• Facial recognition tech stories and rights harms from around the world
    https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/in-focus-facial-recognition-tech-stories-and-rights-harms-from-around-th

    A new report by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organisations looks at the use and abuse of facial recognition technology by states across the globe, providing detailed case studies from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. From Delhi to Detroit, Budapest to Bogota, Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is being rapidly deployed in public and private spaces across the world. As of 2019, 64 out of 176 countries were using facial recognition surveillance systems. In (...)

    #Clearview #Hikvision #FBI #algorithme #CCTV #biométrie #racisme #facial #reconnaissance #vidéo-surveillance #biais #discrimination #surveillance (...)

    ##StateWatch

  • 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

    • The lobbyists behind Europe’s response to migration

      Last year wasn’t a happy one for Frontex, in the news for illegal pushbacks and abuses against migrants and refugees (see below). Now it is under investigation by the EU anti-fraud watchdog OLAF.

      “But the scandal of Frontex’s cozy relationship with the weapons and surveillance industry, brewing behind closed doors over the past few years, has received less attention,” Myriam Douo, Luisa Izuzquiza and Margarida Silva wrote in a recent Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) report (https://corporateeurope.org/en/lobbying-fortress-europe).

      They obtained over 130 documents (https://fragdenstaat.de/dokumente/sammlung/49-fx-files) through freedom of information requests and the review opened “a window onto at least 17 industry meetings convened by Frontex from 2017 to 2019”. It all started with a lot of money.

      In fact, in 2020 Frontex was granted a €5.6 billion budget – the largest among all EU agencies – for the 2021-2027 timeframe. Then 10,000 border guards came along, together with an extension of its mandate and the ability to acquire and lease its own equipment like vessels, drones and radars.

      “This is a dream come true not just for Frontex, but for the security industry. Spying the opportunity for a new and major customer, it has been advocating since 2010 for an EU-level border force with precisely those capabilities.”

      In previous years, the agency had met with 138 private bodies: 108 companies, 10 research centres or think tanks, 15 universities and just one NGO (ID4Africa). European defence companies Airbus and Leonardo were awarded the most access, followed by tech companies (Japanese NEC, Atos, IDEMIA, Jenetric, secunet, and Vision-Box).

      Even the consultative forum on human rights, established by Frontex itself, has never been heard. It was the security industry lobbyists who eventually shaped the agency’s approach.

      They mostly discussed weapons, biometrics, maritime and aerial surveillance, heartbeat detectors and document inspection systems. Besides, migration was “portrayed as a threat, often linked to terrorism and crime”.

      Yet, transparency remains very little. When CEO asked Frontex to explain how it was handling lobbying, a press office told them that “Frontex does not meet with lobbyists” and that it “does not attract the interest of lobbyists.” When they asked again, Frontex denied meeting with lobbyists except on “Industry Days”.

      Migrants are the real elephant in the room. “A noticeable omission from almost every one of these discussions is the potential impact on human rights of these technologies and products, including undermining people’s fundamental right to privacy, presumption of innocence and liberty.”

      Human rights organisations had almost no access to the agency, which is particularly worrying in the context of the future EU border and migration policy. “Considering the growing power and budget”, CEO predicts that Frontex’ relationship with industry will intensify. “Scrutiny over it should, too,” they add.
      MEPs to probe Frontex over unlawful pushbacks

      The European Parliament has set up a probe over harassment, misconduct and unlawful operations run by Frontex and aimed at stopping migrants from reaching EU shores via Greek waters.

      On 24 February, MEPs have formed a new working group (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20210222IPR98303/frontex-meps-to-investigate-alleged-violations-of-fundamental-rights), chaided by Roberta Metsola (EPP, Malta) officially called #Frontex_Scrutiny_Working_Group (#FSWG) (https://www.greens-efa.eu/en/article/news/new-frontex-scrutiny-working-group-quote-from-tineke-strik-mep), to “monitor all aspects of the functioning of the border agency, including its compliance with fundamental rights.” The legislators will personally conduct a fact-finding investigation over the next four months in order to collect evidence to determine if the violations took place and if the agency was involved in them.

      https://voxeurop.eu/en/the-lobbyists-behind-eu-response-to-migration

  • Is Frontex involved in illegal ’pushbacks’ in the Balkans ?

