellement le passage d’un usage dit “civil” de la #sécurité_intérieure à une application militaire, à travers des ventes futures de ces dispositifs. Mais on peut aussi considérer la surveillance, la détection de personnes et la #répression_aux_frontières comme une matérialisation de la #militarisation de l’Europe à ses frontières. Dans ce cas-là, Roborder serait un projet à fins militaires.

      De plus, dans les faits, comme le montre The Intercept (https://theintercept.com/2019/05/11/drones-artificial-intelligence-europe-roborder), une fois le projet terminé celui-ci est vendu. Sans qu’on sache trop à qui. Et, toujours selon le journal, beaucoup sont déjà intéressés par Roborder.

      #IborderCtrl – détection d’#émotions aux frontières

      Si les essaims de drones sont impressionnants, il existe d’autres projets dans la même veine. On peut citer notamment le projet qui a pour nom IborderCtrl, testé en Grèce, Hongrie et #Lettonie.

      Il consiste notamment en de l’#analyse_d’émotions (à côté d’autres projets de #reconnaissances_biométriques) : les personnes désirant passer une frontière doivent se soumettre à des questions et voient leur #visage passer au crible d’un #algorithme qui déterminera si elles mentent ou non. Le projet prétend « accélérer le #contrôle_aux_frontières » : si le #détecteur_de_mensonges estime qu’une personne dit la vérité, un code lui est donné pour passer le contrôle facilement ; si l’algorithme considère qu’une personne ment, elle est envoyée dans une seconde file, vers des gardes-frontières qui lui feront passer un #interrogatoire. L’analyse d’émotions prétend reposer sur un examen de « 38 #micro-mouvements du visage » comme l’angle de la tête ou le mouvement des yeux. Un spectacle de gadgets pseudoscientifiques qui permet surtout de donner l’apparence de la #neutralité_technologique à des politiques d’#exclusion et de #déshumanisation.

      Ce projet a également été financé par Horizon 2020 à hauteur de 4,5 millions d’euros. S’il semble aujourd’hui avoir été arrêté, l’eurodéputé allemand Patrick Breyer a saisi la Cour de justice de l’Union Européenne pour obtenir plus d’informations sur ce projet, ce qui lui a été refusé pour… atteinte au #secret_commercial. Ici encore, on voit que le champ “civil” et non “militaire” du projet est loin de représenter un garde-fou.

      Conclusion

      Ainsi, l’Union européenne participe activement au puissant marché de la surveillance et de la répression. Ici, les frontières et les personnes exilées sont utilisées comme des ressources de laboratoire. Dans une optique de militarisation toujours plus forte des frontières de la forteresse Europe et d’une recherche de profit et de développement des entreprises et centres de recherche européens. Les frontières constituent un nouveau marché et une nouvelle manne financière de la technopolice.

      Les chiffres montrent par ailleurs l’explosion du budget de l’agence européenne #Frontex (de 137 millions d’euros en 2015 à 322 millions d’euros en 2020, chiffres de la Cour des comptes européenne) et une automatisation toujours plus grande de la surveillance des frontières. Et parallèlement, le ratio entre le nombre de personnes qui tentent de franchir la Méditerranée et le nombre de celles qui y laissent la vie ne fait qu’augmenter. Cette automatisation de la surveillance aux frontières n’est donc qu’une nouvelle façon pour les autorités européennes d’accentuer le drame qui continue de se jouer en Méditerranée, pour une “efficacité” qui finalement ne profite qu’aux industries de la surveillance.

      Dans nos rues comme à nos frontières nous devons refuser la Technopolice et la combattre pied à pied !

      https://technopolice.fr/blog/la-technopolice-aux-frontieres

  • Quel droit à l’eau pour les femmes migrantes à Paris ?

    Trois étudiantes présentent leurs recherches sur l’accès à l’eau et à l’#assainissement

    Chaque année, l’École de droit de Sciences Po propose des “Cliniques” : des programmes pédagogiques situés à mi-chemin entre théorie et pratique, articulés autour d’une mission d’intérêt public. Pendant neuf mois, Eline, Ivana et Juliette, étudiantes en première année de Master, ont étudié le sujet de l’accès à l’#eau_potable des populations migrantes, notamment des femmes migrantes, afin d’approfondir l’expertise du collectif #Coalition_Eau. Elles racontent.

    Pourquoi avez-vous choisi de participer à la Clinique de l’École de droit de Sciences Po ?

    Ivana : Je suis étudiante dans le Master Human Rights and Humanitarian Action de l’École des affaires internationales de Sciences Po : poursuivre des études en droits humains peut parfois être trop théorique ; c’est là que le modèle de la Clinique devient très intéressant : le programme Human Rights, Economic Development and Globalisation, propose une approche transversale et assez pratique de ce que signifie être un défenseur des droits humains dans la “vraie vie”. On mélange des études de cas avec des jeux de rôles, et tout au long de l’année on travaille sur un projet de recherche avec une organisation partenaire.

    Avec Eline et Juliette, nous avons travaillé avec le #collectif_Coalition_Eau. Au début de l’année, ça a été un peu une surprise puisqu’aucune de nous trois n’avait postulé pour ce projet sur l’accès à l’eau et à l’assainissement — il nous a été attribué par nos professeurs. Mais aujourd’hui j’aurais du mal à nous imaginer dans un autre projet de Clinique ! C’est un sujet qui nous tient vraiment à coeur. En France, l’accès à l’eau n’est pas considéré comme un droit humain. Certes, il existe un cadre légal autour de l’accès à l’eau, mais il se concentre sur la qualité de celle-ci et non pas sur la garantie d’un accès universel. Ce projet nous a aussi permis de mettre en avant le fait que les problématiques d’accès à l’eau et à l’assainissement ne sont pas exclusives aux pays en développement.

    Pouvez-vous nous décrire les principaux enjeux liés au droit à l’eau pour les femmes migrantes en France aujourd’hui ?

    Eline : En France, 1,4 millions de personnes sont déconnectées du réseau d’eau potable : elles doivent utiliser les services basiques proposés par l’État, comme les fontaines, les toilettes et les douches publiques. On compte environ 250 000 personnes sans-abri, dont 20% à 40% de femmes. Invisibles et invisibilisées, ces femmes sont pourtant celles qui souffrent le plus de cette déconnexion. En tant que femmes, elles sont confrontées à des difficultés spécifiques, comme la gestion de leurs menstruations et le contact avec des toilettes non-conformes aux normes d’hygiène. Non seulement ces femmes sont plus exposées aux risques d’infections urinaires et vaginales et de maladies dermatologiques que les hommes en raison du faible accès à l’eau et à l’assainissement, mais la plupart d’entre elles se sentent en insécurité et utilisent ces services avec la crainte d’être agressées. Ces exemples montrent que la mise en place d’installations unisexes et mixtes ne garantit pas une égalité d’accès.

    Ivana : Lorsque l’on étudie le droit à l’accès à l’eau, on distingue l’eau destinée à la consommation humaine — c’est à dire l’eau potable —, et l’eau utilisée pour se laver, qui correspond à l’assainissement. Nous avons travaillé sur ces deux aspects, et il apparaît que le droit à l’assainissement est le plus problématique : comme l’a dit Eline, la peur de subir des agressions désincite certaines femmes à utiliser les services sanitaires de la ville de Paris qui sont mixtes ; de plus, dans tout la ville, seulement neuf toilettes publiques possèdent une table à langer. Les besoins spécifiques des femmes ne sont pas assez pris en compte dans l’offre de services sanitaires : seules 1,5% des infrastructures existantes prennent en compte ces spécificités et les incluent dans leur offre de services.

    Quelles recommandations avez-vous formulées suite à votre analyse ? Existe-t-il des solutions ?

    Juliette : Au regard de la situation dont nous avons été témoins, nous avons formulé des recommandations au plus près des besoins et à plus ou moins long terme. Premièrement, de manière transversale et systématique, nous recommandons la participation des femmes concernées aux processus de décision. C’est une nécessité à la fois d’un point de vue pratique — car elles sont les mieux placées pour connaître leur réalité — mais aussi car le public concerné par une situation est le plus légitime pour intervenir dans des décisions le concernant.
    Une autre recommandation primordiale, à plus long terme, est la reconnaissance formelle par la France du droit humain à l’eau et à l’assainissement. Ce droit a été reconnu comme tel par les Nations Unies il y a maintenant dix ans et la France doit en faire de même.

    De manière plus immédiate, nous recommandons l’installation de davantage de points d’eau, de douches, de sanitaires et de lieux d’accueil spécifiquement dédiées aux femmes ; le groupe des femmes n’étant pas un groupe homogène, une constante et nécessaire attention devra être portée à la prise en compte des besoins relatifs à chaque situation : le statut migratoire, la langue parlée, les enfants, l’ancienneté dans la rue, les violences subies, etc.

    Enfin, nous recommandons ardemment de relancer le programme de l’INSEE d’enquête et de production de données sur la population sans abri ; les dernières données officielles remontent à 2012. Or, la collecte régulière et détaillée de statistiques est indispensable au respect des droits humains : il n’est pas possible de les mettre en oeuvre si les personnes laissées pour compte sont invisibles.

    Donc en définitive : oui les solutions existent, et la ville de Paris reste un bon exemple en la matière. Néanmoins, tant que ces problématiques ne gagneront pas en visibilité, tant que les victimes ne seront pas écoutées, tant que l’accès à l’eau ne sera pas universel dans son application, la situation n’évoluera pas.

    Comment la crise liée au Coronavirus Covid-19 impacte-t-elle l’accès à l’eau des personnes migrantes ?

    Eline : La crise du Coronavirus Covid-19 a montré qu’il était plus que jamais crucial que les principes fondamentaux des #droits_humains soient respectés. Lorsque l’on dit que "se laver les mains peut sauver des vies" mais que des centaines de personnes — et notamment des femmes — migrantes et sans abri n’ont pas accès ni à l’eau potable, ni à du savon, cela met en lumière les profondes inégalités qui traversent notre société.
    Nous savons que beaucoup de migrantes vivent dans des campements de fortune autour de Paris, où il est impossible de mettre en place la distanciation sociale et le confinement. Les femmes migrantes sont aussi davantage mal logées, dans des petits espaces collectifs où les installations sanitaires sont partagées entre les habitants, augmentant considérablement le risque de contracter le virus. De plus, les femmes migrantes occupant habituellement des emplois informels — comme la garde d’enfants, la vente de nourriture dans la rue ou du ménage — elles ont perdu une source de revenu.

    Un autre point important est soulevé dans notre recherche : le fait que les femmes sans abri ont souvent d’importants problèmes de santé, qui sont parfois causés par un manque d’accès à l’eau et à l’assainissement ; et l’on sait que le Coronavirus est très dangereux pour ces personnes….

    En d’autres termes : la crise du Coronavirus fait non seulement courir un risque plus important aux personnes dont les droits fondamentaux ne sont pas respectés — c’est notamment le cas des femmes migrantes et de leur droit à l’accès à l’eau — mais amplifie aussi les problématiques préexistantes. C’est pour cette raison que nous appelons le gouvernement français à reconnaître ces droits humains fondamentaux pour toutes et tous et à garantir à toutes les femmes, quelles que soient leurs conditions de logement ou leurs parcours migratoires, un accès à l’eau potable et à l’assainissement.

    https://www.sciencespo.fr/programme-presage/fr/actualites/quel-droit-l-eau-pour-les-femmes-migrantes-paris

    #eau #droit_à_l'eau #eau #femmes #femmes_migrantes #Paris #law_clinic #droits_fondamentaux #pandémie #covid-19 #coronavirus

  • Open letter to the European Commission calling for clear regulatory red lines to prevent uses of artificial intelligence which violate core fundamental rights

    In 2020, EDRi, its members, and many other civil society organisations have investigated several harmful uses of artificial intelligence which, unless restricted, will have a severe implication on individual and collective rights and democracy.

    We believe that, in addition to safeguards which can hope to improve the process of AI design, development and deployment, there is a need for clear, regulatory red lines for uses of AI which are incompatible with our fundamental rights. From uses which enable mass surveillance, the overpolicing of racialised and migrant communities, and exacerbate existing power imbalances, such uses are impermissable must be curtailed in order to prevent abuse. We, in particular draw attention to the harmful impact of uses of AI at the border and in migration management.

    The European Commission has made indications that it is still considering regulatory red lines in some form as part of its AI regulatory proposal (expected Q1 2021). As such, we have prepared the attached open letter for publication on the 11th January.

    If you would like the name of your organisation to be attached to the letter, please let us know by 7th January 2021 (17.00 CET).

    The list of signatory organisations will be updated via this Etherpad: https://pad.riseup.net/p/r.dd8356ea3e6e1b74b6dde570440d359b

    https://edri.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Case-studies-Impermissable-AI-biometrics-September-2020.pdf

    Contenu de la lettre:
    Open letter: Civil society call for AI red lines in the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence proposal

    We the undersigned, write to restate the vital importance of clear regulatory red lines to prevent uses of artificial intelligence which violate core fundamental rights. As we await the regulatory proposal on artificial intelligence this quarter, we emphasise that such measures form a necessary part of a fundamental rights-based artificial intelligence regulation.

    Europe has an obligation under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to ensure that each person’s rights to privacy, data protection, free expression and assembly, non-discrimination, dignity and other fundamental rights are not unduly restricted by the use of new and emerging technologies. Without appropriate limitations on the use of AI-based technologies, we face the risk of violations of our rights and freedoms by governments and companies alike.

    Europe has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that true innovation can arise only when we can be confident that everyone will be protected from the most harmful and the most egregious violations of fundamental rights. Europe’s industry - from AI developers to car manufacturing companies - will benefit greatly from the regulatory certainty that comes from clear legal limits and an even playing field for fair competition.

    Civil society across Europe - and the world - have called attention to the need for regulatory limits on deployments of artificial intelligence that can unduly restrict human rights. It is vital that the upcoming regulatory proposal unequivocally addresses the enabling of mass surveillance and monitoring public spaces; exacerbating structural discrimination, exclusion and collective harms; impeding access to vital services such as health-care and social security; impeding fair access to justice and procedural rights; uses of systems which make inferences and predictions about our most sensitive characteristics, behaviours and thoughts; and, crucially, the manipulation or control of human behaviour and the associated threats to human dignity, agency, and collective democracy.

    In particular, we call attention to specific (but not exhaustive) examples of uses that, as our research has demonstrated, are incompatible with a democratic society, and must thus be prohibited or legally restricted in the AI legislation:

    Biometric mass surveillance:

    Uses of biometric surveillance technologies to process the indiscriminately or arbitrarily-collected data of people in public or publicly-accessible spaces (for example, remote facial recognition) creates a strong perception of mass surveillance and a ‘chilling effect’ on people’s fundamental rights and freedoms. In this resepct it is important to note that deployment of biometric mass surveillance in public or publicly accessible spaces brings along, per definition, indiscriminate processing of biometric data. Moreover, because of a psychological ‘chilling’ effect, people might feel inclined to adapt their behaviour to a certain norm. Thus, such use of biometric mass surveillance intrudes the psychological integrity and well-being of individuals, in addition to the violation of a vast range of fundamental rights. As emphasised in EU data protection legislation and case law, such uses are not necessary or proportionate to the aim sought, and should therefore be clearly prohibited in the AI legislation. This will ensure that law enforcement, national authorities and private entities cannot abuse the current wide margin of exception and discretion for national governments. Moreover, because of a psychological ‘chilling’ effect, people might feel inclined to adapt their behaviour to a certain norm. Thus, such use of biometric mass surveillance intrudes the psychological integrity and well-being of individuals,

    Predictive policing:

    Uses of predictive modelling to forecast where, and by whom, a narrow type of crimes are likely to be committed repeatedly score poor, working class, racialised and migrant communities with a higher likelihood of presumed future criminality. As highlighted by the European Parliament, deployment of such predictive policing can result in “grave misuse”. The use of apparently “neutral” factors such as postal code in practice serve as a proxy for race and other protected characteristics, reflecting histories of over-policing of certain communities, exacerbating racial biases and affording false objectivity to patterns of racial profiling. A number of predictive policing systems have been demonstrated to disproportionately include racialised people, in complete disaccord with actual crime rates. Predictive policing systems undermine the presumption of innocence and other due process rights by treating people as individually suspicious based on inferences about a wider group.

    Uses of AI at the border and in migration control:

    The increasing examples of AI deployment in the field of migration control pose a growing threat to the fundamental rights of migrants, to EU law, and to human dignity. Among other worrying use cases, AI is being tested to detect lies for the purposes of immigration applications at European borders and to monitor deception in English language tests through voice analysis, all of which lack credible scientific basis. In addition, EU migration policies are increasingly underpinned by the proposed or actual use of AI, such as facial recognition, algorithmic profiling and prediction tools within migration management processes, including for forced deporatation. All such uses infringe on data protection rights, the right to privacy, the right to non-discrimination, and several principles of international migration law, including the right to seek asylum. Furthermore, the significant power imbalance that such deployments exacerbate and exploit should trigger the strongest conditions possible for such systems in border and migration control.

    Social scoring and AI systems determining access to social rights and benefits

    AI systems have been deployed in various contexts threatening the allocation of social and economic rights and benefits. For example, in the areas of welfare resource allocation, eligibility assessment and fraud detection, the deployment of AI to predict risk greatly impacts people’s access to vital public services and has grave potential impact on the fundamental right to social security and social assistance. This is in particular due to the likelihood of discriminatory profiling, mistaken results and the inherent fundamental rights risks associated with processing of sensitive biometric data. A number of examples demonstrate how automated decision making systems are negatively impacting and targeting poor, migrant and working class people. In a famous case, the Dutch government deployed SyRI, a system to detect fraudulent behaviour by creating risk profiles of individual benefits claimants. Further,the Polish government has used data-driven systems to profile unemployed people, with severe implications for data protection and non-discrimination rights. Further, uses in the context of employment and education have highlighted severe instances of worker and student surveillance, as well as harmful systems involving social scoring with severe implications for fundamental rights.

    Use of risk assessment tools for offenders’ classification in the criminal justice system

    The use of algorithms in criminal justice matters to profile individuals within legal decision-making processes presents severe threats to fundamental rights. Such tools base their assessments on a vast collection of personal data unrelated to the defendants’ alleged misconduct. This collection of personal data for the purpose of predicting the risk of recidivism cannot be perceived as necessary nor proportional to the perceived purpose. Consequently, such interference with the right to respect for private life and the presumption of innocence cannot be considered necessary or proportionate. In addition, substantial evidence has shown that the introduction such systems in criminal justice systems in Europe and elsewhere has resulted in unjust and discriminatory outcomes. Beyond biased outcomes, it may be impossible for legal professionals,to understand the reasoning behind the outcomes of the system. For these reasons, we argue that legal limits must be imposed on AI risk assessment systems in the criminal justice context.

    These examples illustrate the need for an ambitious artificial intelligence proposal in 2021 which foregrounds people’s rights and freedoms. We look forward to a legislation which puts people first, and await to hear your response about how the AI proposal will address the concerns outlined in this letter. We thank you for your consideration, and are available at your convenience to discuss these issues should it be helpful

    #AI #intelligence_artificielle #lettre_ouverte #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains

    ping @etraces

  • Rapporti di monitoraggio

    Sin dal 2016 il progetto ha pubblicato report di approfondimento giuridico sulle situazioni di violazione riscontrate presso le diverse frontiere oggetto delle attività di monitoraggio. Ciascun report affronta questioni ed aspetti contingenti e particolarmente interessanti al fine di sviluppare azioni di contenzioso strategico.

    Elenco dei rapporti pubblicati in ordine cronologico:

    “Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri a Ventimiglia (giugno 2015): profili di illegittimità“

    Il report è stato redatto nel giugno del 2015 è costituisce una prima analisi delle principali criticità riscontrabili alla frontiera italo-francese verosimilmente sulla base dell’Accordo bilaterale fra il Governo della Repubblica italiana e il Governo della Repubblica francese sulla cooperazione transfrontaliera in materia di polizia e dogana (Accordo di Chambery)
    #Vintimille #Ventimiglia #frontière_sud-alpine #Alpes #Menton #accord_bilatéral #Accord_de_Chambéry #réadmissions

    Ajouté à la #métaliste de liens autour d’#accords_de_réadmission entre pays européens...
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091
    Et plus précisément ici:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091#message887941

    –---

    “Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri alla frontiera di Chiasso: profili di illegittimità”

    Il report è stato redatto nell’estate del 2016 per evidenziare la situazione critica che si era venuta a creare in seguito al massiccio afflusso di cittadini stranieri in Italia attraverso la rotta balcanica scatenata dalla crisi siriana. La frontiera italo-svizzera è stata particolarmente interessata da numerosi tentativi di attraversamento del confine nei pressi di Como e il presente documento fornisce una analisi giuridica delle criticità riscontrate.

    Ajouté à la #métaliste de liens autour d’#accords_de_réadmission entre pays européens...
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091
    Et plus précisément ici:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091#message887940

    –-----

    “Lungo la rotta del Brennero”

    Il report, redatto con la collaborazione della associazione Antenne Migranti e il contributo della fondazione Alex Langer nel 2017, analizza le dinamiche della frontiera altoatesina e sviluppa una parte di approfondimento sulle violazioni relative al diritto all’accoglienza per richiedenti asilo e minori, alle violazioni all’accesso alla procedura di asilo e ad una analisi delle modalità di attuazione delle riammissioni alla frontiera.

    #Brenner #Autriche

    –---

    “Attività di monitoraggio ai confini interni italiani – Periodo giugno 2018 – giugno 2019”

    Report analitico che riporta i dati raccolti e le prassi di interesse alle frontiere italo-francesi, italo-svizzere, italo-austriache e italo slovene. Contiene inoltre un approfondimento sui trasferimenti di cittadini di paesi terzi dalle zone di frontiera indicate all’#hotspot di #Taranto e centri di accoglienza del sud Italia.

    #Italie_du_Sud

    –------

    “Report interno sopralluogo Bosnia 27-31 ottobre 2019”

    Report descrittivo a seguito del sopralluogo effettuato da soci coinvolti nel progetto Medea dal 27 al 31 ottobre sulla condizione delle persone in transito in Bosnia. Il rapporto si concentra sulla descrizione delle strutture di accoglienza presenti nel paese, sull’accesso alla procedura di protezione internazionale e sulle strategie di intervento future.

    #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine

    –---

    “Report attività frontiere interne terrestri, porti adriatici e Bosnia”

    Rapporto di analisi dettagliata sulle progettualità sviluppate nel corso del periodo luglio 2019 – luglio 2020 sulle diverse frontiere coinvolte (in particolare la frontiera italo-francese, italo-slovena, la frontiera adriatica e le frontiere coinvolte nella rotta balcanica). Le novità progettuali più interessanti riguardano proprio l’espansione delle progettualità rivolte ai paesi della rotta balcanica e alla Grecia coinvolta nelle riammissioni dall’Italia. Nel periodo ad oggetto del rapporto il lavoro ha avuto un focus principale legato ad iniziative di monitoraggio, costituzione della rete ed azioni di advocacy.

    #Slovénie #mer_Adriatique #Adriatique

    https://medea.asgi.it/rapporti

    #rapport #monitoring #medea #ASGI
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières
    #frontières_internes #frontières_intérieures #Balkans #route_des_balkans

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • La santé mentale est un enjeu crucial des migrations contemporaines

    Si la migration est source d’espoirs liés à la découverte de nouveaux horizons, de nouveaux contextes sociaux et de nouvelles perspectives économiques, elle est également à des degrés divers un moment de rupture sociale et identitaire qui n’est pas sans conséquence sur la santé mentale.

    #Abdelmalek_Sayad, l’un des sociologues des migrations les plus influents de ces dernières décennies, a défini la condition du migrant comme étant suspendu entre deux mondes parallèles. #Sayad nous dit que le migrant est doublement absent, à son lieu d’origine et son lieu d’arrivée.

    Il est, en tant qu’émigrant, projeté dans une condition faite de perspectives et, très souvent, d’illusions qui l’éloignent de son lieu d’origine. Mais le migrant est tout aussi absent dans sa #condition ^_d’immigré, dans les processus d’#adaptation à un contexte nouveau et souvent hostile, source de nombreuses #souffrances.

    Quelles sont les conséquences de cette #double_absence et plus largement de cette transition de vie dans la santé mentale des migrants ?

    Migrer implique une perte de #capital_social

    Migrer, c’est quitter un #univers_social pour un autre. Les #contacts, les #échanges et les #relations_interpersonnelles qui soutiennent chacun de nous sont perturbés, fragmentés ou même rompus durant cette transition.

    Si pour certains la migration implique un renforcement du capital social (ou économique), dans la plupart des cas elle mène à une perte de capital social. Dans un entretien mené en 2015, un demandeur d’asile afghan souligne cette #rupture_sociale et la difficulté de maintenir des liens avec son pays d’origine :

    « C’est très difficile de quitter son pays parce que ce n’est pas seulement ta terre que tu quittes, mais toute ta vie, ta famille. J’ai des contacts avec ma famille de temps en temps, mais c’est difficile parce que les talibans détruisent souvent les lignes de téléphone, et donc, c’est difficile de les joindre. »

    Pour contrer ou éviter cette perte de capital social, de nombreux #réseaux_transnationaux et organisations d’immigrants dans les pays d’accueil sont créés et jouent dans la vie des migrants un rôle primordial.

    À titre d’exemple, la migration italienne d’après-guerre s’est caractérisée par une forte structuration en #communautés. Ils ont créé d’importants organisations et réseaux, notamment des organisations politiques et syndicales, des centres catholiques et culturels, dont certains sont encore actifs dans les pays de la #diaspora italienne.

    L’#environnement_social et la manière dont les sociétés d’arrivée vont accueillir et inclure les migrants, vont être donc des éléments clés dans la #résilience de ces populations face aux défis posés par leur trajectoire de vie et par leur #parcours_migratoire. Les migrants peuvent en effet rencontrer des situations qui mettent en danger leur #santé physique et mentale dans leur lieu d’origine, pendant leur transit et à leur destination finale.

    Cela est particulièrement vrai pour les migrants forcés qui sont souvent confrontés à des expériences de #détention, de #violence et d’#exploitation susceptibles de provoquer des #troubles_post-traumatiques, dépressifs et anxieux. C’est le cas des centaines de milliers de réfugiés qui fuient les #conflits_armés depuis 2015, principalement dans les régions de la Syrie et de l’Afrique subsaharienne.

    Ces migrants subissent des #violences tout au long de leur parcours, y compris la violence des lois de l’asile dans nos sociétés.

    L’environnement social est une des clés de la santé mentale

    Dans son document d’orientation « Mental health promotion and mental health care in refugees and migrants », l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS) indique l’#intégration_sociale comme l’un des domaines d’intervention les plus importants pour combattre les problèmes de santé mentale dans les populations migrantes.

    Pour l’OMS, la lutte contre l’#isolement et la promotion de l’#intégration sont des facteurs clés, tout comme les interventions visant à faciliter le relations entre les migrants et les services de soins, et à améliorer les pratiques et les traitements cliniques.

    Cependant, l’appartenance à des réseaux dans un environnement social donné est une condition essentielle pour le bien-être mental de l’individu, mais elle n’est pas suffisante.

    Le philosophe allemand #Axel_Honneth souligne notamment que la #confiance_en_soi, l’#estime_de_soi et la capacité à s’ouvrir à la société trouvent leurs origines dans le concept de #reconnaissance. Chaque individu est mu par le besoin que son environnement social et la société, dans laquelle il ou elle vit, valorisent ses #identités et lui accordent une place comme #sujet_de_droit.

    Les identités des migrants doivent être reconnues par la société

    À cet égard, se construire de nouvelles identités sociales et maintenir une #continuité_identitaire entre l’avant et l’après-migration permet aux migrants de diminuer les risques de #détresse_psychologique.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNC4C4OqomI&feature=emb_logo

    Être discriminé, exclu ou ostracisé du fait de ses appartenances et son identité affecte profondément la santé mentale. En réaction à ce sentiment d’#exclusion ou de #discrimination, maintenir une estime de soi positive et un #équilibre_psychosocial passe souvent parla prise de distance par rapport à la société discriminante et le #repli vers d’autres groupes plus soutenants.

    La #reconnaissance_juridique, un élément central

    Or ce principe de reconnaissance s’articule tant au niveau de la sphère sociale qu’au niveau juridique. Dans les sociétés d’accueil, les migrants doivent être reconnus comme porteurs de droits civils, sociaux et politiques.

    Au-delà des enjeux pragmatiques liés à l’accès à des services, à une protection ou au #marché_de_l’emploi, l’obtention de droits et d’un #statut_juridique permet de retrouver une forme de contrôle sur la poursuite de sa vie.

    Certaines catégories de migrants vivant soit en procédure pour faire reconnaître leurs droits, comme les demandeurs d’asile, soit en situation irrégulière, comme les « #sans-papiers », doivent souvent faire face à des situations psychologiquement compliquées.

    À cet égard, les sans-papiers sont presque totalement exclus, privés de leurs #droits_fondamentaux et criminalisés par la justice. Les demandeurs d’asile sont quant à eux souvent pris dans la #bureaucratie du système d’accueil durant des périodes déraisonnablement longues, vivant dans des conditions psychologiques difficiles et parfois dans un profond #isolement_social. Cela est bien exprimé par un jeune migrant kenyan que nous avions interviewé en 2018 dans une structure d’accueil belge :

    « Je suis arrivé quand ils ont ouvert le [centre d’accueil], et je suis toujours là ! Cela fait presque trois ans maintenant ! Ma première demande a été rejetée et maintenant, si c’est un “non”, je vais devoir quitter le territoire. […] Tous ces jours, les mois d’attente, pour quoi faire ? Pour rien avoir ? Pour devenir un sans-papiers ? Je vais devenir fou, je préfère me tuer. »

    Être dans l’#attente d’une décision sur son statut ou être dénié de droits plonge l’individu dans l’#insécurité et dans une situation où toute #projection est rendue compliquée, voire impossible.

    Nous avons souligné ailleurs que la lourdeur des procédures et le sentiment de #déshumanisation dans l’examen des demandes d’asile causent d’importantes #frustrations chez les migrants, et peuvent avoir un impact sur leur #bien-être et leur santé mentale.

    La migration est un moment de nombreuses #ruptures sociales et identitaires face auxquelles les individus vont (ré)agir et mobiliser les ressources disponibles dans leur environnement. Donner, alimenter et construire ces ressources autour et avec les migrants les plus vulnérables constitue dès lors un enjeu de #santé_publique.

    https://theconversation.com/la-sante-mentale-est-un-enjeu-crucial-des-migrations-contemporaines

    #santé_mentale #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    ping @_kg_ @isskein @karine4

  • #Patrouilles_anti-migrants : trois #identitaires relaxés en appel

    Deux responsables de #Génération_identitaire ainsi qu’un ex-cadre ont été #relaxés en appel mercredi. Ils avaient été condamnés à six mois de #prison ferme en 2019 pour avoir « exercé des activités dans des conditions de nature à créer dans l’esprit du public une confusion avec l’exercice d’une #fonction_publique ».

    Ils ont finalement été relaxés. #Clément_Gandelin, président de l’association d’ultra-droite Génération identitaire, #Romain_Espino, porte-parole, et #Damien_Lefèvre [connu sous le nom #Rieu – ndlr], ancien cadre du mouvement, ont été relaxés par la cour d’#appel de Grenoble mercredi 16 décembre.

    Ils avaient été condamnés par le tribunal correctionnel de Gap, le 29 août 2019, à six mois de prison ferme, 2 000 euros d’amende et des privations de droits civiques, civils et familiaux pendant cinq ans. Le trio était poursuivi pour avoir « exercé des activités dans des conditions de nature à créer dans l’esprit du public une confusion avec l’exercice d’une fonction publique ». Le groupe Génération identitaire, poursuivi en tant que personne morale, avait écopé d’une amende de 75 000 euros.

    « La #cour_d’appel a estimé que les éléments constitutifs de cette #infraction n’étaient pas caractérisés en l’espèce, retenant une action de pure #propagande à visée médiatique et annoncée comme telle », a indiqué le parquet général de la cour d’appel de Grenoble dans un communiqué mercredi.

    « La cour a estimé que la seule infraction qui aurait pu leur être reprochée aurait été l’interpellation de migrants le jour de la chaîne humaine, ce qui n’a pas été le cas », précise Agnès Antoine, membre de l’association Tous Migrants, qui vient en aide aux exilés dans le Briançonnais, à la frontière franco-italienne.

    Les avocats de l’association, Mes Vincent Brengarth et William Bourdon, disent leur « totale incompréhension » face à cette décision. « La cour a considéré que leur action du 21 avril 2018 au #col_de_l’Échelle n’était pas de nature à créer une confusion dans l’esprit du public avec l’exercice d’une fonction publique, expliquent-ils. Cette décision potentialise le risque que des #milices viennent imposer leur loi à la #frontière en violation des #droits_fondamentaux des personnes exilées. »

    De son côté, Damien Lefèvre, dit « Rieu », a annoncé sa « victoire » dans une vidéo publiée sur Twitter (https://twitter.com/DamienRieu/status/1339240515108220934). Il affirme avoir été « persécuté judiciairement » et fait le lien entre migrations et terrorisme, en évoquant l’attentat de Nice. Il s’adresse enfin à « toute la sphère d’en face, l’islamosphère, la gauchosphère, Cédric Herrou, les fan[s] de Karim Benzema, les mangeurs de tacos et tous les islamistes qui [le] rêvaient en prison depuis des mois. Ça ne va pas se passer comme ça, je bois vos larmes », se gargarise-t-il.

    Pour les conseils de Tous Migrants, cette décision crée « un #deux_poids_deux_mesures par rapport à la criminalisation des maraudeurs », « dans un contexte de basculement autoritaire semblant chaque jour un peu plus désinhiber certains comportements qui devraient être condamnables » (lire notre article sur l’aide humanitaire mise à mal à la frontière franco-italienne : https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/101220/migrants-la-frontiere-franco-italienne-l-aide-humanitaire-mise-mal-les-ass).

    Depuis la mi-novembre, les effectifs de la police aux frontières de #Montgenèvre ont augmenté afin de « lutter contre le terrorisme » dans les #Hautes-Alpes et les associations d’aide aux migrants dénoncent un harcèlement des policiers à l’égard des exilés et des bénévoles. Deux #maraudeurs sont d’ailleurs poursuivis pour « aide à l’entrée, la circulation ou le séjour irrégulier d’étrangers en situation irrégulière en leur faisant franchir la frontière pédestrement » et sont renvoyés devant le tribunal de Gap en avril 2021.

    Nous republions ci-dessous l’article d’Elisa Perrigueur paru le 29 août 2019, à l’occasion de la condamnation des trois militants identitaires par le tribunal de Gap.

    *

    Six mois de prison ferme, 2 000 euros d’amende et des privations de droits civiques, civils et familiaux pendant cinq ans. Clément Gandelin, 24 ans, le président de l’association d’ultra-droite Génération identitaire, Romain Espino, 26 ans, porte-parole, et Damien Lefèvre, 29 ans, ex-cadre du mouvement, ont tous les trois été condamnés jeudi 29 août par le tribunal de Gap pour leur opération anti-migrants effectuée dans les Alpes au printemps 2018.

    Les trois militants d’ultradroite étaient plus précisément poursuivis pour « activités exercées dans des conditions de nature à créer dans l’esprit du public une confusion avec l’exercice d’une fonction publique » (article 433-13), lors de cette action médiatique qui avait pour but affiché de bloquer un point de passage frontalier emprunté par les exilés passés par l’Italie, à l’époque souvent des mineurs venus d’Afrique de l’Ouest.

    Le groupe Génération identitaire, également poursuivi en tant que personne morale, a, lui, écopé d’une amende de 75 000 euros. Le tribunal a estimé que la prison ferme s’imposait « compte tenu de la nature extrêmement grave des faits, de l’importance du trouble à l’ordre public occasionné non seulement pendant leur période de commission mais de manière durable dans le département, de l’importance des valeurs protégées par les infractions reprochées et du passé pénal des prévenus », d’après la motivation du jugement consultée par l’AFP.

    Les trois prévenus n’ont pas tardé à réagir jeudi soir, sur les réseaux sociaux, notamment Twitter, où deux d’entre eux ont diffusé des vidéos soigneusement mises en scène.

    Alors que Clément Gandelin, dit « Galant » chez les militants du groupe, s’exprime face caméra, des dizaines de personnes sont alignées derrière lui, figées en arrière plan, bras croisés. Le militant évoque une amende « exorbitante » pour son mouvement et parle d’une « justice politique qui frappe aujourd’hui les résistants identitaires ». Il ajoute aussi dans son tweet que « pour [l’]aider à payer [les] frais de justice », il faut se rendre sur le site du groupe extrémiste. Il y publie ses coordonnées bancaires pour le « soutenir » ou propose l’envoi de dons par chèque au mouvement.

    Selon l’article 40 de la loi de 1881 sur la liberté de la presse, il est « interdit d’ouvrir ou d’annoncer publiquement des souscriptions ayant pour objet d’indemniser des amendes, frais et dommages-intérêts prononcés par des condamnations judiciaires, en matière criminelle et correctionnelle, sous peine de six mois d’emprisonnement et de 45 000 euros d’amende ».

    Sur une autre vidéo partagée sur Twitter, le militant Damien Lefèvre, dit « Rieu », prend davantage en compte cette interdiction. « Vous le savez depuis l’affaire Leetchi, il est interdit de recevoir des dons », détaille-t-il, une carte du monde en arrière plan, faisant référence à l’arrêt d’une cagnotte sur ce site participatif, lancée en 2017 après la condamnation de plusieurs militants du groupe, qui lui même avait écopé d’une amende, en raison de l’occupation de la mosquée de Poitiers en 2012. L’ancien cadre de Génération identitaire propose donc de « financer » l’un des « projets » d’un autre collectif.

    « Ils se font passer pour des victimes »

    Ladite « Mission Alpes », pour laquelle les militants ont cette fois été condamnés, et dont ils s’étaient autoproclamés investis, s’était tenue entre le 21 avril et le 29 juin 2018 dans les Alpes françaises, à six kilomètres de la frontière italienne.

    Une centaine de membres de Génération identitaire reconnaissables à leur doudoune bleue, avaient d’abord occupé, le temps d’une journée, le col de l’Échelle, qui culmine à 1 760 mètres d’altitude, entre les versants donnant sur le village français de Névache d’un côté et la gare italienne de Bardonecchia de l’autre. Une dizaine de militants identitaires, dont les trois prévenus, étaient ensuite restés pour « patrouiller », se vantaient-ils, pendant plusieurs semaines dans le Briançonnais.

    Doté d’une flotte tape-à-l’œil de pick-up, de deux hélicoptères et d’un avion, le groupe avait alors communiqué de façon boulimique sur son action, à grand renfort de selfies, de vidéos, comme il l’avait fait l’année précédente, pour son opération spectacle anti-migrants à bord du navire C-Star, qui avait croisé dans les eaux internationales entre la Libye et l’Italie.

    Ce mouvement de jeunesse des identitaires (plus connu anciennement sous le nom de Bloc identitaire) créé en 2012, qui compte « au cœur du groupe quelque 500 personnes », « renverse la situation », explique Stéphane François, historien des idées et politologue. « Ils se font passer pour des victimes, des rebelles. Ces condamnations sont des trophées [comme le souligne Damien Rieu dans sa réaction jeudi 29 août, il s’agit d’un « honneur, d’une médaille » – ndlr], ils se font passer pour des personnes persécutées [par le système], rappelait le spécialiste des droites radicales, interrogé en juillet sur la question. Leur stratégie d’action est inspirée par le Bloc identitaire lui-même, inspiré du mouvement écologique Greenpeace : des campagnes chocs qui n’entraînent généralement pas ou peu de poursuites pénales. Cette nouvelle génération veut en découdre, il y a une multiplication des actes… Ils ne sont pas très nombreux mais peuvent être très violents. »

    La peine correspond aux réquisitions du procureur de la République de Gap, Raphaël Balland, prononcées le 11 juillet, lors de la première convocation des trois prévenus. Elles prenaient en compte « le casier judiciaire », avait-il alors justifié, deux d’entre eux n’étant pas « éligibles à du sursis simple », en raison de leurs précédentes condamnations. L’avocat des trois prévenus, Me Pierre-Vincent Lambert, qui réclamait quant à lui la relaxe, a annoncé que ses clients feraient appel de la décision, selon l’AFP.

    Au cœur de son réquisitoire, le procureur a placé la délicate notion de « confusion » dans l’exercice d’une fonction publique, un délit « pas simple à manier », selon lui, en raison du « très peu de jurisprudences ». Raphaël Balland précise que Génération identitaire a voulu créer la « confusion avec l’exercice d’une fonction publique ou d’une activité réservée aux officiers publics ou ministériels » au cours de cette mission.

    Il a parfois été reproché au procureur son « deux poids deux mesures » dans ses poursuites desdits « pro- » et « anti-migrants » dans ce département montagneux devenu le théâtre de fortes tensions autour de l’accueil des exilés.

    Ce même tribunal de Gap avait en effet condamné ceux que l’on connaît dans la vallée sous l’appellation des « 3+4 de Briançon » à 12 mois de prison pour deux d’entre eux et à six mois avec sursis pour les autres, pour avoir « facilité l’entrée » à la frontière d’une vingtaine de migrants lors d’une marche organisée en réponse à l’opération de Génération identitaire, le 22 avril 2018.

    Certains bénévoles ont regretté par ailleurs que le procureur n’ait pas poursuivi les trois militants d’extrême droite au « chef d’immixtion dans une fonction publique », plus sévère, sanctionné de trois ans de prison et de 45 000 euros d’amende. « Le délit d’immixtion ne tient pas », leur a rétorqué le procureur, lui préférant le délit de confusion.

    Le 11 juillet, seul Clément Gandelin s’était présenté à la barre. Il n’avait pas souhaité s’exprimer, restant silencieux tout au long de cette première audience de quatre heures. Il avait simplement déclaré à la fin que « ce procès n’[était] rien d’autre que politique et que jamais [le groupe Génération identitaire] n’av[ait] dit qu[’il prendrait] la place de la police ».

    Clément Gandelin avait été condamné en 2015 pour violences sur personne dépositaire de l’autorité publique. Son coaccusé, Damien Lefèvre, l’avait également été – entre autres – en 2017. Pour l’occupation de la mosquée de Poitiers en 2012, il avait écopé d’un an de prison avec sursis et d’une mise à l’épreuve de deux ans. Cette action avait mis en lumière ce mouvement de jeunesse – alors nouvellement créé – des identitaires. Un nouveau procès doit avoir lieu en appel.

    L’association locale d’entraide Tous migrants avait demandé à se constituer partie civile au nom de leur collectif. Leur but, expliquaient deux de ses responsables, était de rappeler que « ce procès mascarade est un dérivatif du vrai problème », à savoir « le droit des migrants à cette frontière ».