    Refugees and migrants in Greece trying to reach western Europe have accused EU border protection agency Frontex of taking part in illegal deportations known as “pushbacks.” DW reports.

    Ali al-Ebrahim fled in 2018 from Manbij, a Syrian city that was under Kurdish control, to escape being forced to fight in the conflict.

    Al-Ebrahim, now 22, first tried his luck in Turkey. When he arrived in Antakya, not far from the Syrian border, Turkish authorities took his details and sent him back home without citing any reasons, the young Syrian man says in very good English. He explains that this meant he was banned from legally entering Turkey again for five years.

    Nevertheless, al-Ebrahim decided to try again, this time with the aim of reaching Greece. He managed to make his way to Turkey’s Aegean coastline and eventually reached the Greek island of Leros in a rubber dinghy. When he applied for asylum, however, his application was rejected on the grounds that Turkey was a safe third country.

    But al-Ebrahim was not able to return to Turkey, and certainly not Syria — though this was of no interest to Greek authorities. “The new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is very strict when it comes to migrants,” he says. “So I decided to go to Albania.”
    Uniforms with the EU flag

    Al-Ebrahim says that in September 2020, he traveled by bus with five others to the northern Greek city of Ioannina, and then walked to the Albanian border without encountering any Greek police.

    But, he says, staff from the EU border protection agency Frontex stopped them in Albania and handed them over to Albanian authorities in the border town of Kakavia. When asked how he knew they were Frontex officials, al-Ebrahim replies, “I could tell from their armbands.”

    Frontex staff wear light-blue armbands with the EU flag on them.
    €5,000 to reach Austria

    Al-Ebrahim says that he and the other migrants asked the Albanian authorities for asylum but were told that the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to file any new asylum applications. They were then just sent back to Greece without the Greek authorities being notified, he says.

    Al-Ebrahim had more luck on the second attempt. He managed to travel to the Albanian capital, Tirana, and then on to Serbia via Kosovo.

    His interview with DW takes place at a refugee camp in the Serbian city of Sombor, near the Hungarian border. Al-Ebrahim says he wants to travel on through Hungary into Austria, but the traffickers charge €5,000 to get as far as the Austrian border.

    Detention instead of asylum

    Hope Barker has heard many similar stories before. She coordinates the project “Wave - Thessaloniki,” which provides migrants traveling the Balkan route with food, medical care and legal advice. Barker tells DW that the northern Greek city was a safe haven until the new conservative government took office in summer 2019.

    In January 2020, a draconian new law came into effect in Greece. According to Barker, it allows authorities to detain asylum seekers for up to 18 months without reviewing their cases — and detention can then be extended for another 18 months.

    “So you can be held in detention for three years without any action on your case if you ask for asylum,” says Baker.

    Pushbacks by Frontex?

    Baker tells DW that the illegal deportation of migrants, known as “pushbacks,” happen both at the borders and further inland. Migrants trying to reach western Europe avoid any contact with Greek authorities.

    Refugee aid organizations say there have been “lots of pushbacks” at the border with North Macedonia and Albania. Baker says that witnesses have reported hearing those involved speaking German, for example, and seeing the EU insignia on their blue armbands.

    Frontex rejects allegations

    Baker says that it is, nonetheless, difficult to prove pushbacks at the Greek border because of the confusing situation, but she adds that they know that Frontex is active in Albania and that there are pushbacks on a daily basis across the River Evros that flows through Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey and forms a large part of the border. “We know that pushbacks are happening daily. So, to think that they don’t know or are not at all involved in those practices seems beyond belief,” says Baker.

    A Frontex spokesman told DW that the agency had investigated some of the allegations and “found no credible evidence to support any of them.”

    Frontex added that its staff was bound by a code of conduct, which explicitly calls for the “prevention of refoulement and the upholding of human rights, all in line with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

    “We are fully committed to protecting fundamental rights,” it added.

    Border protection from beyond the EU

    So why does the European border protection agency protect an external border of the European Union from the Albanian side? “The main aim of the operation is to support border control, help tackle irregular migration, as well as cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism, and identify possible risks and threats related to security,” said Frontex to DW.

    Frontex also said that cooperation with countries in the western Balkans was one of its priorities. “The agency supports them in complying with EU standards and best practices in border management and security,” the spokesman said.

    Yet it is worthwhile taking a look at another part of Greece’s border. While military and police officers are omnipresent at the Greek-Turkish border and are supported by Frontex staff, you seldom encounter any uniforms in the mountains between Greece and Albania. As a result, this route is regarded as safe by refugees and migrants who want to travel onward to western Europe via Greece.

    The route west

    Many migrants travel from Thessaloniki to the picturesque town of Kastoria, about 30 kilometers outside Albania. “There, the police pick us up from the bus and take us to the Albanian border,” Zakarias tells DW at the Wave Center in Thessaloniki. He is Moroccan and arrived in Greece via Turkey.

    But at this point, these are just rumors.

    That afternoon the men get on the bus. Another Moroccan man, 46-year-old Saleh Rosa, is among them. He has been in Greece for a year and was homeless for a long time in Thessaloniki. “Greece is a good country, but I cannot live here,” Rosa tells DW. He aims to reach western Europe via Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and then Hungary.

    Ominous police checks

    Police stop the bus shortly before its arrival in Kastoria. There is a parked police car with uniformed officers. Two men in plain clothes board the bus, claiming to be police. Without showing any ID, they target the foreigners, detaining Saleh, Zakarias and their companions.

    At around 11pm that same evening, the migrants send a WhatsApp message and their Google coordinates. They say that the men in plainclothes have taken them to a place some 15 kilometers from the Albanian border, but within Greece. Later in the Albanian capital, Tirana, DW met with Rosa again, who stresses that his papers were not checked in Greece.

    Conflicting accounts

    When asked by DW, Greek police authorities confirmed the existence of the plain-clothed officers and the roadside check. But then their account diverges from that of the two men. Police said they wanted to check if the migrants were legally permitted to be in Greece and they were released once this was confirmed.

    But the migrants say that Saleh Rosa was the only one with the papers to stay in Greece legally and that the other men were unregistered. Moreover, there is a curfew in Greece because of COVID-19. You are only allowed to travel from one district to another in exceptional cases. Even if they had been carrying papers, the men should have been fined.

    The police refused to comment on that.

    https://www.dw.com/en/is-frontex-involved-in-illegal-pushbacks-in-the-balkans/a-56141370

    #Frontex #Balkans #route_des_balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Albanie #Serbie #Kosovo #Sombor #Hongrie #Macédoine_du_Nord #Evros #Grèce

    –---

    voir aussi les accusations envers Frontex de refoulement en #Mer_Egée :
    Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer
    https://seenthis.net/messages/882952

    • Frontex confronted with allegations of violence in North Macedonia

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2494/letter-to-frontex-sw-and-bvmn.pdf) sent to Frontex today by #Statewatch and #Border_Violence_Monitoring_Network (#BVMN).

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter sent to Frontex today by Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).

      Since September 2019, volunteers for BVMN have gathered five separate testimonies from people pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece alleging the presence of Frontex officers on North Macedonian territory, where the agency has no legal authority to act. The reports involve a total of 130 people.

      The testimonies include allegations that officers deployed by Frontex engaged in or condoned brutal violence – including the use of tasers and electroshock batons, throwing people into rivers, and tying people up and beating them.

      Frontex says it has no records of any such incidents. The agency’s press office said to Statewatch last month that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      The letter, addressed to Frontex’s executive director, the new Fundamental Rights Officer, and the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, calls for a thorough investigation into the allegations to clarify the facts and ensure appropriate action against any individuals found to have engaged in, condoned or consented to violence and/or to have acted on North Macedonian territory.

      The violence allegedly meted out or condoned by Frontex officials is part of a broader wave of violence against people on the move through North Macedonia. Since February 2019, BVMN volunteers have gathered 37 reports of pushbacks from North Macedonia to Greece, which are likely only a fraction of the total number of pushback cases.

      The five reports alleging the presence of Frontex officials are a subset of 15 testimonies that cite the involvement of foreign officials working alongside North Macedonian officers.

      An analysis published today by Statewatch (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor) looks at the deployment of foreign border guards to North Macedonia, which since 2015 has played a key role in the EU’s efforts to prevent migrants and refugees departing from Greece to reach ‘core’ EU territory further north.

      A number of states (members of the EU and other states in the region) have signed bilateral deals with the North Macedonian government that allow the deployment of border guards in the country.

      Frontex, meanwhile, is not yet legally able to operate there. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia is in the works, but is being held up in a dispute over language (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu).