    Le collectif qui vient en aide aux migrants à Briançon a joint au dossier un recueil de témoignages de quatre exilés anonymes. Portée au dossier, la parole de ces exilés inconnus a rapidement été écartée, jugée non recevable par la présidente du tribunal.

    https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/161220/patrouilles-anti-migrants-trois-identitaires-relaxes-en-appel?onglet=full

    #condamnation #justice #relaxe #frontière_sud-alpine #Alpes #montagne #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    –—

    Ajouté à la chronologie sur le Briançonnais :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/756096

    –-> chronologie signalée dans la métaliste sur la même région :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/733721

  • Frontex, Civil Society Organsations, and Human Rights at EU Borders: A Complex Relationship

    On March 26th 2020, the EU celebrated the 25th anniversary of the abolition of border checks among the first seven European Member States that implemented the Schengen Agreement. Needless to say, celebrations this year did not seem particularly relevant, nor particularly fitting the climate of uncertainty and fear looming over Europe. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed the closure of EU internal and external borders in an effort to stop the spreading of the virus from one country to the other. However, the closure of EU borders, while halting regular crossings, deterred only briefly irregular crossings towards the EU, exacerbated the unsafe, unhealthy and too often inhumane conditions of people waiting at the doors of the EU to flee from poverty, climate change and persecution, among others (e.g., on the Balkan route and in Libya).

    Ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights of people trying to cross the EU borders has been at the core of the advocacy activity of many civil society organisations (CSOs), including NGOs, especially since the last decade. In the last decade, indeed, the arrival of migrants and refugees on EU shores (i.e., in 2011 and 2015) that became known as “migration and refugee crisis” was perceived as an “invasion” (de Haas, 2008) and thus triggered the creation of virtual and real fences. These EU fences have had one major outcome identified by CSOs and scholars: deaths and inhuman treatment of people attempting to cross the European borders. In order to increase the effectiveness of their advocacy activity, some of these CSOs have expanded their presence and advocacy efforts at the EU level, while many other CSOs continue to remain outside EU headquarters and to advocate for human and migrants’ rights from below. Both categories, however, have been facing harsh criticism and even criminalisation for their activities — for example, search and rescue at sea and at land borders — at national and local levels, something that has been widely addressed by the authors of Border Criminologies blog (see here: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/04/pushing-migrants, here: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2018/04/pushing-0 and here: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2019/04/humanitarian).

    Against this background, there is one peculiar experience of cooperation between the European Border and Coast Guard agency (EBCG) – most commonly known as Frontex – and CSOs concerned for the protection and promotion of human rights at the EU borders: the #Frontex_Consultative_Forum_on_fundamental_rights (CF). Frontex is the most controversial EU actor in the field of border control and migration management: since its inception in 2004, Frontex has been not only strongly blamed by migrant rights’ advocates and human rights’ activists, but it has also been repeatedly questioned by members of the European Parliament and by the European Ombudsman regarding the respect of fundamental rights at the external borders of the EU, all the while growing exponentially in terms of funds, competences and human resources. For these reasons, in 2011 Frontex had to establish a Consultative Forum on fundamental rights, whose role is to assist the EU agency with independent advice on fundamental rights issues. The CF became operational in 2012 with nine CSO members together with four international organizations (i.e., UNHCR, OSCE/ODIHR, Council of Europe, and IOM) and two other EU agencies, namely European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). In January 2020, the composition of the CF was reduced to fourteen members, with CSOs that currently count six members: Amnesty International EIO, Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, International Commission of Jurists, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Red Cross EU Office, and Save the Children. In this last composition of the CF several relevant organisations have disappeared, such as the AIRE centre, Caritas Europa, ECRE and PICUM. The mixed nature and the small composition of this CF is peculiar to Frontex, as other EU agencies’ consultative fora (i.e., EASO Consultative forum) are significantly more numerous and include mainly CSOs.

    The opportunity for CSOs to lobby Frontex from within the CF is unique for several reasons. First, the ability of CF members to request information from Frontex on fundamental rights related issues and to visit and observe Frontex operations first hand. Indeed, since 2014, CF members have started to travel to the borders of the EU and to observe Frontex operations first visiting air borders operations (i.e., airports), then also land and sea borders and the highly contested return operations. However, the CF has repeatedly lamented issues with access to information, which should be effective as per art. 108 of the EBCG regulation (2019/1896); in the CF annual report of 2017 this is clearly stated: “the Forum continues to face serious and further limitations particularly in relation to relevant operational reference and guiding documents”. Second, the close relationship between CF members and Frontex officers, Heads of Unit and even Management Board members, which is developed also through the organisation not only of formal meetings and exchanges between the CF and Frontex staff, but also focus groups on specific issues, such as the discussion on the observation of return operations. Finally, the CF as a whole has to publish a publicly available annual report on its activities and observations on Frontex activity, which is usually detailed and highly informative, and the two CF chairs can present the work and findings of the Forum to the European Parliament (i.e., to the LIBE committee).

    However, the choice of CSOs to cooperate with Frontex is constrained by a number of internal and external factors. CSOs that gained access to Frontex CF share a high level of professionalization and expertise, they also generally have an established network at the EU level, both with other CSOs and with institutional actors, and considerable financial and human resources; in addition, the majority of these organizations have an EU office with its own staff (usually small) based in Brussels. These CSOs have also the possibility to contest Frontex and to monitor its operations from outside, often being where Frontex operations and activities take place. However, while the general criteria for the selection of CSOs for the CF is public, the actual selection made by Frontex is not transparent in terms of which organisations are left out and why. Moreover, there is a clear pattern of keeping in the same members from the very beginning – five out of six members have been CF members for more than one mandate.

    In conclusion, questions regarding Frontex human rights’ accountability have not subsided and the attention of CSOs and other interested parties is still high. In a webinar organised during the pandemic (April 21st, 2020) by the The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament titled “Under Surveillance: Monitoring at the border”, both panels questioned the accountability and transparency of the EU agency and stressed the need for a stronger monitoring system to be enforced. A recent development in this sense is the establishment, in cooperation with FRA, of fundamental rights monitors whose task will be to monitor Frontex operations at EU borders. Notwithstanding the need for a more defined judicial accountability of Frontex and a more effective monitoring and complaints mechanism, CSOs’ advocacy and monitoring activity remains crucial to ensure that both European citizens and EU institutions are alerted and aware on how the first fully European border and coast guard force enforces its duty to protect and promote fundamental rights during its operations.

    https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2020/10/frontex-civil

    #frontex #droits_fondamentaux #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #droits_humains #contrôles_frontaliers

    ping @isskein @karine4 @_kg_

  • EU: Frontex report on removal operations in the first half of 2020 and fundamental rights observations

    Statewatch is publishing Frontex’s report on its forced removal operations in the first half of 2020, along with the observations of the agency’s fundamental rights officer (FRO). The FRO report highlights a number of problems: a failure to correctly brief escorts on fundamental rights; not enough monitors available to cover all flights and not enough monitors on each flight; a failure to protect dignity and privacy during strip searches; wrongful disclosure of medical data to escorts; improper treatment of vulnerable groups; and problematic use of force and coercive measures. On this latter point, the FRO’s report notes that: “A few monitors found that unauthorized coercive measures were used (steel shoes, helmets).”

    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/december/eu-frontex-report-on-removal-operations-in-the-first-half-of-2020-and-fu

    Pour télécharger le rapport:
    https://www.statewatch.org/media/1593/eu-frontex-deportations-report-first-half-2020-13638-20.pdf

    #rapport #Frontex #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #expulsions #2020 #droits_fondamentaux #dignité #données_médicales #vulnérabilité #mesures_coercitives #frontières #droits_humains

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_

  • New policy brief : Not all returns can result in sustainable reintegration


    https://cris.unu.edu/sites/cris.unu.edu/files/PB20.3%20-%20Jill%20Alpes%20and%20Izabella%20Majcher.pdf

    –—

    Commentaire de Jill Alpes via la mailing-list Migreurop :

    Returns can both exacerbate existing, as well as create new vulnerabilities. #IzabellaMajcher and #Jill_Alpes published a policy brief with UNU-CRIS, entitled “Who can be sustainably reintegrated after return? Using post-return monitoring for rights-based return policies.” (https://cris.unu.edu/sites/cris.unu.edu/files/PB20.3%20-%20Jill%20Alpes%20and%20Izabella%20Majcher.pdf) In the brief, they argue that rights-based return policies need more robust vulnerability assessments and more extensive monitoring of people’s access to rights and well-being after return.

    - For a video presentation of the police brief, please feel free to check out this recorded webinar organised by Statewatch (starting at 54 minutes: https://www.statewatch.org/publications/events/deportation-union-revamped-return-policies-and-reckless-forced-removals).
    – Thanks to a collaboration with PICUM and a series of artists, we also have an illustrated booklet of selected testimonies. “Removed Stories: Stories of hardship and resilience in facing deportation and its aftermath” (https://picum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Removed-stories.pdf) highlights the impact of EU return policies on people’s lives and dreams.
    - For a short summary in French of some of the key lessons we can learn from post-return interviews for rights-based return policies, please feel free to explore either the Summary of Workshop - “Au dela du retours” (https://www.vluchtelingenwerk.be/system/tdf/fr_au-dela_du_retour.pdf?file=1&type=document) -organized by a collective of Belgian NGOs (p. 29 - 31) - or this intervention (https://vimeo.com/389291559

    ) at an event organized by the Cimade (starting 14 minutes).

    Few selected tweets by the United Nations University - CRIS:
    UNU - CRIS Tweets:

    - “Returns can create new vulnerabilities for certain profiles of migrants in particular. For example, people might not be vulnerable in Europe but will become so upon deportation to their country of nationality if they do not have families or social networks there, have not spent a significant number of years in their country of nationality (and might thus lack the necessary language skills for basic survival), or had been internally displaced beforehand. Deporting countries should take these specific returnee profiles into consideration when both issuing removal orders and deciding whether and how these removal orders are to be implemented.”
    - “The weakness or strength of people’s social networks in countries of nationality should be part of vulnerability assessments prior to return. Deporting countries should also consider not just existing social policies in countries of nationality, but also real impediments to services and entitlements that returnees will likely face upon return. Such barriers are typically stronger for those who are returned after long periods abroad and for those who have other pre-existing vulnerabilities.”
    - “States need to implement rights-based post-return monitoring. People who suffer from exacerbated or new vulnerabilities are less likely to be able to build up new life projects necessary for their “sustainable reintegration” in countries of nationality. Financial investments into reintegration assistance would thus not be able to achieve declared policy objectives.”

    https://cris.unu.edu/sites/cris.unu.edu/files/PB20.3%20-%20Jill%20Alpes%20and%20Izabella%20Majcher.pdf

    #réintégration #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #expulsions #après-expulsion

    ping @_kg_ @rhoumour @karine4

  • La proposition d’#égaliberté", Étienne Balibar

    Cet ouvrage rassemble deux séries d’essais, écrits sur une période de vingt ans (1989-2009) : les uns, philosophiques, portent sur l’énonciation et l’institution des #droits_fondamentaux, au cours d’un processus inséparable des #luttes d’émancipation de la modernité ; les autres sont des interventions dans l’actualité politique française, à propos d’événements qui ont eu un retentissement mondial en raison des problèmes qu’ils révélaient (en particulier l’interdiction des « signes religieux » dans les établissements scolaires et les émeutes des banlieues en 2005).
    Leur point de rencontre est une problématique des antinomies de la citoyenneté, en tant qu’institution du politique que son rapport originaire à la démocratie oblige en permanence à repenser ses conditions de légitimité et de transformation. Leur horizon est un projet collectif de démocratisation de la démocratie, seule alternative au processus de « dé-démocratisation » enclenché par la crise de l’État national social, et accéléré par la mondialisation néo-libérale.
    Le recueil inclut la réédition de l’essai de 1989, « La proposition de l’égaliberté », dont les formulations sont associées au point de vue « post-marxiste » défendu par l’auteur en philosophie politique. Il s’achève par un essai inédit sur la « co-citoyenneté », appliquant à la circulation des migrants les principes d’une démocratie sans exclusion. Entre ces pôles, ont été insérés plusieurs essais critiques (sur Rancière et Esposito, Poulantzas, Arendt, Laclau), esquissant une topique des courants les plus significatifs en philosophie de la démocratie.

    https://www.puf.com/content/La_proposition_de_l%C3%A9galibert%C3%A9
    #égalité #liberté #Balibar #Etienne_Balibar

  • #Frontex categorically denies any involvement of its officers in violations of fundamental rights. We condemn any form of inhumane treatment, unprocessed returns and any other form of violence which are illegal under the European Charter for Fundamental Rights.

    https://twitter.com/Frontex/status/1158393650356920322

    –-> ce tweet date de 2019, mais j’archive au cas où...

    #hypocrisie #frontières #Frontex #asile #migrations #réfugiés #droits_humains #droits_fondamentaux #traitements_inhumains #traitements_dégradants #tweet

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer

    Des investigations menées par plusieurs médias dénoncent les pratiques illégales des #gardes-frontières_grecs impliquant parfois l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières.

    Une enquête de plusieurs médias, dont le magazine allemand Spiegel, affirme que Frontex, l’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières, est impliquée dans plusieurs incidents de refoulement en mer de bateaux de demandeurs d’asile traversant la mer Egée entre la Turquie et la Grèce.

    Les investigations menées « montrent pour la première fois que les responsables de Frontex sont conscients des pratiques illégales des gardes-frontières grecs – et sont en partie impliqués dans les refoulements eux-mêmes », écrit le Spiegel dans un article disponible en ligne samedi 24 octobre.
    Les journalistes assurent avoir documenté six cas survenus depuis avril en mer Egée dans lesquels des équipes de Frontex ont au minimum assisté sans réagir à des refoulements vers la Turquie de bateaux de réfugiés se trouvant dans les eaux grecques, une pratique illégale. Dans un cas, en juin, une vidéo montre un navire de Frontex bloquant un bateau de réfugiés, puis, dans une autre scène enregistrée, passant devant le bateau de réfugiés à grande vitesse avant de quitter les lieux.

    Des dizaines de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits comparés

    Outre le Spiegel, les recherches ont été menées par un magazine de la chaîne allemande ARD, le collectif de journalistes Lighthouse Reports, la plate-forme d’investigations Bellingcat et la chaîne de télévision japonaise TV Asahi. Les auteurs expliquent avoir comparé des « dizaines » de vidéos, d’images satellites, de récits de témoins oculaires, dont des réfugiés et des employés de Frontex. L’agence européenne de surveillance des frontières a engagé plus de 600 agents en Grèce, une des portes d’entrée de l’Union européenne, ainsi que des bateaux, des drones et des avions, selon l’article.

    Frontex n’a pas commenté les cas précis soulevés par la recherche, explique le Spiegel, mais a déclaré que ses agents étaient liés par un code de conduite en matière de droits de l’homme et respectaient l’interdiction des refoulements. Sans mentionner l’article, Frontex a annoncé vendredi soir sur son compte Twitter avoir été « en contact avec les autorités grecques à propos d’incidents en mer ces derniers mois » et qu’Athènes avait ouvert une « enquête interne ». Frontex agit « dans le respect des droits fondamentaux et de la loi internationale », souligne l’agence sur Twitter.
    Le gouvernement conservateur grec a toujours rejeté les allégations de refoulements illégaux à ses frontières dont font régulièrement état plusieurs organisations non gouvernementales.

    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/10/24/migrations-l-agence-europeenne-frontex-mise-en-cause-pour-des-refoulements-e
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Mer_Egée #Grèce #Turquie

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Frontex at Fault : European Border Force Complicit in ‘Illegal’ Pushbacks

      Vessels from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, have been complicit in maritime “pushback” operations to drive away refugees and migrants attempting to enter the European Union via Greek waters, a joint investigation by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi has found.

      Open source data suggests Frontex assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea, were present at another and have been in the vicinity of four more since March.

      Although Frontex assets were not at the immediate scene of those latter four incidents, the signature of a pushback is distinctive, and would likely have been visible on radar, with visual tools common on such vessels or to the naked eye.

      The Greek Coast Guard (HCG) has long been accused of illegal pushbacks.

      These are described by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a legal and educational non-profit, as incidents where refugees and migrants are forced back over a border without consideration of individual circumstances and without any possibility to apply for asylum or to put forward arguments against the measures taken.

      In the Aegean Sea, pushbacks generally occur in two ways. The first type is the most common: Dinghies travelling from Turkey to Greece are blocked from landing on Greek soil by the HCG. This could mean either physically blocking the dinghy until it runs out of fuel, or disabling the engine. After the engine no longer works the dinghy can then either be pushed back into Turkish territorial water with waves, or towed if the wind is not favourable.

      The second type of pushback is employed when people have managed to land on Greek soil. In this case they are detained, placed in a liferaft with no means of propulsion, towed into the middle of the Aegean Sea and then abandoned.

      Pushbacks will often result in standoffs between the HCG and Turkish Coast Guard (TCG), both of which will standby, refusing to aid dinghies in distress and carrying out unsafe manoeuvres around them.

      The role of Frontex assets in such incidents, however, has never been recorded before.

      Dana Schmalz, an international law expert at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg said the incidents highlighted in this investigation were likely “illegal” and “violate the prohibition of refoulement and maritime law.” The prohibition of refoulement refers to rules banning the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers and is described by the UN Refugee Agency as a “rule of customary international law.”

      Schmalz added that if Frontex personnel stopped an overcrowded dinghy of the type seen in footage documented during this investigation, they would be obliged to rescue its occupants immediately. “If they don’t do that, even make waves [or] instead drive away and then let the Greeks do the dirty work – then they are involved in the illegal pushback.”

      Despite being presented with numerous examples of the practice, a spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry Greek denied claims of pushbacks, describing allegations of illegal actions relating to the incidents documented in this article as “tendentious.” They added that HCG officers act in compliance with the country’s international obligations.

      Frontex said that the host states it works with have the final say in how operations on its territory or search and rescue zone are carried out. However, it added that Frontex had notified HCG which confirmed an internal inquiry had been launched into each of the reported incidents. Yet Frontex did not say when it notified HCG or when the inquiry had begun.

      On July 24, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, told the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) at the European Parliament that the agency had observed and recorded just a single incident which may have been a pushback in the Aegean.

      Our investigation — which looked at the presence of Frontex assets in the Aegean Sea and observed their movements over many months — appears to contradict that assertion.

      This was despite the difficulty in tracking many Frontex assets because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Frontex, an agency of the European Union, is tasked with border control of the Schengen Area. Its activities in the Aegean are called Operation Poseidon.
      How we Recorded Pushbacks: Identification of Assets

      There were two main steps to establishing that Frontex had participated in pushback operations. The first was to identify what assets had been deployed in Operation Poseidon. The second was to establish whether these assets had participated in pushback operations.

      The first step was carried out using open sources. These included social media posts, vessel tracking sites and information published by Frontex itself. We were also able to establish the number of personnel and assets present in the operational area thanks to questions asked in the European Parliament.

      According to this response, Operation Poseidon has 185 personnel, one offshore patrol vessel (OPV), eight coastal patrol boats (CPB), one coastal patrol vessel (CPV), four thermal vision vehicles (TVV) and three patrol cars.

      There is also a “Rapid Border Intervention”, which contains additional assets on top of those dedicated to Operation Poseidon. This includes 74 personnel, two CPBs, two CPVs, one helicopter and three TVVs.

      In total we used open sources to identify 22 assets, including vessels, helicopters and planes, which operated in the Aegean during 2020. Although this is more than the total given in the answer to parliamentary questions above, some of these assets were rotating in or out of theater.
      Tracking Assets

      Some assets featured regularly on the open source record. For example, Romanian and Bulgarian vessels regularly transit through the Bosphorus strait, where there is an active ship-spotting community. As such it was possible to identify their operational rotations, including vessels heading to and returning from deployments roughly every three months. However, other assets were more difficult to track, and their presence on the open source record consisted of a single image or video.


      https://twitter.com/YorukIsik/status/1262417193083510784

      In order to track these assets and identify if they had participated in pushbacks, we required far more data than was available on social media. As such, we turned to AIS and transponder data, publicly available information about the location of particular ships or aircraft, available through sites such as Marine Traffic or Flight Radar 24.

      Many of the assets we identified either did not have their information publicly listed, or appeared to only turn on their transponders under certain circumstances, such as when in port. This made them extremely difficult to track. However, some assets did have their transponders on. We began to collect this data, buying additional, more granular data from ship and flight tracking companies on dates when pushbacks had been reported.

      We combined this tracking data with our own database of reported pushbacks, which we obtained through both public reports and information collected by NGOs such as Consolidated Rescue Group (CRG), Monitoring Rescue Cell (MRC) and Alarm Phone, who track these events. These included the coordinates of reported pushback events, frequently sent by the occupants of the dinghies. By overlaying these datasets we identified multiple pushback incidents in which Frontex assets were in the vicinity. Once we had identified these priority incidents we could then examine the specifics of what had happened.
      Incidents

      Using this data we identified six pushback incidents since March in which Frontex assets were either in the vicinity or participated directly. We have separated these into four “proximity incidents,” where Frontex assets were within five kilometers of the incident, and two “confirmed incidents,” where we can be certain that Frontex were present at the site of pushbacks themselves.
      Proximity Incidents

      April 28-29: In an incident we have previously reported, a group of refugees and migrants made landfall on Samos. They claim they were then detained, placed in a life-raft without any means of propulsion and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait. A surveillance plane overflew the area twice while this pushback took place.

      June 4: Two dinghies were reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada appears to have been present around 15 kilometers from the first incident and just over one kilometer away from the second.

      June 5: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Nortada was approximately two to three kilometers away.

      August 19: A dinghy was reported to have been pushed back from Northern Lesbos. Portuguese vessel Molivos was five kilometers away and appears to have changed course and headed towards the pushback before its transponder either lost signal or was turned off.

      In these cases, Frontex assets were recorded as being within a certain range, rather than participating directly. Their exact knowledge of what was happening at these distances is difficult to confirm. Operation Poseidon’s mission includes a significant number of tasks requiring surveillance, and its assets are able to use both radar and visual tools, such as low-light or infrared cameras, to observe the environment around them.

      For example, we know that the Molivos is equipped with an FLIR camera similar to this one seen on another Portuguese Frontex vessel. This model is capable of x36 magnification, with low light and infrared cameras.

      The boats that migrants use to make this crossing are very basic, inflatable rubber dinghies several meters long with a single outboard motor. Due to their construction, it is unlikely that these boats would be visible on radar. However, pushbacks don’t just involve a single dinghy. By their definition they must involve at least one other vessel. From images and videos of pushbacks we have reviewed, it is clear that they often involve multiple ships from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards.

      As stated above, ships from both Greece and Turkey will frequently attempt to push the dinghies across the sea border using waves. These vessels manoeuvre in a circular pattern at a relatively high speed close to the dinghy. This manoeuvre is not only dangerous because of the risk of collision, the waves it generates also represent a threat to the overcrowded and often fragile dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8BdEHtBWp4&feature=emb_logo

      As such, although a dinghy itself may not show up on radar, the signature of a pushback would. Multiple large and small vessels from both TCG and HCG, some of which are carrying out unusual manoeuvres in order to create waves, would be very difficult to miss. Indeed you can even see this kind of event from space.

      There’s also the matter of visual range. The same factors that make a pushback visible on radar will also make it visible to the eye or other visual systems such as surveillance cameras. Even at a range of a few kilometers in calm seas and good conditions, a dinghy would likely be visible, although exact details such as the nature of its passengers might not be. The other aspects of pushbacks which we have already described would also certainly be visible.

      The case of the April 28-29 pushback is a good illustration of surveillance assets passing very close to the results of a pushback.
      April 28

      In an incident previously covered by Bellingcat, a group of 22 migrants who landed on Samos were detained by Greek law enforcement. They were then placed on a life raft without any means of propulsion, and towed into the middle of the Mycale Strait by the Greek coast guard. In response to our request for comment at the time, the Greek government denied these people had ever reached Greek territory, despite witness statements, images, and videos showing this had in fact happened.

      As the life raft was floating in the strait, a private sureveillance plane passed over the area twice at 5,000 feet, once at 02:41 AM and once at 03:18 AM. This plane, G-WKTH, belongs to DEA Aviation, which provides aerial surveillance services to Frontex. In a promotional video from Frontex, it is claimed these feeds are live-streamed back to the Frontex HQ in Warsaw

      The plane is reportedly equipped with an MX-15 camera, which has both low-light and infrared sensors. Considering this plane is specifically employed for aerial surveillance, it would be surprising if it did not identify the life raft full of people and, according to one member of this group, the presence of Greek and later Turkish vessels.

      Indeed, the Frontex executive director’s response to the LIBE committee of the European Parliament indicates this may have been the incident Frontex reported as having seen. In this reply a “Serious Incident Report (‘SIR’) was created based on a sighting of an incident by aerial surveillance where people were transferred on a rubber boat from a vessel and later on rescued by Turkish authorities.
      Active incidents

      In two cases on June 8 and August 15, it seems certain that Frontex was aware of pushbacks as they took place. Indeed, on June 8, it appears that a Frontex vessel participated in a pushback, physically blocking a dinghy from reaching Greek territory.

      We will first address the incident on August 15, where a Frontext vessel was present at the scene of a pushback, before examining the June 8, where a Frontex asset appears to have participated in a pushback.
      August 15

      On the morning of August 15 there were reports of a confrontation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards. As well as multiple photos posted to social media by locals, this was also reported as a pushback by CRG, MRC, Alarm Phone and Aegean Boat Report.

      CRG and MRC also posted videos from people on this dinghy, with CRG’s video showing an engine without a starter cord, claiming it had been taken by the Greek Coast Guard. In the videos, the dinghy is surrounded by vessels from both the Greek and Turkish coast guards. We have previously noted that disabling the motor of dinghies is a tactic that has reportedly been used by the Greek Coast Guard.

      Most of the images of this incident are taken from a distance, making identification of the vessels difficult. However, we were also sent an image of this confrontation that is very clear. In this image we can clearly see the presence of MAI1102, a Romanian border forces vessel which had just arrived in theater.

      The metadata of this image is consistent with the date and time of this incident. Indeed, the ships can be seen arrayed in almost exactly the same manner in a video filmed by the people on the boat.

      Although it is not possible to be certain of exactly how far away MAI1102 is from this pushback, we can see that it is certainly within visual range of the confrontation and the dinghy itself.
      June 8

      On the morning of June 8 a pushback was reported to have taken place, again off the north-east coast of Lesbos. The Turkish coast guard reported it rescued 47 migrants after a pushback by the Greek Coast Guard that day. Footage published by Anadolu Agency appeared to show the Romanian Frontex vessel MAI1103 blocking a dinghy.

      We investigated this incident further, obtaining other videos from the TCG, as well as tracking data of vessels that appeared to be in the vicinity at the time, such as the NATO ship, Berlin. Using these sources we were able to reconstruct what happened.

      After initially trying to cross under the cover of darkness, the dinghy was intercepted and physically blocked from proceeding by MAI1103 early in the morning.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoNJXY3pa_U&feature=emb_logo

      We can see the exact time and a set of coordinates in one of the videos we obtained.

      We plotted the coordinates visible on the screen as they changed. It became clear these were not the location of the vessel with the camera, but rather the location of the dinghy and MAI1103.

      We can visually confirm the general location by comparing a panoramic view that is visible in one of the videos against the appearance of the landscape from the coordinates which appear on the camera feed.

      We can now start to build a picture of what happened that morning.

      We can see that the dinghy was extremely close to MAI1103, and is being physically blocked by the ship. Indeed the two vessels are close enough that it appears that personnel on MAI1103 are communicating with people in the dinghy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qD_I--2LPA&feature=emb_logo

      At one point MAI1103 makes a pass close to the dinghy at enough speed to generate waves, a maneuver that previously only HCG and TCG have been seen making. It is especially dangerous due to the overloaded and unseaworthy nature of the dinghies.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUm1_e2R6A&feature=emb_logo

      Eventually HCG vessels arrive and MAI1103 leaves, resulting in a standoff between the TCG and HCG. This lasted several hours and gradually moved to the north-west, observed by the NATO ship Berlin.

      During this period the dinghy was approached at least twice by a rigid-hulled inflatable boat 060 (RHIB) from the HCG.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WODSvxnmoc&feature=emb_logo

      In what appears to be the final segment of video taken at about 09:30 AM we see the TCG radar screen, which can be exactly matched with the Turkish coast. This radar screen matches perfectly with the location and heading of the Berlin at this time, as we can see by overlaying a plot of the Berlin’s course with the radar screen.

      As well as matching the movement of vessels to AIS data, we can further verify that these videos are from the same incident by examining the passengers in the dinghy. We can see that in the earliest videos, showing the MAI1103 with the dinghy, there is clearly a person wearing a white hood, alongside someone who appears to be wearing a reddish top. The presence of these passengers helps to verify that all these videos are indeed from the same incident on June 8.

      In the final stage of the pushback at 10:30 AM it is possible to see the Portuguese Frontex vessel Nortada within 5 km with both AIS data and on the TCG radar screen. The Nortada had been in that vicinity since at least 09:11 AM that morning. Although it may not have been able to pick up this dinghy on its radar, it would have certainly been within visual range of the larger ships surrounding it. After the pushback, the Nortada continued its patrol off North Lesbos.

      Conclusion

      Over the course of this investigation we collected a huge amount of information on Frontex activities in the Aegean Sea. Most of Frontex’s assets were impossible to track because their transponder information was either not registered, not turned on, or was out of range. As such, we were only able to view a snapshot of Frontex operations.

      Despite this limited view, we still managed to identify multiple instances in which Frontex was either present at pushbacks, or close enough to be able to understand what was taking place. In at least one incident it appears that a Frontex vessel actively participated in a pushback. It is possible that there are other incidents we have not been able to capture.

      In a statement provided in response to this investigation, Frontex stated that it applies “the highest standards of border control to its operations” and that its officers are bound by a code of conduct that looks to prevent refoulement and to uphold human rights.

      The statement continued that Frontex’s executive director had notified the HGC regarding all reported incidents and that Greek authorities confirmed that an internal inquiry had been launched.

      A spokesperson for the Greek Maritime Ministry said the actions of HCG officers were “carried out in full compliance with the country’s international obligations, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.”

      The spokesperson added that thousands of migrants had been rescued throughout the refugee crisis of recent years by the HCG, that allegations of illegality were “tendentious” and that the “operation practices of the Greek authorities have never included such [illegal] actions.”

      https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2020/10/23/frontex-at-fault-european-border-force-complicit-in-illegal-pushbacks

      #forensic_architecture #architecture_forensique

    • EU Border Agency Frontex Complicit in Greek Refugee Pushback Campaign

      Greek border guards have been forcing large numbers of refugees back to sea in pushback operations that violate international law. #DER_SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have learned that the European Union is also complicit in the highly controversial practice.

      Jouma al-Badi thought he was safe when he first set foot on European soil on April 28. Together with 21 other refugees, he had been taken in a rubber dinghy from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. The young Syrian planned to apply for political asylum. He documented his arrival in videos. Local residents also remember the refugees.

      Greek security forces captured the migrants. Under international law, it is their duty to give the new arrivals a hearing and field their applications for asylum. Instead, according to al-Badi, the officers dragged them back out to sea and released them on an inflatable rubber raft. Videos obtained by DER SPIEGEL also show him on the raft.

      For an entire night and a morning, Greek border guards kept pushing the men and women away as their raft floated around in circles. The Turkish coast guard filmed the maneuver.

      An aircraft used by the European border protection agency Frontex also passed over the refugees. The crew of the surveillance plane, with the registration identifier "G-WKTH,” were part of a European Union operation in Greece. The plane twice flew over the Strait of Mykali, where al-Badi and the other migrants were located. According to flight data that has been viewed by DER SPIEGEL, the first flight happened at 2:41 a.m. and the second at 3:18 a.m.

      The plane’s crew has a standard MX-15 camera on board with an infrared sensor and a sensor for poor lighting conditions. Even at night, the sensors are capable of detecting small objects on the water. According to a Frontex promotional video, the camera images are streamed live to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland. But Frontex didn’t send any help.

      The waves struck the Syrian in the face. He eventually ran out of strength and thought he was going to die.

      The Greek government denies it conducted pushbacks of refugees to Turkey, even though DER SPIEGEL and other media have fully documented several of these operations, known as pushbacks. Greek border guards are growing increasingly ruthless. As in the case of al-Badi, they are now pushing even refugees who have reached the Greek isles back to sea in operations that are illegal under international law.

      Frontex officials have publicly claimed that they know nothing about pushbacks by Greek border guards. The agency has 600 employees deployed in Greece as well as ships, drones and aircraft.

      Together with Lighthouse Reports, Bellingcat, "Report Mainz” — a program on ARD, the German public broadcaster — and Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi, DER SPIEGEL spent several months reporting in the Aegean Sea region. The reporters tracked the positions of Frontex units and compared them with position data from pushbacks recorded by NGOs and migrants. They interviewed witnesses, refugees and Frontex staff. They viewed internal documents and dozens of videos and satellite photos.

      Their research proves for the first time that Frontex officials know about the Greek border guards’ illegal practices – and that the agency itself is at times involved in the pushbacks. Breaking the law has become an everyday occurrence at Europe’s borders, and the EU is allowing it to happen.

      Samira Mohammad could already see Lesbos when the men with the masks arrived. The Syrian woman, who does not want to provide her real name, is 45 years old. That morning of August 15, she was sitting in a rubber dinghy with dozens of other people. She recalls how Greek border guards tried in vain to stop the arrivals and how they steered toward the boat repeatedly and pushed it back toward Turkey multiple times. She says the Turkish coast guard held them off. Locals even have a name for the cynical game: "Greek water polo.”

      Mohammad claims the Greek officials took their gasoline and destroyed the engine. And that masked Greek border guards then boarded the dinghy. Several refugees claim that they forced the migrants to tie the shaky rubber dinghy to a speedboat at gunpoint. The border guards then towed the boat toward Turkey. Videos corroborate the statements made by the refugees, and the destroyed engine is clearly visible.

      Mohammad said she was scared to death during those moments. Her entire family had been onboard, including her pregnant daughter-in-law, who was later hospitalized with severe bleeding.

      The maneuver off the coast of Lesbos lasted hours, and the Turkish Navy didn’t rescue the refugees until noon.

      A Romanian Frontex boat was also on site that morning. The MAI 1102 was located only a few hundred meters away from the refugee boat. The boat can be clearly identified in a photo. A German navy ship on a NATO mission that observed the incident reported it to the German government. It also stated that Frontex people had been present. This is documented in an internal paper that has been obtained by DER SPIEGEL. Nevertheless, this pushback has never been revealed publicly before now.

      On June 8, Frontex officials went one step further, with the MAI 1103, a ship also flying the Romanian flag. It directly blocked a refugee boat. The incident can be seen in several videos recorded by the Turkish coast guard and verified by DER SPIEGEL. It shows officials standing on the deck, where they are obviously communicating with the refugees floating in the water in front of them.

      Later, the MAI 1103 passes the refugees traveling at high speed, with waves beating against the boat. The Romanian officials then withdrew and the Greek coast guard took over the operation.

      "These pushbacks violate the ban on collective expulsions and international maritime law,” says Dana Schmalz, an expert on international law at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. She notes that if Frontex officials stopped a completely overcrowded inflatable boat, they would be required to rescue the people immediately. "If they don’t do that and even make waves instead, only to drive away and let the Greeks do the dirty work, then they are still involved in the illegal pushback,” she says.

      Reporting by DER SPIEGEL and its partners found that a Frontex surveillance plane or Portuguese or Romanian Frontex ships were near at least six pushbacks in the area since April. The number of undetected cases could actually be much higher.

      The vast majority of Frontex vessels patrol the Aegean Sea with their AIS transponders switched off or untraceable in order to prevent giving away their positions. Their presence can only be verified with difficulty through videos and photos.

      When contacted for comment by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex did not deny the individual incidents, instead stating that the officials protected the fundamental rights of migrants and respected their right to non-refoulement. It further stated that the incidents that had been reported were forwarded to the Greek coast guard, which opened an investigation into the matter. The Greek government gave a blanket denial to the allegations, saying that it complies with the law and does not carry out illegal deportations.

      Under Frontex’s statutes, police officers are required to file so-called Serious Incident Reports to document violations of the law. But people familiar with the situation say that fewer and fewer of these reports are getting filed. The sources said the Frontex border guards, who are sent to Greece from all over Europe, frown upon such reports because they cause trouble for the host country.

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-border-agency-frontex-complicit-in-greek-refugee-pushback-campaign-a-4b6c

      –---

      en allemand :
      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/fluechtlinge-frontex-in-griechenland-in-illegale-pushbacks-verwickelt-a-0000

    • Bruxelles veut des explications de Frontex, accusée de procéder à des refoulements illégaux de migrants

      La #Commission_européenne a sollicité une réunion extraordinaire urgente du conseil d’administration de Frontex, l’agence européenne pour la protection des frontières, mise en cause pour des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée. Un article d’Euroefe.

      « Après s’être coordonnés avec la présidente de la Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, mes services ont demandé, au nom de la Commission, la convocation d’une réunion extraordinaire du conseil d’administration de Frontex le 10 novembre pour discuter des incidents présumés de refoulement en Grèce et de la protection des droits fondamentaux », a écrit Ylva Johansson, la commissaire chargée des migrations, dans un tweet.

      D’après des enquêtes menées par différents médias, Frontex aurait procédé à des refoulements illégaux de migrants en mer Égée, à la frontière entre la Turquie et la Grèce. Et ce à au moins six reprises.

      L’hebdomadaire allemand Der Spiegel a révélé le 23 octobre qu’il avait enquêté sur ces incidents en collaboration avec les médias numériques néerlandais Lighthouse Reports et britannique Bellingcat, ainsi qu’avec deux chaînes de télévision, l’Allemande ARD et la Japonaise Asahi.

      Ces médias disposent de films montrant comment, depuis le mois d’avril, des agents de Frontex ont procédé à ce que l’on appelle des « pushbacks » (refoulements) de migrants pour les empêcher d’atteindre le sol européen, une pratique illégale.

      Une vidéo montre comment un bateau de l’agence européenne bloque le passage d’une embarcation occupée par des migrants, avant de les dépasser à grande vitesse, provoquant ainsi de grosses vagues. Par la suite, les garde-côtes grecs obligent la barque à faire demi-tour vers la Turquie.

      De son côté, Frontex a nié les accusations et assuré au Spiegel que ses agents protégeaient les droits fondamentaux des migrants et respectaient le droit au non-refoulement.

      Le gouvernement grec a également nié catégoriquement ces accusations.

      https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/bruxelles-veut-des-explications-de-frontex-accusee-de-proceder-a-des-refoulements-illegaux-de-migrants/?_ga=2.223583131.1633915392.1603989521-379746837.1590938192

    • Greek coast guard performed huge pushback involving 197 people and 7 life rafts!

      A boat carrying 197 people tried to cross from Turkey to Italy on Tuesday, but got in to bad weather and sat course towards Crete. Close to the south shore of Crete they had engine problems and the Greek Coast Guard was alerted 09.00.
      The coast guard divided the people on two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel and 76 people, families on the other. Reports from the refugees clearly states that some of them where abuse while onboard the HCG vessel, footage and video testimony has been provided. Most of their phones was confiscated by the Greek coast guard, but a few managed to hide their phones, and was able to send out distress messages.
      The first group containing the 121 males was forced in to 3 life rafts before first light on Wednesday the 21th just north of Rhodes, and found and picked up by Turkish coast guard 08.50 south of Marmaris.
      The second group with the families, 76 people, was put in 4 life rafts around noon north west of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guard before 17.30 south west of Datça.
      This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone to reach Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution.
      This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even do they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.

      https://www.facebook.com/AegeanBoatReport/posts/951612422028529

    • Έστειλαν πίσω 200 πρόσφυγες γιατί ήταν… τζιχαντιστές

      Τεκμηριωμένη καταγγελία για τη μεγαλύτερη ώς τώρα καταγεγραμμένη επαναπροώθηση προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό προς την Τουρκία με μεγάλη και κρυφή επιχείρηση του Λιμενικού εν μέσω σφοδρής κακοκαιρίας νότια της Κρήτης ● Έντεχνη προσπάθεια οι 200 άνθρωποι, μεταξύ αυτών και γυναικόπαιδα, να εμφανιστούν ως… ισλαμιστές τρομοκράτες.

      Ακόμα μια καταγγελία για βίαιες επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων από το Λιμενικό έρχεται στο φως τις τελευταίες ημέρες, την ίδια στιγμή που η κυβέρνηση πανηγυρίζει για τη μείωση των προσφυγικών ροών προς τα νησιά, χωρίς όμως να εξηγεί πώς έχει επιτευχθεί η μείωση αυτή.

      Η υπόθεση αφορά πλοιάριο με περίπου 200 ανθρώπους που έφτασαν στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης, προερχόμενοι από Τουρκία και με τελικό προορισμό την Ιταλία. Στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση υπάρχει μια περίεργη αλληλουχία γεγονότων και « ειδήσεων » τόσο στα κρητικά όσο και τα κεντρικά ΜΜΕ. Το πρωί της Τρίτης 20 Οκτωβρίου σε όλα τα ηλεκτρονικά ΜΜΕ της Κρήτης μεταδίδεται η είδηση για « κινητοποίηση του Λιμενικού » για σκάφος με 200 μετανάστες στη θαλάσσια περιοχή νότια της νήσου Χρυσής (Γαϊδουρονήσι), στην Ιεράπετρα. Το προηγούμενο βράδυ η Κρήτη είχε χτυπηθεί σφοδρά από την κακοκαιρία και το πρωί τα βλέμματα όλων ήταν στις εκτεταμένες καταστροφές που προκάλεσε το χαλάζι σε καλλιέργειες και υποδομές, κυρίως στην ανατολική πλευρά του νησιού. Την ίδια κακοκαιρία προφανώς αντιμετώπισαν και οι 200 επιβαίνοντες στο σκάφος, μεταξύ των οποίων υπήρχαν γυναίκες και παιδιά.

      Στις πρώτες αναφορές και σε ερωτήσεις δημοσιογράφων προς το Λιμεναρχείο Ιεράπετρας γινόταν λόγος για « αδυναμία του Λιμενικού να εντοπίσει το πλοιάριο », ωστόσο δινόταν η πληροφορία πως τα σκάφη θα έμεναν στα ανοιχτά λόγω της κακοκαιρίας και για την περίπτωση που χρειαστεί, να παράσχουν βοήθεια αν εντοπίσουν τους πρόσφυγες. Λίγες ώρες αργότερα η είδηση εξαφανίστηκε από τα ΜΜΕ και δημιουργήθηκε η εντύπωση πως τα σκάφη του Λιμενικού δεν βρήκαν ποτέ το πλοιάριο με τους πρόσφυγες.
      Τους βρήκαν ;

      Ωστόσο τα πράγματα φαίνεται πως έγιναν διαφορετικά. Τέσσερις μέρες μετά, η οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report, η οποία και στο παρελθόν έχει αποκαλύψει παράνομες επιχειρήσεις επαναπροώθησης λέμβων με μετανάστες προς την Τουρκία από τις ελληνικές αρχές και τη Frontex, καταγγέλλει πως το Λιμενικό όχι μόνο βρήκε τους πρόσφυγες στα ανοιχτά της Κρήτης αλλά προχώρησε και με συνοπτικές διαδικασίες στην επαναπροώθησή τους στην Τουρκία. Η οργάνωση καταγγέλλει πως η ελληνική Ακτοφυλακή εντόπισε τους πρόσφυγες στις 9 το πρωί της Τρίτης (όπως δηλαδή μετέδιδαν αρχικά και τα κρητικά ΜΜΕ). Στη συνέχεια, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, οι άνδρες του Λιμενικού επιβίβασαν τους 197 πρόσφυγες σε δύο επιχειρησιακά σκάφη χωρίζοντάς τους σε δύο ομάδες. Στην πρώτη ομάδα μπήκαν 121 άνδρες και αγόρια, ενώ στη δεύτερη μπήκαν οικογένειες με γυναίκες και παιδιά, συνολικά 76 άτομα. Και οι δύο ομάδες, πάντα σύμφωνα με την καταγγελία, μεταφέρθηκαν στη θαλάσσια περιοχή βόρεια της Ρόδου, όπου και εξαναγκάστηκαν με τη βία να επιβιβαστούν σε συνολικά επτά θαλάσσιες σωστικές σχεδίες αφού προηγουμένως τους είχαν αφαιρεθεί όλα τα κινητά τηλέφωνα. Και οι επτά σχεδίες « σπρώχτηκαν » προς τις ακτές της Τουρκίας, εν μέσω κακοκαιρίας και κατά παράβαση των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων και του δίκαιου της θάλασσας.

      Στιγμιότυπα από την επαναπροώθηση των προσφύγων (Φωτογραφίες από την οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report).


      Οι τρεις πρώτες σχεδίες, με 121 άτομα, εξωθήθηκαν τα ξημερώματα της Τετάρτης 21/10 προς την περιοχή της Μαρμαρίδας, όπου και εντοπίστηκαν από το τουρκικό Λιμενικό που τους περισυνέλεξε. Το δεύτερο γκρουπ, όπου βρίσκονταν οι γυναίκες και τα παιδιά, εξαναγκάστηκε να επιβιβαστεί σε τέσσερις σωστικές σχεδίες και επαναπροωθήθηκε προς την Τουρκία από τη θαλάσσια περιοχή δυτικά της Σύμης, το μεσημέρι της Τετάρτης. Τους περισυνέλεξε το τουρκικό Λιμενικό το απόγευμα της ίδιας μέρας στην περιοχή νοτιοδυτικά της πόλης Ντάκτα. Οπως αναφέρουν μάλιστα κάποιοι από τους επιβαίνοντες, χτυπήθηκαν από τους Ελληνες λιμενικούς, ενώ υπάρχει και σχετικό φωτογραφικό υλικό που τραβήχτηκε μετά την περισυλλογή τους από τις τουρκικές αρχές. Σε μία από τις φωτογραφίες φαίνεται ένας άνθρωπος με μώλωπες στην κοιλιά και με γύψο σε σημεία και των δύο χεριών του.


      Πρωτοσέλιδο

      Την ίδια μέρα, πάντως, που έγινε η καταγγελία από την Aegean Boat Report (το Σάββατο) η εφημερίδα « ΤΑ ΝΕΑ » κυκλοφορούσε με τίτλο « Προετοιμαστείτε για Τζιχαντιστές », αναφερόμενη στο μήνυμα που, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες της εφημερίδας, έστειλε σε Ελλάδα και Κύπρο ο Αιγύπτιος πρόεδρος Αλ Σίσι κατά την τριμερή συνάντηση που πραγματοποιήθηκε στη Λευκωσία. Το μήνυμα υποτίθεται πως αφορούσε τις πληροφορίες που έχει η Αίγυπτος για τις κινήσεις του Ερντογάν και το πώς χρησιμοποιεί τον ισλαμιστικό παράγοντα. Σε κάποια κρητικά ΜΜΕ οι δύο υποθέσεις δεν άργησαν να συνδεθούν με αναφορές για το… περίεργο σκάφος στο οποίο, σύμφωνα με τα δημοσιεύματα, επέβαιναν « άτομα εμφανιζόμενα ως μετανάστες » και το οποίο, σύμφωνα με τις διοχετευμένες πληροφορίες, έχει κινητοποιήσει όχι μόνο το Λιμενικό αλλά και τον Στρατό, την ΕΥΠ ακόμα και ξένες μυστικές υπηρεσίες !

      Όπως αποκαλύπτεται, πάντως, οι επικίνδυνοι « τζιχαντιστές », τόσο οι άνδρες όσο και τα γυναικόπαιδα, είχαν ήδη από την Τετάρτη επαναπροωθηθεί παράνομα στην Τουρκία. Η Οργάνωση Aegean Boat Report αναφέρει πως αυτή είναι η μεγαλύτερη περίπτωση « pushback » που καταφέρνει να καταγράψει και τονίζει πως η Ευρωπαϊκή Ενωση δεν έχει επιβάλει ακόμα καμία κύρωση στην Ελλάδα για τις παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις, παρά τα ακλόνητα στοιχεία που έχουν τεθεί στη διάθεση των ευρωπαϊκών αρχών.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/efkriti/koinonia/265835_esteilan-piso-200-prosfyges-giati-itan-tzihantistes

    • Greece’s coast guard accused of mass migrant pushbacks

      An NGO, the #Aegean_Boat_Report (ABR), has accused the Greek coast guard of pushing back 197 migrants at sea last week.

      Greek coast guards have been accused by the NGO Aegean Boat Report (ABR) of performing illegal pushbacks involving 197 people and seven life rafts off the coast of the island of Crete in the Southern Aegean.

      A boat carrying 197 people was on its way trying to cross from Turkey to Italy on October 20 but ran into bad weather and changed course towards Crete, the NGO said.

      Close to the south shore of Crete, the vessel reported engine problems and, according to the Norwegian organization, the Greek coast guard was alerted at 9 am.

      ’’The Greek coast guard divided the people into two groups onto two coast guard vessels, 121 men and boys on one vessel, and 76 people, mostly families, on the other.

      Abuse on board

      Reports from the refugees clearly state that some of them were abused while onboard the Hellenic coast guard vessel, with footage and video testimony being provided,’’ said ABR via a media statement.

      According to ABR, the first group with the 121 men and boys were forced into three life rafts in the early hours of Wednesday, October 21 just north of Rhodes, before being found and picked up by the Turkish coast guard at 8:50 am south of Marmaris.

      The second group of 76 people, made up of families, were put into four life rafts at around noon north-west of the islands of Simi, drifting for hours and not picked up by Turkish coast guards before 5:30 pm south-west of Data.

      ’Largest pushback’ ABR has documented

      ’’This shows that the Greek coast guard is determined to prevent anyone from reaching Greek soil, no matter the consequences or potential harm they may inflict on innocent people fleeing war and persecution’’, added ABR.

      ’’This is by far the largest pushback Aegean Boat Report has been able to document, but I guess nothing is a surprise anymore. No measures have been taken by the EU to try to stop this illegal practice by the Greek government, even if they have received overwhelming amounts of evidence.’’

      29 NGOs and humanitarian groups sent an open letter to Parliament Last week’s incidents were reported after an appeal was launched by several prominent NGOs and humanitarian groups earlier this month on the topic of illegal pushbacks.

      A total of 29 organizations sent an open letter to Parliament urging it to investigate reports of illegal pushbacks at the country’s land and sea borders with neighboring Turkey.

      The letter called on the Greek Parliament to ’’immediately conduct an effective, transparent and impartial investigation into allegations that personnel from the Coast Guard, the Greek Police and the Greek Army, sometimes in close cooperation with masked men in uniform, have engaged in such actions, which are not only illegal but also endanger the lives and safety of displaced people."

      Tensions on migration in Greece

      Tensions on the migrant issue in Greece continue to run high following September’s fires which destroyed the controversial Moria open camp on Lesbos, and widespread lockdowns at refugee camps across the country following outbreaks of coronavirus cases.

      The reports of pushbacks taking place have prompted action from humanitarian rights groups, with the joint-appeal calling for disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as deemed appropriate, “on anyone in uniform who are found to have participated in such illegal activities, but also for their superiors who are responsible for the administration of these bodies.”

      “The investigation should establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement, and take steps to hold them to account.”

      State pushes ahead with migrant camps

      Meanwhile, in related developments, the government is pressing ahead with plans to create more secure and strictly controlled ’’closed’’ migrant reception centers on the Aegean islands.

      With the COVID-19 pandemic creating further challenges and complications for the operation of existing camps, most of which are under lockdown due to positive cases of the virus, the state is aiming to build new ’’permanent’’ structures, starting with one on Lesbos.

      The situation on Lesbos is the primary concern right now, as the current temporary facility which was hastily set up in the Kara Tepe area on the coast after Moria was burned down, has already flooded twice with the first rainfalls of the season.

      Lesbos Mayor Stratis Kytelis met with government officials in Athens last week to discuss the location of a new permanent facility on the island, although the plans are being met with resistance from local community groups.Greece’s health authorities, meanwhile, are also conducting regular COVID-19 tests at migrant camps on the Aegean islands to ensure that any outbreak is quickly contained.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/28139/greece-s-coast-guard-accused-of-mass-migrant-pushbacks

    • Frontex sous pression après des accusations de refoulement de migrants aux portes de la Grèce

      C’est une première : mardi 10 novembre, le conseil d’administration de l’Agence européenne des garde-frontières et de garde-côtes Frontex devra examiner des accusations de refoulements illégaux (ou « pushbacks ») de migrants en mer Egée. Elles ont été portées contre Frontex par un groupe de médias. En octobre, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine Der Spiegel notamment, avaient rapporté, images et témoignages à l’appui, six épisodes au cours desquels des embarcations avaient été bloquées, contrairement aux règles internationales sur le non-refoulement.

      Celles-ci stipulent que des personnes ne peuvent être renvoyées vers un pays, avant un examen de leur situation, si leur existence est en danger en raison de leur race, leur religion, leur nationalité ou leur appartenance à un groupe social ou politique.

      Il aura apparemment fallu une intervention ferme de la Commission européenne pour que la direction de Frontex, devenue le premier corps en uniforme et la plus importante agence de l’Union avec un budget de quelque 500 millions d’euros, accepte de convoquer un conseil extraordinaire. Dans un premier temps, elle s’était contentée d’affirmer, le 24 octobre, qu’elle respectait la loi internationale et était en contact avec la Grèce, qui devait ouvrir « une enquête interne ».
      Enquête interne

      « Si l’agence est impliquée dans de telles actions, c’est totalement inacceptable », déclarait pour sa part la commissaire à la migration, Ylva Johansson, le 26 octobre. Le lendemain, Frontex promettait une enquête interne et, même si elle n’exerce pas une tutelle directe sur l’agence, la Commission obtenait la convocation d’une réunion. A charge pour Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur français, de fournir des explications détaillées.

      « La Grèce ne participe pas à des refoulements, a affirmé de son côté le ministre grec des migrations, Notis Mitarachi. Nous gardons nos frontières en respectant le droit international et nous continuons à sauver des centaines de migrants tous les jours en Méditerranée », a-t-il précisé.

      Athènes fait face depuis des mois à de nombreuses accusations de refoulement en mer Egée et à la frontière terrestre avec la Turquie, dans l’Evros. Le 14 août déjà, le New York Times avait affirmé que les gardes-côtes grecs avaient abandonné en « pleine mer » des canots remplis de migrants. Interviewé par CNN, le premier ministre conservateur Kyriakos Mitsotakis avait démenti : « Cela n’est jamais arrivé. Nous sommes les victimes d’une vaste campagne de désinformation », suggérant que les journalistes avaient interrogé principalement des sources turques voulant décrédibiliser les autorités grecques.

      Depuis l’envoi par la Turquie de milliers de réfugiés à la frontière terrestre de l’Evros, en mars, Athènes a toujours assuré vouloir « protéger ses frontières » qui sont aussi celles de l’Europe et faire face à « une menace ». Le gouvernement a renforcé le contrôle des frontières en embauchant notamment du personnel supplémentaire. Entre avril et juillet, les arrivées à Lesbos ont diminué de 85 % par rapport à l’année dernière, selon le ministère des migrations.
      Des « abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés »

      Pour de nombreuses ONG présentes sur le terrain, cette diminution spectaculaire est le résultat de « pushbacks ». Selon Human Rights Watch, « les preuves et les rapports décrivant les abus sont trop nombreux pour être ignorés ». L’organisation dit avoir interrogé des victimes et des témoins qui décrivent comment les garde-côtes grecs, la police, et des hommes masqués et vêtus d’habits sombres ont effectué depuis les îles de Rhodes, de Samos et Simi, des refoulements illégaux de personnes sur de petits canots gonflables.

      A la fin août, le Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) de l’ONU se disait « inquiet de l’augmentation des publications depuis mars 2020 attestant de refoulements illégaux ». « Le HCR a reçu des rapports et des témoignages de personnes abandonnées en pleine mer pendant un long moment, souvent sur des rafiots surpeuplés », précisait le communiqué.

      L’Observatoire grec des accords d’Helsinki a déjà déposé une plainte auprès de la Cour suprême grecque pour le refoulement de plus de 1 300 personnes en s’appuyant sur les témoignages recueillis par plusieurs ONG. En septembre, 29 organisations de défense des droits de l’homme ont par ailleurs adressé une lettre au premier ministre et au parlement grecs pour réclamer une enquête. Leur courrier est encore sans réponse alors que 35 membres d’ONG font, eux, l’objet d’une investigation : ils sont suspectés d’avoir renseigné des migrants sur les positions des gardes-côtes ainsi que des passeurs sur des lieux d’accostage. Ces humanitaires travaillent pour des organisations qui ont dénoncé avec le plus de véhémence les refoulements vers la Turquie par les gardes-côtes grecs.

      Frontex, qui a engagé en Grèce quelque six cents agents dotés de divers moyens de surveillance, a déjà fait l’objet d’autres accusations mais affirme à chaque fois respecter un code de conduite qui prohibe strictement les refoulements. La communication très cadenassée de l’agence ne détaille toutefois pas comment les contrôles sont vraiment exercés. L’action du service interne chargé de contrôler le respect des droits fondamentaux reste également nébuleuse. Une situation déplorée par le HCR, membre du forum consultatif chargé de conseiller l’agence européenne dans son action.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2020/11/05/frontex-sous-pression-apres-des-accusations-de-refoulement-de-migrants-aux-p

    • EU: Probe Frontex Complicity in Border Abuses. Ensure Independent and Effective Investigation

      The top governing body of the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) should urgently establish an independent inquiry into allegations of its involvement in unlawful operations to stop migrants from reaching the European Union (EU), Human Rights Watch said today.

      The agency’s board will hold an extraordinary meeting on November 10, 2020. Frontex should also address serious and persistent violations by border and law enforcement officers of the countries where it operates.

      “The fact that Frontex may have become complicit in abuses at Greece’s borders is extremely serious,” said Eva Cossé, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Management Board of Frontex should quickly open an inquiry into Frontex involvement in – or actions to disregard or cover up – abuses against people seeking protection from conflicts and persecution.”

      On October 23, a group of media outlets published a detailed investigative report alleging Frontex involvement in pushback operations at the Greek-Turkish maritime border, in the Aegean Sea. The reports said that asylum seekers and migrants were prevented from reaching EU soil or were forced out of EU waters. Such pushbacks violate international law, Human Rights Watch said.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on October 28 that she had asked, in coordination with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, “to convene an urgent extraordinary Frontex Management Board meeting on 10 November, to discuss alleged push-back incidents in Greece and fundamental rights protection.”

      Frontex’s mandate obliges officers and the officers of member states deployed to respect fundamental rights, but the agency has been under heavy criticism for the shortcomings of its internal monitoring and accountability mechanisms. On October 27, Frontex announced an internal inquiry into the incidents reported by the media.

      In recent years, nongovernmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey, by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials.

      Since Frontex deployed officers along the full length of the Turkey-Greece land border in March, Human Rights Watch has documented that Greek law enforcement officers routinely summarily returned asylum seekers and migrants through the land border with Turkey. Human Rights Watch found that officers in some cases used violence and often confiscated and destroyed migrants’ belongings.

      Greek authorities have said that police officers wearing dark blue uniforms work at police stations. Border patrol police officers wear military camouflage uniforms. Frontex guards wear their national uniforms, with a blue armband with the EU flag.

      In July, Human Rights Watch documented collective expulsions, through the Evros river land border, of asylum seekers rounded up from deep inside Greece.

      In a June 19 response to questions posed by Human Rights Watch, Frontex wrote that no abuses against migrants by Greek border guards or by police or border guards of other EU member states deployed under Frontex had been reported to Frontex. It said that Frontex does not have the authority to investigate allegations of abuse by EU member states’ police or border guards deployed in Greece. It said that such investigations are conducted by the competent national authorities.

      In June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was deeply concerned about persistent reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, in some cases violent, at Greece’s border with Turkey. In August, the UN Refugee Agency flagged concerns over the increasing number of credible reports of pushbacks at Greece’s land and sea borders.

      In May 2019, Frontex told Human Rights Watch that it had not detected any human rights violations or pushbacks during its operational presence at Croatia’s border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite consistent evidence of brutal pushbacks, reports from international and regional organizations, and the confirmation by Croatian officials that such abuses were taking place.

      Under the Frontex mandate, its executive director has the authority to, and should, withdraw financing, and suspend or terminate its activities if there are serious violations of fundamental rights related to its activities. The executive director is also expected to take into account information provided by relevant international organizations.

      On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, Johansson said that pushbacks by Greek border guards should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the European Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders.

      Members of the Frontex Management Board should set up an independent, prompt, effective, transparent, and impartial investigation into allegations that officers deployed by Frontex were involved in unlawful operations of pushbacks of asylum seekers. Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers and officials who have command responsibility over such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable.

      The investigation should also identify whether Frontex failed to report or otherwise address allegations of serious fundamental rights violations committed by law enforcement or border officers of the member state hosting operations.

      “An EU agency with a clear mandate to act in compliance with fundamental rights has the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent such severe violations,” Cossé said. “If Frontex not only turned a blind eye to abuses committed under its sight, or worse, directly took part in them, it becomes every EU member state’s responsibility.”

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/09/eu-probe-frontex-complicity-border-abuses

    • Frontex calls for committee to consider questions related to sea surveillance

      Today, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has called for the creation of an evaluation committee to consider legal questions related to the Agency’s surveillance of external sea borders and accommodating the concerns raised by Member States about “hybrid threats” affecting their national security at external borders where the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will deploy its standing corps.

      Under the Frontex proposal, the committee would be coordinated by the European Commission with the participation of Member States on a volunteer basis. It would address various questions, in particular those related to Regulation 2014/656 in the light of the current operational situation.

      Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri also expressed the Agency’s continued commitment to highest standards of protection of fundamental rights.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or infringement of international treaties or fundamental rights in the framework of joint operations coordinated by Frontex is treated with grave concern and carefully investigated,” said Fabrice Leggeri.

      “I am committed to reinforce the office of the Fundamental Rights Officer and to gradually increase its budget,” he added.

      Leggeri also proposed that the Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer to play a bigger role in raising awareness of the operational officers on the legal requirements that they need to apply on everyday basis in the field.

      “This could apply not only to the Frontex-deployed staff, but also to the staff of the International Coordination Centres, who often play an essential part in deciding to react to complicated events,” Leggeri said.

      https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-calls-for-committee-to-consider-questions-related-to-sea-surv

    • #Ombudsman opens inquiry to assess European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) ‘#Complaints_Mechanism’

      European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has opened an inquiry to look into how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) deals with alleged breaches of fundamental rights. In particular, the investigation will assess the effectiveness and transparency of Frontex’s Complaints Mechanism for those who believe their rights have been violated in the context of Frontex border operations, as well as the role and independence of Frontex’s ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’.

      In 2013, as part of a previous inquiry, the Ombudsman recommended that Frontex set up an individual complaints mechanism, and that its Fundamental Rights Officer be in charge of the mechanism. Since then, such a mechanism was put in place and further developed, with a view to providing safeguards for fundamental rights in the context of Frontex’s expanding mandate, as well as ensuring increased accountability and redress for those impacted by its actions.

      This inquiry focuses on whether the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer are truly empowered to deal with the issues faced by migrants and asylum seekers who feel their rights have been violated under Frontex operations.

      In opening the inquiry, the Ombudsman has sent a set of detailed questions to Frontex on the Complaints Mechanism and the Fundamental Rights Officer. She has also informed members of the European Network of Ombudsmen (ENO), with a view to their possible participation in the inquiry, as part of the ENO’s parallel work. This is important, given the role of national authorities in Frontex operations, and the fact that some national ombudsmen are responsible for following up on complaints related to this.

      Among other things, the questions set out by the Ombudsman look at: how and when Frontex will be updating the mechanism to reflect its expanded mandate; what happens to complainants who are faced with forced return while their complaint is still being processed; what appeal possibilities are open to complainants; how Frontex monitors complaints against national authorities; how those who have been affected by Frontex operations but are in non-EU countries can complain about alleged breaches of fundamental rights, including the issue of language; and the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer in this process.

      https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/news-document/en/134739

    • Frontex: Cover-Up and Diversion. Outcomes of and Responses to the Frontex Management Board meeting on 10th November

      An extraordinary meeting took place on Tuesday 10th November, between the EU Commission and Frontex, regarding alleged Frontex involvement in illegal pushbacks in Greece.

      Why did the meeting take place?

      This meeting was called due to an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting the involvement or complicity of Frontex in pushbacks. Reports by Spiegel, Report Mainz, Bellingcat and other international media, including Josoor and other members of the BVMN, had led to this meeting taking place. These investigations show Frontex involvement in at least six pushbacks through, for example, blocking boats and making waves to deter boats from getting any closer to the shore. According to Frontex insiders, mission reports were routinely altered into something more positive, excluding explicit mentions of pushbacks, before being sent to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.

      We, at the Border Violence Monitoring Network, took advantage of the opportunity presented by the meeting on 10th November by sending a letter of concern to the Executive Director of Frontex and the FRO. This letter included evidence from testimonies, collected by BVMN partners, including Josoor, from people-on-the-move who claim that Frontex personnel were involved or complicit in pushbacks operations at the borders between Greek and Turkey, and Albania and Greece. The letter questioned Frontex’s knowledge and understanding of these allegations, and demanded an investigation into these claims. The letter was also addressed to the EU commissioner of Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and her officer and we hoped this was presented as evidence at the management board meeting on 10th November

      What were the outcomes?

      Johansson remarked on twitter after the meeting:

      “Today’s @Frontex extraordinary management board was a good start to what I want to be a transparent process. The @EU_Commission has asked the Frontex Executive Director to reply to Qs ahead of the next scheduled board meeting (end November).”

      Leggeri, the Executive Director of Frontex, has been ordered by the EU Commission to answer questions concerning these accusations by the end of November. Frontex is yet to comment in detail on the allegations and reported incidents have been forwarded to the Greek coastguard, where also the Greek authorities have refused to comment and denied involvement. Both Frontex and the Greek authorities have launched internal investigations in response to these allegations. Unsurprisingly, after just 48 hours of their investigations, Frontex announced that they were innocent.

      The meeting also included a discussion on whether Frontex should withdraw from missions, such as the one in the Aegean Sea in the event of serious and persistent human rights violations. Such a directive can be found already in Frontex’s regulations. Officials of a few member states vetoed the application of this rule, and Greek representatives in particular were concerned that this could expose the Greek government.

      In the end, a compromise was met. A Frontex statement outlined that a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ will now be made to deal with legal questions concerning operations at sea borders. This will be coordinated by the EU Commission.

      “Any allegation of misconduct or violation of international agreements or fundamental rights within joint operations coordinated by Frontex will be treated with grave concern and investigated closely,” Leggeri said.

      Also, Frontex seeks to strengthen the role of the Fundamental Rights Officer, but experts agree that the internal mechanisms at Frontex are insufficient and therefore see this move as insufficient. As of yesterday, Frontex is advertising for the vacancy of the FRO.

      Members of EU Parliament reactions:

      Tineke Strik (from Netherlands, Green) commented, according to Spiegel, “The announcement did not mention the human rights violations at the border. A committee does not replace a truly independent and transparent investigation. Strik stated “Citizens need to know what has happened and how human rights violations are to be prevented in the future”

      Dietmar Köster (from Germany, SPD) stated, quoted from Tagesschau, "It is a unique cover-up attempt to divert attention from one’s own responsibility and failure to observe human rights”. Köster further stated that Leggeri’s statements showed the arrogance and ignorance of Frontex. “Basic and human rights apply to all. The European Border Management Agency is not exempt from their observance, it is not above the law.”

      An successful outcome: an independent inquiry:

      On the morning of Thursday 12th November, the European Ombudsman tweeted that they would open an inquiry into Frontex, assessing the effectiveness and transparency of their ‘Complaints Mechanism’ and the role and independence of the ‘Fundamental Rights Officer’ (FRO). The latter is especially important as the current ad interim FRO, Annegret Kohler, appointed in 2018, and re-appointed in September 2020, was selected from the Executive Director’s former cabinet, where she was an advisor to the Executive Director. This raises questions about independence and objectivity of the FRO and the FRO’s team to carry out their duties and avoid potential conflicts of interest. Josoor welcomes this investigation.

      https://www.josoor.net/post/frontex-cover-up-and-diversion

    • EU erhöht Druck auf Frontex-Chef

      Die EU-Grenzschutzagentur gerät durch Recherchen des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz und weiterer Medien in Bedrängnis. Heute musste die Frontex-Führung der EU-Kommission zum Thema illegale Pushbacks Rede und Antwort stehen.

      Die Europäische Kommission erwartet Antworten vom Frontex-Chef. Bis Ende November muss sich Fabrice Leggeri zur Verwicklung seiner Grenzschutzagentur in illegale Pushbacks von Flüchtlingen äußern. Das ist das Ergebnis einer Dringlichkeitssitzung des Frontex Management Boards. Das Treffen sei ein guter Anfang gewesen, sie wolle den Prozess transparent gestalten, twitterte die zuständige EU-Kommissarin Ylva Johansson. Leggeri solle bis zur nächsten Zusammenkunft des Management Boards auf die Fragen der Kommission antworten.
      Recherchen bringen Frontex in Bedrängnis

      Johansson hatte das Treffen einberufen, um über eine gemeinsame Recherche des ARD-Magazins Report Mainz, des „Spiegel“ und der Medienorganisationen Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports und tv Asahi zu diskutieren. Die Medien hatten aufgedeckt, dass Frontex-Einheiten in der Ägäis in illegale Zurückweisungen von Flüchtlingen verwickelt sind.

      Seit April waren Frontex-Beamte nachweislich bei mindestens sechs sogenannten Pushbacks in der Nähe. Auf einem Video ist zu sehen, wie ein Frontex-Schiff ein überladenes Flüchtlingsboot zunächst blockiert, die Insassen aber nicht rettet. Stattdessen fahren die Frontex-Beamten mit hohem Tempo an dem Flüchtlingsboot vorbei und verlassen dann den Ort des Geschehens. Vertrauliche Gespräche mit Frontex-Beamten legten zudem nahe, dass diese ihre Berichte schönen, bevor sie an die Zentrale in Warschau geschickt werden.

      Keine Äußerung von Frontex und Griechenland

      Frontex ist auf die Vorwürfe bis heute nicht im Detail eingegangen. Alle gemeldeten Vorfälle seien an die griechische Küstenwache weitergeleitet worden, diese habe eine interne Untersuchung eingeleitet, teilte die Genzschutzagentur in einem Statement mit. Nach der Antwort der griechischen Behörden seien seine Zweifel ausgeräumt, sagte Leggeri zudem in einem Interview.

      Auch die griechischen Behörden hatten sich zu den Pushbacks nicht im Detail äußern wollen. Sie bestreiten die Vorwürfe pauschal, obwohl die ARD, der „Spiegel“ und andere Medien die Pushbacks mehrfach dokumentiert haben. Nach Angaben von Teilnehmern im „Spiegel“ sahen sich vor allem die griechischen Mitglieder des Management Boards bei dem Treffen Fragen ausgesetzt. Diskutiert wurde unter anderem ein Statement, welches betonen sollte, dass Frontex sich bei schwerwiegenden und anhaltenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen von Missionen wie der in der Ägäis zurückziehen muss.

      Griechen haben Angst vor Bloßstellung

      Ein solche Vorschrift findet sich schon jetzt in den Frontex-Regularien. Beamte einiger weniger Mitgliedsstaaten legten ihr Veto dagegen ein, dass die Anwendung dieser Regel nun in den Raum gestellt werden soll. Besonders die griechischen Teilnehmer fürchteten, dass das Statement die griechische Regierung bloßstellen könnte.

      Am Ende einigte man sich auf einen Kompromiss. Es soll ein Komitee geschaffen werden, das sich mit rechtlichen Fragen zu Einsätzen an der Seegrenzen beschäftigt, heißt es in einem Frontex-Statement. Die Kommission solle dem Vorschlag zufolge die Arbeit des Komitees koordinieren, Mitgliedsstaaten könnten sich auf freiwilliger Basis beteiligen. Im Komitee sollen auch die Sorgen einige Mitgliedsstaaten vor „hybriden Bedrohungen“ eine Rolle spielen. Vor allem Griechenland hatte immer wieder davor gewarnt, dass türkische Geheimdienste sich unter die Migranten auf den Inseln mischen könnten.

      Außerdem will Frontex nach eigener Aussage den sogenannten Fundamental Rights Officer stärken. Der Beamte ist bei Frontex dafür zuständig, dass die Grenzschützer die Grundrechte von Schutzsuchenden achten. Allerdings halten Beobachter alle bestehenden internen Überwachungsmechanismen bei Frontex für unzureichend.
      Kritik aus Europaparlament

      Nach den Enthüllungen der ARD und ihrer Recherchepartner hatten mehrere Europaparlamentarier von Leggeri eine vollständige Untersuchung der Vorwürfe gefordert. Die Grünen-EU-Abgeordnete Tineke Strik kritisierte das Frontex-Statement. Die Ankündigung erwähne die Menschenrechtsverletzungen an der Grenze nicht, sagte sie. Ein Komitee ersetze keine wirklich unabhängige und transparente Untersuchung. „Die Bürger müssen erfahren, was geschehen ist und wie Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Zukunft verhindert werden sollen“, so Strik.

      „Das Ganze ist eine große Nebelkerze“, sagte Europaparlamentarier Dietmar Köster von der SPD. „Es ist ein einzigartiger Vertuschungsversuch, von der eigenen Verantwortung und dem Versagen bei der Einhaltung von Menschenrechten abzulenken“,

      https://www.tagesschau.de/investigativ/report-mainz/frontex-pushbacks-103.html

    • EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex: Keine Untersuchung zu Verstößen gegen Menschenrechte

      Im März war die EU-Grenzpolizei Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen Menschenrechte verwickelt. Wie von uns veröffentlichte Akten zeigen, untersuchte Frontex den Vorfall aber nicht, sondern kehrte ihn unter den Teppich.

      Als ARD, Spiegel und Bellingcat vor drei Wochen aufdeckten, dass die Europäische Grenzpolizei Frontex an illegalen Pushbacks an EU-Grenzen beteiligt ist, versprach der Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri schnell Aufklärung. Die EU-Agentur werde die Vorwürfe untersuchen, nach denen Frontex Geflüchtete völkerrechtswidrig aus der EU abgeschoben hatte.

      „Jeder Vorwurf des Fehlverhaltens oder der Verletzung internationaler Verträge oder Grundrechte im Rahmen gemeinsamer Operationen, die von Frontex koordiniert werden, wird mit großer Besorgnis behandelt und sorgfältig untersucht.“

      Frontex-Direktor Fabrice Leggeri (Übersetzung von FragDenStaat)

      Ein interner E-Mail-Verlauf von Frontex, den wir per Informationsfreiheitsanfrage erhalten haben, zeigt jetzt jedoch, dass die EU-Agentur in vergleichbaren Fällen offenbar kein Interesse daran hat, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu untersuchen. EU Observer hatte zunächst darüber berichtet.
      Dänemark widersetzt sich Frontex-Befehlen

      Bereits am 2. März diesen Jahres hatte Frontex in der Nähe der griechischen Insel Kos versucht, ein Boot mit 33 geflüchteten Menschen, die griechische Gewässer erreicht hatten, in die Türkei abzuschieben. Das griechische Frontex-Kommando befahl einem Schiff der Dänischen Marine mit dem Namen „Stela Polaris“, die Geflüchteten nicht an Land zu bringen, sondern wieder in ein Gummiboot zu setzen und aufs offene Meer Richtung Türkei zu schleppen. Der dänische Befehlshaber des Schiffes widersetzte sich dem rechtswidrigen Befehl jedoch und erreichte durch seine dänischen Vorgesetzten, dass er aufgehoben wurde.

      Frontex hatte den Vorgang bisher nie öffentlich zugegeben. Der dazugehörige E-Mail-Verkehr aus der Frontex-Zentrale in Warschau, den wir veröffentlichen, zeigt, dass Pushbacks die Entscheidungsträger um Direktor Fabrice Leggeri kaum interessierten. Erst aus der Presse erfuhr das Hauptquartier überhaupt davon, dass Frontex in einen versuchten Verstoß gegen die Menschenrechte verwickelt war.

      Einen Bericht – intern Serious Incident Report genannt – gab es trotz der Schwere des Vorfalls nicht. Die Frontex-Pressesprecherin forderte deswegen in Erwartung von Presseanfragen am Morgen des 6. März, vier Tage nach dem Vorfall, bei ihren Kolleg:innen einen Bericht zu den Vorfällen an. Am Nachmittag wurde sie informiert, dass es in der Tat einen versuchten Pushback gegeben hatte.

      Menschenrechte geprüft in vier Stunden

      Bemerkenswert ist, wie die Frontex-Zentrale anschließend mit den Informationen umging: Es schloss die Akten. Bereits vier Stunden nach der Meldung über Vorfall kamen die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen zu der Einschätzung, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Einzelfall“. Er wurde noch nicht einmal beim täglichen Treffen der Befehlshabenden in der Frontex-Mission besprochen.

      Weitere Informationen zu dem Vorfall finden sich in den Akten laut Frontex nicht. Die Frontex-Mitarbeiter:innen überprüften nicht die Kommando-Strukturen und prüften nicht, warum es keinen internen Bericht zu dem rechtswidrigen Befehl gab. Sie unternahmen auch sonst keine Versuche, um sicherzustellen, dass Pushbacks durch das Frontex-Kommando nicht mehr vorkommen würden. Im Sommer schließlich gab Frontex-Direktor gegenüber dem Europäischen Parlament zu Protokoll, der versuchte Pushback sei ein „Missverständnis“ gewesen.

      Einige Monate später fanden Journalist:innen Beweise dafür, dass es sich offenbar nicht um einen Einzelfall handelt und Frontex mindestens im Juni an weiteren Pushbacks beteiligt war. Die EU-Agentur hatte offenbar kein Interesse daran, Verstöße gegen Menschenrechte zu unterbinden.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/blog/2020/11/18/frontex-pushbacks-denmark

    • Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention system and stop pushbacks

      In a report published today on a rapid reaction ad hoc visit to Greece in March 2020, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) once again urges the Greek authorities to change their approach towards immigration detention and to ensure that migrants deprived of their liberty are treated both with dignity and humanity.

      The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published today the report on its ad hoc visit to Greece, which took place from 13 to 17 March 2020, together with the response of the Greek authorities.

      In the report, the CPT acknowledges the significant challenges faced by the Greek authorities in dealing with large numbers of migrants entering the country and that it requires a coordinated European approach. However, this cannot absolve the the Hellenic Republic from their human rights obligations and the duty of care owed to all migrants that the Greek authorities detain.

      The CPT found that the conditions of detention in which migrants were held in certain facilities in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. The report again underlines the structural deficiencies in Greece’s immigration detention policy. Migrants continue to be held in detention centres composed of large barred cells crammed with beds, with poor lighting and ventilation, dilapidated and broken toilets and washrooms, insufficient personal hygiene products and cleaning materials, inadequate food and no access to outdoor daily exercise. Extreme overcrowding in several of the facilities further aggravated the situation. In addition, migrants were not provided with clear information about their situation.

      The CPT once again found that families with children, unaccompanied and separated children and other vulnerable persons (with a physical or mental health illness, or pregnant women) were being detained in such appalling conditions with no appropriate support. The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to end the detention of unaccompanied children and of children with their parents in police establishments. Instead, they should be transferred to suitable reception facilities catering to their specific needs.

      The report also highlights that the CPT again received consistent and credible allegations of migrants being pushed back across the Evros River border to Turkey. The Greek authorities should act to prevent such pushbacks. The CPT furthermore raises concerns over acts by the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants from reaching any Greek island and it questions the role and engagement of FRONTEX in such operations.

      The CPT calls upon the Greek authorities to take vigorous steps to stamp out ill-treatment of detained migrants by the police. The report refers to a number of allegations by migrants that they had been ill treated by members of the Hellenic Police and/or Coast Guard either upon apprehension or after being brought to a place of detention. The ill treatment alleged consisted primarily of slaps to the head and kicks and truncheon blows to the body.

      In their response, the Hellenic Police provide information on the steps being taken to improve the conditions of detention for detained migrants. They also state that the alleged practice of pushbacks to the border is unsubstantiated and completely wrong. As regards unaccompanied minors, reference is made to a new strategy to end their detention and to their transfer from reception centres on the islands to safe accommodation facilities on the mainland.

      https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a06bcf

    • Annex to the reply of Fabrice Leggeri to the LIBE Committee

      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Answers%20to%20the%20questions%20from%20the%20LIBE%20Commitee.pdf

      –---

      Thread sur twitter:

      It looks like Frontex are NOT denying that they may be involved in #pushbacks after all. FL partly evades (’...always committed...’) and partly seems to blame the ’uniqueness’ of operational areas & ’complex geography’ of the Greek and Turkish border for FX being involved in pushbacks.

      –---

      The earlier letter sent to the EP President might offer some clues. I’m not a legal expert, but FL seems to suggest that Art. 6 of Reg. 656/2014 (on interception at sea) needs to be clarified so as to define what constitutes a #pushback. Interesting.
      https://www.tinekestrik.eu/sites/default/files/2020-11/Letter%20to%20EP_Frontex%20maritime%20operations%20at%20EU%20external%20

      –—

      Yet not all pushbacks happen at sea. While the request for interpretation above might mean that FX is looking for a way out re: #pushbacks at the Aegean, what about those at the
      Greek-Turkish land border? I think there’s less concern with #pushbacks at #Evros, though. No videos...

      –---

      Back to the Annex: We know SIRs weren’t submitted as they should. The real question is why. It might be down to officers on the ground lacking in training (they shouldn’t, but...) or not wanting to get their colleagues in trouble (the spirit of camaraderie...).

      –---

      BUT: Today’s Spiegel article refers to a ’Frontex official in charge’ advising a Swedish officer not to submit a SIR. FX management were aware few SIRs being submitted for years. Is it a practice dictated from the top? To avoid having evidence of violations?

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/pushbacks-in-der-aegaeis-wie-frontex-menschenrechtsverletzungen-vertuscht-a-

      –—

      Suspension/non-launch of operations has never happened. The ED didn’t take into account reports by NGOs or human rights bodies when considering the 2016 recommendation to suspend operations in Hungary. He relied on the very low number of SIRs to reject it.
      https://respondmigration.com/wp-blog/fundamental-rights-accountability-transparency-european-governance

      –—

      Same with the 2019 & 2020 recommendations of the FRO to consider suspension of operations in #Evros. As for taking into account media reports ... well, I’d say the reply to the LIBE committee reads like the media accounts are being dismissed.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1331662031095787521

    • E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

      Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

      Mounting evidence indicates that the European Union’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with officials.

      In at least one case, Frontex, as the E.U. border agency is known, is accused of having helped cover up the violations, when a crew said it was discouraged by agency officials from reporting that they had seen the Greek authorities setting a boatload of migrants adrift in Turkish waters.

      The case is currently being investigated by Frontex. But it has fueled suspicions that the agency, newly boosted in its role as upholder of the rule of law at E.U. borders, is not just sporadically aware of such abuses, but that it plays a role in concealing them.

      “We are seeing an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful,” said Gerald Knaus, a migration expert. “This is deeply worrying because it is eroding the refugee convention on the continent on which it was created.”

      Throughout this year, The New York Times and others have reported on growing operations by the Greek Coast Guard to repel migrants from Greek waters back to Turkey, reports the Greek authorities deny amount to breaches of international laws.

      But revelations that Frontex has witnessed pushbacks have thrown the agency into a governance crisis that threatens to further blight the European Union’s liberal values, once again calling into question the bloc’s commitment to upholding its own laws on refugees.

      The cases have also highlighted a conundrum at the core of E.U. ambitions to tighten external borders by pooling resources and involving the bloc in the sensitive, zealously shielded work of sovereign border guards.

      Frontex is the European Union’s best-funded agency, with a budget of over $500 million, and will soon deploy the first uniformed officers in the bloc’s history. It has been built up specifically to help in migrant-rescue operations as the burden of policing Europe’s borders has fallen most heavily on its peripheral states, like Greece.

      It was also intended as a deterrent to the kind of mass arrival of refugees that sowed political crises across Europe after 2015, and fanned nationalist and populist movements.

      Yet Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.

      Refugee arrivals to the European Union peaked five years ago and have dropped drastically since, but thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, still attempt the crossing. Unlike in the past, Greeks and their government have turned hostile to the new arrivals, exhausted by years in which asylum seekers have been bottled up in overrun camps on Greek islands.

      There is also a growing belief in the Greek and several other European governments that aggression at the borders and poor conditions at migrant camps will make the attempt to reach Europe less attractive for asylum seekers.

      Earlier this year, an analysis by The Times showed that the Greek government had secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, often by sailing them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and abandoning them in flimsy inflatable life rafts in violation of international laws.

      The Greek Coast Guard has rescued thousands of asylum seekers over the years but has become much more aggressive this year, especially as Turkey used migrants to provoke Greece by encouraging them to cross the border.

      The Greek government has denied it is doing anything illegal in repelling migrant boats from its national waters, characterizing the operations as robust border guarding. But Mr. Knaus said “the denials are not serious,” and the practices are effectively happening in the open — under the eyes of E.U. border patrols.

      The documents obtained by The Times describe, in Coast Guard vernacular littered with acronyms, codes, time-stamps and coordinates, a seemingly incessant Ping-Pong of migrant dinghies between Greek and Turkish waters, with Frontex crews on vessels or aircraft in observer status.

      Four officials with direct knowledge of Frontex operations said that agency officials have been discouraging crews from filing reports on pushback incidents, and, in some cases, have stopped initial alerts of violations from being filed as “serious incident reports,” at times after consulting with the Greek authorities.

      They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were concerned about losing their jobs, or were not authorized to brief the press.

      The Frontex spokesman, Chris Borowski, said the agency took the reporting of violations very seriously. “Pushbacks are illegal under international law,” Mr. Borowski said.

      In the latest case to come to light, a Swedish Coast Guard crew on deployment under Frontex witnessed a pushback to Turkish waters of a boat full of migrants by the Greek authorities on Oct. 30 off the Greek island of Chios.

      The Swedish crew was later advised by a Frontex officer to not report it, documents reviewed by The Times show. The Swedish representative to the management board of Frontex described the incident, and the suppression of the attempt to report it, at a meeting on Nov. 10 — the first known case of an E.U. member state reporting active interference by Frontex officials.

      The Swedish government did not comment. A spokesman for Frontex said the agency wouldn’t comment because of an “ongoing procedure.”

      Frontex has been working in Greece for more than a decade, providing sea, land and aerial surveillance and rescue capabilities and deploying crews from other member states under its command.

      The details now emerging push the agency deeper into a governance crisis which began in October when a consortium of news organizations, including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, reported a number of occasions when Frontex crews witnessed pushbacks in Greece.