      The agency must provide answers and an investigation into the numerous allegations of its officials being involved in abuse.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/june/frontex-confronted-with-allegations-of-violence-in-north-macedonia
      #Macédoine_du_Nord

    • Briefing: External action: Frontex operations outside the EU

      The EU has negotiated five agreements with states in the Balkans that allow Frontex operations on their territories, and most of the agreements have now been approved by both sides. This briefing looks at the main provisions of those agreements, highlights key differences and similarities, and argues that they will likely serve as a template for future deals with states that do not border the EU, as made possible by the 2019 Regulation governing Frontex.

      For an overview of the key points of the agreements, see the table at the end of this article, or here as a PDF (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2011/eu-frontex-external-action-briefing-table.pdf).

      Frontex launched its first official joint operation on non-EU territory at Albania’s border with Greece in May 2019. Still ongoing today, this was the first operation resulting from a series of Status Agreements between the EU and a number of Western Balkan states – Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.

      These agreements make it possible for Frontex to undertake operations on those other states’ territories. Signed in accordance with the agency’s 2016 Regulation, all five agreements allow the agency to carry out joint operations and rapid border interventions on the states’ borders, where those borders are coterminous with those of an EU member state or states. Frontex can also assist those states with deportation operations from EU member states to those countries. Since the entry into force of Frontex’s 2019 mandate, the EU can now also make such agreements with states that do not border EU territory.

      The contents of the status agreements, all based on a template document produced by the Commission, are very similar, with small but important differences emerging from the negotiation procedures with each state, explored below.

      The first agreements in context

      The five Balkan states targeted for the first agreements make up what is seen by officials as a “buffer zone” between Greece and other Schengen states, and they have long been embroiled in the bloc’s border policies. Through long negotiations over accession to the Union (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire), Western Balkan states are at various stages of approximating domestic law with the EU’s legal ‘acquis’, involving substantial amendments to migration and asylum systems.

      In theory, these systems must match up to EU legal and fundamental rights standards in order to allow accession, though violence against migrants is well documented on both sides of these “coterminous borders”. The so-called Balkan Route is the site of well-documented abuses (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-the-black-book-of-pushbacks-testimonies-of-pushbacks-affecting-over-1) suffered by people on the move, recently compiled and published in a ‘Black Book of pushbacks’ which detail violence perpetrated by border agents, member state police and soldiers. Pushbacks from Croatia (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/november/european-commission-plans-to-visit-croatia-in-light-of-human-rights-viol) and Hungary are particularly notorious, with Frontex finally withdrawing its support for operations in Hungary (https://www.statewatch.org/statewatch-database/frontex-suspends-operations-in-hungary) in January this year due to the state’s violation of a European Court of Justice ruling against pushbacks into Serbia.

      The agency had long-insisted that its presence discouraged fundamental rights violations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) - a far less credible claim in the wake of allegations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) of Frontex complicity in serious incidents in the Aegean, including possible pushbacks.

      Frontex expands external operations while future agreements remain on hold

      Following deployment of officers to Montenegro’s border with Croatia in July, Frontex launched a second operation in Montenegro in October. The third executive operation outside the EU (and the second in Montenegro), the aim of this activity is “to tackle cross-border crime at the country’s sea borders, including the smuggling of drugs and weapons, smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings and terrorism”.

      The agency says it will provide aerial surveillance, deploy officers from EU member states, and provide technical and operational assistance with coast guard functions in international waters, “including search and rescue support, fisheries control and environmental protection”.

      The agreement with Serbia was approved by the European Parliament in February this year, along with the agreement with Montenegro. Three presidential entities need to sign the agreement in order for it to be ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government; the Serb entity has so far refused to do so.

      Meanwhile, the agreement with North Macedonia was due to be tabled in the European Parliament this autumn, but negotiations have been held up, in part by Bulgaria’s objection to the language in which it is written. According to the site European Western Balkans, “Bulgaria does not recognise the language of North Macedonia as ‘Macedonian’”, but “as a dialect of Bulgarian”. It will apparently take “a change in terminology regarding Macedonian language in order to allow progress in drafting a final negotiating framework”. While negotiations are stalled, the agreement cannot be considered by the European Parliament.