      The European Commission, which is part of the Frontex oversight system but does not control the agency, pushed for a special inquiry into these allegations and, at an emergency agency board meeting on Nov. 10, asked its leadership to answer detailed questions in writing.

      The answers arrived with a four-day delay, just 15 hours before the start of another meeting to discuss the problems on Wednesday. Yet another emergency meeting has been called in December, mounting pressure on the agency.

      Frontex has promised internal investigations but also quickly dismissed allegations, saying for example, in a letter seen by The Times, that it would look into the Swedish case, but that it had so far found no evidence that it happened.

      How these investigations shake out will matter a great deal for the future of Frontex, which was once little more than a back-office operation in Warsaw but now finds itself on the front lines of the nettlesome issue of migration that has the potency to make or break governments.

      Apart from helping member states with asylum-seeker arrivals, Frontex’s role as an E.U. agency by law is to respect fundamental rights, and bring up human-rights standards across national E.U. border agencies, which often don’t have a strong culture of upholding them.

      But claims that Frontex does not take fundamental rights seriously enough are growing. This year, only one million euros in its budget of 460 million euros — about $548 million — was allocated to rights monitoring.

      The agency was supposed to hire 40 fundamental-rights officers by Dec. 5 but the jobs have not yet been advertised. The agency is currently hiring for their boss, after years of staffing issues around that position. A Frontex spokesman said the delays stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

      Documents seen by The Times laid out how in one episode the Greek authorities were consulted before a report was made, and were able to suppress it. On Aug. 10, a German crew deployed by Frontex reported that a Greek Coast Guard vessel “took up border control measures prohibiting the landing to Samos.”

      The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. The event was not recorded as a “serious incident,” because, the document said, the Greek Coast Guard argued the activities “do not provide any ground” to initiate such a report.

      Another incident, which a Frontex aerial crew observed and reported in detail to its headquarters, took place on the evening of April 18 to 19 off the coast of Lesbos, and lasted more than five hours.

      A dinghy was detected by the Greek authorities and approximately 20 migrants were rescued and put on board a Greek Coast Guard vessel shortly after midnight, their empty dinghy towed by the Coast Guard toward the island.

      But instead of being taken to shore, at 2:45 a.m., the migrants were put back on their dinghy and tugged to Turkish waters by the Greek Coast Guard, the Frontex aerial crew reported.

      As events unfolded, the Greek command center twice asked the Frontex aircraft to change its flight path, directing it away from the incident.

      “At 03:21 Frontex Surveillance Aircraft communicates that the rubber boat has no engine and it is adrift. Greek assets are departing the area leaving the rubber boat adrift,” the document said.

      The internal Frontex report detailing this incident and categorizing it as a fundamental-rights violation was “dismissed,” the document shows.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html

    • La Grèce fortement soupçonnée de refouler les migrants

      L’agence européenne Frontex, potentiellement impliquée dans les refoulements, mène une enquête interne et doit fournir des explications à la Commission européenne fin novembre. Une plainte a été déposée le 17 novembre auprès du comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU.

      L’étau se resserre autour de la Grèce, de plus en plus fréquemment accusée de refouler les migrants vers la Turquie, aussi bien en mer qu’à terre. Le soupçon n’est pas nouveau, comme l’atteste le terrible récit de Fadi Faj. Ce jeune Syrien de 25 ans est arrivé en 2015 avec l’immense vague de demandeurs d’asile en Allemagne. Berlin lui octroie alors le statut de réfugié et un permis de séjour avec lequel il se rend en Grèce en novembre 2016, à la recherche de son jeune frère de 11 ans dont il a perdu la trace lors de sa traversée de la frontière greco-turque à Evros.

      Fadi Faj est alors arrêté par la police grecque qui lui confisque ses papiers et l’expulse vers la Turquie avec une cinquantaine d’autres demandeurs d’asile. Devenu un sans-papier, il sera à treize reprises repoussé de part et d’autre de la frontière par les forces grecques ou turques. Ayant enfin mis un pied à terre en Grèce en décembre 2017, il y vivra encore deux ans dans le dénuement avant d’obtenir un visa pour regagner l’Allemagne qui lui délivrera un nouveau permis de séjour en mai 2020.

      Une plainte auprès du Comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU

      Ce récit glaçant fait l’objet d’une plainte à l’encontre de la Grèce déposée le 17 novembre auprès du Comité des droits de l’homme de l’ONU, par le Global Legal Action Network (Réseau mondial d’action juridique) basé en Irlande et l’ONG grecque HumanRights 360.

      Entre-temps, les cas du même type se sont multipliés. Surtout depuis le printemps dernier, après que le président turc Erdogan a menacé d’ouvrir les frontières et incité les migrants à se diriger vers la Grèce. « J’ai vu de mes yeux vu deux refoulements en mer depuis ma maison sur la côte nord de Lesbos », dénonce ainsi Christina Chatzidaki, une habitante de l’île qui jouxte les côtes turques, et y dirige l’association Siniparxi (Coexistence).

      Alarm phone qui reçoit les appels de détresse des embarcations en mer se déclarait en mai dernier « très préoccupé par la récente augmentation des rapports d’attaques sur les bateaux de migrants ». L’ONG avait alors engrangé les témoignages de survivants de 18 bateaux. « Ils ont fait état d’actions dangereuses, telles que le fait de tourner autour de leurs bateaux et de provoquer des vagues, des menaces avec des armes à feu, le vol de leur essence, la destruction de moteurs et, également, le remorquage de bateaux vers les eaux turques où ils ont été laissés à la dérive », précise l’ONG.
      Intimer la Commission d’agir

      Les dénonciations de pratiques qui violent les droits humains, et contreviennent au droit de la mer et au droit européen n’ont pas cessé par la suite. Le porte-parole du Haut-Commissariat aux réfugiés (HCR) déclarait le 12 juin dernier : « le HCR a continuellement fait état de ses préoccupations auprès du gouvernement grec et a demandé des enquêtes urgentes sur une série d’incidents présumés ». Il soulignait alors la corrélation entre la forte baisse du nombre d’arrivées de migrants en Grèce et l’augmentation du nombre de refoulements signalés. En 2019, 60 000 personnes avaient débarqué en Grèce par la mer et 15 000 par la terre. En 2020, jusqu’au 22 novembre, ils ne sont plus, respectivement, que 9 400 et 5 400.

      Jusqu’à présent la Grèce a nié ces allégations. « Nous protégeons nos frontières en accord avec les lois internationales et européennes » a encore affirmé le ministre grec de l’immigration Notis Mitarakis le 13 novembre dernier au site Infomigrants. Deux mois auparavant, le 22 septembre, les ONG Oxfam et WeMove adressaient une plainte auprès de la Commission européenne pour l’intimer de mener « une enquête sur les violations systématiques du droit européen concernant le traitement des demandeurs d’asile en Grèce ».
      La possible implication de Frontex

      Enfin, le site d’investigation Bellingcat et le magazine allemand Der Spiegel apportèrent en octobre un coup de grâce supplémentaire, en dénonçant, images à l’appui, le laisser-faire, voire l’implication, de l’agence européenne de surveillance aux frontières Frontex - qui a déployé plus de 600 agents en Grèce - dans six cas documentés de pratique illégale de refoulement.

      Un soupçon repris par le comité contre la torture du Conseil de l’Europe. Dans son rapport publié le 19 novembre, le comité a indiqué « avoir de nouveau reçu des allégations cohérentes et crédibles de migrants repoussés vers la Turquie ».

      Il s’est déclaré « inquiet des actes commis par les garde-côtes grecs pour empêcher les bateaux transportant des migrants d’atteindre les îles grecques » et « s’interroge sur le rôle et l’implication de Frontex dans de telles opérations ».

      Face à une telle avalanche, l’Union européenne pouvait difficilement continuer à se voiler la face. La suédoise Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures a réclamé des explications pour fin novembre à l’agence Frontex, laquelle a indiqué avoir ouvert une enquête interne.

      https://www.la-croix.com/Monde/Grece-fortement-soupconnee-refouler-migrants-2020-11-24-1201126401

    • Refoulements de demandeurs d’asile : le directeur de Frontex interrogé par les députés

      La supposée implication d’agents de Frontex dans les refoulements de demandeurs d’asile à la frontière grecque sera au cœur du débat en commission des libertés civiles mardi.

      Les députés seront en attente de réponses de la part du directeur exécutif de l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Fabrice Leggeri, concernant les incidents révélés récemment par les médias au cours desquels des garde-côtes grecs (avec la connaissance présumée et même l’implication d’agents de Frontex) ont arrêté des migrants qui tentaient d’atteindre les côtes de l’UE et les ont renvoyés dans les eaux turques. Les députés devraient s’enquérir des résultats de l’enquête interne menée par l’Agence européenne de gestion des frontières et de la réunion du conseil d’administration convoquée à la demande de la Commission européenne.

      En octobre dernier, avant les révélations des médias, le forum consultatif de Frontex (qui réunit notamment des représentants du Bureau européen d’appui en matière d’asile (EASO), de l’Agence des droits fondamentaux de l’UE (FRA), du HCR, du Conseil de l’Europe et de l’OIM) avait exprimé son inquiétude dans son rapport annuel. Le forum pointait du doigt l’absence de véritable système de contrôle permettant de prévenir et de traiter les violations potentielles des droits fondamentaux dans les activités de l’Agence.

      Le 6 juillet, au cours d’une précédente réunion de la commission des libertés civiles, Fabrice Leggeri avait assuré aux eurodéputés que Frontex n’était pas impliquée dans les refoulements et avait qualifié l’incident avec l’équipe danoise à bord de l’un des navires de l’Agence de ‘‘malentendu’’.

      DATE : mardi 1er décembre de 13h50 à 14h45

      LIEU : Parlement européen à Bruxelles, bâtiment Antall, salle 4Q2 et à distance

      https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/fr/press-room/20201126IPR92509

    • EU border chief urged to quit over migrant pushback claims

      European Union lawmakers lashed out Tuesday at the head of Frontex over allegations that the border and coast guard agency helped illegally stop migrants or refugees entering Europe, calling for his resignation and demanding an independent inquiry.

      The lawmakers grilled Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri over an investigation in October by media outlets Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which said that video and other publicly available data suggest Frontex “assets were actively involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea.”

      The report said personnel from the agency, which monitors and polices migrant movements around Europe’s borders, were present at another incident and “have been in the vicinity of four more since March.” Frontex launched an internal probe after the news broke.

      “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign,” senior Socialist lawmaker Kati Piri said in a statement after the parliamentary civil liberties committee hearing. “There are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.”

      Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which say people shouldn’t be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or being members of a social or political group.

      Frontex’s board met to discuss the allegations late last month. The board said afterwards that the European Commission had ordered it to “hold a further extraordinary meeting within the next two weeks in order to consider in more detail the replies provided by the agency.” That meeting is scheduled to take place on Dec. 9.

      “Migrants and refugees are very vulnerable to pushbacks by border guards,” Greens lawmaker Tineke Strik said. “We must be able to rely on an EU agency which prevents human rights violations from happening and not inflict them. But Frontex seems to be a partner in crime of those who deliberately violate those human rights.”

      Strik raised doubts about whether the internal Frontex probe would produce results and urged the assembly’s political groups to consider launching their own inquiry.

      Leggeri said that no evidence of any Frontex involvement in pushbacks had been found so far. He said EU member countries have control over operations in their waters, not Frontex, and he called for the rules governing surveillance of Europe’s external borders to be clarified.

      “We have not found evidence that there were active, direct or indirect participation of Frontex staff or officers deployed by Frontex in pushbacks,” he told the lawmakers. When it comes to operations, Leggeri said, “only the host member state authorities can decide what has to be done.”

      Leggeri also said that Frontex staff were under extreme pressure around the time of the alleged incidents in March and April. He said that Turkish F-16 fighter jets had “surrounded” a Danish plane working for Frontex, while vessels were harassed by the Turkish coast guard and shots fired at personnel at land borders.

      He called for EU “guidance” on how to handle such situations.

      The allegations are extremely embarrassing for the European Commission. In September it unveiled sweeping new reforms to the EU’s asylum system, which proved dismally inadequate when over 1 million migrants arrived in 2015, many of them Syrian refugees entering the Greek islands via Turkey.

      Part of the EU’s migration reforms includes a system of independent monitoring involving rights experts to ensure that there are no pushbacks at Europe’s borders. Migrant entries have dropped to a relative trickle in recent years, although many migrants still languish on some Greek islands waiting for their asylum claims to be processed or to be sent back.

      EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she still has confidence in Frontex’s managing board but remains deeply concerned about the allegations.

      During a visit to Morocco, Johansson said that the report “concerns me a lot. If it’s true, it’s totally unacceptable. A European agency has to comply to EU law and fundamental rights with no excuse.”

      Johansson said she has “full confidence in the process that (has) gone on in the management board and the sub-group they are setting up” to continue the investigation, but, she noted that “there were a lot of questions put to the director. And he has not answered these questions.”

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/259789/article/ekathimerini/news/eu-border-chief-urged-to-quit-over-migrant-pushback-claims

    • Frontex is taking us to court

      The EU border police Frontex is under fire for its involvement in human rights violations at the EU’s borders. Now, they want to silence those exposing their wrongdoing.

      For many years, we have been fighting to make Frontex, the EU’s border police, more transparent and accountable. We have made public over a thousand of their documents, including those that show the agency has been complicit in human rights violations and violence against migrants at the EU’s borders.

      Frontex is currently under fire for its involvement in illegal pushbacks in the Aegean and for having concealed evidence about these illegal acts. Confronted with such serious accusations, the EU border agency has now chosen to go after those who investigate them: they are taking us to court.

      Frontex has filed a case against us before the General Court of the European Union in order to force us to pay them a large amount of money. Last year, we lost our lawsuit for information about Frontex and now, the agency is demanding from us excessive legal fees. The message is clear: they want to make sure that we never take them to court again.
      Details must remain secret

      For the time being, we will not be able to disclose further details related to the case due to the court’s rules on keeping all information secret while proceedings are ongoing. Back in January, the agency justified their excessive legal fees on their decision to hire expensive private lawyers.

      Frontex, which has a billion-euro budget, making it the best resourced EU agency, employs a well-staffed internal legal department. Both the decision to hire private lawyers and to then claim these costs from civil society are highly unusual in court cases against the EU authorities.
      What happens if Frontex wins?

      If Frontex succeeds, in the future only corporations and the rich will be able to afford legal action against EU authorities. Activists, journalists, NGOs and individuals will not be able to defend human rights before the EU court. Frontex bringing a case like this directly against civil society, let alone winning, discourages others from holding them accountable in the future. It’s this chilling effect that we believe they’re hoping for.

      In the spring, more than 87,000 people petitioned Frontex to withdraw their legal bill. 44 civil society organizations also called on Frontex to retract its demand. Frontex has nonetheless chosen to ignore their voices.

      In recent years, Frontex has experienced an enormous increase of power and resources. Not only is it about to receive € 11 billion under the next EU budget, but it can also now hire its own border guards and buy its own equipment, including aircrafts, ships, drones and weapons.

      Investigating Frontex and holding it accountable is now more important than ever. As recent publications have revealed, the EU border force has been involved in numerous human rights violations at the EU borders.
      What you can do

      Our freedom of information work is financed by individual donations. We will fight in court for a judgement that gives Frontex as little money as possible. If you want to support us in this, we would be very happy to receive a donation. We will use every extra euro for new investigations and legal action against Frontex.

      https://fragdenstaat.de/en/blog/2020/12/02/frontex-costs-court-transparency

    • S&Ds call for Frontex Director to resign

      The S&D Group in the European Parliament today called for the Executive Director of Frontex to resign following months of allegations on the agency’s involvement in illegal practices and violations of fundamental rights.

      In today’s hearing of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee (LIBE), Director Fabrice Leggeri failed to answer questions relating to the agency’s involvement in pushbacks at the EU’s external borders aimed at preventing asylum-seekers from entering the EU.

      Following the hearing, S&D MEPs concluded Mr Leggeri’s position at the head of Frontex is not sustainable, especially in light of the important role for Frontex in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

      Kati Piri, S&D vice-president for migration and LIBE member taking part in the hearing, said

      “In his handling of these allegations, Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri has completely lost our trust and it is time for him to resign. After months of the S&D Group calling for explanations, Director Leggeri had the chance to set the record straight. But there are still far too many unanswered questions on the involvement of Frontex in illegal practices.

      “Pushbacks are a violation of international law and every single incident must be fully investigated. Do we have the confidence in Frontex to ensure alleged incidents are properly investigated? After today, the answer is no.

      “As long as allegations hang over Frontex, its reputation remains severely damaged and in desperate need of repair. In our view, Director Leggeri is not the right person to fix the damage.”

      Birgit Sippel, S&D LIBE coordinator, added:

      “We have to ask ourselves how we got to the point where we have to rely on journalists and whistle-blowers in Frontex to inform us of instances of fundamental and human rights violations at our borders. This is unacceptable and deeply disturbing, in particular when considering the potentially increased role of Frontex as part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

      “The series of alleged pushbacks and cover-ups from Frontex show that we need a strong and independent border monitoring mechanism to investigate any and all alleged violations of fundamental and human rights and international laws at European borders.

      “Under the 2019 Frontex mandate, the Agency was obliged to have recruited at least 40 Fundamental Rights Monitors by 5 December 2020. It is now clear that Frontex will not even have come close to fulfilling this task, and therefore will not comply with the new mandate. Blaming bureaucratic hurdles for the delay of such an important task is insufficient, while the Commission’s role in this delay requires further examination as well. Mr Leggeri has failed in many of his responsibilities and must bear the consequences of his actions.”

      https://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/sds-call-frontex-director-resign

    • E.U. Border Agency Accused of Covering Up Migrant Pushback in Greece

      Frontex is under fire for letting Greece illegally repel migrants as the agency expands to play a more central role at the bloc’s external borders.

      Mounting evidence indicates that the European Union’s border agency has been complicit in Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back migrants to Turkey, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and interviews with officials.

      In at least one case, Frontex, as the E.U. border agency is known, is accused of having helped cover up the violations, when a crew said it was discouraged by agency officials from reporting that they had seen the Greek authorities setting a boatload of migrants adrift in Turkish waters.

      The case is currently being investigated by Frontex. But it has fueled suspicions that the agency, newly boosted in its role as upholder of the rule of law at E.U. borders, is not just sporadically aware of such abuses, but that it plays a role in concealing them.

      “We are seeing an erosion of the rule of law at the E.U. borders which is willful,” said Gerald Knaus, a migration expert. “This is deeply worrying because it is eroding the refugee convention on the continent on which it was created.”

      Throughout this year, The New York Times and others have reported on growing operations by the Greek Coast Guard to repel migrants from Greek waters back to Turkey, reports the Greek authorities deny amount to breaches of international laws.

      But revelations that Frontex has witnessed pushbacks have thrown the agency into a governance crisis that threatens to further blight the European Union’s liberal values, once again calling into question the bloc’s commitment to upholding its own laws on refugees.

      The cases have also highlighted a conundrum at the core of E.U. ambitions to tighten external borders by pooling resources and involving the bloc in the sensitive, zealously shielded work of sovereign border guards.

      Frontex is the European Union’s best-funded agency, with a budget of over $500 million, and will soon deploy the first uniformed officers in the bloc’s history. It has been built up specifically to help in migrant-rescue operations as the burden of policing Europe’s borders has fallen most heavily on its peripheral states, like Greece.

      It was also intended as a deterrent to the kind of mass arrival of refugees that sowed political crises across Europe after 2015, and fanned nationalist and populist movements.

      Yet Frontex is not empowered to stop national border guards from committing violations, and it is not clear how it can play a role as standard-bearer of E.U. laws when informing on national forces risks the working relationships on which its operations depend.

      Refugee arrivals to the European Union peaked five years ago and have dropped drastically since, but thousands of asylum seekers, many fleeing the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, still attempt the crossing. Unlike in the past, Greeks and their government have turned hostile to the new arrivals, exhausted by years in which asylum seekers have been bottled up in overrun camps on Greek islands.

      There is also a growing belief in the Greek and several other European governments that aggression at the borders and poor conditions at migrant camps will make the attempt to reach Europe less attractive for asylum seekers.

      Earlier this year, an analysis by The Times showed that the Greek government had secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, often by sailing them to the edge of Greek territorial waters and abandoning them in flimsy inflatable life rafts in violation of international laws.

      The Greek Coast Guard has rescued thousands of asylum seekers over the years but has become much more aggressive this year, especially as Turkey used migrants to provoke Greece by encouraging them to cross the border.

      The Greek government has denied it is doing anything illegal in repelling migrant boats from its national waters, characterizing the operations as robust border guarding. But Mr. Knaus said “the denials are not serious,” and the practices are effectively happening in the open — under the eyes of E.U. border patrols.

      The documents obtained by The Times describe, in Coast Guard vernacular littered with acronyms, codes, time-stamps and coordinates, a seemingly incessant Ping-Pong of migrant dinghies between Greek and Turkish waters, with Frontex crews on vessels or aircraft in observer status.

      Four officials with direct knowledge of Frontex operations said that agency officials have been discouraging crews from filing reports on pushback incidents, and, in some cases, have stopped initial alerts of violations from being filed as “serious incident reports,” at times after consulting with the Greek authorities.

      They all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were concerned about losing their jobs, or were not authorized to brief the press.

      The Frontex spokesman, Chris Borowski, said the agency took the reporting of violations very seriously. “Pushbacks are illegal under international law,” Mr. Borowski said.

      In the latest case to come to light, a Swedish Coast Guard crew on deployment under Frontex witnessed a pushback to Turkish waters of a boat full of migrants by the Greek authorities on Oct. 30 off the Greek island of Chios.

      The Swedish crew was later advised by a Frontex officer to not report it, documents reviewed by The Times show. The Swedish representative to the management board of Frontex described the incident, and the suppression of the attempt to report it, at a meeting on Nov. 10 — the first known case of an E.U. member state reporting active interference by Frontex officials.

      The Swedish government did not comment. A spokesman for Frontex said the agency wouldn’t comment because of an “ongoing procedure.”

      Frontex has been working in Greece for more than a decade, providing sea, land and aerial surveillance and rescue capabilities and deploying crews from other member states under its command.

      The details now emerging push the agency deeper into a governance crisis which began in October when a consortium of news organizations, including the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, reported a number of occasions when Frontex crews witnessed pushbacks in Greece.

      The European Commission, which is part of the Frontex oversight system but does not control the agency, pushed for a special inquiry into these allegations and, at an emergency agency board meeting on Nov. 10, asked its leadership to answer detailed questions in writing.

      The answers arrived with a four-day delay, just 15 hours before the start of another meeting to discuss the problems on Wednesday. Yet another emergency meeting has been called in December, mounting pressure on the agency.

      Frontex has promised internal investigations but also quickly dismissed allegations, saying for example, in a letter seen by The Times, that it would look into the Swedish case, but that it had so far found no evidence that it happened.

      How these investigations shake out will matter a great deal for the future of Frontex, which was once little more than a back-office operation in Warsaw but now finds itself on the front lines of the nettlesome issue of migration that has the potency to make or break governments.

      Apart from helping member states with asylum-seeker arrivals, Frontex’s role as an E.U. agency by law is to respect fundamental rights, and bring up human-rights standards across national E.U. border agencies, which often don’t have a strong culture of upholding them.

      But claims that Frontex does not take fundamental rights seriously enough are growing. This year, only one million euros in its budget of 460 million euros — about $548 million — was allocated to rights monitoring.

      The agency was supposed to hire 40 fundamental-rights officers by Dec. 5 but the jobs have not yet been advertised. The agency is currently hiring for their boss, after years of staffing issues around that position. A Frontex spokesman said the delays stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic.

      Documents seen by The Times laid out how in one episode the Greek authorities were consulted before a report was made, and were able to suppress it. On Aug. 10, a German crew deployed by Frontex reported that a Greek Coast Guard vessel “took up border control measures prohibiting the landing to Samos.”

      The expression refers to maneuvering and making waves around a dinghy to repel it. The event was not recorded as a “serious incident,” because, the document said, the Greek Coast Guard argued the activities “do not provide any ground” to initiate such a report.

      Another incident, which a Frontex aerial crew observed and reported in detail to its headquarters, took place on the evening of April 18 to 19 off the coast of Lesbos, and lasted more than five hours.

      A dinghy was detected by the Greek authorities and approximately 20 migrants were rescued and put on board a Greek Coast Guard vessel shortly after midnight, their empty dinghy towed by the Coast Guard toward the island.

      But instead of being taken to shore, at 2:45 a.m., the migrants were put back on their dinghy and tugged to Turkish waters by the Greek Coast Guard, the Frontex aerial crew reported.

      As events unfolded, the Greek command center twice asked the Frontex aircraft to change its flight path, directing it away from the incident.

      “At 03:21 Frontex Surveillance Aircraft communicates that the rubber boat has no engine and it is adrift. Greek assets are departing the area leaving the rubber boat adrift,” the document said.

      The internal Frontex report detailing this incident and categorizing it as a fundamental-rights violation was “dismissed,” the document shows.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/world/europe/frontex-migrants-pushback-greece.html?smid=tw-share

    • #Seehofer deckte offenbar griechische Verbrechen

      Griechische Grenzschützer setzen Flüchtlinge systematisch auf dem Meer aus. Ein internes Dokument legt nun nahe, dass Innenminister #Horst_Seehofer einen Rechtsbruch kaschierte. SPD-Vize Kühnert stellt ihm ein Ultimatum.

      Die Sprecherin von Bundesinnenminister Horst Seehofer war sichtlich nervös, als sie sich Ende November den Fragen der Journalisten stellen musste. Zwei Tage zuvor hatten der SPIEGEL und das ARD-Magazin »Report Mainz« berichtet, dass die Bundespolizei in der Ägäis in eine illegale Zurückweisung von Flüchtlingen verwickelt war. Wiederholt fragten die Journalisten nach. »Ich weiß nicht, wie Sie zu der Einschätzung kommen, dass es sich hierbei um einen illegalen Pushback gehandelt hat«, sagte die Sprecherin schließlich.

      Dabei lagen dem Bundesinnenministerium zu diesem Zeitpunkt längst Informationen vor, die genau darauf hindeuten.

      Im Auftrag der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex patrouillierten die deutschen Einsatzkräfte am 10. August in der Ägäis, nur wenige Hundert Meter von der griechischen Insel Samos entfernt. Dabei entdeckten sie ein Schlauchboot mit 40 Flüchtlingen an Bord. Auftragsgemäß hielten sie es an, allerdings nahmen sie die Menschen auf dem völlig überfüllten Boot nicht an Bord. Stattdessen warteten sie mehr als eine halbe Stunde, bis die griechische Küstenwache das Schlauchboot übernahm.

      Wenig später fanden sich die Flüchtlinge plötzlich in türkischen Gewässern wieder. So beschreiben es interne Dokumente der EU-Grenzschutzagentur Frontex, die dem SPIEGEL vorliegen. Die türkische Küstenwache musste die 40 Migranten später retten. Fotos zeigen Männer, Frauen und kleine Kinder auf dem überfüllten Schlauchboot. Offensichtlich wurden die Menschen von den griechischen Grenzschützern illegal zurückgedrängt.

      Als die griechischen Beamten in den Hafen zurückkehrten, wunderten sich die deutschen Polizisten. Die Küstenwache hatte keine Migranten an Bord und auch kein Schlauchboot im Schlepptau. Die Deutschen meldeten im Anschluss zwar die Details des Einsatzes – aber keine mögliche Menschenrechtsverletzung.
      Was genau haben die Deutschen von diesem illegalen Pushback mitbekommen?

      Bis heute haben die Bundespolizei und das Innenministerium nicht auf die Fragen des SPIEGEL geantwortet. Dabei finden sich die Antworten auf diese Fragen seit Wochen im Intranet der Bundespolizei, also in einem nur für Mitarbeiter zugänglichen Netzwerk. Anhand der elf SPIEGEL-Fragen legte die Bundespolizei-Führung ihre Sicht der Dinge ausführlich dar – noch am Tag der Veröffentlichung des Berichts. Die Fragen waren also längst beantwortet, nur abgeschickt wurden sie nie. Das Innenministerium erklärt das inzwischen auf Anfrage mit einem »Büroversehen«.

      Die Ausführungen im Intranet der Bundespolizei sind politisch heikel. Auf den ersten Blick entlasten sie die deutschen Einsatzkräfte. Wörtlich heißt es, die Bundespolizisten hätten beobachtet, »dass durch die (…) griechischen Einsatzkräfte Migranten physisch an Bord genommen wurden.« Die deutschen Frontex-Beamten konnten also davon ausgehen, dass die Flüchtlinge zunächst in Sicherheit waren. Schließlich wurden sie vor ihren Augen auf ein Schiff der griechischen Küstenwache geholt und trieben nicht mehr in ihrem überfüllten Schlauchboot.

      Warum hat das Innenministerium dieses Detail trotzdem bis heute verschwiegen? Will man im Ministerium die Griechen nicht als Lügner entlarven? Das Flüchtlingsboot, so hatten die griechischen Behörden erklärt, sei beim Anblick der Küstenwache umgekehrt und zurück in türkische Gewässer gefahren.
      Beobachtungen der Deutschen entlarven die Ausrede der Griechen

      Die Beobachtungen der Bundespolizisten widersprechen dieser Darstellung, die Bundespolizei stellt das in ihrem Bericht selbst fest. Wenn die Geflüchteten bereits an Bord des Schiffes der griechischen Küstenwache waren, können sie unmöglich freiwillig auf ihrem Schlauchboot umgekehrt sein. Sollten die Aussagen der Deutschen zutreffen, und davon ist auszugehen, bleibt keine andere vernünftige Erklärung als ein illegaler Pushback der griechischen Küstenwache.

      Horst Seehofer muss sich deshalb die Frage gefallen lassen, warum sein Haus die Verbrechen der griechischen Behörden deckt. Statt aufzuklären, führt er die Öffentlichkeit offenbar in die Irre. So fügt Seehofer sich in das System des Schweigens.

      Seit Juni hat SPIEGEL in gemeinsamen Recherchen mit der Medienorganisation Lighthouse Reports und »Report Mainz« genau dokumentiert, wie die griechischen Pushbacks ablaufen: Die Küstenwache fängt die Migrantinnen und Migranten meist noch auf dem Wasser ab. Manchmal zerstört sie den Außenbordmotor der Schlauchboote, um diese manövrierunfähig zu machen. Dann werden die Schutzsuchenden mit gefährlichen Manövern Richtung Türkei zurückgedrängt. Die Menschen werden auf den Booten oder auf aufblasbaren Rettungsflößen mit Seilen aufs offene Meer gezogen, vom SPIEGEL ausgewertete Videos belegen das.

      Griechische Grenzschützer bedrohen die Geflüchteten mit Waffen, nicht selten fallen Schüsse. Bisweilen schleppen die Beamten sogar Menschen aufs Meer, die es schon auf die griechischen Inseln geschafft haben.

      Auch Frontex-Einheiten stoppen immer wieder Flüchtlingsboote und übergeben sie anschließend an die griechische Küstenwache. Seit Anfang März wird das so gehandhabt. Die Frontex-Einheiten, darunter deutsche Bundespolizisten, unterstehen in der Ägäis der griechischen Küstenwache. Sie werden so zu Gehilfen der Griechen, die bei ihren illegalen Praktiken nicht mal besonders verdeckt vorgehen.

      »Das Innenministerium scheint sich zum Komplizen der Griechen zu machen«, sagt der menschenrechtspolitische Sprecher der Sozialdemokraten, Frank Schwabe. »Dazu müssen sowohl Frontex als auch Innenminister Seehofer dem Bundestag Rede und Antwort stehen.«

      Das Innenministerium teilte auf Anfrage mit, dass eine abschließende Bewertung des Sachverhaltes aufgrund der vorliegenden Informationen nicht möglich sei. Die Bundespolizei habe sich jedenfalls nicht an illegalen Pushbacks beteiligt. Eine vollständige Aufklärung bleibe abzuwarten und Berichte von griechischen Behörden würden nicht kommentiert.

      Die griechischen Behörden bleiben bei ihrer Version der Ereignisse. Das für die Küstenwache zuständige Ministerium teilte mit, der Fahrer der Schlauchbootes sei in Richtung Türkei zurückgefahren, nachdem er die griechische Küstenwache erblickt habe.
      »Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass Seehofer die Regelverstöße der griechischen Küstenwache deckt, weil sie ihm politisch in den Kram passen«

      SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert

      Doch in der Opposition und auch beim eigenen Koalitionspartner ist der Unmut groß. Selbst SPD-Vize Kevin Kühnert schaltet sich nun in die Debatte ein. Durch die schriftlich festgehaltenen Erkenntnisse der eigenen Beamten festige sich der Eindruck, dass es in der Ägäis in der Tat zu Pushbacks komme, sagt er. Deshalb müsse Seehofer nun politisch reagieren. »Frontex muss die mutmaßliche griechische Pushback-Praxis endlich effektiv verhindern und die Zugänge zum Asylverfahren sicherstellen«, so Kühnert. »Sollte dies durch die Bundesregierung kurzfristig nicht durchsetzbar sein, muss das deutsche Kontingent unverzüglich aus der Mission abgezogen werden.«

      Kühnert möchte nun von Seehofer »noch in diesem Jahr dargelegt bekommen, wie und bis wann er auf Frontex einwirken wolle, um die Zusammenarbeit mit der griechischen Küstenwache wieder auf eine rechtskonforme Grundlage zu stellen.« Mit seiner Salamitaktik bei der Preisgabe von Informationen werde der Innenminister auch der Fürsorgepflicht gegenüber seinen eigenen Beamten nicht gerecht, mahnt Kühnert. »Wir müssen davon ausgehen, dass Seehofer die Regelverstöße der griechischen Küstenwache deckt, weil sie ihm politisch in den Kram passen. Alles daran wäre inakzeptabel.«

      Neben Seehofer gerät auch Frontex-Chef Fabrice Leggeri durch die Beobachtungen der deutschen Polizisten in Erklärungsnot. Bis heute beteuert Leggeri, dass sich seine Grenzschützer nicht an Pushbacks beteiligen oder von ihnen wissen. Daran zweifelt aber inzwischen selbst die EU-Kommission.

      Auf deren Drängen schilderte Leggeri schriftlich die Details des Vorfalls vom 10. August. In seinen Antworten verschwieg aber auch Leggeri, dass die griechische Küstenwache laut den Deutschen die Flüchtlinge bereits an Bord geholt hatten – obwohl er wohl davon hätte wissen müssen. Die Bundespolizei jedenfalls hat auch dieses Detail des Einsatzes nach eigener Aussage an Frontex gemeldet.

      Frontex teilte auf Anfrage mit, wegen der laufenden Untersuchung keine Angaben zum Vorfall machen zu können.

      Für Leggeri ist die Angelegenheit besonders misslich, weil sich in seinen Aussagen ein Muster erkennen lässt: Der Frontex-Direktor täuscht die Öffentlichkeit, um die Pushbacks zu vertuschen. Vor den EU-Parlamentariern verteidigte er sich unlängst mit einer Falschaussage, indem er behauptete, dass der SPIEGEL und seine Recherchepartner sich bei ihren Recherchen zu einem Pushback im April geirrt hätten. Am fraglichen Tag habe es gar keinen Frontex-Aufklärungsflug gegeben, sagte Leggeri. Keine zwei Tage später musste er einräumen, dass das nicht stimmte. Weitere Vorfälle, die Experten als klare Pushbacks werten, erwähnte Leggeri entweder gar nicht oder nur auf Nachfrage in internen Schreiben.
      EU-Kommission rechnet mit Leggeri ab

      Inzwischen wirft auch die EU-Kommission Leggeri »irreführende« Aussagen vor. Das geht aus einem Brief der Kommission an ihn hervor. In dem Streit geht es um die Einstellung von Grundrechtsbeobachtern. Eigentlich hätte Frontex bis zum 5. Dezember 40 Mitarbeiter einstellen müssen, die darauf achten soll, dass die Rechte von Migranten an Europas Grenzen gewahrt werden. Bis heute hat Leggeri allerdings nicht einen solchen Mitarbeiter eingestellt.

      Der Frontex-Direktor macht die Kommission für die Verzögerung verantwortlich, die wiederum gibt Leggeri die Schuld. Leggeris Äußerungen zu dem Thema würden die Kommission »bestürzen« und »beunruhigen« heißt es in dem Brief. Das Schreiben liegt dem SPIEGEL vor, es liest sich wie eine Kampfansage.

      Die Verzögerungen bei den Grundrechtsbeobachtern seien skandalös, sagt die Grünenbundestagsabgeordnete Luise Amtsberg. Die Sache zeige, dass die Grenzschutzagentur den Menschenrechtsschutz schlicht nicht ernst genug nehme. »Die Bundesregierung muss endlich klare Konsequenzen aus den völkerrechtswidrigen Handlungen im Rahmen von Frontex-Missionen ziehen.«

      https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/frontex-skandal-horst-seehofer-deckte-offenbar-griechische-verbrechen-a-bd06

    • Push backs and violations of human rights at sea: a #timeline

      The following timeline provides a non-exhaustive compilation of main reports of push backs and other violations of human rights at the Greek-Turkish sea borders since March 2020, following Greece’s decision to impose a one-month suspension of its asylum procedure in response to declarations by Turkey that it would not prevent refugees from crossing its western borders. On 2 March, the Hellenic Armed Forces began live-fire military exercises along the Aegean, from Samothrace to Kastellorizo.

      Timeline dates refer to the date of publication of reports, separately indicating the date of alleged incidents, where available.

      This timeline solely purports to reproduce material made publicly available by media and civil society organisations and does not amount to an assessment by RSA or PRO ASYL of the allegations contained therein.

      https://rsaegean.org/en/push-backs-and-violations-of-human-rights-at-sea-a-timeline
      #chronologie

    • EU: Frontex director accused of misleading parliament over fundamental rights obligations

      Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri has been accused by a senior European Commission official of making statements “in a misleading manner” at a parliamentary hearing in December, when MEPs questioned him over the agency’s alleged role in pushbacks and the new fundamental rights monitoring framework included in 2019 legislation.

      Bang to rights

      In a letter obtained by Statewatch, Monique Pariat (the Director-General of the Commission’s migration and home affairs department), expresses “dismay” at Leggeri’s appearance before the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) on 1 December and rebukes, in no uncertain terms, the account he provided of the agency’s attempts to implement its new fundamental rights obligations.

      Those obligations include a fully functioning and independent fundamental rights office, an accessible complaints mechanism, and a credible serious incident reporting mechanism – the aim of which is to prevent, or at least ensure the reporting and investigation of, human rights abuses witnessed or committed by officials deployed on Frontex operations.

      A key role is foreseen in all this for the fundamental rights officer (FRO), who is supposed to head a team of at least 40 fundamental rights monitors – all of whom the agency was legally obliged to have recruited by 5 December 2020. However, it failed to do so.

      Blame game

      Leggeri told MEPs that although he personally prioritised the swift recruitment of fundamental rights staff, vacancy notices published by the agency in November 2019 were withdrawn on the request of the Commission, and subsequent delays in agreeing the seniority of the posts meant that vacancy notices were only published again in November 2020.

      Pariat does not dispute these points, but underlines that the Commission was obliged to request the withdrawal of the notices, because the Management Board had not approved them, as required by the 2019 Frontex Regulation. Without that approval, the letter says that “the publication of these vacancies was plain and simply unlawful” (emphasis in original).

      She adds that the Frontex Regulation requires the involvement of the FRO in the appointment of their deputy, but there was no such involvement prior to the 2019 vacancy notice publication. The Commission had to intervene to request removal of the vacancy notices, says Pariat, “to prevent serious irregularities which could jeopardise the well-functioning and the reputation of the Agency.”

      Bad reputation

      The agency’s reputation has nevertheless taken a battering in recent months. Frontex has faced numerous accusations that it either knew of or has been involved in pushbacks at Greece’s sea border with Turkey, leading the Socialists & Democrats – the second-largest group in the European Parliament – to call for Leggeri’s resignation. There are numerous other reports of similar violent incidents in the Balkans involving officials deployed on Frontex missions.

      The EU anti-fraud agency, OLAF, has also launched an investigation into the border agency, although the exact reasons for this remain unclear. OLAF’s remit allows it to carry out “administrative investigations for the purpose of fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the Union.”

      Leggeri has said that the agency will be undertaking a thorough investigation into the allegations of pushbacks, although the working group set up to investigate the affair is made up representatives from the agency’s Management Board and does not include the Fundamental Rights Officer or the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights.

      “Active resistance”

      A document cited by Greek newspaper Kathimerini suggests that fundamental rights are not one of Leggeri’s main interests. The document, provided to the paper by someone described as having “knowledge of the inner workings of Frontex,” says Leggeri told agency staff that “reporting pushbacks involving Frontex personnel is not a route to popularity or promotion,” and that the serous incident reporting (SIR) mechanism is “intentionally centralized to be slow, cumbersome and very discreet”.

      According to the paper, the document also says that Leggeri “actively resisted” hiring the 40 fundamental rights officers required by the Frontex Regulation, and told staff at the agency in early 2020 that “it is not a priority.”

      Pariat’s letter suggests that Leggeri himself delayed the procedure for recruiting new fundamental rights staff by five months, because of his “insistence on an arrangement which would not have been compatible with the EBCG [Frontex] Regulation”.

      There was a “surprising reluctance” from the agency to follow the Commission’s advice on implementing the new fundamental rights framework, says Pariat. She argues that “if the Agency had followed the Commission’s timely guidance and suggestions, the main milestones… could have been completed on time.”

      Even though the recruitment procedure is now going ahead, concerns remain. At the LIBE hearing in December, several MEPs questioned whether the staff grade applicable to the 40 posts will confer adequate authority and independence to the fundamental rights officers.

      At the time of publication, Frontex had not responded to a request for comment.

      Documentation

      - European Commission letter to Mr Leggeri, 18 December: Subject: Your letter of 4 December 2020 (ref: CAB/KARO/10563/2020) (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1708/eu-com-letter-to-frontex-18-12-20.pdf
      – Fabrice Leggeri, Answers to written questions following the LIBE Committee meeting 1 December (pdf) - annex to this letter (pdf): https://www.statewatch.org/media/1709/eu-frontex-written-questions-answers-libe-hearing-1-12-20.pdf

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-frontex-director-accused-of-misleading-parliament-over-fundamental-ri

    • Refoulements et gestion contestée : la pression s’intensifie sur le patron de Frontex

      Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de l’agence européenne de protection des frontières, est sous la pression de la Commission et du Parlement.

      Ce n’est pas un appel à la démission de Fabrice Leggeri, directeur exécutif de Frontex, mais cela y ressemble fort. Rencontrant, lundi 18 janvier, plusieurs médias européens, dont Le Monde, Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures et à la migration, a été interrogée sur un éventuel départ du patron français de ce qui est désormais l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes. « Je ne fais pas de commentaire là-dessus. Des procédures ont été lancées, elles ne sont pas terminées. Mais je pense qu’elles doivent l’être », indiquait la commissaire socialiste suédoise.

      Des propos prudents mais qui cachent mal le fait qu’entre la Commission et Frontex le torchon brûle. Pour preuve, une lettre envoyée au siège de l’agence en décembre 2020 par #Monique_Pariat, chef de la direction générale de la migration et des affaires intérieures à Bruxelles. Un long réquisitoire reprochant à M. Leggeri des retards, des carences dans la gestion et des « hésitations incompréhensibles » à suivre les instructions. Voire un #mensonge au sujet du recrutement des personnels qui devaient être chargés de veiller au respect des droits fondamentaux au sein de l’Agence.

      Les « procédures » visant M. Leggeri et évoquées par Mme Johansson sont multiples. Et elles visent essentiellement la possible implication de Frontex dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants aux frontières de l’Union, avant qu’ils aient pu introduire d’éventuelles demandes d’asile. En octobre 2020, plusieurs médias évoquaient, témoignages et images à l’appui, six cas de refoulements en mer Egée. Avec, notamment, les manœuvres dangereuses d’un navire de Frontex, qui aurait pu entraîner le #naufrage d’une embarcation. La direction de l’Agence démentait à l’époque toute infraction.

      Constitution d’un groupe de travail

      L’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union a lancé une enquête et, le 7 décembre 2020, les bureaux de M. Leggeri et de son directeur de cabinet ont été perquisitionnés. L’investigation porterait, aussi, sur des faits de #harcèlement et des erreurs de gestion.

      Plusieurs groupes politiques du Parlement européen ont, eux, transmis une longue liste de questions au directeur exécutif après qu’il a été entendu, le 1er décembre 2020, par l’Assemblée. M. Leggeri avait indiqué qu’une #enquête_interne n’avait pas prouvé l’implication de membres de Frontex dans des refoulements illégaux. Peu convaincus, les eurodéputés du groupe socialiste ont exigé sa #démission, d’autres groupes ont réclamé des explications complémentaires.

      Au sein de Frontex même, un #groupe_de_travail avait été constitué en novembre, sur insistance de la Commission. Son rapport devrait être examiné lors d’une réunion du conseil d’administration, mercredi 20 et jeudi 21 janvier. Ce conseil est composé de représentants des pays membres de l’Union et de deux membres de la Commission.

      L’un des principaux reproches adressés à M. Leggeri est qu’il aurait tergiversé pour embaucher la quarantaine de personnes qui, en théorie, auraient dû être à pied d’œuvre dès décembre 2020 pour veiller au respect des droits des migrants et demandeurs d’asile. Dans la lettre de Mme Pariat qu’il a reçue en décembre, le directeur se voit reprocher d’avoir agi « de manière trompeuse » en ne livrant pas les explications correctes aux parlementaires quant à l’absence de ces employés. Mme Johansson pense également que certains des propos qu’il avait tenus n’étaient « pas vrais ».

      Action « illégale »

      La commissaire suédoise n’a, jusqu’ici, pas officiellement retiré sa confiance au directeur. Elle endosse cependant les critiques qui lui sont adressées par sa direction générale, qui évoque encore une action « illégale » de M. Leggeri en 2019, avec la publication de deux vacances de postes dirigeants qui n’avaient pas été approuvées par le conseil d’administration.

      Au Parlement, où la plénière débattait, mardi, du pacte migratoire proposé récemment par la Commission, la tension monte également. Mme Johansson a insisté sur la nécessité pour les pays de l’Union, les candidats à l’adhésion et « les agences européennes aussi » d’adhérer pleinement au respect des #droits_fondamentaux. Et plusieurs députés ont à nouveau mis en cause Frontex, l’élue socialiste bulgare #Elena_Yoncheva jugeant qu’en matière de « pushbacks » l’agence fait désormais « partie du problème, pas de la solution ».

      Une situation embarrassante pour toute l’Union : dotée maintenant d’uniformes, d’armes et d’un budget passé au total à 5,6 milliards d’euros pour la période 2021-2027, l’agence des garde-frontières peut difficilement voir la #légitimité de son principal dirigeant remise en question au plus haut niveau. A ce stade, celui-ci n’a pas réagi officiellement aux accusations qui le visent. Il pourrait le faire prochainement, selon un membre de son entourage.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/20/refoulements-et-gestion-contestee-la-pression-s-intensifie-sur-le-patron-de-

    • Le garde-frontière Frontex en pleine tourmente

      Les refoulements aux frontières européennes fragilisent la position du directeur de Frontex, l’agence européenne de garde-frontières. La Commission reproche à Fabrice Leggeri d’avoir ralenti l’embauche d’officiers de contrôle des droits fondamentaux. Son agence est soumise à plusieurs #enquêtes, dont une de l’#office_européen_anti-fraude. Des députés demandent sa #démission.

      Bruxelles (Belgique).– Fabrice Leggeri, le directeur de Frontex, est cerné de toutes parts. Sa position, à la tête de l’agence européenne de garde-côtes et de garde-frontières, est fragilisée suite à de récents scandales concernant des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile vers la Turquie, auxquels aurait participé Frontex. Des députés appellent à sa démission. La médiatrice européenne, #Emily_O’Reilly, a ouvert une #enquête le 11 novembre dernier pour évaluer le fonctionnement du mécanisme de #plainte_interne à Frontex. Même l’office européen de lutte anti-fraude investigue et scrute la gestion de l’agence.

      Le dernier coup de boutoir vient de la #Commission_européenne. Dans une lettre du 18 décembre, la directrice générale chargée des migrations et des affaires intérieures, Monique Pariat, adressait des mots durs à Fabrice Leggeri au sujet d’irrégularités et de retards dans les procédures de recrutement d’un officier des droits fondamentaux, de son adjoint et de 40 contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux, qui devaient faire partie de l’agence le 5 décembre 2020 au plus tard et qui ne sont toujours pas embauchés : « C’est la responsabilité de la Commission […] d’intervenir pour empêcher que des irrégularités sérieuses viennent compromettre le bon fonctionnement et la réputation de l’agence. »

      La réputation de Frontex a pourtant déjà été écornée à de multiples reprises dans le passé, sans que l’exécutif bruxellois s’en émeuve. « Pendant longtemps la Commission a protégé Fabrice Leggeri, commente #Birgit_Sippel, eurodéputée allemande du groupe des socialistes et démocrates. Il semble que le vent tourne, notamment sous la pression du #Parlement_européen. »

      C’est le 23 octobre 2020 que le vent a tourné. Une série de médias européens, dont Der Spiegel et Bellingcat, publiaient alors une enquête fouillée suggérant que l’agence européenne avait, entre mars et août 2020, soit assisté à des refoulements de demandeurs d’asile en mer Égée par des garde-côtes grecs, sans les avoir rapportés, soit participé activement au renvoi de canots vers les côtes turques, alors que les refoulements sont strictement prohibés par le droit international. Le 8 juin, un navire de l’opération « #Poséidon » de Frontex, battant pavillon roumain, aurait même bloqué un canot de migrants avant de contribuer à le repousser.

      Fabrice Leggeri est venu s’expliquer devant le Parlement européen le 1er décembre. Selon lui, l’enquête interne menée par ses services concluait à « l’absence de preuves » de refoulement dans les cas mentionnés par la presse. Il insistait sur le fait que les activités de contrôle aux frontières avaient toujours lieu « à la demande et sous le commandement des autorités nationales », Frontex intervenant en coordination des opérations maritimes, en mobilisant des avions, des navires et des garde-frontières originaires des 27 États membres.

      Ces déclarations élusives ont hérissé de nombreux députés européens. « La façon dont il a répondu à nos questions montre que Fabrice Leggeri ne prend pas vraiment au sérieux ces allégations. Frontex a besoin de changements structurels, et je pense qu’il n’est pas la bonne personne pour les mener », avance Tineke Strik, eurodéputée néerlandaise des Verts.

      De la #gauche_unitaire_européenne (#GUE) au groupe centriste de #Renew, les critiques pleuvent à l’encontre de Fabrice Leggeri, mais l’attitude à adopter crée des divisions. La centriste néerlandaise, #Sophie_In’t_Veld, du groupe Renew, milite pour qu’une commission d’enquête parlementaire soit mise sur pied, « car on parle d’actes criminels ». Avant de réclamer la démission du directeur – qui ne peut être décidée que par le conseil d’administration de Frontex composé des États membres et de la Commission – la députée pense « qu’il faut d’abord faire toute la lumière sur les faits ».

      Au sein du groupe des socialistes et démocrates, des députés veulent aller plus vite. « Pourquoi perdre un an avec une #commission_d’enquête ?, s’interroge #Birgit_Sippel. Les rapports décrivant les violations des droits humains aux frontières sont là. Pour l’instant, Fabrice Leggeri se cache et échappe à ses responsabilités. » Des députés de la GUE comme des #Verts réclament à la fois une commission d’enquête et la #démission du directeur. Quant à la droite, le Parti populaire européen n’a pas encore de position sur ces thèmes, mais voit d’un mauvais œil cette idée de commission d’enquête.

      Le mastodonte sans contrôle

      Pour Yves Pascouau, directeur du programme Europe à l’association Res-Publica, par ailleurs spécialiste des questions migratoires européenne (et élu de la majorité nantaise), « l’augmentation des moyens et des pouvoirs de Frontex ne peut pas se faire sans une augmentation de ses responsabilités ».

      Frontex, au fil des ans, est devenu un mastodonte. En 2012, son budget était de 89,5 millions d’euros. Il est en 2020 de 460 millions. 5,6 milliards d’euros ont été dégagés pour la période 2021-2027. Il s’agit de la plus grosse agence de l’UE qui sera dotée, d’ici 2027, de 10 000 garde-côtes véritablement européens, avec leurs propres uniformes. « Cela permettra d’augmenter la transparence et la responsabilité de Frontex », veut croire une source européenne.

      Aujourd’hui, Frontex se déploie sous commandement des autorités nationales. Mais les agents qui agissent en son nom ne sont pas exempts de responsabilités. Ils ont l’obligation d’envoyer un rapport aux dirigeants de Frontex à chaque incident sérieux auquel ils assistent, y compris lorsque des violations des droits humains sont observées.

      Le Forum consultatif de Frontex, qui réunit des institutions européennes, des organisations internationales et ONG, s’interroge inlassablement sur « l’effectivité » de ce système. En 2018, seuls 3 incidents sérieux relatifs à des violations de droits humains furent comptabilisés par l’agence, et 9 en 2019, sans que l’on sache quel a été le suivi de ces dossiers.

      Quant à l’embauche des milliers de garde-frontières, elle doit être contrebalancée par davantage de contrôles des activités de Frontex. L’officier des droits fondamentaux, son adjoint et sa petite équipe d’au minimum 40 contrôleurs sont considérés comme la clef de voûte de ce système de surveillance du respect des #droits_humains.

      Dans la lettre adressée à Fabrice Leggeri, Monique Pariat regrette qu’au 18 décembre, aucun de ces recrutements n’ait été effectué. Elle pointe la « réticence surprenante de Frontex » à suivre les lignes directrices de la Commission, « ce qui a encore davantage entravé et retardé cet important processus ». La directrice générale dénonce encore la démarche « illégale » du directeur général qui avait publié, en 2019, une première annonce pour le poste d’officier des droits fondamentaux, sans l’accord du conseil d’administration de Frontex qui sera pourtant le supérieur hiérarchique direct de ce futur employé.

      Elle l’accuse encore d’avoir présenté les faits aux eurodéputés « de manière trompeuse ». L’attaque est frontale. Au-delà de l’enjeu institutionnel, Giorgos Kosmopoulos, du bureau européen d’Amnesty International, estime que « l’embauche de contrôleurs des droits fondamentaux n’est pas une mauvaise chose à condition qu’ils aient véritablement les moyens de mener des enquêtes, d’aller sur le terrain ». Et sur le terrain, justement, les refoulements aux frontières de l’Europe sont documentés et très nombreux. En #Grèce, en #Croatie, en #Hongrie.

      En mars 2020, le comité européen pour la prévention de la torture rapportait des allégations « crédibles et consistantes » de refoulements et détentions arbitraires, souvent accompagnées de violences, à la frontière gréco-turque. « On ne parle pas de cas isolés, ajoute Giorgos Kosmopoulos. La pratique est si répandue et généralisée qu’il est impossible que Frontex ne soit pas au courant, vu son implication sur le terrain. »

      Le directeur de Frontex, s’il estime qu’il existe « des violations graves […] des droits fondamentaux » doit mettre un terme à l’activité litigieuse à laquelle participe son agence. « Le directeur doit vérifier la situation sur le terrain et le cas échéant il doit retirer ses équipes pour qu’elles ne soient pas liées à des violations de droits humains, mais ce n’est jamais arrivé », conclut Giorgos Kosmopoulos.

      Dans ce contexte, Tineke Strik pense qu’une démission de Fabrice Leggeri, certes bienvenue, « ne résoudra pas tout. Les problèmes sont structurels. Il faudra lancer une enquête approfondie sur le fonctionnement de Frontex ».

      https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/210121/le-garde-frontiere-frontex-en-pleine-tourmente?onglet=full

    • Validating Border Violence on the Aegean: Frontex’s Internal Records

      The Aegean Sea, separating Turkey from Greece’s ‘hotspot’ islands, is a site of longstanding and increasingly visible border violence: the systematic use of inflatable life rafts by the Hellenic Coast Guard to push people back to Turkey has been widely documented since March last year. This maritime borderzone also stages the operational theatre of Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon, under which patrol boats, helicopters and surveillance planes have been deployed to patrol the extensive breadth of water.

      Frontex repeatedly denied any involvement in these pushbacks (see here and here), stressing its commitment to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of fundamental rights. This ‘modus operandi’ in which fundamental rights become a rhetorical defence could no longer hold after investigative reporters showed visual evidence of Frontex’s complicit role in pushbacks, prompting further media scrutiny and pressure by the European Parliament and Commission.

      In November, Efsyn, a Greek media outlet, published an eighteen-page long Frontex internal document addressed to the agency’s Management Board. The document aimed at answering questions by Member States and the Commission about the on-going pushbacks in the Aegean. The document, which fuelled Frontex’s recent internal inquiry, lists a series of so-called ‘incidents’ and, at times, offers detailed accounts of the previously denied pushbacks. However, these were not recorded as such.

      A closer look at the document reveals numerous ‘#JORA_incidents’ classified as ‘prevention of departure’, as this transcript from August 19, 2020, illustrates:

      frontex

      The #Joint_Operations_Reporting_Application (#JORA) is the main information system that collects and stores all ‘border related incidents’ from Frontex joint operations. Such incidents range from Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, interceptions, Serious Incident Reports to, as the one above, so-called preventions of departure. The leaked document contains twenty of the latter, all following a similar pattern: Firstly, the location of the rubber boat is recorded in Turkish territorial waters; second, Frontex assets are “excused from the scene” after detection; and, finally, a rehearsed ending: the boat “altered course on her own initiative/will and headed towards the Turkish coasts” or, alternately, the Turkish Coast Guard “took over responsibility”.

      Importantly, these JORA incidents coexist with the regular documenting of border violence. Descriptions of boats of asylum-seekers returning to Turkey of their own volition jar with regular testimonies describing the coercive methods employed to push them back. Alarm Phone, Aegean Boat Report and Border Violence Monitoring Network document human rights violations occurring at the same border, on the same dates and, often, at the same time as the JORA incidents.

      On the same day as the JORA incident above:

      Logging the border

      JORA incidents, together with information collected via Eurosur, form the backbone of Europe’s external borders and migration situational picture, Frontex’s narrative of the border. Yet, what is and is not accounted for in JORA and how, has not received much attention. Contrary to the few Serious Incident Reports related to violations of fundamental rights, which are dealt with by the Fundamental Rights Officer and presented to the Management Board, other incidents recorded in JORA don’t reach the public domain. Once inserted and validated, they become a dot on a map at the Frontex Situation Centre in Warsaw. They are devised to feed into risk analyses, maps and weekly analytical overviews.

      This ‘business-as-usual’ mode of reporting is mostly done by a few officers from the host Member State— in Greece, by the Hellenic Coast Guard and Police—who insert incidents into a standardised template through a set of rigid, mandatory fields. Reporting is not done by the officers on the patrol boats but mostly those who sit at coordination centres. Once inserted in the system, incidents are sent to the International Coordination Centre and the Frontex Situation Centre where they are cross-checked with reports from both Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex deployed officers for validation. This validation process does not statically move in one direction; incidents can go back and forth in the validation chain. The final validation is done by a “specialized team of experts” at Frontex headquarters as the leaked document explains. Yet, incidents can be re-initiated and modified even after finalisation (see work by Pollozek).

      The design of the system allows for the rehearsed recording of formulaic bordering practices that, if closely examined, resemble its coexistent violent forms. Shading into the routine, the JORA records circulate regularly from the islands to Piraeus and Warsaw. While the full JORA archive is inaccessible to the public, the reviewed incidents give us insight into how a particular doctrine of border enforcement is being sustained by the agency and to what effects.

      Normalising violence, eroding rights

      The effects of these records arguably extend beyond the tactical level of border policing. Through their production, a narrative arc is formed by the recorded incidents, generating a specific mode of understanding. Data must be made intelligible to the JORA system and officials along the chain before it can be validated. As a result, even acts of violence such as pushbacks can get translated into mundane logs and thus, brought within the remit of everyday border enforcement and legality.

      The leaked document asserts that the “the notion of ‘prevention of departure”, according to which these ‘incidents’ are classified, should be interpreted “in conjunction with the provisions of Regulation 656/2014, in particular Articles 6 and 7”. While the precise legal meaning of this category in this context remains unclear, its ramifications for the right to leave a country are concerning.

      Regulation 656/2014 indeed provides legal basis (in certain factual circumstances) for the interception of boats carrying asylum-seekers. Yet, it clearly stipulates that the actions that official entities may lawfully take to enforce the border must be compliant with their obligations under EU and international law, including, inter alia, international human rights and refugee law. Moreover, it states: “This Regulation should not affect the responsibilities of search and rescue authorities, including for ensuring that coordination and cooperation is conducted in such a way that the persons rescued can be delivered to a place of safety.”

      The records, however, present an account of border enforcement that exists in isolation from human rights and humanitarian commitments. The dangerous conditions in which border enforcement takes place and the vulnerability of asylum seekers to these conditions are rendered irrelevant and thereby, banalised. Rubber boats carrying illegalized migrants are generally considered seaworthy, not recognised as in distress, regardless of how many people they carry or the fluctuating weather conditions in the Aegean. In none of the incidents contained in the leaked document was a SAR triggered by the Hellenic Coast Guard or Frontex. In this sense, JORA acts as a mediator that transforms, translates, distorts and modifies the meaning of these ‘incidents’. Through the designation of bureaucratic categories (e.g. prevention of departure), JORA codifies and transforms situations that should trigger humanitarian and human rights obligations into legitimate practices of border control. In the process, the duty to render assistance at sea is distorted, and the obligation to facilitate access to asylum is obscured.

      In the context of on-going internal discussions about the legality of interceptions at sea, Frontex’s internal records reveal the practices deemed acceptable by the agency and their interpretation of international legal obligations. The records provide insight into a vision of border enforcement, crystallised at the boundaries of the global north, that perpetuates the violent securitisation of borders to the detriment of human mobility, dignity and safety. They carve out a space where border control activities are shielded from scrutiny, erasing human rights from the operational script.

      Any comments about this post? Get in touch with us! Send us an email, or post a comment here or on Facebook. You can also tweet us.

      https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2021/01/validating-border

    • Five migrant pushback claims under scrutiny

      The board of directors of the European border agency Frontex, which met on Wednesday and Thursday, has decided to further investigate five of 13 reported cases of illegal migrants pushbacks last year, with the alleged help of Frontex guards, from Greece into Turkish territorial waters in the eastern Aegean.

      The board deemed that Frontex did not provide the necessary information and clarifications for the five cases under investigation.

      In view of this, the team investigating the claims has been given additional time to complete its work and present its final conclusions to a new extraordinary board meeting scheduled for February 26.

      With regard to the other eight cases, the board said that there is no evidence to confirm any violations. It also accepted that some of these incidents unfolded in Turkish territorial waters, and in others the migrant boats turned back on their own accord.

      https://www.ekathimerini.com/261560/article/ekathimerini/news/five-migrant-pushback-claims-under-scrutiny

    • L’agence européenne Frontex fragilisée par les accusations d’expulsions illégales

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, qui a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie, est accusée d’avoir participé au « pushback », qui consiste à repousser les migrants sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile.
      Accusations d’implication dans des « pushbacks » – des refoulements illégaux de migrants et demandeurs d’asile aux frontières –, enquêtes de l’Office de lutte antifraude de l’Union européenne (UE) et de la Commission de Bruxelles, mise en cause de son directeur, Fabrice Leggeri : l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes, Frontex, chargée de surveiller les frontières extérieures de l’UE, traverse de grosses turbulences. Mercredi 27 janvier, elle a même été contrainte d’annoncer qu’elle allait arrêter ses opérations en Hongrie, une première dans l’histoire de cette institution, fondée en 2004.
      « Nos efforts communs pour protéger les frontières extérieures ne peuvent réussir que si nous veillons à ce que notre coopération et nos activités soient pleinement conformes aux lois de l’UE », a expliqué un porte-parole, en critiquant implicitement les pratiques illégales de la police hongroise, auxquelles l’agence européenne participait pourtant depuis la crise des réfugiés de 2015.
      En cause, la pratique du « pushback », systématisée par le premier ministre ultranationaliste, Viktor Orban, et développée ailleurs dans l’Union. Le fait de repousser les migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile n’a pas été partout aussi clairement assumé qu’en Hongrie, mais la Grèce, la Croatie, l’Italie ou la Slovénie, notamment, ont été mises an cause pour s’être livrées, elles aussi, à cette pratique illégale. Un « Livre noir », épais de 1 500 pages et présenté récemment par un réseau d’ONG, a recensé pas moins de 900 cas de ce type, concernant près de 13 000 personnes.
      Expulsions inhumaines
      Depuis une loi adoptée en 2016, la Hongrie considère, elle, que tous les migrants arrivant sur son sol peuvent être immédiatement renvoyés vers la Serbie voisine. Lorsqu’ils sont arrêtés, après avoir réussi à franchir la clôture que M. Orban a fait construire tout le long de la frontière, ou même à Budapest, les migrants se voient systématiquement refuser de déposer une demande d’asile et sont expulsés sans autre forme de procès, dans des conditions parfois inhumaines.
      Présents à la frontière hongroise depuis 2015, les agents de Frontex ont participé à cette politique, malgré les critiques des organisations non gouvernementales. « La Hongrie est le seul pays à avoir légalisé les “pushbacks” et à les pratiquer aussi ouvertement. La police hongroise publie même des chiffres tous les jours sur le nombre de personnes renvoyées en Serbie », dénonce Andras Lederer, du Comité Helsinki hongrois, une ONG spécialisée dans l’aide aux migrants. Il estime que la Hongrie a pratiqué 50 000 refoulements depuis 2016. A l’issue d’une longue bataille juridique, la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne a estimé, le 17 décembre 2020, que les pratiques hongroises enfreignent les directives régissant le droit d’asile.
      Malgré cet arrêt, le gouvernement de Budapest a refusé de modifier sa législation et a continué ces pratiques. « La Hongrie ne va pas céder devant la pression des forces pro-immigration », affirmait encore le porte-parole du gouvernement, Zoltan Kovacs, jeudi 28 janvier. « Bruxelles veut nous prendre le peu d’aide qu’on avait », a-t-il ajouté en réaction au retrait de Frontex, devenu inéluctable après l’arrêt de la Cour de Luxembourg. Pour M. Lederer, ce retrait est en revanche « bienvenu » : « La Hongrie ne pourra plus se cacher derrière la présence de Frontex pour continuer cette pratique. »
      Violences aux frontières de l’Union
      Avec un contingent censé atteindre 10 000 hommes, un budget pluriannuel passé à 5,6 milliards d’euros et son rôle de gardienne stricte des frontières, en association avec les forces nationales, l’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est l’une des pièces essentielles de la politique migratoire de l’UE et du « pacte » proposé en 2020 pour la Commission. Sa mise en cause, alors même qu’elle est loin de tourner à plein régime, est de mauvais augure.
      Jeudi 28 janvier, alors que les vingt-sept ministres de l’intérieur, réunis en visioconférence, évoquaient – en présence du directeur de Frontex – le dossier de la migration, l’Agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés évoquait un droit d’asile « menacé » en Europe et disait recevoir « de nombreux rapports » sur les violences exercées aux frontières de l’Union.
      D’où l’attention toute particulière que porte la commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, au dossier des « pushbacks ». La responsable suédoise se satisfait-elle des explications de la direction de Frontex, dont le conseil d’administration affirmait, le 21 janvier, qu’il n’avait pas trouvé de preuves de violation des droits de l’homme dans les cas qu’il a examinés ? « Sur la base des informations fournies », il n’aurait « pu établir de preuves ». Il a toutefois précisé que ses conclusions ne concernaient que certains incidents en Grèce et que des clarifications étaient nécessaires. Cinq cas problématiques de possibles refoulements impliquant Frontex sont encore examinés.
      Jeudi, devant les ministres, Mme Johansson a réclamé « toutes les analyses nécessaires » pour, dit-elle, rétablir la confiance dans l’agence. Elle a aussi évoqué un projet de réforme, incluant la nomination de trois sous-directeurs et la mise en place – enfin – d’un système de surveillance des droits humains.
      Le débat « recule »
      Au-delà du sort de Frontex, la question est de savoir si une définition d’une véritable politique migratoire européenne, avec une refonte des règles de l’asile et une solidarité accrue entre les pays, a une chance de se réaliser. Confirmant que le débat sur le « pacte » élaboré par la Commission « n’a pas beaucoup avancé », le secrétaire d’Etat belge à la migration, Sammy Mahdi, déclarait, jeudi, au quotidien La Libre Belgique qu’il fallait le rendre « rationnel ». Pour sortir les discussions de l’ornière, pour vérifier que la proposition de la Commission est opérationnelle et, enfin, pour que chacun annonce vraiment ses intentions, M. Mahdi propose « une simulation » : sur la base des chiffres de l’année 2019, chaque pays préciserait ce qu’il pourrait accomplir concernant l’accueil, la solidarité, le financement des infrastructures d’accueil aux frontières, etc.
      Un communiqué du secrétaire d’Etat évoquait une possible évolution de la Hongrie et de ses partenaires du groupe de Visegrad, à condition que soit satisfaite leur revendication (très floue) d’une solidarité « flexible ». Un participant à la réunion de jeudi faisait preuve de moins de conviction : « Faire avancer le débat ? Mais il recule ! » Vétéran des conseils européens sur la migration, le ministre luxembourgeois Jean Asselborn n’est pas loin de confirmer : « Nous sommes sans doute tous d’accord sur les contrôles aux frontières extérieures ou sur les retours. Mais pas sur la manière de respecter les droits humains des demandeurs d’asile, sur les relocalisations obligatoires ou sur l’impératif de solidarité » entre les pays européens. Les Etats prêts à respecter ces principes se compteraient, en effet, désormais sur les doigts d’une main.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/29/l-agence-europeenne-frontex-fragilisee-par-les-accusations-d-expulsions-ille

    • Refoulement de migrants : « Frontex se retranche toujours derrière ses États hôtes » (Migreurop)

      L’agence de surveillance des frontières de l’UE, a annoncé qu’elle suspendait ses opérations en Hongrie après une décision de la Cour de justice européenne critiquant le système d’asile de ce pays. L’Office européen de lutte antifraude enquête de son côté sur la gouvernance de l’agence par son directeur exécutif, Fabrice Leggeri dont plusieurs eurodéputés demandent la démission. Frontex a-t-elle participé à des opérations de « pushback », initiées par la Hongrie, qui consistent à repousser des migrants arrivés sur le sol européen sans leur laisser la possibilité de déposer une demande d’asile ? Le décryptage de Brijitte Espuche, co-coordinatrice du réseau Migreurop.

      https://www.rfi.fr/fr/podcasts/invit%C3%A9-international/20210129-refoulement-de-migrants-frontex-se-retranche-toujours-derri%C3%A8re-ses

    • Frontex: Management Board pushes back against secrecy proposals in preliminary report

      Statewatch is publishing the preliminary report of the working group set up by the agency’s Management Board following allegations of involvement in pushbacks from Turkey to Greece. Amongst other things, the report indicates that Frontex has proposed labelling Serious Incident Reports as EU Classified Information, which would reduce transparency and, in turn, accountability.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim

    • Scandals Plunge Europe’s Border Agency into Turmoil

      Accusations of workplace harassment, mismanagement and financial irregularities have led to chaos at Europe’s border agency. The allegations weigh heavily on Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri.

      The men and women who are part of Europe’s new elite border force meet every morning at 9 a.m. for a video conference that is viewed on screens in countries like Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania. The Frontex officials usually discuss migration movements and human trafficking, But since the beginning of January, the internal meetings have focused primarily on low morale within the team.

      "Do something at last, or soon no one will work here anymore,” one border guard warned in one of the calls. The policemen and women who regularly complain about their woes are the European Union’s first dedicated border guards. They’re part of Frontex’s standing corps.

      For months now, Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency, and its head Fabrice Leggeri, have been embroiled in a series of scandals. Frontex has been accused of being involved in illegal repatriations of refugees at Europe’s external borders, workplace harassment and a possible case of fraud linked to the agency. Now the crisis has also reached the standing corps, the border management agency’s prestige project.

      Frontex plans to deploy up to 10,000 border guards to the EU’s external borders in the coming years. The civil servants were promised brand new equipment and EU jobs with lavish salaries and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally pushed for the creation of the standing corps. The stars of the EU flag sparkle on the sleeves of the new dark blue uniforms worn by the reserves.

      The job may sound glamorous on paper, but it is anything but in the countries where the reserve guards have been deployed, like Greece, Croatia and Albania. Several officers have told DER SPIEGEL of a shortage of agency vehicles, such that expensive SUVs must be rented instead — with officers allegedly even having to pay for gas themselves in some cases. They claim that expenses weren’t reimbursed for bureaucratic reasons, and that parts of the new uniforms were missing and had to be bought by the border guards themselves.

      The officers should be out hunting down criminals and catching smugglers, but Category 1 officers, who are directly employed by Frontex, so far haven’t been allowed to carry weapons because the agency failed to provide the legal basis for doing so in time. The result is that the border guards, supposedly members of an elite European force, have to be escorted on every one of their patrols by national security forces.

      When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, Frontex also said that the pandemic has created additional challenges for deploying the force, but things are back on track again. Yet the agency’s own officers don’t see it that way. It’s a "Potemkin reserve,” scoffs one. "It’s not worth it,” says another officer, who is thinking about quitting.

      The establishment of the standing corps is one of the EU’s most important migration policy projects. The purpose is to control irregular immigration. But now the European Commission and the member states must stand by and watch as it becomes the focus of ridicule.

      The fiasco over the standing corps has become emblematic of an agency that has been falling short of public expectations for years, and of an agency head who is accumulating more and more power but doesn’t seem to know how to use it correctly.

      Under Leggeri, Frontex has stumbled from one scandal to the next. Last autumn, DER SPIEGEL, together with international media partners, first reported that Frontex forces in the Aegean Sea were involved in illegal repatriations of refugees, which are called pushbacks. The Frontex Management Board is investigating the allegations and the EU Ombudsman has opened an inquiry. Leggeri himself is apparently obstructing the investigations.

      In January, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced it had launched an investigation into Frontex. Leggeri claims that the investigators are looking into the pushback reports and that he cannot provide any further comment. But DER SPIEGEL has found in its reporting that the accusations go much further. The investigation involves a possible case of fraud involving a service provider, allegations of workplace harassment and whether information was withheld from the agency’s fundamental rights officer, whose job is to monitor Frontex’s adherence to basic human rights laid out in EU charters, conventions and international law. Internal documents suggest that Leggeri’s entire leadership style is under scrutiny.

      What happened? How could the authority charged with protecting the EU’s external borders descend into such chaos? And what does it all mean for the EU’s migration policy?

      DER SPIEGEL, the media organization Lighthouse Reports and the French newspaper Libération interviewed nearly a dozen current and former Frontex officials in the reporting of this story. Most insisted that their names not be mentioned in the story for fear that they could lose their jobs. Leggeri, for his part, rejected an interview request.

      When combined with internal documents that DER SPIEGEL and its partners were able to view, the insiders’ reports paint a picture of an agency in turmoil.

      France Télécom: How Leggeri seized power at Frontex

      The headquarters of Frontex are located in an office complex in Warsaw’s Wola district, not far from the city center. For years, only a few officials worked here compiling reports on migration routes. Actual border guards were borrowed from national police forces.

      But the agency has grown from a budget of just over 6 million euros in 2005 to 460 million euros in 2020. By 2027, Europe’s taxpayers will have provided 5.6 billion euros in funding to the agency.

      Frontex now has its own border guards, called the standing corps, in addition to aircraft and drones that will soon be complemented by unmanned airships that will provide surveillance as they circle over the Aegean Sea. Frontex’s rise has had a lot to do with Leggeri, the man who has done more than anyone else to shape the agency.

      Leggeri, 52, was born in Mulhouse, in France’s Alsace region, and speaks fluent German. He studied at the École Nationale d’Administration in Strasbourg, a university that has long produced the French elite. Starting in 2013, he worked at the Interior Ministry in Paris in the department for irregular immigration. At the time, the government advocated for Frontex’s expansion, and two years later, Leggeri was named head of the agency.

      Colleagues describe Leggeri as a technocrat. At a Christmas party once, the team gathered around and he began talking with great pathos about the achievements of the "Frontex family.” But Leggeri was reading from his notepad. "It seemed like the whole things was out of his league,” recalled one audience member.

      During the course of Frontex’s expansion, Leggeri tailored the agency to precisely fit his needs. He expanded his cabinet, filling many important posts with fellow French compatriots.

      Frontex workers say Leggeri is on rarely seen in the hallways, and that all important decisions are made by a small inner circle. They describe him as being a control freak, with some former staffers even going so far as to call him a "dictator.” Leggeri "runs the agency like it’s a sub-prefecture,” says someone who has worked with him for a long time. "You may be able to run a French ministry that way, but not an international organization.”

      Frontex staffers have taken to calling Leggeri’s cabinet "France Télécom” when the bosses aren’t around. It’s a reference to the scandal at the French telecommunications authority, which involved systematic bullying and harassment so bad that it drove a number of employees to commit suicide.

      The resentment felt by many Frontex staffers is largely directed at one of Leggeri’s closest confidants: Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin. The Frenchman comes from an aristocratic family from southern France. He once worked for Bernard Carayon, a member of the French parliament, who used to be part of a far-right student union. De La Haye Jousselin is a reserve officer in the French army and has a thing for the military and uniforms. “De La Haye Jousselin is clearly on the right politically,” says someone who has known him for years. Now, he serves Leggeri as the head of his cabinet.

      Insiders say that de La Haye Jousselin leads with an iron fist, and that he is quick to lose his temper. Employees claim he insults people and engages in disrespectful behavior. The agency stated that Frontex has not received any official complaints about de La Haye Jousselin and also claimed that no cabinet member has been hired solely on the basis of their nationality. De La Haye Jousselin dismissed the accusations as "false and baseless.”

      But the behavior of Leggeri and his cabinet chief has consequences. Dissent seems to be frowned upon. And this is likely one of the reasons internal control mechanisms at the agency are becoming less effective.

      Inmaculada Arnáez has more than 20 years of experience in human rights issues. The Spanish lawyer has worked for the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and she has been with Frontex since 2012. As the fundamental rights officer, she is supposed to operate independently of the executive director in her job as the agency’s internal watchdog. But when Leggeri took the helm in 2015, she quickly became aware of how little concern the new leader apparently had for human rights.

      Former Frontex employees report that Arnáez was left out in the cold. "We felt like Leggeri just bypassed her.” They claim that human rights had never been his priority.

      The final break between Leggeri and Arnáez came when the European Parliament granted the fundamental rights commissioner more powers in 2019. Arnáez was to be assisted by 40 human rights observers, which would have enabled her office to conduct its own investigations at Europe’s external borders. Apparently that was unthinkable for Leggeri.

      On Nov. 19, 2019, just as Arnáez was returning from an extended illness, the Frontex chief publicly advertised her position. In doing so, Leggeri had also bypassed the Frontex Management Board, since such a job posting requires the board’s approval. He had informed Arnáez only a short time before. In a written assessment obtained by DER SPIEGEL, the European Commission states that Leggeri’s move had been "plain and simply unlawful” and "could be considered as an attempt to discredit or weaken” Arnáez.

      The Commission forced Leggeri to withdraw the job posting. But the Frontex chief didn’t give up. He claimed Arnáez had to be replaced because she doesn’t have enough management experience to lead 40 employees.

      It seems likely, though, that the Frontex chief was mainly bothered by Arnáez because of her advocacy for human rights. Arnáez has repeatedly warned Leggeri against breaking the law. Colleagues say that she believed in the power of her reports. She regularly informed Leggeri about human rights violations in the Aegean Sea and recommended that he abandon the mission in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán legalized pushbacks in 2016.

      Leggeri ignored the fundamental rights officer’s reports and continued the operation in the Aegean Sea. He only withdrew his officers from Hungary a few weeks ago after a ruling by the European Court of Justice forced him to do so. When contacted for comment, Leggeri stated that he had always valued working together with Arnáez. He added that management experience is needed in the post because of the sharp increase in the budget.

      Leggeri still hasn’t hired the 40 human rights monitors to this day. When grilled by the European Parliament, Leggeri blamed the European Commission for the delays. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, who is responsible for the portfolio that includes Frontex, then accused him of having misled parliament.

      Arnáez has been on medical leave again since last March. The Frontex Management Board replaced her on an interim basis with Annegret Kohler, a German national who had previously worked in Leggeri’s cabinet. "It’s a clear conflict of interest,” says a Frontex official.
      The Pushback Affair: How Frontex Covered Up Human Rights Violations

      The walls of the Frontex Situation Centre are covered in monitors, with surveillance planes and satellites transmitting real-time images from border regions. From their desks, Frontex officers can closely monitor events taking place on the edges of Europe. “You can see how many people are sitting in a refugee boat,” says someone who knows the room well.

      A collection of images that appeared on screens here on the night of April 18-19, 2020, continue to occupy members of European Parliament until today. They come from a Frontex surveillance plane flying over the Aegean, according to several internal Frontex reports that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      Shortly before midnight, Greek border patrol officers intercepted a rubber dinghy just north of the island of Lesbos and transferred the 20 to 30 refugees onboard their ship. According to prevailing law, they should have then brought the asylum-seekers to Lesbos, where they could apply for asylum. Instead, though, they put the refugees back into the dinghy and then towed them back toward Turkey.

      Greek officials in the coordination center in Piraeus ordered the Frontex pilots to change course away from the dinghy. The Frontex team leader asked if there was a particular reason for the change in course. “Negative,” came the response from the Greeks.

      At 3:15 a.m., the Frontex plane began running low on fuel. The pilot took one last image, which showed the refugees alone at sea, a few hundred meters from the Turkish coast. No Turkish units were in the area, the pilot reported. The dinghy, he reported, had no motor and the Greek Coast Guard had sailed off. The refugees, including four children, were only rescued the next morning at 6:52 a.m. by the Turkish Navy.

      The Greek Coast Guard has been systematically conducting pushbacks for several months. They stop refugee boats in Greek territorial waters and sometimes destroy their motors before then towing them back toward Turkey. “Aggressive surveillance,” is the official term the government in Athens has come up with to describe the practice. In fact, it is illegal.

      Frontex regulations require Leggeri to suspend missions when he learns of rights violations of a serious nature or that are likely to persist. His forces, after all, are supposed to protect human rights. But Leggeri insists that he has no reliable information about pushbacks in his possession – despite the fact that DER SPIEGEL and its reporting partners have exhaustively documented how Frontex units were nearby during at least seven illegal pushback operations.

      During their operations, Frontex personnel are under the command of Greek border officials. Already last March, a Greek liaison officer ordered a Danish Frontex unit to abandon a group of intercepted refugees at sea, according to internal emails that DER SPIEGEL has reviewed. Nevertheless, Frontex decided nothing was wrong and closed the matter within a day. Later, in testimony he delivered before the European Parliament, Leggeri claimed the incident had merely been a misunderstanding.

      The pushback that took place off Lesbos in the night of April 18-19 was exhaustively documented by Frontex officers themselves. There is a strong belief “that presented facts support an allegation of possible violation of Fundamental Rights or international protection obligations such as the principle of non-refoulement,” reads an internal Frontex report that DER SPIEGEL has obtained.

      The case was apparently so sensitive that Leggeri took personal control over the investigation and did not, as was standard procedure, delegate it to his Fundamental Rights Officer. On May 8, he wrote to Ioannis Plakiotakis, the Greek minister of maritime affairs, a letter that DER SPIEGEL has obtained. In it, Leggeri voiced his concern and requested an internal investigation. The observance of human rights, particularly the principle of non-refoulement, is an “ultimate requirement” of the Frontex mission, he wrote.

      The answer from the Greek government is a smorgasbord of attempts to explain it away. Migration flows in the Aegean represent a “hybrid nature threat,” the response reads. Because of the corona crisis, it continues, it is more important than ever to prevent illegal border crossings and none of the migrants had requested asylum. According to an initial assessment by Greek officials, the letter claims, none of those on board were in particular need of protection.

      Legal experts see the Greek response as worthless. “The Greek Coast Guard without a doubt committed a human rights violation in the case,” says Dana Schmalz, an international law expert with the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg. From her perspective, it is a clear case of an illegal pushback. It is impossible, she says, to determine if someone needs protection or if they are faced with danger back in Turkey on board a rickety dinghy. Individual proceedings conducted on land are necessary to make such a determination, she says. Furthermore, she continues, the Greek Coast Guard put the migrants’ lives in danger by abandoning them at sea in a dinghy without a motor.

      But Leggeri was satisfied with the report. The verdict: There was no pushback, there were no human rights violations. The head of Frontex silently buried the incident. “There have been several occasions when Leggeri has not provided us with adequate information,” says Tineke Strik, a member of European Parliament from the Netherlands.

      When reached for comment, Frontex said the Greek government had not ascertained any human rights violations. The agency has to rely on national authorities to investigate such incidents, Frontex insisted, since it is not authorized to undertake such investigations itself.

      Frontex officials are actually required to report incidents where they suspect that human rights violations may have occurred, so-called “Serious Incident Reports.” But such reports are hardly ever written. For years, Frontex officials have followed the example of their boss Leggeri: When in doubt, keep quiet.

      Insiders describe the rules as a kind of omertà, a code of silence. Hardly anyone is willing to risk their career or cause problems for their host country. In one case, an official even tried to prevent a Swedish colleague from submitting a Serious Incident Report, the head of Swedish border control told the Frontex Management Board.

      A German federal police officer is one of the few willing to dissent, though he has asked that we not publish his real name. On Nov. 28, 2020, his first day on a Frontex mission on the Greek island of Samos, an article from DER SPIEGEL popped up on his mobile phone. The story was about the Uckermark, the ship on which he was scheduled to serve that very evening. The article reported that the Germans had stopped a refugee boat on August 10 and handed it over to the Greek Coast Guard, which then proceeded to abandon the refugees at sea.

      The federal policeman went to his commanding officer and said he couldn’t participate in such operations and essentially said he didn’t want to be an accessory to any legal transgressions. Later, he sent an explanation around to his comrades via WhatsApp: “I have decided for me personally that I cannot tolerate the measures taken by the Greeks and certainly cannot support them.”