      Once the status agreements are in force, Frontex operations are launched in accordance with an operational plan agreed with each state. These plans include the circumstances under which Frontex staff can use executive powers and other details of the operations not available elsewhere. These plans are not systematically made public and although it is possible for the public to request their release, Frontex can refuse access to them. These non-public documents contain important provisions on fundamental rights and data protection, as well as details on the aims and objectives of the agency’s operations.

      Fundamental rights

      Under article 8 of the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina (article 9 of the other agreements) all parties are obliged to:

      “[H]ave a complaint mechanism to deal with allegations of a breach of fundamental rights committed by its staff in the exercise of their official functions in the course of a joint operation, rapid border intervention or return operation performed under this agreement”.

      Both Frontex and the host state must operate such a complaints mechanism, to handle allegations against their own team members. Frontex’s complaint mechanism is currently the subject of an Ombudsman inquiry, following years of research showing it up as inaccessible and ineffective. Details of updates bringing the mechanism into line with Frontex’s 2019 Regulation have not yet been made public, although the rules set out in that Regulation have problems of their own. It is noteworthy that the agreements do not explicitly require an independent complaints mechanism.

      On the question of parallel complaints mechanisms for Frontex officers and host country officers, a Frontex spokesperson explained:

      “The complaints team within Frontex Fundamental Rights Office has been working since 2019 on the concept of how to deal with complaints concerning Frontex activities in [Albania]. For that purpose, the FRO team met with competent national authorities in Albania in October 2019. Both parties agreed on the draft of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the purpose of which is a coordination between both complaints mechanisms. The MoU draft proposal was shared with Albanian authorities for their consideration on September 2020 and finalization of the modalities.

      The draft of this MoU will serve as basis for other third countries arrangements on the coexistence of complaints mechanisms, such as the case for Montenegro.”

      An extra article 3

      The agreements with Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia contain an article not included in the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. From article 3, on launching an action:

      “The Agency may propose launching an action to the competent authorities of [the host state].

      The competent authorities of [the host state] may also request the Agency to consider launching an action.”

      The launching of any action requires the consent of competent authorities of the host-state and of Frontex (Article 3(2) of the status agreements), while any disputes over the content of the status agreements shall be resolved between the non-EU state in question and the European Commission (Article 11).

      Privileges and immunities of the members of the team

      Members of teams deployed in each of the host states shall enjoy immunity from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the host state, for all acts carried out in the exercise of official functions, where these are committed in the course of actions contained in the operational plan (articles 6 or 7). It is at the discretion of the executive director of Frontex (currently Fabrice Leggeri) to determine whether acts were committed in the course of actions following the operational plan. This immunity may be waived by the team members’ home state – that is to say, the state of nationality of a Frontex team member, such as Spain or Germany.

      While the agreements with Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia include the provision that the executive director’s decision will be binding upon the authorities of the host state, no such article is found in the agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

      A further difficulty with this article was highlighted earlier this year in an internal Frontex report: Protocol No 7 annexed to the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU, under which the privileges and immunities Agency and its statutory staff are covered, is not applicable outside of the EU. The Commission has not yet responded to a request for comment on an investigation said to be underway into this issue.

      Acting on behalf of the host non-EU state

      Across the status agreements, members of the teams are limited to performing tasks and exercising powers in the host territory in the presence and under instructions of the host state’s border guards or other relevant authorities. The host state may authorise members of teams to act on its behalf, taking into consideration the views of the agency via its coordinating officer. The agreement with Serbia contains extra emphasis (article 5):

      “the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia may authorise members of the teams to act on its behalf as long as the overall responsibility and command and control functions remain with the border guards or other police officers of the Republic of Serbia present at all times.”

      This agreement also emphasises that “the members of the team referred to in paragraphs 1 and 3 to 6 do not include agency staff”.

      Members of teams shall be authorised to use force, including service weapons as permitted by the host state, home state, and Frontex. Each host state may authorise members of the team to use force in the absence of border guards or other relevant staff under article 4 (6) – Albania and Bosnia and Herzegoviina – or 5 (6) – Montenegro,

      Access to databases

      The agreements with Albania and Montenegro allow the host state to authorise members of the team to consult national databases if necessary for the operational aims or for return operations. Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s status agreements are more cautious, allowing certain data from national databases to be shared at the request of a member of the team, provided it is needed to fulfil operational aims as outlined in the operational plan. The agreement with Serbia contains, once more, additional provisions: “members of the team may be communicated only information concerning relevant facts which is necessary for performing their tasks and exercising their powers”, though it also includes in the subsequent paragraph:

      “For the purposes of fulfilling operational aims specified in the operation plan and the implementing actions, the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia and members of the team may exchange other information and findings”.