      His commanding officer responded a few minutes later: “The fact is that our actions are legal! Covered by the Frontex mandate.” He apparently was referring to the requirement to obey orders from the Greek Coast Guard.

      The German Federal Police does not contradict the man’s account, but when contacted, the force denied having taken part in any legal violations. The policeman himself, however, had a different view of the situation. He refused to take part in the mission, preferring instead to stay on land. He says he will never again volunteer to take part in a Frontex mission.

      Dodgy Business: How Leggeri Landed in the Sights of the European Anti-Fraud Office

      The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) always gets involved when there are suspicions that EU financial interests have been violated. And recently, OLAF opened an investigation into Frontex. On Dec. 7, OLAF officials searched Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, including the offices belonging to Leggeri and to Head of Cabinet Thibauld de La Haye Jousselin.

      Leggeri has yet to comment publicly on the investigation. According to members of the German parliament, the Bundestag, Leggeri testified before the Committee on Internal Affairs in January in Berlin and said that the inquiry had to do with the pushback accusations and that he couldn’t say any more. That, though, is at best only half true.

      DER SPIEGEL has learned that the investigation has a much broader scope than that. For weeks, OLAF officials have been summoning witnesses and interrogating Frontex staff members.

      One focus of the investigation is apparently a possible case of fraud. A Polish IT company sold the agency a business software solution that cost hundreds of thousands of euros, in part for the training of border guards. Frontex employees complained to their superiors, however, that the software didn’t work well. But the agency nevertheless paid most of the negotiated purchase price. According to documentation DER SPEIGEL has seen, employees informed management in 2018 that the inconsistencies in the case could amount to fraud.

      Leggeri, too, learned of the allegations, and an internal investigation was undertaken. “But according to EU regulations, the Frontex director is required to immediately report potential cases of fraud to OLAF,” says Valentina Azarova of the Manchester International Law Centre. Frontex declined to comment on the OLAF investigation. The Polish software company in question insisted that it has thus far correctly fulfilled all of its contractual obligations to Frontex. And the company is still getting contracts from the European border agency, some of them worth millions.

      The OLAF investigators are also apparently interested in suspicions of workplace harassment at Frontex. They hope to find out if Leggeri or his head of cabinet have yelled at or otherwise harassed agency employees. They are also investigating whether staff members were ordered to withhold information from Fundamental Rights Officer Arnáez and her successor – and if so, by whom.

      OLAF emphasizes that the presumption of innocence still applies, despite the inquiry, explaining that the existence of the investigation offers no proof that anything untoward took place. But there are apparently serious indications of personal misconduct on the part of Leggeri. The collection of questions being asked by investigators indicate significant doubts about his leadership style.

      In Brussels, some refer to Leggeri as “Fabrice Teflon,” with the Frontex boss having thus far survived despite accusations of mismanagement and allegations that his agency was involved in pushbacks. Now, though, the pressure has been cranked up.

      European Commissioner Johansson has more or less made it clear that she no longer considers Leggeri to be tenable in his position. “It has been difficult to keep track of the missteps,” says a high-ranking Commission official. “The priority must be on the long-term reputation of the agency. But it has been hard to reconcile recent actions with that aim.”

      It is not, however, up to the European Commission to decide Leggeri’s fate. That is a decision that must be made by the Frontex Management Board. The board is essentially made up of representatives from those countries that are part of the Schengen Area, with the Commission having just two deputies on the board. EU member states have always thrown their support behind Leggeri in the past. And many of them are likely pleased by the occasionally ruthless methods employed by Frontex to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing into the EU, believes Giulia Laganà, a migration expert with the Open Society European Policy Institute.

      The question is whether the Management Board will continue to back Leggeri once the accusations of workplace harassment and even potential fraud are made public. The European Parliament has already announced its intention to conduct a four-month inquiry into the agency, with the investigation’s mandate having been kept intentionally broad. Leggeri’s leadership style and the workplace atmosphere at Frontex are to be included in the inquiry.

      Even Leggeri’s own staff members in Warsaw have begun wondering how long their boss will continue to cling to his post. “OLAF is onto us, morale is down,” says one official. “I wonder why he doesn’t just leave.”

      https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/missteps-and-mismanagement-at-frontex-scandals-plunge-europe-s-border-agency

    • Frontex, l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières, à nouveau mise en cause pour ses liens avec des lobbyistes

      Premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne, l’organisme n’aurait pas déclaré ses liens avec des lobbyistes de l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      De nouvelles accusations contre Frontex ont été lancées, vendredi 5 février, par la chaîne publique allemande ZDF, laquelle a, avec la collaboration de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), mené une enquête sur les liens entre l’Agence européenne de garde-frontières et l’industrie de la surveillance et de l’armement.

      Des dizaines de documents, auxquels Le Monde a également eu accès, démontrent des infractions aux règles des institutions européennes sur le lobbying, un défaut de transparence et une absence quasi complète de préoccupation pour le respect des droits humains. Ce dernier point était déjà au cœur d’un débat récent sur le rôle du corps européen dans des « pushbacks », des refoulements illégaux de migrants, en Grèce et en Hongrie notamment.

      Dotée d’un budget en forte hausse (6 millions d’euros lors de sa création en 2005, 460 millions en 2020, 5,6 milliards prévus pour 2021-2027) et d’un effectif qui devrait atteindre 10 000 personnes à terme, Frontex, premier corps armé en uniforme de l’Union européenne (UE), effectue actuellement des missions de sauvetage et de surveillance, en appui des forces nationales. Elle lutte aussi contre divers trafics et participe aux expulsions des migrants irréguliers.

      Mais l’agence est, en réalité, en train de devenir un véritable corps de police appelé à se doter de nombreux équipements : armes, radars, drones, systèmes de vérification des documents et de reconnaissance faciale, véhicules, avions, etc.
      Profiter des opportunités

      Devient-elle, du même coup, une sorte d’acteur du secteur de la sécurité et de l’armement ? Et échappe-t-elle au contrôle démocratique, celui du Parlement européen notamment, qui, en 2019, exigeait de l’institution dirigée par le Français Fabrice Leggeri la mise au point d’un « registre transparence », conforme aux pratiques des autres institutions de l’UE ? Ce sont les questions posées par les investigateurs de la ZDF et de CEO, qui ont examiné les dernières années de fonctionnement de l’institution installée à Varsovie.

      Le registre, qui était réclamé par les eurodéputés, devait notamment recenser l’ensemble des réunions tenues avec des représentants des entreprises. Il est « en préparation », dit-on chez Frontex. Et il ne devrait pas satisfaire les attentes : en 2018 et 2019, indiquent des documents de CEO, 91 des 125 lobbyistes reçus par Frontex (soit 72 %) n’étaient pas inscrits au registre européen de la transparence, comme le veulent pourtant les règles fixées pour les institutions de l’UE.

      Idem pour 58 % des entreprises consultées. Sur une application créée pour centraliser les demandes de contacts, aucune demande ne leur est d’ailleurs formulée quant à leur inscription dans ce registre. Etonnamment, le service de presse de Frontex affirme de son côté que l’agence « ne rencontre pas de lobbyistes ».

      Il semble évident, pourtant, que le secteur de la défense entend profiter des opportunités offertes par le développement des missions et des moyens de l’agence. Le programme Horizon 2020 avait déjà affecté 118 millions d’euros au développement de la recherche en lien avec le projet de « Sécurité aux frontières extérieures » de l’UE. Un fonds avait, lui, été doté de 2,8 milliards d’euros pour la période 2018-2020. Et la nécessité d’équiper Frontex a évidemment aiguisé un peu plus les appétits des acteurs du marché mondial du « border control », qui enfle de 8 % chaque année et frôle désormais les 20 milliards d’euros.
      « Surveillance agressive »

      L’agence dirigée par M. Leggeri est-elle sortie de son rôle en s’arrogeant un statut d’intermédiaire de fait entre l’industrie et des institutions européennes soucieuses de conjurer à tout prix le risque de nouveaux flux migratoires ? Serait-elle, même, devenue un acteur qui entend stimuler cette industrie, voire lui confier les rênes d’une politique à vocation essentiellement sécuritaire ?

      Avec son objectif de « faciliter la coopération entre les autorités de contrôle aux frontières, la recherche et l’industrie », Frontex a, en tout cas, multiplié les congrès, les rencontres et les « ateliers » où grands patrons, hauts fonctionnaires, mais aussi délégués des Etats membres échangent beaucoup. Sur des questions de technologie, de sécurité, de « surveillance agressive », mais rarement de droits humains.

      Déjà mise en cause pour avoir tardé à mettre en place un service interne chargé de la surveillance du respect des droits fondamentaux des migrants, l’agence n’aurait, en effet, presque jamais consulté le « Forum des droits fondamentaux » constitué à cette fin. Une organisation qui était membre du forum indique d’ailleurs n’avoir aucun souvenir d’un quelconque échange sur la question des droits et des libertés dans le cadre du lancement d’appels d’offres.

      « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », notent les responsables de l’ONG Corporate Europe Observatory

      Parmi les participants à des réunions, on a noté, en revanche, la présence de représentants de pays très critiqués pour leur politique à l’égard des migrants, comme la Bosnie-Herzégovine ou l’Australie. Des responsables du département américain de la Homeland Security ont été également conviés.

      « Les conclusions de tout cela sont extrêmement préoccupantes », notent les responsables de CEO. Ils déplorent une politique migratoire qui risque de reposer seulement sur une force de police armée et des techniques comme la surveillance biométrique. « La protection des droits humains est un sujet trop important pour le sacrifier à la défense des intérêts de l’industrie », relèvent-ils.

      « Nous vivons une métamorphose du rôle de Frontex. Il faut en prendre la mesure et s’y habituer », affirmait, vendredi, M. Leggeri, interrogé par Europe 1. On ne sait pas si Ylva Johansson, la commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, qui demande que la confiance en Frontex soit « entièrement rétablie », approuvera totalement ce propos.

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/02/05/nouvelles-accusations-contre-frontex-l-agence-europeenne-des-gardes-frontier

    • PUSHBACK REPORT 2020

      VIOLENCE IS INCREASING – IN #2020 MARE LIBERUM COUNTED AT LEAST 9,000 PEOPLE ILLEGALLY PUSHED BACK

      #Mare_Liberum monitors the current human rights situation in the Aegean Sea using its own ships. As independent observers, we conduct research in order to document and publicise circumstances at the European border. Since March 2020, Mare Liberum has witnessed a dramatic increase in human rights violations in the Aegean, both at sea and on land. Illegal pushbacks, in which those fleeing and migrating people are pushed back across a national border, play an especially crucial role. Over the past year in particular, pushbacks have become an inhumane everyday reality for people on the move. Pushbacks happen almost daily at the Greek-Turkish border and in 2020 alone, we counted 321 pushbacks in the Aegean Sea, with some 9,798 people pushed back.

      Although pushbacks have demonstrably been carried out at the EU’s external border for years, media attention has now increased notably, especially in recent months. News magazines such as Der Spiegel and the research collective Bellingcat have been able to publicly demonstrate how the Hellenic Coast Guard forcibly pushes those seeking protection back to Turkey, thereby violating international, European and national law. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, as has become all too clear, not only turns a blind eye to illegal repatriation operations, but rather actively and systematically participates.

      Within the framework of the annual report, we seek to adopt a perspective on pushbacks that looks at the long-term development of these practices at the EU’s external border. The comprehensive documentation of pushbacks forms the basis of the report and is an essential part of our monitoring work in the Aegean. Beyond the mere counting of pushbacks, our work also includes the collection of relevant information on the persons affected by pushbacks, practices by the responsible actors and related geographical data. We have gained deeper insights into these issues by conducting interviews with people who have themselves been pushed back at the Greek-Turkish border.

      https://mare-liberum.org/en/pushback-report

    • NEW REPORT ON CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN THE AEGEAN

      Since March 2020, collective expulsions in the Aegean Sea have been perpetrated with impunity.

      Legal Centre Lesvos’ new report contributes to the growing body of evidence, media coverage, civil society reports and other investigations which have documented how Greek authorities are deliberately and systematically abandoning hundreds of migrants in the middle of the Aegean sea, without means to call for rescue, on unseaworthy, motorless dinghies and liferafts. It is intended to serve as a resource for survivors of collective expulsions and solidarity actors.

      Following the Legal Centre Lesvos’ first report, the present report is based on evidence shared by over fifty survivors of collective expulsions, and underscores the widespread, systematic and violent nature of this attack against migrants. Beyond being egregious violations of international, European and national human rights law, this report argues that the constituent elements of the modus operandi of collective expulsions in the Aegean amount to crimes against humanity within the definition of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

      Despite overwhelming evidence of collective expulsions in the Aegean, the national and European response has been to turn a blind eye: failing to even attempt to hold the responsible Greek authorities to account, let alone other public and private actors directly or indirectly involved. On the contrary, the European Commission has praised the violent “border and migration management” practices implemented in Greece and underwritten its support with substantial financial and material assistance. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which prevented Greece carrying out “official” deportations to Turkey, collective expulsions have conveniently served as an unofficial implementation of the “EU-Turkey Deal” and other bilateral “readmission” agreements with Turkey, which form part of fortress Europe’s border externalisation drive.

      There are only so many times legal and civil society actors can list and table such human rights violations and be met with deafening silence and inaction before this itself becomes evidence of Greek and European liability for collective expulsions as an egregious attack on migrants’ lives. Such inaction also reveals how migrants’ lives are increasingly treated as disposable, in a manner that has historically accompanied the commission of atrocity crimes.

      While the systematic violence of pushbacks in the Aegean is scandalous, it is also the logical endpoint of a dehumanising and punitive European border regime that has systematically obstructed access to territory and the right to asylum by prioritising and funding the ‘hotspot’ containment system, accelerated procedures, detention, deportations, border militarisation and externalisation through deals of questionable legality with third countries; as well as by prosecuting migrants and solidarity actors in a manner that successfully obscures Europe’s own violent, imperialist role in many of the reasons people migrate.

      The absence of serious investigations, let alone practical steps to redress violations are a clear sign that collective expulsions form part of a Greek and European migration policy: instrumentalising human suffering in acts of spectacular state violence for the purpose of deterring migration, at any cost.

      In this context, it is important to ask what justice might look like for survivors of crimes against humanity in the Aegean, many of whom experience ongoing psychological trauma and distress as a result of these crimes. Survivors who have been in contact with the Legal Centre Lesvos have spoken about justice in terms of being able to safely reach Europe. Justice for collective expulsions as crimes against humanity must therefore include safe and legal routes to Europe, as well as defunding, demilitarising and dismantling Europe’s violent border regime.

      https://legalcentrelesvos.org/2021/02/01/crimesagainstumanityintheaegean

      #crimes_contre_l'humanité

      pour télécharger le rapport :
      legalcentrelesvos.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Collective-Expulsions-in-the-Aegean-LCL-01.02.2021-1.pdf

  • Open-source #satellite data to investigate #Xinjiang concentration camps

    The second part of this series discusses techniques on how to analyse a dire human rights situation in and around Xinjiang’s re-education and detention facilities.

    A pressing need to investigate characteristics of Xinjiang’s detention camps

    The story has been widely covered. Calls by human rights advocates to define China’s practices as ‘genocide’ grow louder. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims detained in internment camps. Many still are.

    “Inmates undergo months or years of indoctrination and interrogation aimed at transforming them into secular and loyal supporters of the party”, the New York Times wrote and published documents that unmistakably prove a dire human rights situation in the west of China.

    First China denied the camps ever existed. Then the Chinese consulate doesn’t bother anymore to play a smoke and mirror game and admits: “Xinjiang has set up vocational education and training centres in order to root out extreme thoughts…”. Their purpose: ‘compulsory programs for terrorist criminals’.

    Now, the language changed again. China’s President said the ‘strategy for governing Xinjiang in the new era is completely correct.’

    Unacceptable (and unwise) of some to deny it. Social media commentators, some who are frequently quoted by large media organisations, keep casting doubt on the tragic story. Margaret_Kimberley tweeted — after an ITV news report emerged — “These are lies. There is no evidence of Uighur concentration camps. More hybrid war against China” (it received 2,000 likes).

    While there is no room left to doubt that these camps do exist, there remains vast uncertainty whether investigative journalists and human rights advocates located all facilities spread out across the province.

    Researchers/journalists who made it their beat to find them, like Nathan Ruser at Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), says “we don’t believe that we have found them all”, after posting 380 facilities online.

    Germany’s chancellor last week said China’s President Xi offered delegates to send envoys to visit Xinjiang province [and camps] to see for themselves. Chances increase to see more of the so-called ‘show camps’ for a short period of time or as long as the visits take (the BBC encountered it when it visited last time). Xi also ensured that there will be an ‘ongoing human-rights dialogue’. But Ursula von der Leyen tweeted “a lot remains to be done .. in other chapters of our relations”.

    Satelite investigations exposing more and more evidence. OSINT journalists rely on them. It’s one reason why some open-source intelligence journalism colleagues keep hearing rumours that some of the camps may have moved underground (e.g. detention in under-surface facilities) to hide from the spying eyes and scrutiny of satellite data analysts (we don’t have proof for this thesis but I encourage you to reach out if you have evidence).
    Mounting number of facilities

    The number of confirmed facilities steadily grew. A 2018 BBC investigation looked at 101 campsites, which got pinpointed via various media reports and academic research, the author says.

    Most recently, Buzzfeed investigated 268 compounds, many from previous lists I worked on too. In February, the list of ‘confirmed re-education camps’, so lower-security sites, mainly for indoctrination purposes, was limited to mere 50 facilities. ‘Confirmed’ in this context means they have been validated by eye-witness reports. Back then, there were another 170 that had yet to be confirmed.

    It is of vital importance to keep this investigation rolling. This means to forensically document the changes in these camps and to spend more time on characterizing each detail. ASPI just dropped a new list and we are going to work with that one instead of the original 50 we received (the list can be downloaded here and geodata that can be simply dragged and dropped into QGIS and Google Earth Pro, it is available here).

    Finally, news broke via Reuters (and research by Adrian Zenz) that evidence of forced labour is mounting also in Tibet (we will look into this later, too).
    List of ‘expanded camps’ extended

    Earlier in the year US-based Uighure group ETNAM shared a list with around 50 confirmed sites. We and others scrutinised this list on increased activity on the ground via aggregated satellite remote sensing data (link). The list was shared as klm. file. It helped enormously with going through them one by one. All the coordinates as well as the Chinese names of the places are accessible via Google Earth Pro. Now that ASPI dropped a new list with coordinates and updated 2020 records, some of the work we have started can be extended and match.

    Because we are most interested in the camps that got expanded (so buildings or features were added), we will concentrate on the list of facilities that were developed. It includes a list of 61 sites.

    Why is the onus on expanded camps? In addition to the characteristics ASPI added as classifiers, the extended camps might tell us where the local administration invests and where forced labour in the firm of Uighur prisoners went. We added a few more details for each facility that we thought was worth looking at (see sheet above).
    We will go through various ways to characterise/investigate facilities and their surroundings

    First significant markers includes the size of the camps. That includes quantitative details such as the number of buildings on the premise and adjacent to it. We will go through how to compare them. There are the walls of camps that are usually quite straight-lined. Their height, which we will define and validate, and the walls’ thickness may tell us something about recent developments (e.g. how secure the sites are, or were meant to be).

    Guard towners are also a quantifiable element. ASPI and others counted them. Because they can be seen from outside they may act as a signal to local residents. That is also likely the reason why those facilities that have some or all of their towers removed recently tend to locate closer to residential buildings (see my stats below).

    These changes are further revealing as they may tell us something about how the local government in various parts of the region varied in their response to international pressure (or not, by keeping them in place). ‘A lot [camps] had their security features removed in the second half of 2019’, Zenz explained. Some remained in place (important to add here, it remains doubtful that conditions improved inside of the camps, even if towers or security features were removed).

    Zenz has an explanation for some of the changes: “On the same time they invited all these delegations and visitors, they released a lot of people. If you release a lot of people, you can afford to run with fewer security features. That can still be run like an internment camp, I’m sure”. We will look closer at what has changed ourselves.

    Including those features above, there are a number of other aspects to take into account. We put them into the list below — each will be discussed separately:

    What blue factory buildings in and around camps can tell us
    What typical ‘prison features’ tell us
    What cars in parking lots tell us about personnel working at the facilities during Covid-19
    What walls can tell us
    What guard towers can tell us
    What sports facilities can tell us
    What the shapes/types of buildings and location can tell us
    What agricultural space (e.g. fields) around the camps can tell us
    What potential crematory sites reveal
    What Xinjiang’s export tell us
    What population/urbanisation numbers tell us about internment and surveillance
    What Baidu maps can tell us

    Blue-roofed factory buildings

    In satellite images, they are very pronounced with their blue coating. They may also heat up in the summer.

    Most of them are factory buildings, has been reported. You can see them added in and around camp facilities, whether they are low or high security premises.

    We can quantify them by counting them or via quantifying the space they take up. ASPIT decided to count them, though some buildings are smaller and other are massive. Google Earth has a polygon area measuring tool. A third option is to write a statistical model to calculate square meters factory floor space. If you are lazy you can consult a service that helps you with that via a visual detection algorithm — it calculates the area and records the number of blue roof buildings for a given satellite image.

    One of the camps that expanded in the past two years is the tier 1 low-security re-education facility in Bugur in Bayingolu (41.808855284.3005783). It has a dense network of factory buildings nearby (around 23) and within its own walls there are eight. We used ASPI’s data to confirm this that noted: ‘considerable room for expansion’.

    Let’s run the classification system over it and classify how much blue-roofed buildings that scatter around the camp can we count (importantly not all are factory spaces but many will be).

    On the AI model: I downloaded the images with their highest resolution from Google Earth. To make the image a bit clearer for the model, I adjusted the brightness, upped the contrast and tinkered with the exposure. We can see the blue buildings, roughly in a radius of 1.5 to 2 miles (see image), account for about 1,464.9 m² (0.15ha). The number of little blue buildings expanded considerably since 2014 where they accounted for 1,022m2 (0.10 ha) — sadly we only have an image for 2014 and one for 2019.

    Short intersection on the availability of images available in Google Earth:

    Some of the important images to document the progression of these camps are missing. Some camps have a mere handful of publically available images (as in the case above). This is appalling and private satellite image companies need to be nudged to make more images public. Especially for the latest developments, this is urgently needed. Researchers noted down the latest dates for which images are available at the time of writing. Below we see them grouped by months, and then by facility category (tier 1 to 4).

    What about bias to provide fewer updates on higher-security facilities? We don’t have much to go in here (there is no direct evidence that western satellite companies are being pressured into not publishing their images for camps on Google). Despite only a few camps that didn’t get updated at all over the past two years, we can see at the time of writing that Google and others hold more images for lower tier facilities (1 and 2) than for higher-security facilities (tier 3 and 4):

    Continuing on the factories, another example is the facility in Maralbeshi County (39°49’7.84"N, 78°31’4.37"E). It was erected around 2017/2018. In Google Earth, you can see how the blue-roofed buildings surround the internment complex. Note, how the larger blue factory complexes to the left and right were there before the camp was erected.

    In other words, the camp was planned and embedded into existing factory operation. It further corroborates a thesis that factory work by prisoners (in the form of forced labour), was part of a grander plan all along (though, to be certain, looking at satellite images alone does not suffice).

    Adrain Zenz thinks blue roof factories is something that warrants looking into in more detail. A bunch of these blue roof factory building were erected in 2018, especially in the second half. Zenz explains it’s important timing because the policy documents on forced labour, as explained in his post from last December, shows that a lot of this kind of policy was released in the first half or mid of 2018.

    A recent Buzzfeed investigation did mention blue roofs but surprisingly didn’t pay more attention to the matter. The factories grow in importance as the forced labour of imprisoned groups is being increasingly ‘commercialised’.

    ASPI’s data recorded the distance (measured in km I assume) between the 380 facilitates and the local/nearest industrial parks — where some of the forced labour could have moved to put to work. The data categorizes facilities in four areas of security (ranging from Tier 1= re-education camp to Tier 4= prison facility). Tear two and tier three camps tend to be located more closely to the industrial centre of the towns, the data suggests (see chart below):

    Zenz adds: “what’s significant is the sudden increase of blue roof, single story, flat type factory buildings. It’s consistent with policy, and also release, the Karakax list also talks about people being released into forced labour. A lot of that took place in 2019.”

    The blue metal barracks found in Dabancheng shining light yellow in the sentinel IR images as they are being reflected. Low res Sentinel 2 data also suggests that these metal-like structures in the south of the Payzawat camp (Payzawat County, 39.538372, 76.713606) may also heat up in the summer. SWIR (short-wave infrared imagery) and NIR can be used for heat monitoring.

    Prisons features: camps that imprisoned people become more ‘secure’ not less:

    Among the around 60 camps that have expanded recently, half of it are tier 3 or tier 4 facilities —detention centers and prisons with high security features.

    While it is true that some camps removed some of the towers and other security features (labelled ‘desecuritisation’ by ASPI’s records), others increased theirs. Those happened to be facilities that are detention centres and prison. In the context that Chinese authorities moved prisoners to these more secure facilities with less transparency and harsher treatments, this is cause for concern.

    Let’s look at an example. From the list of expanded camps, there is the camps Yarkant Facility in the Kashgar prefecture (38.351531177.3055467). Since 2018, we saw a nearly 10,000 m2 large factory compound built (compare images from 5/8/2018 with 1/21/2018). Then, a year later, watch downers got added. There are now 8 towners. For such a small facility that’s quite conspicuous. The reason it’s a high-security prison facility.

    Newly built detention/prison facilities created between 2018 and 2020 are of special interest. Camps like the tier 3 (detention) camp of Sanji Facility (#3, 44.102764,86.9960751), a with several watchtowers and an external wall is important as we can follow the progression of each step of the building process with high-resolution images.

    The location was probably chosen because of a lower-security area nearby, north of the facility (3/7/2018). Building must have started in the summer. A couple of months after the last shot (8/11/2018) the blue-roofed factory gets built-in the north-west of the camp (a reason to assume a direct relationship there) and within two weeks in August the main building takes shape. At the same time, the walls get erected and we can make out the layout of the facility with its heavy concrete structures.

    We can see, those are fundamentally different from building built in other lower-security camps. Then two months later it’s almost completed.

    The speed of building is noteworthy (better trackable if we had access to a more continuous stream of images). From the few images we have above and those from Sentinel 2, below, we can assume that it took the developers between three to four months in pure building time to pull it up — an astonishing pace. China is renowned for its fast building pace. For many other areas, such as coal plants and artificial island-building its cookie-cutter approach — where blueprints are being re-used over and over again - it permits building more quickly.

    Other who looked at the situation in Xinjiang reported that many Uighurs held in lower-tier facilities could have been moved/transferred to higher-tier prisons. In other words, despite some re-education camps have experienced ‘de-securitisation’, half of the camps that expanded are higher security facilities, so tier 3 (detention) or tier 4 (prison) camp facilities.

    What parking lots tell us about the camps during Covid-19

    I believe this topic has largely remained unexplored. Busy parking lots are one way to tell how many staff members are on site. Especially interesting it this for the recent month that were affected by coronavirus. We dont know much about the conditions inside of the facilities.

    But with fewer staff members around (and fewer visitors allowed — previous reporting has revealed that detention centres have ‘small visitor centres’), the lives of inmates may have worsened. There was some reporting that Covid-19 cases spiralled in the province of Xinjiang and some expressed concern that cases could spread within camps. It’s possible, no doubt. With only a few cases in the whole region, though, the risk is lower.

    Pandemic related fears may have affected the material and food supply. Sick imprisoned detainees may go without healthcare treatment for weeks or months. All these are assumptions for which we have little evidence. But the possibility alone raises concerns. If it is true that prisoners remained in the facilities during Covid, they could have suffered from the absence of staff and proper care.

    From satellite images, it is hard to know — though there is some evidence from an eyewitness account shared by a historian, a Georgetown professor on his Medium page.

    We might be able to tell how many temporary people were on sites (those that use their car to leave for the night). Counting vehicles at nearby car parks is one way.

    At some facilities, we can clearly see the parking lot. An example is Ghulja City (43°58’37.52"N, 81° 8’18.98"E). It’s a fairly large car park. We can use Picterra system (there is a 10 day free trial version) to check the satellite images for May 23 — thought there isn’t much to count, the car park is empty.

    Seven months earlier, on October 24th of 2019, we count around 120 cars (with some false positives, but that’s good enough for us). The algo gives you a count so you don’t have to count the red boxes one by one. Once trained, we can run it on subsequent images.

    Let’s walk you through how to train and count the cars. I simplify here (a more complete tutorial can be found here and in their platform). First, we use one of the images to train the algorithm on the cars in the car park. Then we run it on the other pictures. It’s neat and simple (and quick if you don’t have time to run your own statistical model in python).

    The number of vehicles dropped during the heights of Covid-19.

    We could do this for other confirmed location such as the facility in Chochek City (Tǎchéng Shì, 46°43’3.79"N, 82°57’15.23"E) where car numbers dropped in April. We see this in many other facilities (for those that expanded).

    Hotan City Facility #1 (37.1117019, 79.9711546) with 81 cars in the parking lot at the end of 2019 dropped to 10 during the height of the pandemic. Similar developments have been perceived at Hotan County Facility 1 (37.2420734 79.8595074), Ghulja Facility 1 (43.9756437 81.5009539) and a number of others.
    Calculating rooms and capacity

    How many people fit in a facility. If we take the example of the re-education camp in Chochek City ( 46°43’3.79"N, 82°57’15.23"E), we have high res Google images for the end of March and end of April of 2020. We can see the thin middle part is three stories high and in earlier images (Jul 18, 19) we can see the southern part is four stories high. In 2018, we got an image of the foundation when it was built. This provides enough detail to calculate that the facility has around 367 rooms — for the total t-shaped building with the arms.

    –—

    –—

    In the example above, we shouldn’t be too sure that alls detainees were kept in the facility during Covid. Some reports claim that some of the other lower security re-education centres kept people ‘only during the day for indoctrination classes’ (it’s certainly different for the high-security prison facility that is also on the premise of the Payzawat facility, see in the south, with their towers).

    Comparing camp sizes

    The total size of the camps matters, especially when they get extended. Most of the camps have clear wall frames build around them. It’s one of the most important and simple characteristics. The wall frames makes it relatively easy to draw shapes in your geolocation system of choice (the sheer size of the walls, might be less ideal to gauge the number of prisoners).

    Some have vast empty space in between might suggest that other faculty sections or factory buildings are due to be added. Some are cramped with building.

    Tracing and calculating the area of wall frames in Google Earth for some of the largest camps, we get what we already knew:

    To emulate the work ASPI’s data was posted here. A number of track and trace tutorials for Google Earth (one here on measuring property space) are available on YouTube.
    Staking out camp size:

    The Qariqash County/قاراقاش ناھىيىسى‎ /墨玉县(Mòyù Xiàn, 37° 6’44.88"N, 79°38’32.71"E) sits in the South of the large stretch of desert.

    We use the polygon tool in Google Earth to stake out the clearly marked walls. You usually end up with a rectangle. Under measurements (right-click on the item) you can see the perimeter is around 1.65 km and the area is roughly 16.7 hectares (0.17 square km).

    Now we can compare it with another one on the list, the camp in Aqsu City (41°11’27.12"N, 80°16’25.08"E). It’s markedly smaller, with a perimeter of 1.1km and only an area of 5.65 hectares. There are other ways to do this in QGIS, a geoinformation system more efficiently.
    What can walls and towers tell us?

    How tall are walls at some of the camps? The answer varies across the vast variety of facilities. Height may tell us something about who built the camp and the level of security. It’s unsurprising to find different heights at different camps built by different planners.

    Where we don’t have shades available, we can check the two images above and reference them with the people in the image and define the height this way. Another standard way to calculate height is using the shades by the walls and towers and calculate the height via Google Earth and SunCalc.

    The shade of the southern wall in the satellite image from 03/19/2020 for the Dabancheng camp is around 7.62 meters long. The towers on the southern wall for those dates result in a height of around ~8meters.

    But the images in the Reuters shots look different. That’s why they were taken a year or two earlier. Satellite images from 4/22/2018 show clearly the octagonal shapes of the tower shades. If we calculate again, the shade of the tower is around 9 meters long, translating into around 14 meters in height.

    We do this for the wall as well. What we find is that, although the towers disappeared (though, some are still there, just not protruding so visibly), the only thing that really changed is the height of the walls — now around 13.5m tall, compared with 9.5m in 2018. The same towners, removed from one Dabancheng camp, then re-emerged half a kilometre south-east at the other newly built one (2019).

    Why are we even bothering measuring height? On one hand we want to answer how security changed across the camps. Are walls getting higher? Do they change in their layout. It helps to classify the type of camps. The higher the walls, the more secure they probably were meant to be. Higher wall might mean higher chance that prisoners are held at facilities over night. It also may help to disprove claims by XJ denialists.

    We can verify the Suncalc analysis with images. Cherchen County, for which we reviewed images for 12/14/19 shows roughly the same height. Explainer how to measure the height of an object from satellite image available here and here.

    The number of press images of the camps is limited. Most are by Reuters or AFP/Badung Police. It is this one here (37°14’29.78"N, 79°51’35.00"E). More local street footage, though not of camps, might be obtainable via Mapillary.

    Buildings shapes/outlines and location of camps

    Let’s start with the location of the facilities first. ASPI recorded the type of security for its 380 odd facilities, and for many the distance to populated areas such as residential buildings. When local administration planned on where to place the facilities they might have taken into account how the neighbouring public should (or shouldn’t) perceived them. More secluded camps are more hidden from public scrutiny. Those near people’s homes or schools may be placed there to have the opposite effect.

    What’s immediately apparent when running a few inferential statistics on the records is that the more secure detention centres tend to be kept further away from buzzing residential areas — meaning, further away than for instance Tier 1 re-education camps, which are often nestled between residential parts of cities, or occupying old schools.

    Agriculture/fields around the camps — investigating forced labour by detainees

    Identifying agricultural fields near or around facilities may reveal some potential aspects of how forced labour in the camps were used in close vicinity.

    Especially for secluded faculties, with not much else urban life going on (so reducing the possibility that other local farmers were involved in working the them), the chance increases that Uighurs detained were used.

    One example is the facility near Yingye’ercun, in Gulja, with a 0.16km2 large campground (43°58’37.52"N, 81° 8’18.98"E). The farming area that was developed since 2018 (shortly after the multistorey buildings was built in the core of the facility) spans 1.7km2 and is clearly marked (which includes the facility itself, see in red below).

    In other words, once the camp was built the fields surrounding it got worked and developed— unlikely to be only a convenient coincident. The nearby factory complex was also extended.

    Often it warrant also checking with Sentinel 2 images on EO browser. In this case, it’s useful because it allows us to visualise agricultural development via its invisible light remote sensing capabilities. Additional bands (which Google images lack) give access to the invisible spectrum and shows the agricultural expansion (here shown in red via the false colour composite, commonly used to assess plant density and health, “since plants reflect near-infrared and green light, while they absorb red”. Exposed ground are grey or tan, vegetation is red).
    Image for post

    Another camp in this regard is the Maralbeshi Facility (#6) in Kashgar (39.7406222 78.0115086) with lots of fields surrounding it.

    Why is the forced labour aspect in Xinjiang’s agriculture so important in this debate? For one, it’s part of the human rights abuse that more and more governments and industry leaders recognise (such as Swedish company H&M, who profited from cotton supplies and other kinds within their supply chain). Some decided to cut ties with suppliers in the region. It may the answer for the short term. In the long run, western businesses much apply pressure to get suppliers on their own to dissuade local forced labour practices (see example on ads that emerged to sell Uighur forced labour online).

    According to the ILO Forced Labour Convention from 1930, forced or compulsory labour is defined as ‘all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily’.
    Sports grounds: (basketball and other sports courts)

    Some found value in observing their development. BBC’s John Sudworth found that just before a press tour organised for his press teams two years ago the appearance of recreational areas altered. In some of the places they were taken to, satellite images and the internal security fencing — and what looked like watchtowers- where taken down shortly before the tours for journalists began. Specifically on sports grounds, they noticed that empty exercise yards have been transformed into sports facilities.

    The reporters asked: if the journalists have been presented with mere ‘show camps’, what may this say about the places they were not taken to. Sport facilities are quite easy to spot from satellite. The BBC travelled to Kaxgar in the very east of the region, about 100km south of Kazakhstan’s border. Their footages shows how the camp put up courts shortly before the press trip. But they didn’t last long. We found evidence that these very courts disappeared again in early 2020 (see below).

    In one of the camps in Qariqash (37°15’32.54"N, 79°44’52.08"E) the sports facilities were made unavailable as recently as July. Now big brown sheets, what looks like blankets with knobs on them, cover them. Those have never appeared on satellite images before and extend to the soccer field in the north and the big parking lot next to the sports courts.

    I have mixed feelings about recreational activities. We must strongly doubt that they benefit people held for indoctrination. So are they only a smoke and mirror game to show the friendliness of re-educational camps? Or are they actually benefiting the imprisoned? It is hard to say. In recent time, they are more likely to be added than removed. In around 37 facilities on the ASPI list basketball courts, running tracks or other sports fields were noted to have been added or extended.

    When we compare the average distance of residential building for these places (1.2km) with the average distance of all the places where we have a record on the distance to buildings (1.8km), we find the recreational activities might be used as an element to signal the locals that the facilities have those recreational features.

    Dabancheng has one court in the western block and a number of other ones in the centre part. In the eastern wing, there is nothing. We haven’t got any further high res satellite images on Dabancheng (other than those until March 2020, that leaves only checking Sentinel 2 images or commercial images).

    I am going to stop here. The analysis of recreational areas yielded rather little, for me and the folks at ASPI. “I don’t think the sports grounds mean much in the detention regime”, Nathan Ruser says. If you have more info do reach out or leave a comment.
    Crematories

    The New York Times followed the lead of findings (that emerged last year, also mentioned in the state.gov report) and check the extent of description of religious sites and burial grounds. In September, the team reported that ‘thousands of religious sites’, such as mosques, shrines and other sites were bulldozed or replaced.

    As many burial grounds disappeared and people within camps families have never heard from again, the question of how Uighurs’ life proceeded became more pressing. Crematories may be one aspect. Some anecdotal evidence by a source spoke of a nascent growth of crematory sites in the areas near camps. This appears important in the context of how prisoners are treated in facilities and what happens if they die and at what rates.

    High prevalence of tuberculosis in facilities worries insiders. TB is spread via droplets through the air by someone who is infected. It’s especially deadly when the immune system of those who caught it, can’t cope with it. With the conditions reported by some of the eyewitnesses, it is feasible that the hard conditions prisoners are being subjected to, could enhance the deadliness of TB.

    The think tank which produced a previous list of facilities searched and found a handful of crematories (I don’t think they concluded the research and it continues, perhaps with your help of OSINT research).

    The reason why crematories are of interest is that Uighur are Muslim, Muslims don’t burn the bodies of their dead. They bury them (creation is strictly forbidden). Seeing more crematories pop up might be a first clue on whether dead bodies from detention facilities are being burned. We have to stress here, we have to be extremely careful with drawing quick conclusions, the base of evidence is thin. One would need to check local statistics and cross-examine them with other data source.

    We will concentrate only on the sites itself. The ‘unconfirmed sample of crematory’ consists of ten sites. These are listed below. Just a word of warning. Feel free to investigate them further — either via additional satellite footage or on-site visits. Nonetheless, these get us started. The first three are confirmed by eyewitness accounts or local records (as far as I was told, this is sadly only secondary research).

    Cr_Gholja_01 (Existed, 44° 0’17.86"N, 81°13’40.43"E); Cr_Artush_01(Existed, 39°44’35.47"N, 76°12’7.49"E); Urumchi 2 Funeral Parlor (Existed, 43°54’55.20"N; 87°36’9.01"E)

    Cri_Hotan01_(Suspected)
    Cr_Artush_02 (Suspected)
    Cr_Hotan_02(Suspected)
    Cr_Urumqi_02 (Suspected)
    Cr_Urumqi_01 (Suspected)
    Cr_Urumqi_01(Suspected)
    CrArtush_02 (Suspected)

    Now let’s take a look at the characteristics of the confirmed crematories. They have some distinctive shapes, including a rectangular architecture, walls or a treeline that fence the premises (framed in black). Where marked ‘burial grounds’, I was unable to confirm this but checked with a few other sites mentioned in the coverage that was exposed in 2019 and it looked similar (in short, more time needs to be spent on this).

    What helped the researchers identify the confirmed ones? According to the source, the Chinese called them ‘burial management facilities’. It’s apparently a euphuism for ‘crematories’. The Chinese government bulldozed some burial grounds with the justification that they would take up too much space which was covered in the 2019 reporting.

    The other aspect is whether relatives receive the body of loved ones that die in the camps. Salih Hudayar (now Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile) says he had a relative who died in a facility (he don’t know whether in the camps or the prison) and his family was not able to have his body returned. He thinks that many other Uighurs have not had the body of a deceased family members returned to them. He assumes they are being cremated as no record exists of a burial site.

    More crematories are only possible if you have employees who staff and run them. The Chinese government tried to find those employees online. “We assume they are being cremated because the government ran job ads and offering high salaries to work on these [crematory] sites”, he added.

    The suspected crematory facilities were then modelled upon the layout of the existing/confirmed ones — e.g. compared with buildings in and around the area. “We found a couple, but we are not 100% sure”, the source admits. Here OSINT journalists could become useful (let me know if you have intel on this matter to follow up with).

    On the description in 2019: evidence surfaced that 45 Uighur cemeteries have been destroyed since 2014, including 30 in just the past two years (research was carried out by AFP and satellite imagery by Earthrise Alliance, here reported by the SCMP).
    What population/urbanisation numbers tell us about internment

    Salih Hudayar explained that what worries him is that population statistics don’t square. An often-cited figure of 7 million Uighurs in the province is much lower than the official estimates of the Uighur people.

    The number often used is 12 million Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs. The number could be higher. Especially in the villages — Uighurs are allowed to have only three kids — some families have more than that and don’t register their offspring, as a result, many kids lack birth certificates. Other figures on the number of Uighur population is much taller (larger than twice of the 12 million figure, but remains hard to confirm that. The closes figure the Chinese government will have internally after the government’s extensive and invasive security and surveillance campaigns, in part to gain information regarding individuals’ religious adherence and practices).

    The rising number of orphanages and kindergartens is also of interest. A satellite and local administrative data analysis should track them. The premise here: the more aggressive the detention of families are in XJ (moving Uighurs from low to higher security facilities), demand for places that house children increases. More orphanages and child-caring facilities could be revealed.
    What can exports tell us about forced labour?

    The type of exports of a region can help to figures out what to look for when it comes to forced labour. Increasingly, the international textile and fashion industry wakes up to reputational damage if supply chains incorporate Xinjiang forced labour. EU leaders held a meeting with China’s president Xi last week where Xi ‘rejected’ foreign [political] meddling in his nation’s affairs. But businesses have more leverage. Xinjiang is busy trading with foreign powers. The Chinese province accounted for a large part of the world’s supply in cotton. Exports amounted to $19.3bn according to export documents (export data for the west of China can be found in China’s official data stats, Stats.gov.cn, customs.gov.cn, or mofcom — this might be useful. Comparing what the government reports and what’s happening on the ground might reveal discrepancies, as it did before).

    Exports (to Europe, across the silk road to the west) is directly connected at A busy train station connecting to the neighbouring country of Kazakstan in the northeast (the export route is called Ala Pass. A short promotional video here). Given the rebound of the Chinese economy, the shipments/trainloads must have increased in May after the effects of the pandemic subsided. What’s unclear is to what extent and whether that matches what the government said.

    Satellite images might reveal discrepancies when train containers at the Dzungarian Gate (the Dzungarian Alatau mountain range along the border between Kazakhstan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) are analysed. It’s the main connection between China and the west.

    The main railway station in Xinjiang for the Alataw pass is the Alashankou railway station (situated here: 45°10′13″N 82°34′13″E). It’s the last resort for export containers before entering Kazakhstan.

    OSINT journalists may be able to gauge Xinjiang export traffic by counting the number of containers on rail tracks. It might be laborious effort, not sure if it yields anything.

    More useful would it be to monitor the use of agriculture and factories in the nearby vicinity of camps, as shown before. Or perhaps they can be linked up.
    Baidu maps: Checking what the Chinese tech companies are ‘hiding’:

    The Chinese government may have little interest to showcase their human-rights violations which they deem as justified (Xi’s statement). Satellite images on Baidu Maps show maps that hide most of the facility. What to make of it? Google Earth lets you upload so-called ‘overlays’. If you stretch them to the right size you can compare the uploaded screenshot (we took from Baidu) with those present in Google Earth. For Tumshuq City/تۇمشۇق شەھىرى/图木舒克市(Túmùshūkè Shì) (39°54’40.02"N, 79° 1’26.09"E), see below.

    Why is Baidu’s involvement increasing relevant? On one hand, it is important to see the connection between private sector companies and the government. Chinese satellites are able to update and provide high-resolution images to the maps on Baidu. But they don’t. We had a similar debate on Twitter, that some government used to press companies to blur our images. But because images are available on other platforms ‘unblurred’, the practice was largely discontinued (there are still examples but they are getting fewer). One reason is that if a blurred area appears, it signals others to be extra vigilant and look out for other images. Instead, what increasing happens is that companies with private satellite are ordered not to release them (read more about the debate here).

    Baidu map’s decision to not show images on certain facilities have backfired. It can be reverse-engineered. Areas where images are unavailable became extra interesting. In this way Buzzfeed used Baidu Maps to their advantage. They located/confirmed some of the camps because of it. This way, they turned shortcoming into an opportunity. You may want to be quick in replicating this principle for other parts of the country where forced labour/detention camps are expected (e.g. Tibet). Such loopholes will usually be fixed swiftly.

    Bit more on the tech. According to a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch, Baidu’s map function used in the IJOP app, a controversial system used by the police and the state that generates “a massive dataset of personal information, and of police behaviour and movements in Xinjiang (it is not known how the authorities plan to use such data): The IJOP app logs the police officer’s GPS locations and other identifying information when they submit information to the IJOP app. The IJOP app uses a map functionality by Baidu, a major Chinese technology company, for purposes including planning the shortest route for police vehicle and officers on foot, according to the app’s source code.
    https://miro.medium.com/max/653/1*umOMbKghZDqPPiy0TpGZ7w.png

    What can the camps in Tibet tell us about the camps in Xinjiang?

    Reuters reported just last week that forced labour expanded to Tibet (south of XJ). Reuter’s own reporting corroborated the findings obtained by Adrian Zenz. It would take another post to go into how to investigate the state of transferred Tibetan labourers. The quick and dirty check on the situation shows the merit of using satellite images to investigate grows as foreign journalists are being barred from areas, such as entering the Tibet region (foreign citizens are only permitted on government-approved tours). OSINT lessons from investigating XJ should be applied to Tibet too.

    How does Xinjiang link to Tibet? The former Tibet Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo was chosen for the same job in Xinjiang in 2016 and headed the development of Xinjiang’s camp system, Reuters reported.

    Mass incarceration started before Quanguo came onto the scene: A fanghuiju work team was dispatched to a village in Guma wherein 38 individuals were allegedly detained in a government campaign, in early 2016 — it’s true however that Party Secretary Quanguo, appointed in August 2016, who waged a ‘Strike Hard Campaign’ against violent activities and terrorism increased repression.

    In an article last year, The Print used satellite images to prove that at least three Tibetan “re-education camps” are currently under construction. The author of the survey was Vinayak Bha, an ex-colonel retired from the Indian military intelligence unit.

    Col Vinayak Bhat (@rajfortyseven on Twitter) found three camps in 2018/2019 and share them. One of them is the one in Botuocun (see below). Bha writes about Chinese military deployment dynamics. The temple of Tibetan Buddhism is a ‘concentration camp’ that is surrounded by high walls and guard towers and has the same structural design as a prison. It is feasible that China’s mass detention to spread to Tibetans. Methods will likely base on the model executed in XJ.

    https://miro.medium.com/max/221/1*ln7TsCnetV75EKNcv4LBJg.png
    https://miro.medium.com/max/221/1*DtJKKnYJUH1K7p1_Pyyicw.png
    https://miro.medium.com/max/221/1*4dU7K9DK9agNbitNmLBT4g.png

    The reports of the three camps emerged in 2019. “Small-scale versions of similar military-style training initiatives have existed in the region for over a decade, but construction of new facilities increased sharply in 2016, and recent policy documents call for more investment in such sites”, one report stated. Looking at the three sites, some of them are quite old but the one below is less than three years old.

    https://miro.medium.com/max/221/1*xFr73HSkbxVqDGNgicuVCQ.png
    https://miro.medium.com/max/221/1*Ylxp6Hk1Nj8AAkvvxXI21Q.png
    https://miro.medium.com/max/278/1*a4UgMAeLCBp9LvRfOuf6Tw.png
    The allegation is that these facilities are now be used as detention centres for political indoctrination. “The detainees are allegedly used as forced labour in government factories and projects during the day time or as per shift timings”. It is something that rings true under the light of camps in Xinjiang but we lack evidence from the satellite images.

    There is some evidence that additional factory buildings were added. For the facility above, buildings in the upper east wing, with red roofing was added recently. Their layout reminds us of the blue-roofed buildings in and scattered around Xinjiang facilities, which we also have present: “This architecture is bang on a XJ prison, [though] with a different style roof”, Ruser said.

    https://miro.medium.com/max/512/1*GL1DwZmaqVdgUtaWsZHWdA.png

    https://miro.medium.com/max/303/1*Jr03h6ADK4_iNNfYP5YLkA.png
    https://miro.medium.com/max/328/1*RyzDtEa9SjE0WsBSwUaMfA.png

    The prison layout from the older prison facility above — with its long and vertically arranged wings and the rippled features — is similar to prisons seen in Xinjian, such as the two portrayed below (one at Qariqash County at 37° 6’44.88"N, 79°38’32.71"E and the other facility in 39°25’54.60”N, 76° 3’20.59"E).
    https://miro.medium.com/max/389/1*w01GGfJZZlcNCWm5MR4csQ.png

    Closing remarks:

    There is a mountain of stuff not included here. This is a training post and not an investigation with full-rested conclusion. This post should encourage other open-source investigative journalists to look into the facilities, follow their own reporting and help monitor developments/details that others may have missed.

    At present there are only a handful of OSINT journalists looking into it. Even fewer have the time to continuously keep this rolling, e.g. analysing the camps as other stories press them to move on.

    We need more eyes on this. The alleged human right abuse must receive all the international scrutiny it can get. People like Shawn Zhang and others with Nathan Ruser and APSI) started the journey. Other journalists must continue and expand on it.

    Also, the more open we are about sources and the analysis (hopefully) the fewer people might try to cast doubt on the existence of the camps (good thread here)

    OSINT techniques used must master the skill to help others to replicate the findings, step by step. That’s the reason this post resulted more in a hands-on tutorial than an explanatory post. I encourage anyone to start looking into the human rights abuse (though, I must stress, be careful to draw quick conclusions. Instead, share what you see on satellite images with the community of serious journalists and OSINT investigators).

    One last thought on commercial satellite imagery companies. It is crucial to get their support on this. For more than 100 camps mentioned in the latest update of the ASPI list (nearly 80 of them high-security detention facilities — classified as tier 3 or 4), we have no updated record of satellite images. This leaves researchers and journalists only to low-resolution devices, by Sentinel 2 images, or beg for images from Maxar or Planet Labs. That’s not good enough. Transparency requires companies inc to make those high-resolution images available, to anyone. Intelligence services should also consider making their high-resolution images available to the public for scrutiny, though, that unlikely to happen.

    https://medium.com/@techjournalism/open-source-satellite-data-to-investigate-xinjiang-concentration-camps-2713c
    #camps_de_concentration #architecture_forensique #images_satellitaires #rééducation #ré-éducation #camps_de_rééducation #Chine #droits_humains #droits_fondamentaux #Tibet

    ping @reka @isskein @visionscarto

    • I scripted a screen capture of 8000 xinjiang satellite images and uploaded them to here

      Detention Facilities in Xinjiang China : Google Earth Satellite Timelapse : 2002-2020 : 新疆看守所卫星延时摄影
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmoXVvU8G0c

      you can play them fast or find a location by latitude/longitude and step through one image at a time

      later i posted an addendum with another 20 sites, and showing China’s rebuttal to satellite evidence
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHc-TdusgaI

      other possible relevant sites not in ETNAM or ASPI datasets, that I saw in Google Earth
      46.917, 87.837
      43.958, 87.555
      43.450, 82.738
      40.594, 81.111
      40.567, 81.525
      40.563, 81.252
      40.069, 79.471
      39.947, 79.415
      39.270, 88.906
      39.269, 88.849
      39.247, 88.963
      38.197, 85.384
      37.004, 81.617

  • The Morals of the Market. Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism

    IN THE MID-1980s, Rony Brauman, who, at the time, was the president of the leading humanitarian organization Médecins sans Frontières, established a new human rights group called Liberté sans Frontières. For the inaugural colloquium, Brauman invited a number of speakers, among them Peter Bauer, a recently retired professor from the London School of Economics. Bauer was an odd choice given that he was a staunch defender of European colonialism; he had once responded to a student pamphlet that accused the British of taking “the rubber from Malaya, the tea from India, [and] raw materials from all over the world,” by arguing that actually “the British took the rubber to Malaya and the tea to India.” Far from the West causing Third World poverty, Bauer maintained that “contacts with the West” had been the primary agents of the colonies’ material progress.

    Bauer hammered on this point at the colloquium, claiming that indigenous Amazonians were among the poorest people in the world precisely because they enjoyed the fewest “external contacts.” Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, he continued, showed proof of the economic benefits such contacts brought. “Whatever one thinks of colonialism it can’t be held responsible for Third World poverty,” he argued.

    In her illuminating new book, The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte recounts this story only to ask why Brauman, a leading humanitarian activist, invited Bauer — whom the Economist had described as being as hostile to foreign aid as Friedrich Hayek had been to socialism — to deliver a talk during the opening event for a new human rights organization. Her response is multifaceted, but, as she traces the parallel histories of neoliberalism and human rights, it becomes clear that the two projects are not necessarily antithetical, and actually have more in common than one might think.

    Indeed, Liberté sans Frontières went on to play a central role in delegitimizing Third World accounts of economic exploitation. The organization incessantly challenged the accusations that Europe’s opulence was based on colonial plunder and that the world economic system made the rich richer and the poor poorer. And while it may have been more outspoken in its critique of Third Worldism than more prominent rights groups, it was in no way an outlier. Whyte reveals that in the eyes of organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for instance, the major culprit for the woes of postcolonial states was neither Europe nor the international economic order but rather corrupt and ruthless Third World dictators who violated the rights of their populations as they undermined the development of a free economy. This approach coincides neatly with neoliberal thought.

    Whyte contends that we cannot understand why human rights and neoliberalism flourished together if we view neoliberalism as an exclusively economic doctrine that favors privatization, deregulation, and unfettered free markets over public institutions and government. Although she strives to distinguish herself from thinkers like Wendy Brown and Michel Foucault, she ends up following their footsteps by emphasizing the moral dimension of neoliberal thought: the idea that a competitive market was not “simply a more efficient means of distributing resources; it was the basic institution of a moral and ‘civilised’ society, and a necessary support for individual rights.”

    She exposes how neoliberal ideas informed the intense struggle over the meaning of “human rights,” and chronicles how Western rights groups and neoliberals ultimately adopted a similar interpretation, one that emphasizes individual freedoms at the expense of collective and economic rights. This interpretation was, moreover, in direct opposition to many newly independent postcolonial leaders.

    Whyte describes, for instance, how just prior to the adoption of the two 1966 human rights covenants — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of independent Ghana, coined the term “neo-colonialism” to refer to a series of mechanisms that perpetuate colonial patterns of exploitation in the wake of formal independence. Nkrumah “argued that the achievement of formal sovereignty had neither freed former colonies from the unequal economic relations of the colonial period nor given them political control over their own territories,” thus preventing these states from securing the basic rights of their inhabitants. A “state in the grip of neo-colonialism,” he wrote, “is not master of its own destiny.”

    Nkrumah thought that only when postcolonial states fully controlled their natural resources would they be able to invest in the population’s well-being. In the meantime, neo-colonial economic arrangements were denying African states the ability to provide adequate education and health care as well as other economic and social rights to their populations, thus revealing how these economic arrangements were welded in a Gordian knot with international politics. Any attempt to understand one without the other provided a distorted picture of reality.

    Such combining of the economy with the political, however, was anathema to neoliberal thought. In 1927, exactly three decades before Ghana’s new leader led his country to independence, Hayek’s mentor, economist Ludwig von Mises, had already argued that colonialism took advantage of the superior weaponry of the “white race” to subjugate, rob, and enslave weaker peoples. But Mises was careful to distinguish colonial oppression from the economic goals of a competitive market, noting that Britain was different since its form of colonialism pursued “grand commercial objectives.” Similarly, the British economist Lionel Robbins separated the benign economic sphere from the merciless political one, writing in the 1930s that “[n]ot capitalism, but the anarchic political organization of the world is the root disease of our civilization.”

    These thinkers set the tone for many neoliberal economists who have since defined colonial imperialism as a phenomenon of politics, not capitalism, while casting the market as a realm of mutually beneficial, free, peaceful exchange. In this view, it is the political realm that engenders violence and coercion, not the economic sphere. Yet, during the period of decolonization neoliberals also understood that they needed to introduce moral justifications for the ongoing economic exploitation of former colonies. Realizing that human rights were rapidly becoming the new lingua franca of global moral speak, Whyte suggests that they, like Nkrumah, began mobilizing rights talk — except that neoliberals deployed it as a weapon against states who tried to gain control over their country’s natural resources as well as a shield from any kind of criticism directed toward their vision of a capitalist market.

    Their relation to the state was complicated, but was not really different from the one espoused by their liberal predecessors. Neoliberal thinkers understood that states are necessary to enforce labor discipline and to protect corporate interests, embracing states that served as handmaidens to competitive markets. If, however, a state undermined the separation of political sovereignty from economic ownership or became attuned to the demands of its people to nationalize resources, that state would inevitably be perceived as a foe. The solution was to set limits on the state’s exercise of sovereignty. As Friedrich Hayek, the author of The Road to Serfdom, put it, the “taming of the savage” must be followed by the “taming of the state.”

    Shaping the state so that it advances a neoliberal economic model can, however, be a brutal undertaking, and the consequences are likely to generate considerable suffering for large segments of the population. Freed from any commitment to popular sovereignty and economic self-determination, the language of liberal human rights offered neoliberals a means to legitimize transformative interventions that would subject states to the dictates of international markets. This is why a conception of human rights, one very different from the notion of rights advanced by Nkrumah, was needed.

    In Whyte’s historical analysis the free-market ideologues accordingly adopted a lexicon of rights that buttressed the neoliberal state, while simultaneously pathologizing mass politics as a threat to individual freedoms. In a nutshell, neoliberal economists realized that human rights could play a vital role in the dissemination of their ideology, providing, in Whyte’s words, “competitive markets with a moral and legal foundation.”

    At about the same time that neoliberalism became hegemonic, human rights organizations began sprouting in the international arena. By the early 1970s, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists were already active in numerous countries around the globe, and Americas Watch (a precursor to Human Rights Watch) had just been established. According to Samuel Moyn, a professor of history at Yale and author of the best seller The Last Utopia, it was precisely during this period that human rights first achieved global prominence. That Western human rights organizations gained influence during the period of neoliberal entrenchment is, Whyte argues, not coincidental.

    Although Whyte emphasizes the writings of leading neoliberal thinkers, a slightly more nuanced approach would have framed these developments as the reflection of a conjunctural moment, whereby the rise of neoliberalism and of human rights NGOs was itself part of numerous economic, social, and cultural shifts. Chile serves as a good example of this conjuncture, revealing how a combination of historical circumstances led neoliberal economics and a certain conception of human rights to merge.

    Notwithstanding the bloody takeover, the extrajudicial executions, the disappearances and wholesale torture of thousands of dissidents, Hayek’s response to Pinochet’s 1973 coup was that “the world shall come to regard the recovery of Chile as one of the great economic miracles of our time.” Milton Friedman, a key figure in the Chicago School, later echoed this assessment, describing Chile as an economic and political “miracle.” The two Nobel Prize winners were not detached observers, having provided advice to Pinochet on how to privatize state services such as education, health care, and social security, and it was Friedman’s former students, the “Chicago Boys,” who occupied central positions within the authoritarian regime, ensuring that these ideas became policy.

    What is arguably even more surprising is the reaction of human rights organizations to the bloody coup in Chile. Whyte acknowledges that Naomi Klein covered much of this ground in The Shock Doctrine, where she details how Amnesty International obscured the relationship between neoliberal “shock therapy” and political violence. Characterizing the Southern Cone as a “laboratory” for both neoliberalism and grassroots human rights activism, Klein argued that, in its commitment to impartiality, Amnesty occluded the reasons for the torture and killing, and thereby “helped the Chicago School ideology to escape from its first bloody laboratory virtually unscathed.” While Whyte concurs with Klein’s assessment, she has a slightly different point to make.

    To do so, she shows how Samuel Moyn contested Klein’s claim that the human rights movement was complicit in the rise of neoliberalism; he argued that the “chronological coincidence of human rights and neoliberalism” is “unsubstantiated” and that the so-called “Chilean miracle” is just as much due to the country’s “left’s own failures.” Moyn’s comment, Whyte cogently observes, “raises the question of why, in the period of neoliberal ascendancy, international human rights organisations flourished, largely escaping the repression that was pursued so furiously against leftists, trade unionists, rural organizers and indigenous people in countries such as Chile.”

    She points out that the CIA-trained National Intelligence Directorate had instructions to carry out the “total extermination of Marxism,” but in an effort to present Chile as a modern civilized nation, the junta did not disavow the language of human rights, and at the height of the repression allowed overseas human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists to enter the country, giving them extensive freedom of movement.

    Whyte explains that in focusing their attention on state violence while upholding the market as a realm of freedom and voluntary cooperation, human rights NGOs strengthened the great neoliberal dichotomy between coercive politics and free and peaceful markets. Allende’s government had challenged the myth of the market as a realm of voluntary, non-coercive, and mutually beneficial relations, and the Chilean leader paid for it with his life. By contrast, the junta with the Chicago Boys’ aid sought to uphold this myth, while using the state both to enhance a neoliberal economic order and to decimate collective political resistance. Whyte acknowledges that in challenging the junta’s torturous means, human rights NGOs arguably helped restrain the worst of its violence, but they did so at the cost of abandoning the economy as a site of political contestation.

    Whyte’s claim is not simply that the human rights NGOs dealt with political violence in isolation from the country’s economic transformations, as Klein had argued. Rather, she shows that the gap between Amnesty’s version of human rights and the version espoused by postcolonial leaders, like Nkrumah, was wide. Indeed, Amnesty International invoked human rights in a way that had little in common with Nkrumah’s program of economic self-determination, and the organization was even hostile to the violent anti-colonial struggles promoted by UN diplomats from postcolonial societies during the same period. The story of human rights and neoliberalism in Chile is not, as Whyte convincingly shows, simply a story of the massive human rights violations carried out in order to allow for market reforms, or of the new human rights NGOs that contested the junta’s violence. It is also the story of the institutionalization of a conservative and market-driven vision of neoliberal human rights, one that highlights individual rights while preserving the inequalities of capitalism by protecting the market from the intrusions of “the masses.”

    Expanding Whyte’s analysis to the present moment (the book focuses on the years between 1947 and 1987) while thinking of the relation between neoliberalism and human rights as part of a historical conjuncture, it becomes manifest that many if not most human rights NGOs operating today have been shaped by this legacy. One of its expressions is that rights groups rarely represent “the masses” in any formal or informal capacity. Consider Human Rights Watch, whose longstanding executive director Kenneth Roth oversees an annual budget of over $75 million and a staff of roughly 400 people. In four years’ time, Roth will outstrip Robert Mugabe’s 30-year tenure in office; while Roth has dedicated most of his adult life struggling against social wrongs, he has never had to compete in elections to secure his post. Indeed, due to the corporate structure of his organization the only constituency to which he is accountable are Human Rights Watch’s board members and donors — those who benefit from neoliberal economic arrangements — rather than the people whose rights the NGO defends or, needless to say, the “masses.” Moreover, Human Rights Watch is not exceptional within the rights-world, and even though rights organizations across the globe say they are interested in what the “people want,” sovereignty of the people in any meaningful sense, wherein the people can control the decisions that affect their lives most, is not really on the agenda.

    Undoubtedly, Human Rights Watch has shed light on some of the most horrendous state crimes carried out across the globe over the past several decades. Exposing egregious violations is not an easy task and is a particularly important endeavor in our post-truth era. However, truth-telling, in and of itself, is not a political strategy. Even if exposing violations is conceived of as a component of a broader political mobilization, the truths that NGOs like Human Rights Watch have been revealing are blinkered. Given that they interpret human rights in an extremely narrow way, one that aligns quite neatly with neoliberal thought, their strategy therefore fails to provide tools for those invested in introducing profound and truly transformative social change.

    From the get-go, most Western human rights NGOs had been attuned to Cold War politics and refrained from advocating for economic and social rights for decades, inventing numerous reasons to justify this stance: from the claim that the right to education and health care were not basic human rights like freedom of speech and freedom from torture, to the assertion that economic and social rights lacked a precise definition, thus rendering them difficult to campaign for. It took close to a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ongoing campaigning of Third World activists for the leading human rights organizations to acknowledge that economic and social rights, such as the right to health care, education, and social security, were indeed human rights, rights that they should dedicate at least some of its resources to fight for. But even today, almost 20 years after their integration within Human Rights Watch’s agenda, the resources allocated to the protection of these rights is relatively small, and the way that the organization strives to secure them is deeply skewed by the neoliberal view that politics and markets are separate realms and that human rights work should avoid interference with the capitalist structure of competitive markets. Wittingly or not, organizations like Human Rights Watch have not only bolstered the neoliberal imagination, but have produced a specific arsenal of human rights that shapes social struggles in a way that weakens those who aim to advance a more egalitarian political horizon.

    Several years ago, Roth tried to justify Human Rights Watch’s approach, claiming that the issues it deals with are determined by its “methodology,” and that the “essence of that methodology […] is not the ability to mobilize people in the streets, to engage in litigation, to press for broad national plans, or to provide technical assistance. Rather, the core of our methodology is our ability to investigate, expose, and shame.” The hallmark of human rights work, in his view, is uncovering discrimination, while the unequal arrangement of the local and international economy leading to discrimination are beyond the organization’s purview. Not unlike the neoliberal thinkers discussed in Whyte’s book, Human Rights Watch limits its activism to formal equality, adopting a form of inquiry that ignores and ultimately disavows the structural context, which effectively undercuts forms of collective struggle.

    Returning to Rony Brauman and the creation of Liberté sans Frontières, toward the end of the book Whyte recounts how in a 2015 interview he understood things differently than he had in the mid-1980s. “I see myself and the small group that I brought together as a kind of symptom of the rise of neoliberalism […] We had the conviction that we were a kind of intellectual vanguard, but no,” he laughed, “we were just following the rising tendency.”

    Whyte suggests that this assessment is, if anything, too modest: rather than being a symptom, the humanitarians who founded Liberté sans Frontières explicitly mobilized the language of human rights in order to contest the vision of substantive equality that defined the Third Worldist project. Brauman and his organization benefited from the neo-colonial economic arrangements and, she notes,

    were not powerless companions of the rising neoliberals, but active, enthusiastic and influential fellow travellers. Their distinctive contribution was to pioneer a distinctly neoliberal human rights discourse, for which a competitive market order accompanied by a liberal institutional structure was truly the last utopia.

    The destructive legacy that Whyte so eloquently describes suggests that the convergence between neoliberals and rights practitioners has defanged human rights from any truly emancipatory potential. Formal rights without the redistribution of wealth and the democratization of economic power, as we have learned not only from the ongoing struggles of postcolonial states but also from the growing inequality in the Global North, simply do not lead to justice. So if the objectives of a utopian imagination include equitable distribution of resources and actual sovereignty of the people, we urgently need a new vocabulary of resistance and novel methods of struggle.

    https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/how-human-rights-were-defanged-from-any-truly-emancipatory-potentia
    #droits_humains #droits_fondamentaux #néolibéralisme #néo-libéralisme

  • #Libye : « Entre la vie et la mort ». Les personnes refugiées et migrantes prises dans la tourmente des #violences en Libye

    En Libye, les personnes réfugiées et migrantes sont piégées dans un cycle de violences caractérisé par de graves atteintes aux #droits_humains, telles que la #détention_arbitraire pendant de longues périodes et d’autres formes de privation illégale de liberté, la #torture et d’autres #mauvais_traitements, les #homicides illégaux, le #viol et d’autres formes de #violences_sexuelles, le #travail_forcé et l’#exploitation aux mains d’agents gouvernementaux et non gouvernementaux, dans un climat d’#impunité quasi totale.

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde19/3084/2020/fr
    #migrations #asile #réfugiés #violence #rapport #Amnesty_international #privation_de_liberté #droits_fondamentaux

    ping @karine4 @isskein

  • Deportation Union: Rights, accountability and the EU’s push to increase forced removals

    Deportation Union provides a critical examination of recently-introduced and forthcoming EU measures designed to increase the number of deportations carried out by national authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex. It focuses on three key areas: attempts to reduce or eliminate rights and protections in the law governing deportations; the expansion and interconnection of EU databases and information systems; and the increased budget, powers and personnel awarded to Frontex.

    There has long-been coordinated policy, legal and operational action on migration at EU level, and efforts to increase deportations have always been a part of this. However, since the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015 there has been a rapid increase in new initiatives, the overall aim of which is to limit legal protections afforded to ‘deportable’ individuals at the same time as expanding the ability of national and EU authorities to track, detain and remove people with increasing efficiency.

    The measures and initiatives being introduced by the EU to scale up deportations will require massive public expenditure on technology, infrastructure and personnel; the strengthening and expansion of state and supranational agencies already-lacking in transparency and democratic accountability; and are likely to further undermine claims that the EU occupies the moral high ground in its treatment of migrants. Anyone wishing to question and challenge these developments will first need to understand them. This report attempts to go some way towards assisting with that task.


    https://www.statewatch.org/deportation-union-rights-accountability-and-the-eu-s-push-to-increase-fo
    #machine_à_expulser #expulsions #asile #migrations #réfugiés #renvois #UE #EU #rapport #union_européenne #renvois_forcés #rapport #Statewatch #Frontex #database #base_de_données #données_biométriques #Directive_Retour #return-opticon #Joint_return_operations (#JROs) #Collecting_return_operations #National_return_operations #Afghanistan #réfugiés_afghans #European_Centre_for_Returns #statistiques #chiffres #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @etraces

    • EU: Frontex splashes out: millions of euros for new technology and equipment (19.06.2020)

      The approval of the new #Frontex_Regulation in November 2019 implied an increase of competences, budget and capabilities for the EU’s border agency, which is now equipping itself with increased means to monitor events and developments at the borders and beyond, as well as renewing its IT systems to improve the management of the reams of data to which it will have access.

      In 2020 Frontex’s #budget grew to €420.6 million, an increase of over 34% compared to 2019. The European Commission has proposed that in the next EU budget (formally known as the Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF, covering 2021-27) €11 billion will be made available to the agency, although legal negotiations are ongoing and have hit significant stumbling blocks due to Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and political disagreements.

      Nevertheless, the increase for this year has clearly provided a number of opportunities for Frontex. For instance, it has already agreed contracts worth €28 million for the acquisition of dozens of vehicles equipped with thermal and day cameras, surveillance radar and sensors.

      According to the contract for the provision of Mobile Surveillance Systems, these new tools will be used “for detection, identification and recognising of objects of interest e.g. human beings and/or groups of people, vehicles moving across the border (land and sea), as well as vessels sailing within the coastal areas, and other objects identified as objects of interest”. [1]

      Frontex has also published a call for tenders for Maritime Analysis Tools, worth a total of up to €2.6 million. With this, Frontex seeks to improve access to “big data” for maritime analysis. [2] The objective of deploying these tools is to enhance Frontex’s operational support to EU border, coast guard and law enforcement authorities in “suppressing and preventing, among others, illegal migration and cross-border crime in the maritime domain”.

      Moreover, the system should be capable of delivering analysis and identification of high-risk threats following the collection and storage of “big data”. It is not clear how much human input and monitoring there will be of the identification of risks. The call for tenders says the winning bidder should have been announced in May, but there is no public information on the chosen company so far.

      As part of a 12-month pilot project to examine how maritime analysis tools could “support multipurpose operational response,” Frontex previously engaged the services of the Tel Aviv-based company Windward Ltd, which claims to fuse “maritime data and artificial intelligence… to provide the right insights, with the right context, at the right time.” [3] Windward, whose current chairman is John Browne, the former CEO of the multinational oil company BP, received €783,000 for its work. [4]

      As the agency’s gathering and processing of data increases, it also aims to improve and develop its own internal IT systems, through a two-year project worth €34 million. This will establish a set of “framework contracts”. Through these, each time the agency seeks a new IT service or system, companies selected to participate in the framework contracts will submit bids for the work. [5]

      The agency is also seeking a ’Software Solution for EBCG [European Border and Coast Guard] Team Members to Access to Schengen Information System’, through a contract worth up to €5 million. [6] The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the EU’s largest database, enabling cooperation between authorities working in the fields of police, border control and customs of all the Schengen states (26 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and its legal bases were recently reformed to include new types of alert and categories of data. [7]

      This software will give Frontex officials direct access to certain data within the SIS. Currently, they have to request access via national border guards in the country in which they are operating. This would give complete autonomy to Frontex officials to consult the SIS whilst undertaking operations, shortening the length of the procedure. [8]

      With the legal basis for increasing Frontex’s powers in place, the process to build up its personnel, material and surveillance capacities continues, with significant financial implications.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/june/eu-frontex-splashes-out-millions-of-euros-for-new-technology-and-equipme

      #technologie #équipement #Multiannual_Financial_Framework #MFF #surveillance #Mobile_Surveillance_Systems #Maritime_Analysis_Tools #données #big_data #mer #Windward_Ltd #Israël #John_Browne #BP #complexe_militaro-industriel #Software_Solution_for_EBCG_Team_Members_to_Access_to_Schengen_Information_System #SIS #Schengen_Information_System

    • EU : Guns, guards and guidelines : reinforcement of Frontex runs into problems (26.05.2020)

      An internal report circulated by Frontex to EU government delegations highlights a series of issues in implementing the agency’s new legislation. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency is urging swift action to implement the mandate and is pressing ahead with the recruitment of its new ‘standing corps’. However, there are legal problems with the acquisition, registration, storage and transport of weapons. The agency is also calling for derogations from EU rules on staff disciplinary measures in relation to the use of force; and wants an extended set of privileges and immunities. Furthermore, it is assisting with “voluntary return” despite this activity appearing to fall outside of its legal mandate.

      State-of-play report

      At the end of April 2020, Frontex circulated a report to EU government delegations in the Council outlining the state of play of the implementation of its new Regulation (“EBCG 2.0 Regulation”, in the agency and Commission’s words), especially relating to “current challenges”.[1] Presumably, this refers to the outbreak of a pandemic, though the report also acknowledges challenges created by the legal ambiguities contained in the Regulation itself, in particular with regard to the acquisition of weapons, supervisory and disciplinary mechanisms, legal privileges and immunities and involvement in “voluntary return” operations.

      The path set out in the report is that the “operational autonomy of the agency will gradually increase towards 2027” until it is a “fully-fledged and reliable partner” to EU and Schengen states. It acknowledges the impacts of unforeseen world events on the EU’s forthcoming budget (Multi-annual Financial Framework, MFF) for 2021-27, and hints at the impact this will have on Frontex’s own budget and objectives. Nevertheless, the agency is still determined to “continue increasing the capabilities” of the agency, including its acquisition of new equipment and employment of new staff for its standing corps.

      The main issues covered by the report are: Frontex’s new standing corps of staff, executive powers and the use of force, fundamental rights and data protection, and the integration into Frontex of EUROSUR, the European Border Surveillance System.

      The new standing corps

      Recruitment

      A new standing corps of 10,000 Frontex staff by 2024 is to be, in the words of the agency, its “biggest game changer”.[2] The report notes that the establishment of the standing corps has been heavily affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. According to the report, 7,238 individuals had applied to join the standing corps before the outbreak of the pandemic. 5,482 of these – over 75% – were assessed by the agency as eligible, with a final 304 passing the entire selection process to be on the “reserve lists”.[3]

      Despite interruptions to the recruitment procedure following worldwide lockdown measures, interviews for Category 1 staff – permanent Frontex staff members to be deployed on operations – were resumed via video by the end of April. 80 candidates were shortlisted for the first week, and Frontex aims to interview 1,000 people in total. Despite this adaptation, successful candidates will have to wait for Frontex’s contractor to re-open in order to carry out medical tests, an obligatory requirement for the standing corps.[4]

      In 2020, Frontex joined the European Defence Agency’s Satellite Communications (SatCom) and Communications and Information System (CIS) services in order to ensure ICT support for the standing corps in operation as of 2021.[5] The EDA describes SatCom and CIS as “fundamental for Communication, Command and Control in military operations… [enabling] EU Commanders to connect forces in remote areas with HQs and capitals and to manage the forces missions and tasks”.[6]

      Training

      The basic training programme, endorsed by the management board in October 2019, is designed for Category 1 staff. It includes specific training in interoperability and “harmonisation with member states”. The actual syllabus, content and materials for this basic training were developed by March 2020; Statewatch has made a request for access to these documents, which is currently pending with the Frontex Transparency Office. This process has also been affected by the novel coronavirus, though the report insists that “no delay is foreseen in the availability of the specialised profile related training of the standing corps”.

      Use of force

      The state-of-play-report acknowledges a number of legal ambiguities surrounding some of the more controversial powers outlined in Frontex’s 2019 Regulation, highlighting perhaps that political ambition, rather than serious consideration and assessment, propelled the legislation, overtaking adequate procedure and oversight. The incentive to enact the legislation within a short timeframe is cited as a reason that no impact assessment was carried out on the proposed recast to the agency’s mandate. This draft was rushed through negotiations and approved in an unprecedented six-month period, and the details lost in its wake are now coming to light.

      Article 82 of the 2019 Regulation refers to the use of force and carriage of weapons by Frontex staff, while a supervisory mechanism for the use of force by statutory staff is established by Article 55. This says:

      “On the basis of a proposal from the executive director, the management board shall: (a) establish an appropriate supervisory mechanism to monitor the application of the provisions on use of force by statutory staff, including rules on reporting and specific measures, such as those of a disciplinary nature, with regard to the use of force during deployments”[7]

      The agency’s management board is expected to make a decision about this supervisory mechanism, including specific measures and reporting, by the end of June 2020.

      The state-of-play report posits that the legal terms of Article 55 are inconsistent with the standard rules on administrative enquiries and disciplinary measures concerning EU staff.[8] These outline, inter alia, that a dedicated disciplinary board will be established in each institution including at least one member from outside the institution, that this board must be independent and its proceedings secret. Frontex insists that its staff will be a special case as the “first uniformed service of the EU”, and will therefore require “special arrangements or derogations to the Staff Regulations” to comply with the “totally different nature of tasks and risks associated with their deployments”.[9]

      What is particularly astounding about Frontex demanding special treatment for oversight, particularly on use of force and weapons is that, as the report acknowledges, the agency cannot yet legally store or transport any weapons it acquires.

      Regarding service weapons and “non-lethal equipment”,[10] legal analysis by “external experts and a regulatory law firm” concluded that the 2019 Regulation does not provide a legal basis for acquiring, registering, storing or transporting weapons in Poland, where the agency’s headquarters is located. Frontex has applied to the Commission for clarity on how to proceed, says the report. Frontex declined to comment on the status of this consultation and any indications of the next steps the agency will take. A Commission spokesperson stated only that it had recently received the agency’s enquiry and “is analysing the request and the applicable legal framework in the view of replying to the EBCGA”, without expanding further.

      Until Frontex has the legal basis to do so, it cannot launch a tender for firearms and “non-lethal equipment” (which includes batons, pepper spray and handcuffs). However, the report implies the agency is ready to do so as soon as it receives the green light. Technical specifications are currently being finalised for “non-lethal equipment” and Frontex still plans to complete acquisition by the end of the year.

      Privileges and immunities

      The agency is also seeking special treatment with regard to the legal privileges and immunities it and its officials enjoy. Article 96 of the 2019 Regulation outlines the privileges and immunities of Frontex officers, stating:

      “Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union annexed to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU shall apply to the Agency and its statutory staff.” [11]

      However, Frontex notes that the Protocol does not apply to non-EU states, nor does it “offer a full protection, or take into account a need for the inviolability of assets owned by Frontex (service vehicles, vessels, aircraft)”.[12] Frontex is increasingly involved in operations taking place on non-EU territory. For instance, the Council of the EU has signed or initialled a number of Status Agreements with non-EU states, primarily in the Western Balkans, concerning Frontex activities in those countries. To launch operations under these agreements, Frontex will (or, in the case of Albania, already has) agree on operational plans with each state, under which Frontex staff can use executive powers.[13] The agency therefore seeks an “EU-level status of forces agreement… to account for the partial absence of rules”.

      Law enforcement

      To implement its enhanced functions regarding cross-border crime, Frontex will continue to participate in Europol’s four-year policy cycle addressing “serious international and organised crime”.[14] The agency is also developing a pilot project, “Investigation Support Activities- Cross Border Crime” (ISA-CBC), addressing drug trafficking and terrorism.

      Fundamental rights and data protection

      The ‘EBCG 2.0 Regulation’ requires several changes to fundamental rights measures by the agency, which, aside from some vague “legal analyses” seem to be undergoing development with only internal oversight.

      Firstly, to facilitate adequate independence of the Fundamental Rights Officer (FRO), special rules have to be established. The FRO was introduced under Frontex’s 2016 Regulation, but has since then been understaffed and underfunded by the agency.[15] The 2019 Regulation obliges the agency to ensure “sufficient and adequate human and financial resources” for the office, as well as 40 fundamental rights monitors.[16] These standing corps staff members will be responsible for monitoring compliance with fundamental rights standards, providing advice and assistance on the agency’s plans and activities, and will visit and evaluate operations, including acting as forced return monitors.[17]

      During negotiations over the proposed Regulation 2.0, MEPs introduced extended powers for the Fundamental Rights Officer themselves. The FRO was previously responsible for contributing to Frontex’s fundamental rights strategy and monitoring its compliance with and promotion of fundamental rights. Now, they will be able to monitor compliance by conducting investigations; offering advice where deemed necessary or upon request of the agency; providing opinions on operational plans, pilot projects and technical assistance; and carrying out on-the-spot visits. The executive director is now obliged to respond “as to how concerns regarding possible violations of fundamental rights… have been addressed,” and the management board “shall ensure that action is taken with regard to recommendations of the fundamental rights officer.” [18] The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in the Regulation.

      The state-of-play report says that “legal analyses and exchanges” are ongoing, and will inform an eventual management board decision, but no timeline for this is offered. [19] The agency will also need to adapt its much criticised individual complaints mechanism to fit the requirements of the 2019 Regulation; executive director Fabrice Leggeri’s first-draft decision on this process is currently undergoing internal consultations. Even the explicit requirement set out in the 2019 Regulation for an “independent and effective” complaints mechanism,[20] does not meet minimum standards to qualify as an effective remedy, which include institutional independence, accessibility in practice, and capacity to carry out thorough and prompt investigations.[21]

      Frontex has entered into a service level agreement (SLA) with the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) for support in establishing and training the team of fundamental rights monitors introduced by the 2019 Regulation. These monitors are to be statutory staff of the agency and will assess fundamental rights compliance of operational activities, advising, assisting and contributing to “the promotion of fundamental rights”.[22] The scope and objectives for this team were finalised at the end of March this year, and the agency will establish the team by the end of the year. Statewatch has requested clarification as to what is to be included in the team’s scope and objectives, pending with the Frontex Transparency Office.

      Regarding data protection, the agency plans a package of implementing rules (covering issues ranging from the position of data protection officer to the restriction of rights for returnees and restrictions under administrative data processing) to be implemented throughout 2020.[23] The management board will review a first draft of the implementing rules on the data protection officer in the second quarter of 2020.

      Returns

      The European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) – a network of 15 European states and the Commission facilitating cooperation over return operations “as part of the EU efforts to manage migration” – is to be handed over to Frontex. [24] A handover plan is currently under the final stage of review; it reportedly outlines the scoping of activities and details of “which groups of returnees will be eligible for Frontex assistance in the future”.[25] A request from Statewatch to Frontex for comment on what assistance will be provided by the agency to such returnees was unanswered at the time of publication.

      Since the entry into force of its new mandate, Frontex has also been providing technical assistance for so-called voluntary returns, with the first two such operations carried out on scheduled flights (as opposed to charter flights) in February 2020. A total of 28 people were returned by mid-April, despite the fact that there is no legal clarity over what the definition “voluntary return” actually refers to, as the state-of-play report also explains:

      “The terminology of voluntary return was introduced in the Regulation without providing any definition thereof. This terminology (voluntary departure vs voluntary return) is moreover not in line with the terminology used in the Return Directive (EBCG 2.0 refers to the definition of returns provided for in the Return Directive. The Return Directive, however, does not cover voluntary returns; a voluntary return is not a return within the meaning of the Return Directive). Further elaboration is needed.”[26]

      On top of requiring “further clarification”, if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it is acting outside of its legal mandate. Statewatch has launched an investigation into the agency’s activities relating to voluntary returns, to outline the number of such operations to date, their country of return and country of destination.

      Frontex is currently developing a module dedicated to voluntary returns by charter flight for its FAR (Frontex Application for Returns) platform (part of its return case management system). On top of the technical support delivered by the agency, Frontex also foresees the provision of on-the-ground support from Frontex representatives or a “return counsellor”, who will form part of the dedicated return teams planned for the standing corps from 2021.[27]

      Frontex has updated its return case management system (RECAMAS), an online platform for member state authorities and Frontex to communicate and plan return operations, to manage an increased scope. The state-of-play report implies that this includes detail on post-return activities in a new “post-return module”, indicating that Frontex is acting on commitments to expand its activity in this area. According to the agency’s roadmap on implementing the 2019 Regulation, an action plan on how the agency will provide post-return support to people (Article 48(1), 2019 Regulation) will be written by the third quarter of 2020.[28]

      In its closing paragraph, related to the budgetary impact of COVID-19 regarding return operations, the agency notes that although activities will resume once aerial transportation restrictions are eased, “the agency will not be able to provide what has been initially intended, undermining the concept of the EBCG as a whole”.[29]

      EUROSUR

      The Commission is leading progress on adopting the implementing act for the integration of EUROSUR into Frontex, which will define the implementation of new aerial surveillance,[30] expected by the end of the year.[31] Frontex is discussing new working arrangements with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL). The development by Frontex of the surveillance project’s communications network will require significant budgetary investment, as the agency plans to maintain the current system ahead of its planned replacement in 2025.[32] This investment is projected despite the agency’s recognition of the economic impact of Covid-19 on member states, and the consequent adjustments to the MFF 2021-27.

      Summary

      Drafted and published as the world responds to an unprecedented pandemic, the “current challenges” referred to in the report appear, on first read, to refer to the budgetary and staffing implications of global shut down. However, the report maintains throughout that the agency’s determination to expand, in terms of powers as well as staffing, will not be stalled despite delays and budgeting adjustments. Indeed, it is implied more than once that the “current challenges” necessitate more than ever that these powers be assumed. The true challenges, from the agency’s point of view, stem from the fact that its current mandate was rushed through negotiations in six months, leading to legal ambiguities that leave it unable to acquire or transport weapons and in a tricky relationship with the EU protocol on privileges and immunities when operating in third countries. Given the violence that so frequently accompanies border control operations in the EU, it will come as a relief to many that Frontex is having difficulties acquiring its own weaponry. However, it is far from reassuring that the introduction of new measures on fundamental rights and accountability are being carried out internally and remain unavailable for public scrutiny.

      Jane Kilpatrick

      Note: this article was updated on 26 May 2020 to include the European Commission’s response to Statewatch’s enquiries.

      It was updated on 1 July with some minor corrections:

      “the Council of the EU has signed or initialled a number of Status Agreements with non-EU states... under which” replaces “the agency has entered into working agreements with Balkan states, under which”
      “The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in any detail in the Regulation beyond monitoring the agency’s ’compliance with fundamental rights, including by conducting investigations’” replaces “The investigatory powers of the FRO are not, however, set out in the Regulation”
      “if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it further exposes the haste with which legislation written to deny entry into the EU and facilitate expulsions was drafted” replaces “if Frontex is assisting with “voluntary returns” that are not governed by the Returns Directive, it is acting outside of its legal mandate”

      Endnotes

      [1] Frontex, ‘State of play of the implementation of the EBCG 2.0 Regulation in view of current challenges’, 27 April 2020, contained in Council document 7607/20, LIMITE, 20 April 2020, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/may/eu-council-frontex-ECBG-state-of-play-7607-20.pdf

      [2] Frontex, ‘Programming Document 2018-20’, 10 December 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf

      [3] Section 1.1, state of play report

      [4] Jane Kilpatrick, ‘Frontex launches “game-changing” recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards’, Statewatch Analysis, March 2020, http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-355-frontex-recruitment-standing-corps.pdf

      [5] Section 7.1, state of play report

      [6] EDA, ‘EU SatCom Market’, https://www.eda.europa.eu/what-we-do/activities/activities-search/eu-satcom-market

      [7] Article 55(5)(a), Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex 2019 Regulation), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [8] Pursuant to Annex IX of the EU Staff Regulations, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:01962R0031-20140501

      [9] Chapter III, state of play report

      [10] Section 2.5, state of play report

      [11] Protocol (No 7), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2016.202.01.0001.01.ENG#d1e3363-201-1

      [12] Chapter III, state of play report

      [13] ‘Border externalisation: Agreements on Frontex operations in Serbia and Montenegro heading for parliamentary approval’, Statewatch News, 11 March 2020, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/frontex-status-agreements.htm

      [14] Europol, ‘EU policy cycle – EMPACT’, https://www.europol.europa.eu/empact

      [15] ‘NGOs, EU and international agencies sound the alarm over Frontex’s respect for fundamental rights’, Statewatch News, 5 March 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/mar/fx-consultative-forum-rep.htm; ‘Frontex condemned by its own fundamental rights body for failing to live up to obligations’, Statewatch News, 21 May 2018, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/may/eu-frontex-fr-rep.htm

      [16] Article 110(6), Article 109, 2019 Regulation

      [17] Article 110, 2019 Regulation

      [18] Article 109, 2019 Regulation

      [19] Section 8, state of play report

      [20] Article 111(1), 2019 Regulation

      [21] Sergio Carrera and Marco Stefan, ‘Complaint Mechanisms in Border Management and Expulsion Operations in Europe: Effective Remedies for Victims of Human Rights Violations?’, CEPS, 2018, https://www.ceps.eu/system/files/Complaint%20Mechanisms_A4.pdf

      [22] Article 110(1), 2019 Regulation

      [23] Section 9, state of play report

      [24] ERRIN, https://returnnetwork.eu

      [25] Section 3.2, state of play report

      [26] Chapter III, state of play report

      [27] Section 3.2, state of play report

      [28] ‘’Roadmap’ for implementing new Frontex Regulation: full steam ahead’, Statewatch News, 25 November 2019, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/nov/eu-frontex-roadmap.htm

      [29] State of play report, p. 19

      [30] Matthias Monroy, ‘Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders’, Statewatch Analysis, February 2020, http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-354-frontex-drones.pdf

      [31] Section 4, state of play report

      [32] Section 7.2, state of play report
      Next article >

      Mediterranean: As the fiction of a Libyan search and rescue zone begins to crumble, EU states use the coronavirus pandemic to declare themselves unsafe

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/eu-guns-guards-and-guidelines-reinforcement-of-frontex-runs-into-problem

      #EBCG_2.0_Regulation #European_Defence_Agency’s_Satellite_Communications (#SatCom) #Communications_and_Information_System (#CIS) #immunité #droits_fondamentaux #droits_humains #Fundamental_Rights_Officer (#FRO) #European_Return_and_Reintegration_Network (#ERRIN) #renvois #expulsions #réintégration #Directive_Retour #FAR (#Frontex_Application_for_Returns) #RECAMAS #EUROSUR #European_Aviation_Safety_Agency (#EASA) #European_Organisation_for_the_Safety_of_Air_Navigation (#EUROCONTROL)

    • Frontex launches “game-changing” recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards

      On 4 January 2020 the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) adopted a decision on the profiles of the staff required for the new “standing corps”, which is ultimately supposed to be staffed by 10,000 officials. [1] The decision ushers in a new wave of recruitment for the agency. Applicants will be put through six months of training before deployment, after rigorous medical testing.

      What is the standing corps?

      The European Border and Coast Guard standing corps is the new, and according to Frontex, first ever, EU uniformed service, available “at any time…to support Member States facing challenges at their external borders”.[2] Frontex’s Programming Document for the 2018-2020 period describes the standing corps as the agency’s “biggest game changer”, requiring “an unprecedented scale of staff recruitment”.[3]

      The standing corps will be made up of four categories of Frontex operational staff:

      Frontex statutory staff deployed in operational areas and staff responsible for the functioning of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) Central Unit[4];
      Long-term staff seconded from member states;
      Staff from member states who can be immediately deployed on short-term secondment to Frontex; and

      A reserve of staff from member states for rapid border interventions.

      These border guards will be “trained by the best and equipped with the latest technology has to offer”.[5] As well as wearing EU uniforms, they will be authorised to carry weapons and will have executive powers: they will be able to verify individuals’ identity and nationality and permit or refuse entry into the EU.

      The decision made this January is limited to the definition of profiles and requirements for the operational staff that are to be recruited. The Management Board (MB) will have to adopt a new decision by March this year to set out the numbers of staff needed per profile, the requirements for individuals holding those positions, and the number of staff needed for the following year based on expected operational needs. This process will be repeated annually.[6] The MB can then further specify how many staff each member state should contribute to these profiles, and establish multi-annual plans for member state contributions and recruitment for Frontex statutory staff. Projections for these contributions are made in Annexes II – IV of the 2019 Regulation, though a September Mission Statement by new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urges the recruitment of 10,000 border guards by 2024, indicating that member states might be meeting their contribution commitments much sooner than 2027.[7]

      The standing corps of Frontex staff will have an array of executive powers and responsibilities. As well as being able to verify identity and nationality and refuse or permit entry into the EU, they will be able to consult various EU databases to fulfil operational aims, and may also be authorised by host states to consult national databases. According to the MB Decision, “all members of the Standing Corps are to be able to identify persons in need of international protection and persons in a vulnerable situation, including unaccompanied minors, and refer them to the competent authorities”. Training on international and EU law on fundamental rights and international protection, as well as guidelines on the identification and referral of persons in need of international protection, will be mandatory for all standing corps staff members.

      The size of the standing corps

      The following table, taken from the 2019 Regulation, outlines the ambitions for growth of Frontex’s standing corps. However, as noted, the political ambition is to reach the 10,000 total by 2024.

      –-> voir le tableau sur le site de statewatch!

      Category 2 staff – those on long term secondment from member states – will join Frontex from 2021, according to the 2019 Regulation.[8] It is foreseen that Germany will contribute the most staff, with 61 expected in 2021, increasing year-by-year to 225 by 2027. Other high contributors are France and Italy (170 and 125 by 2027, respectively).

      The lowest contributors will be Iceland (expected to contribute between one and two people a year from 2021 to 2027), Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Liechtenstein is not contributing personnel but will contribute “through proportional financial support”.

      For short-term secondments from member states, projections follow a very similar pattern. Germany will contribute 540 staff in 2021, increasing to 827 in 2027; Italy’s contribution will increase from 300 in 2021 to 458 in 2027; and France’s from 408 in 2021 to 624 in 2027. Most states will be making less than 100 staff available for short-term secondment in 2021.

      What are the profiles?

      The MB Decision outlines 12 profiles to be made available to Frontex, ranging from Border Guard Officer and Crew Member, to Cross Border Crime Detection Officer and Return Specialist. A full list is contained in the Decision.[9] All profiles will be fulfilled by an official of the competent authority of a member state (MS) or Schengen Associated Country (SAC), or by a member of Frontex’s own statutory staff.

      Tasks to be carried out by these officials include:

      border checks and surveillance;
      interviewing, debriefing* and screening arrivals and registering fingerprints;
      supporting the collection, assessment, analysis and distribution of information with EU member and non-member states;
      verifying travel documents;
      escorting individuals being deported on Frontex return operations;
      operating data systems and platforms; and
      offering cultural mediation

      *Debriefing consists of informal interviews with migrants to collect information for risk analyses on irregular migration and other cross-border crime and the profiling of irregular migrants to identify “modus operandi and migration trends used by irregular migrants and facilitators/criminal networks”. Guidelines written by Frontex in 2012 instructed border guards to target vulnerable individuals for “debriefing”, not in order to streamline safeguarding or protection measures, but for intelligence-gathering - “such people are often more willing to talk about their experiences,” said an internal document.[10] It is unknown whether those instructions are still in place.

      Recruitment for the profiles

      Certain profiles are expected to “apply self-safety and security practice”, and to have “the capacity to work under pressure and face emotional events with composure”. Relevant profiles (e.g. crew member) are required to be able to perform search and rescue activities in distress situations at sea borders.

      Frontex published a call for tender on 27 December for the provision of medical services for pre-recruitment examinations, in line with the plan to start recruiting operational staff in early 2020. The documents accompanying the tender reveal additional criteria for officials that will be granted executive powers (Frontex category “A2”) compared to those staff stationed primarily at the agency’s Warsaw headquarters (“A1”). Those criteria come in the form of more stringent medical testing.

      The differences in medical screening for category A1 and A2 staff lie primarily in additional toxicology screening and psychiatric and psychological consultations. [11] The additional psychiatric attention allotted for operational staff “is performed to check the predisposition for people to work in arduous, hazardous conditions, exposed to stress, conflict situations, changing rapidly environment, coping with people being in dramatic, injure or death exposed situations”.[12]

      Both A1 and A2 category provisional recruits will be asked to disclose if they have ever suffered from a sexually transmitted disease or “genital organ disease”, as well as depression, nervous or mental disorders, among a long list of other ailments. As well as disclosing any medication they take, recruits must also state if they are taking oral contraceptives (though there is no question about hormonal contraceptives that are not taken orally). Women are also asked to give the date of their last period on the pre-appointment questionnaire.

      “Never touch yourself with gloves”

      Frontex training materials on forced return operations obtained by Statewatch in 2019 acknowledge the likelihood of psychological stress among staff, among other health risks. (One recommendation contained in the documents is to “never touch yourself with gloves”). Citing “dissonance within the team, long hours with no rest, group dynamic, improvisation and different languages” among factors behind psychological stress, the training materials on medical precautionary measures for deportation escort officers also refer to post-traumatic stress disorder, the lack of an area to retreat to and body clock disruption as exacerbating risks. The document suggests a high likelihood that Frontex return escorts will witness poverty, “agony”, “chaos”, violence, boredom, and will have to deal with vulnerable persons.[13]

      For fundamental rights monitors (officials deployed to monitor fundamental rights compliance during deportations, who can be either Frontex staff or national officials), the training materials obtained by Statewatch focus on the self-control of emotions, rather than emotional care. Strategies recommended include talking to somebody, seeking professional help, and “informing yourself of any other option offered”. The documents suggest that it is an individual’s responsibility to prevent emotional responses to stressful situations having an impact on operations, and to organise their own supervision and professional help. There is no obvious focus on how traumatic responses of Frontex staff could affect those coming into contact with them at an external border or during a deportation. [14]

      The materials obtained by Statewatch also give some indication of the fundamental rights training imparted to those acting as deportation ‘escorts’ and fundamental rights monitors. The intended outcomes for a training session in Athens that took place in March 2019 included “adapt FR [fundamental rights] in a readmission operation (explain it with examples)” and “should be able to describe Non Refoulement principle” (in the document, ‘Session Fundamental rights’ is followed by ‘Session Velcro handcuffs’).[15] The content of the fundamental rights training that will be offered to Frontex’s new recruits is currently unknown.

      Fit for service?

      The agency anticipates that most staff will be recruited from March to June 2020, involving the medical examination of up to 700 applicants in this period. According to Frontex’s website, the agency has already received over 7,000 applications for the 700 new European Border Guard Officer positions.[16] Successful candidates will undergo six months of training before deployment in 2021. Apparently then, the posts are a popular career option, despite the seemingly invasive medical tests (especially for sexually active women). Why, for instance, is it important to Frontex to know about oral hormonal contraception, or about sexually transmitted infections?

      When asked by Statewatch if Frontex provides in-house psychological and emotional support, an agency press officer stated: “When it comes to psychological and emotional support, Frontex is increasing awareness and personal resilience of the officers taking part in our operations through education and training activities.” A ‘Frontex Mental Health Strategy’ from 2018 proposed the establishment of “a network of experts-psychologists” to act as an advisory body, as well as creating “online self-care tools”, a “psychological hot-line”, and a space for peer support with participation of psychologists (according to risk assessment) during operations.[17]

      One year later, Frontex, EASO and Europol jointly produced a brochure for staff deployed on operations, entitled ‘Occupational Health and Safety – Deployment Information’, which offers a series of recommendations to staff, placing the responsibility to “come to the deployment in good mental shape” and “learn how to manage stress and how to deal with anger” more firmly on the individual than the agency.[18] According to this document, officers who need additional support must disclose this by requesting it from their supervisor, while “a helpline or psychologist on-site may be available, depending on location”.

      Frontex anticipates this recruitment drive to be “game changing”. Indeed, the Commission is relying upon it to reach its ambitions for the agency’s independence and efficiency. The inclusion of mandatory training in fundamental rights in the six-month introductory education is obviously a welcome step. Whether lessons learned in a classroom will be the first thing that comes to the minds of officials deployed on border control or deportation operations remains to be seen.

      Unmanaged responses to emotional stress can include burnout, compassion-fatigue and indirect trauma, which can in turn decrease a person’s ability to cope with adverse circumstance, and increase the risk of violence.[19] Therefore, aside from the agency’s responsibility as an employer to safeguard the health of its staff, its approach to internal psychological care will affect not only the border guards themselves, but the people that they routinely come into contact with at borders and during return operations, many of whom themselves will have experienced trauma.

      Jane Kilpatrick

      Endnotes

      [1] Management Board Decision 1/2020 of 4 January 2020 on adopting the profiles to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps, https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Key_Documents/MB_Decision/2020/MB_Decision_1_2020_adopting_the_profiles_to_be_made_available_to_the_

      [2] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [3] Frontex, ‘Programming Document 2018-20’, 10 December 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2019/feb/frontex-programming-document-2018-20.pdf

      [4] The ETIAS Central Unit will be responsible for processing the majority of applications for ‘travel authorisations’ received when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System comes into use, in theory in late 2022. Citizens who do not require a visa to travel to the Schengen area will have to apply for authorisation to travel to the Schengen area.

      [5] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [6] Article 54(4), Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [7] ‘European Commission 2020 Work Programme: An ambitious roadmap for a Union that strives for more’, 29 January 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_124; “Mission letter” from Ursula von der Leyen to Ylva Johnsson, 10 September 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/mission-letter-ylva-johansson_en.pdf

      [8] Annex II, 2019 Regulation

      [9] Management Board Decision 1/2020 of 4 January 2020 on adopting the profiles to be made available to the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps, https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Key_Documents/MB_Decision/2020/MB_Decision_1_2020_adopting_the_profiles_to_be_made_available_to_the_

      [10] ‘Press release: EU border agency targeted “isolated or mistreated” individuals for questioning’, Statewatch News, 16 February 2017, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/feb/eu-frontex-op-hera-debriefing-pr.htm

      [11] ‘Provision of Medical Services – Pre-Recruitment Examination’, https://etendering.ted.europa.eu/cft/cft-documents.html?cftId=5841

      [12] ‘Provision of medical services – pre-recruitment examination, Terms of Reference - Annex II to invitation to tender no Frontex/OP/1491/2019/KM’, https://etendering.ted.europa.eu/cft/cft-document.html?docId=65398

      [13] Frontex training presentation, ‘Medical precautionary measures for escort officers’, undated, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/eu-frontex-presentation-medical-precautionary-measures-deportation-escor

      [14] Ibid.

      [15] Frontex, document listing course learning outcomes from deportation escorts’ training, http://statewatch.org/news/2020/mar/eu-frontex-deportation-escorts-training-course-learning-outcomes.pdf

      [16] Frontex, ‘Careers’, https://frontex.europa.eu/about-frontex/careers/frontex-border-guard-recruitment

      [17] Frontex, ‘Frontex mental health strategy’, 20 February 2018, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/89c168fe-e14b-11e7-9749-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

      [18] EASO, Europol and Frontex, ‘Occupational health and safety’, 12 August 2019, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/17cc07e0-bd88-11e9-9d01-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-103142015

      [19] Trauma Treatment International, ‘A different approach for victims of trauma’, https://www.tt-intl.org/#our-work-section

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/frontex-launches-game-changing-recruitment-drive-for-standing-corps-of-b
      #gardes_frontières #staff #corps_des_gardes-frontières

    • Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders (27.02.2020)

      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,[1] 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.[2]

      Frontex seeks company for drone flights

      The upgrade plans include the stationing of large drones in the central and eastern Mediterranean. For this purpose, Frontex is looking for a private partner to operate flights off Malta, Italy or Greece. A corresponding tender ended in December[3] and the selection process is currently underway. The unmanned missions could then begin already in spring. Frontex estimates the total cost of these missions at €50 million. The contract has a term of two years and can be extended twice for one year at a time.

      Frontex wants drones of the so-called MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) class. Their flight duration should be at least 20 hours. The requirements include the ability to fly in all weather conditions and at day and night. It is also planned to operate in airspace where civil aircraft are in service. For surveillance missions, the drones should carry electro-optical cameras, thermal imaging cameras and so-called “daylight spotter” systems that independently detect moving targets and keep them in focus. Other equipment includes systems for locating mobile and satellite telephones. The drones will also be able to receive signals from emergency call transmitters sewn into modern life jackets.

      However, the Frontex drones will not be used primarily for sea rescue operations, but to improve capacities against unwanted migration. This assumption is also confirmed by the German non-governmental organisation Sea-Watch, which has been providing assistance in the central Mediterranean with various ships since 2015. “Frontex is not concerned with saving lives,” says Ruben Neugebauer of Sea-Watch. “While air surveillance is being expanded with aircraft and drones, ships urgently needed for rescue operations have been withdrawn”. Sea-Watch demands that situation pictures of EU drones are also made available to private organisations for sea rescue.

      Aircraft from arms companies

      Frontex has very specific ideas for its own drones, which is why there are only a few suppliers worldwide that can be called into question. The Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1, which Frontex tested for several months on the Greek island of Crete[4] and which is also flown by the German Bundeswehr, is one of them. As set out by Frontex in its invitation to tender, the Heron 1, with a payload of around 250 kilograms, can carry all the surveillance equipment that the agency intends to deploy over the Mediterranean. Also amongst those likely to be interested in the Frontex contract is the US company General Atomics, which has been building drones of the Predator series for 20 years. Recently, it presented a new Predator model in Greece under the name SeaGuardian, for maritime observation.[5] It is equipped with a maritime surveillance radar and a system for receiving position data from larger ships, thus fulfilling one of Frontex’s essential requirements.

      General Atomics may have a competitive advantage, as its Predator drones have several years’ operational experience in the Mediterranean. In addition to Frontex, the European Union has been active in the central Mediterranean with EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. In March 2019, Italy’s then-interior minister Matteo Salvini pushed through the decision to operate the EU mission from the air alone. Since then, two unarmed Predator drones operated by the Italian military have been flying for EUNAVFOR MED for 60 hours per month. Officially, the drones are to observe from the air whether the training of the Libyan coast guard has been successful and whether these navy personnel use their knowledge accordingly. Presumably, however, the Predators are primarily pursuing the mission’s goal to “combat human smuggling” by spying on the Libyan coast. It is likely that the new Operation EU Active Surveillance, which will use military assets from EU member states to try to enforce the UN arms embargo placed on Libya,[6] will continue to patrol with Italian drones off the coast in North Africa.

      Three EU maritime surveillance agencies

      In addition to Frontex, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) are also investing in maritime surveillance using drones. Together, the three agencies coordinate some 300 civil and military authorities in EU member states.[7] Their tasks include border, fisheries and customs control, law enforcement and environmental protection.

      In 2017, Frontex and EMSA signed an agreement to benefit from joint reconnaissance capabilities, with EFCA also involved.[8] At the time, EMSA conducted tests with drones of various sizes, but now the drones’ flights are part of its regular services. The offer is not only open to EU Member States, as Iceland was the first to take advantage of it. Since summer 2019, a long-range Hermes 900 drone built by the Israeli company Elbit Systems has been flying from Iceland’s Egilsstaðir airport. The flights are intended to cover more than half of the island state’s exclusive economic zone and to detect “suspicious activities and potential hazards”.[9]

      The Hermes 900 was also developed for the military; the Israeli army first deployed it in the Gaza Strip in 2014. The Times of Israel puts the cost of the operating contract with EMSA at €59 million,[10] with a term of two years, which can be extended for another two years. The agency did not conclude the contract directly with the Israeli arms company, but through the Portuguese firm CeiiA. The contract covers the stationing, control and mission control of the drones.

      New interested parties for drone flights

      At the request of the German MEP Özlem Demirel (from the party Die Linke), the European Commission has published a list of countries that also want to use EMSA drones.[11] According to this list, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal and also Greece have requested unmanned flights for pollution monitoring this year, while Bulgaria and Spain want to use them for general maritime surveillance. Until Frontex has its own drones, EMSA is flying its drones for the border agency on Crete. As in Iceland, this is the long-range drone Hermes 900, but according to Greek media reports it crashed on 8 January during take-off.[12] Possible causes are a malfunction of the propulsion system or human error. The aircraft is said to have been considerably damaged.

      Authorities from France and Great Britain have also ordered unmanned maritime surveillance from EMSA. Nothing is yet known about the exact intended location, but it is presumably the English Channel. There, the British coast guard is already observing border traffic with larger drones built by the Tekever arms company from Portugal.[13] The government in London wants to prevent migrants from crossing the Channel. The drones take off from the airport in the small town of Lydd and monitor the approximately 50-kilometre-long and 30-kilometre-wide Strait of Dover. Great Britain has also delivered several quadcopters to France to try to detect potential migrants in French territorial waters. According to the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais, eight gendarmes have been trained to control the small drones[14].

      Information to non-EU countries

      The images taken by EMSA drones are evaluated by the competent national coastguards. A livestream also sends them to Frontex headquarters in Warsaw.[15] There they are fed into the EUROSUR border surveillance system. This is operated by Frontex and networks the surveillance installations of all EU member states that have an external border. The data from EUROSUR and the national border control centres form the ‘Common Pre-frontier Intelligence Picture’,[16] referring to the area of interest of Frontex, which extends far into the African continent. Surveillance data is used to detect and prevent migration movements at an early stage.

      Once the providing company has been selected, the new Frontex drones are also to fly for EUROSUR. According to the invitation to tender, they are to operate in the eastern and central Mediterranean within a radius of up to 250 nautical miles (463 kilometres). This would enable them to carry out reconnaissance in the “pre-frontier” area off Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Within the framework of EUROSUR, Frontex shares the recorded data with other European users via a ‘Remote Information Portal’, as the call for tender explains. The border agency has long been able to cooperate with third countries and the information collected can therefore also be made available to authorities in North Africa. However, in order to share general information on surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea with a non-EU state, Frontex must first conclude a working agreement with the corresponding government.[17]

      It is already possible, however, to provide countries such as Libya with the coordinates of refugee boats. For example, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the nearest Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) must be informed of actual or suspected emergencies. With EU funding, Italy has been building such a centre in Tripoli for the last two years.[18] It is operated by the military coast guard, but so far has no significant equipment of its own.

      The EU military mission “EUNAVFOR MED” was cooperating more extensively with the Libyan coast guard. For communication with European naval authorities, Libya is the first third country to be connected to European surveillance systems via the “Seahorse Mediterranean” network[19]. Information handed over to the Libyan authorities might also include information that was collected with the Italian military ‘Predator’ drones.

      Reconnaissance generated with unmanned aerial surveillance is also given to the MRCC in Turkey. This was seen in a pilot project last summer, when the border agency tested an unmanned aerostat with the Greek coast guard off the island of Samos.[20] Attached to a 1,000 metre-long cable, the airship was used in the Frontex operation ‘Poseidon’ in the eastern Mediterranean. The 35-meter-long zeppelin comes from the French manufacturer A-NSE.[21] The company specializes in civil and military aerial observation. According to the Greek Marine Ministry, the equipment included a radar, a thermal imaging camera and an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the tracking of larger ships. The recorded videos were received and evaluated by a situation centre supplied by the Portuguese National Guard. If a detected refugee boat was still in Turkish territorial waters, the Greek coast guard informed the Turkish authorities. This pilot project in the Aegean Sea was the first use of an airship by Frontex. The participants deployed comparatively large numbers of personnel for the short mission. Pictures taken by the Greek coastguard show more than 40 people.

      Drones enable ‘pull-backs’

      Human rights organisations accuse EUNAVFOR MED and Frontex of passing on information to neighbouring countries leading to rejections (so-called ‘push-backs’) in violation of international law. People must not be returned to states where they are at risk of torture or other serious human rights violations. Frontex does not itself return refugees in distress who were discovered at sea via aerial surveillance, but leaves the task to the Libyan or Turkish authorities. Regarding Libya, the Agency since 2017 provided notice of at least 42 vessels in distress to Libyan authorities.[22]

      Private rescue organisations therefore speak of so-called ‘pull-backs’, but these are also prohibited, as the Israeli human rights lawyer Omer Shatz argues: “Communicating the location of civilians fleeing war to a consortium of militias and instructing them to intercept and forcibly transfer them back to the place they fled from, trigger both state responsibility of all EU members and individual criminal liability of hundreds involved.” Together with his colleague Juan Branco, Shatz is suing those responsible for the European Union and its agencies before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Soon they intend to publish individual cases and the names of the people accused.

      Matthias Monroy

      An earlier version of this article first appeared in the German edition of Le Monde Diplomatique: ‘Drohnen für Frontex Statt sich auf die Rettung von Bootsflüchtlingen im Mittelmeer zu konzentrieren, baut die EU die Luftüberwachung’.

      Note: this article was corrected on 6 March to clarify a point regarding cooperation between Frontex and non-EU states.

      Endnotes

      [1] Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard, https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/PE-33-2019-INIT/en/pdf

      [2] European Commission, ‘A strengthened and fully equipped European Border and Coast Guard’, 12 September 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/soteu2018-factsheet-coast-guard_en.pdf

      [3] ‘Poland-Warsaw: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) for Medium Altitude Long Endurance Maritime Aerial Surveillance’, https://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:490010-2019:TEXT:EN:HTML&tabId=1

      [4] IAI, ‘IAI AND AIRBUS MARITIME HERON UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEM (UAS) SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED 200 FLIGHT HOURS IN CIVILIAN EUROPEAN AIRSPACE FOR FRONTEX’, 24 October 2018, https://www.iai.co.il/iai-and-airbus-maritime-heron-unmanned-aerial-system-uas-successfully-complet

      [5] ‘ European Maritime Flight Demonstrations’, General Atomics, http://www.ga-asi.com/european-maritime-demo

      [6] ‘EU agrees to deploy warships to enforce Libya arms embargo’, The Guardian, 17 February 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/17/eu-agrees-deploy-warships-enforce-libya-arms-embargo

      [7] EMSA, ‘Heads of EMSA and Frontex meet to discuss cooperation on European coast guard functions’, 3 April 2019, http://www.emsa.europa.eu/news-a-press-centre/external-news/item/3499-heads-of-emsa-and-frontex-meet-to-discuss-cooperation-on-european-c

      [8] Frontex, ‘Frontex, EMSA and EFCA strengthen cooperation on coast guard functions’, 23 March 2017, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-emsa-and-efca-strengthen-cooperation-on-coast-guard-functions

      [9] Elbit Systems, ‘Elbit Systems Commenced the Operation of the Maritime UAS Patrol Service to European Union Countries’, 18 June 2019, https://elbitsystems.com/pr-new/elbit-systems-commenced-the-operation-of-the-maritime-uas-patrol-servi

      [10] ‘Elbit wins drone contract for up to $68m to help monitor Europe coast’, The Times of Israel, 1 November 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/elbit-wins-drone-contract-for-up-to-68m-to-help-monitor-europe-coast

      [11] ‘Answer given by Ms Bulc on behalf of the European Commission’, https://netzpolitik.org/wp-upload/2019/12/E-2946_191_Finalised_reply_Annex1_EN_V1.pdf

      [12] ‘Το drone της FRONTEX έπεσε, οι μετανάστες έρχονται’, Proto Thema, 27 January 2020, https://www.protothema.gr/greece/article/968869/to-drone-tis-frontex-epese-oi-metanastes-erhodai

      [13] Morgan Meaker, ‘Here’s proof the UK is using drones to patrol the English Channel’, Wired, 10 January 2020, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/uk-drones-migrants-english-channel

      [14] ‘Littoral: Les drones pour lutter contre les traversées de migrants sont opérationnels’, La Voix du Nord, 26 March 2019, https://www.lavoixdunord.fr/557951/article/2019-03-26/les-drones-pour-lutter-contre-les-traversees-de-migrants-sont-operation

      [15] ‘Frontex report on the functioning of Eurosur – Part I’, Council document 6215/18, 15 February 2018, http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6215-2018-INIT/en/pdf

      [16] European Commission, ‘Eurosur’, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/border-crossing/eurosur_en

      [17] Legal reforms have also given Frontex the power to operate on the territory of non-EU states, subject to the conclusion of a status agreement between the EU and the country in question. The 2016 Frontex Regulation allowed such cooperation with states that share a border with the EU; the 2019 Frontex Regulation extends this to any non-EU state.

      [18] ‘Helping the Libyan Coast Guard to establish a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre’, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-8-2018-000547_EN.html

      [19] Matthias Monroy, ‘EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean’, 7 July 2018, https://digit.site36.net/2018/07/03/eu-funds-the-sacking-of-rescue-ships-in-the-mediterranean

      [20] Frontex, ‘Frontex begins testing use of aerostat for border surveillance’, 31 July 2019, https://frontex.europa.eu/media-centre/news-release/frontex-begins-testing-use-of-aerostat-for-border-surveillance-ur33N8

      [21] ‘Answer given by Ms Johansson on behalf of the European Commission’, 7 January 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2019-002529-ASW_EN.html

      [22] ‘Answer given by Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission’, 8 January 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2019-002654-ASW_EN.html

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/drones-for-frontex-unmanned-migration-control-at-europe-s-borders

      #drones

    • Monitoring “secondary movements” and “hotspots”: Frontex is now an internal surveillance agency (16.12.2019)

      The EU’s border agency, Frontex, now has powers to gather data on “secondary movements” and the “hotspots” within the EU. The intention is to ensure “situational awareness” and produce risk analyses on the migratory situation within the EU, in order to inform possible operational action by national authorities. This brings with it increased risks for the fundamental rights of both non-EU nationals and ethnic minority EU citizens.

      The establishment of a new ’standing corps’ of 10,000 border guards to be commanded by EU border agency Frontex has generated significant public and press attention in recent months. However, the new rules governing Frontex[1] include a number of other significant developments - including a mandate for the surveillance of migratory movements and migration “hotspots” within the EU.

      Previously, the agency’s surveillance role has been restricted to the external borders and the “pre-frontier area” – for example, the high seas or “selected third-country ports.”[2] New legal provisions mean it will now be able to gather data on the movement of people within the EU. While this is only supposed to deal with “trends, volumes and routes,” rather than personal data, it is intended to inform operational activity within the EU.

      This may mean an increase in operations against ‘unauthorised’ migrants, bringing with it risks for fundamental rights such as the possibility of racial profiling, detention, violence and the denial of access to asylum procedures. At the same time, in a context where internal borders have been reintroduced by numerous Schengen states over the last five years due to increased migration, it may be that he agency’s new role contributes to a further prolongation of internal border controls.

      From external to internal surveillance

      Frontex was initially established with the primary goals of assisting in the surveillance and control of the external borders of the EU. Over the years it has obtained increasing powers to conduct surveillance of those borders in order to identify potential ’threats’.

      The European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) has a key role in this task, taking data from a variety of sources, including satellites, sensors, drones, ships, vehicles and other means operated both by national authorities and the agency itself. EUROSUR was formally established by legislation approved in 2013, although the system was developed and in use long before it was subject to a legal framework.[3]

      The new Frontex Regulation incorporates and updates the provisions of the 2013 EUROSUR Regulation. It maintains existing requirements for the agency to establish a “situational picture” of the EU’s external borders and the “pre-frontier area” – for example, the high seas or the ports of non-EU states – which is then distributed to the EU’s member states in order to inform operational activities.[4]

      The new rules also provide a mandate for reporting on “unauthorised secondary movements” and goings-on in the “hotspots”. The Commission’s proposal for the new Frontex Regulation was not accompanied by an impact assessment, which would have set out the reasoning and justifications for these new powers. The proposal merely pointed out that the new rules would “evolve” the scope of EUROSUR, to make it possible to “prevent secondary movements”.[5] As the European Data Protection Supervisor remarked, the lack of an impact assessment made it impossible: “to fully assess and verify its attended benefits and impact, notably on fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to privacy and to the protection of personal data.”[6]

      The term “secondary movements” is not defined in the Regulation, but is generally used to refer to journeys between EU member states undertaken without permission, in particular by undocumented migrants and applicants for internal protection. Regarding the “hotspots” – established and operated by EU and national authorities in Italy and Greece – the Regulation provides a definition,[7] but little clarity on precisely what information will be gathered.

      Legal provisions

      A quick glance at Section 3 of the new Regulation, dealing with EUROSUR, gives little indication that the system will now be used for internal surveillance. The formal scope of EUROSUR is concerned with the external borders and border crossing points:

      “EUROSUR shall be used for border checks at authorised border crossing points and for external land, sea and air border surveillance, including the monitoring, detection, identification, tracking, prevention and interception of unauthorised border crossings for the purpose of detecting, preventing and combating illegal immigration and cross-border crime and contributing to ensuring the protection and saving the lives of migrants.”

      However, the subsequent section of the Regulation (on ‘situational awareness’) makes clear the agency’s new internal role. Article 24 sets out the components of the “situational pictures” that will be visible in EUROSUR. There are three types – national situational pictures, the European situational picture and specific situational pictures. All of these should consist of an events layer, an operational layer and an analysis layer. The first of these layers should contain (emphasis added in all quotes):

      “…events and incidents related to unauthorised border crossings and cross-border crime and, where available, information on unauthorised secondary movements, for the purpose of understanding migratory trends, volume and routes.”

      Article 26, dealing with the European situational picture, states:

      “The Agency shall establish and maintain a European situational picture in order to provide the national coordination centres and the Commission with effective, accurate and timely information and analysis, covering the external borders, the pre-frontier area and unauthorised secondary movements.”

      The events layer of that picture should include “information relating to… incidents in the operational area of a joint operation or rapid intervention coordinated by the Agency, or in a hotspot.”[8] In a similar vein:

      “The operational layer of the European situational picture shall contain information on the joint operations and rapid interventions coordinated by the Agency and on hotspots, and shall include the mission statements, locations, status, duration, information on the Member States and other actors involved, daily and weekly situational reports, statistical data and information packages for the media.”[9]

      Article 28, dealing with ‘EUROSUR Fusion Services’, says that Frontex will provide national authorities with information on the external borders and pre-frontier area that may be derived from, amongst other things, the monitoring of “migratory flows towards and within the Union in terms of trends, volume and routes.”

      Sources of data

      The “situational pictures” compiled by Frontex and distributed via EUROSUR are made up of data gathered from a host of different sources. For the national situational picture, these are:

      national border surveillance systems;
      stationary and mobile sensors operated by national border agencies;
      border surveillance patrols and “other monitoring missions”;
      local, regional and other coordination centres;
      other national authorities and systems, such as immigration liaison officers, operational centres and contact points;
      border checks;
      Frontex;
      other member states’ national coordination centres;
      third countries’ authorities;
      ship reporting systems;
      other relevant European and international organisations; and
      other sources.[10]

      For the European situational picture, the sources of data are:

      national coordination centres;
      national situational pictures;
      immigration liaison officers;
      Frontex, including reports form its liaison officers;
      Union delegations and EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions;
      other relevant Union bodies, offices and agencies and international organisations; and
      third countries’ authorities.[11]

      The EUROSUR handbook – which will presumably be redrafted to take into account the new legislation – provides more detail about what each of these categories may include.[12]

      Exactly how this melange of different data will be used to report on secondary movements is currently unknown. However, in accordance with Article 24 of the new Regulation:

      “The Commission shall adopt an implementing act laying down the details of the information layers of the situational pictures and the rules for the establishment of specific situational pictures. The implementing act shall specify the type of information to be provided, the entities responsible for collecting, processing, archiving and transmitting specific information, the maximum time limits for reporting, the data security and data protection rules and related quality control mechanisms.” [13]

      This implementing act will specify precisely how EUROSUR will report on “secondary movements”.[14] According to a ‘roadmap’ setting out plans for the implementation of the new Regulation, this implementing act should have been drawn up in the last quarter of 2020 by a newly-established European Border and Coast Guard Committee sitting within the Commission. However, that Committee does not yet appear to have held any meetings.[15]

      Operational activities at the internal borders

      Boosting Frontex’s operational role is one of the major purposes of the new Regulation, although it makes clear that the internal surveillance role “should not lead to operational activities of the Agency at the internal borders of the Member States.” Rather, internal surveillance should “contribute to the monitoring by the Agency of migratory flows towards and within the Union for the purpose of risk analysis and situational awareness.” The purpose is to inform operational activity by national authorities.

      In recent years Schengen member states have reintroduced border controls for significant periods in the name of ensuring internal security and combating irregular migration. An article in Deutsche Welle recently highlighted:

      “When increasing numbers of refugees started arriving in the European Union in 2015, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Hungary quickly reintroduced controls, citing a “continuous big influx of persons seeking international protection.” This was the first time that migration had been mentioned as a reason for reintroducing border controls.

      Soon after, six Schengen members reintroduced controls for extended periods. Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway cited migration as a reason. France, as the sixth country, first introduced border checks after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, citing terrorist threats. Now, four years later, all six countries still have controls in place. On November 12, they are scheduled to extend them for another six months.”[16]

      These long-term extensions of internal border controls are illegal (the upper limit is supposed to be two years; discussions on changes to the rules governing the reintroduction of internal border controls in the Schengen area are ongoing).[17] A European Parliament resolution from May 2018 stated that “many of the prolongations are not in line with the existing rules as to their extensions, necessity or proportionality and are therefore unlawful.”[18] Yves Pascou, a researcher for the European Policy Centre, told Deutsche Welle that: “"We are in an entirely political situation now, not a legal one, and not one grounded in facts.”

      A European Parliament study published in 2016 highlighted that:

      “there has been a noticeable lack of detail and evidence given by the concerned EU Member States [those which reintroduced internal border controls]. For example, there have been no statistics on the numbers of people crossing borders and seeking asylum, or assessment of the extent to which reintroducing border checks complies with the principles of proportionality and necessity.”[19]

      One purpose of Frontex’s new internal surveillance powers is to provide such evidence (albeit in the ideologically-skewed form of ‘risk analysis’) on the situation within the EU. Whether the information provided will be of interest to national authorities is another question. Nevertheless, it would be a significant irony if the provision of that information were to contribute to the further maintenance of internal borders in the Schengen area.

      At the same time, there is a more pressing concern related to these new powers. Many discussions on the reintroduction of internal borders revolve around the fact that it is contrary to the idea, spirit (and in these cases, the law) of the Schengen area. What appears to have been totally overlooked is the effect the reintroduction of internal borders may have on non-EU nationals or ethnic minority citizens of the EU. One does not have to cross an internal Schengen frontier too many times to notice patterns in the appearance of the people who are hauled off trains and buses by border guards, but personal anecdotes are not the same thing as empirical investigation. If Frontex’s new powers are intended to inform operational activity by the member states at the internal borders of the EU, then the potential effects on fundamental rights must be taken into consideration and should be the subject of investigation by journalists, officials, politicians and researchers.

      Chris Jones

      Endnotes

      [1] The new Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the EU in mid-November: Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1052/2013 and (EU) 2016/1624, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1896

      [2] Article 12, ‘Common application of surveillance tools’, Regulation (EU) No 1052/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 establishing the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur), https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013R1052

      [3] According to Frontex, the Eurosur Network first came into use in December 2011 and in March 2012 was first used to “exchange operational information”. The Regulation governing the system came into force in October 2013 (see footnote 2). See: Charles Heller and Chris Jones, ‘Eurosur: saving lives or reinforcing deadly borders?’, Statewatch Journal, vol. 23 no. 3/4, February 2014, http://database.statewatch.org/article.asp?aid=33156

      [4] Recital 34, 2019 Regulation: “EUROSUR should provide an exhaustive situational picture not only at the external borders but also within the Schengen area and in the pre-frontier area. It should cover land, sea and air border surveillance and border checks.”

      [5] European Commission, ‘Proposal for a Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Council Joint Action no 98/700/JHA, Regulation (EU) no 1052/2013 and Regulation (EU) no 2016/1624’, COM(2018) 631 final, 12 September 2018,