      Language on discrimination

      The agreement with Serbia once again follows slightly different wording to the others in terms of the prohibition of discrimination. The agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia recite:

      “While performing their tasks and exercising their powers, they shall not arbitrarily discriminate against persons on any grounds including sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

      However, the agreement with Serbia does not include (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/july/eu-frontex-in-the-balkans-serbian-government-rejects-eu-s-criminal-immun) any reference to gender identity.

      Obligation to give evidence as witnesses in criminal proceedings

      Under each of the agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia, members of the team shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses. Not only does the agreement with Montenegro omit this provision, it also outlines:

      “Members of the team who are witnesses may be obliged by the competent authorities of Montenegro, while respecting paragraphs 3 and 4, to provide evidence through a statement and in accordance with the procedural law of Montenegro.”

      Frontex and home state obligation not to jeopardise criminal proceedings

      The agreement with Serbia is the only agreement not to include an obligation on the agency and home state of a team member to “refrain from taking any measure likely to jeopardise possible subsequent criminal prosecution of the member of the team by the competent authorities” of the host non-EU state.

      Lingering uncertainty

      On top of uncertainty over when the agreements with North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina might be completed, questions remain regarding the accessibility of complaints mechanisms and the application of rules governing privileges and immunity of team members, even in Albania and Montenegro, where operations have been launched already.

      Additionally, since the entry into force of its new regulation in 2019 and the removal of provisions limiting Frontex’s extra-EU operations only to neighbouring states, the EU can now conclude status agreements with countries not bordering the EU. The implementation of these agreements, as well as their contents, will likely set a precedent for negotiations and operations further afield.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu
      #Albanie #Monténégro #Serbie #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #buffer-zone #zone-tampon

    • Albania: dealing with a new migration framework on the edge of the empire

      In 2014, Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership to the EU. The country is aiming to approximate its domestic law with the EU legal ’acquis’ within the next two years, prompting big changes in the country’s immigration and asylum system - at least on paper. Currently, those systems cannot be said to meet fundamental rights or EU legal standards, but given conditions within the EU itself - notably in Greece - it remains to be seen whether this will be a barrier to Albania joining the bloc.

      Background

      In the 1990s Albania, a small country in the middle of the Balkans, was just emerging from a harsh communist dictatorship. In 1991, a new era in Europe began for the country, as it opened diplomatic relationships with the then-European Community. But it was not until 2014 that Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership of the EU, following the endorsement of the European Council.[1]

      In that time, the European Community had evolved into the fortress of the European Union, its borders and expansion reminiscent of the spread of the Roman Empire. Speaking of the EU’s borders, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has even commented, “big empires go down if the external borders are not well-protected”.[2] Since 2014, Albania has been racing to fulfil all the requirements needed to be accepted among the fabulous 27, making major changes in the five main areas identified by the EU: public administration, rule of law, tackling corruption, organised crime and fundamental rights.

      In February 2018, the European Commission declared that further enlargement to encompass the states of the ‘Western Balkans’ (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) would be “an investment in the EU’s security, economic growth and influence and in its ability to protect its citizens”.[3] In short, the EU was presenting a so-called win-win agreement, where all sides stand to gain.

      In March 2020 – following a limping reform of the justice system, some destabilizing stop-and-go of talks between the EU and Albania, a gloomy summer election crisis in 2019, German concerns, a temporary French veto and a devastating earthquake in November 2019 – the EU finally said ‘I do’ and committed to opening accession negotiations with Albania, in a statement that underscored the need to ‘keep an eye’ on the country:

      “The Council further invites the Commission to continue to monitor the progress and compliance in all areas related to the opening of negotiations and to carry out and complete the process of analytical examination of the EU acquis with the country, starting with the fundamentals’ cluster”.[4]

      Aligning Albania with the EU’s “area of freedom, security and justice”

      The current ‘Project Plan for European integration 2020-2022’[5] lists all the legislative reforms and changes required to align Albanian and EU law. The full approximation of Albanian law with that of the European Union, and its full and effective implementation, is one of the criteria for membership. Indeed, the process of membership negotiations is in itself that process of approximation.

      The process involves the following steps: analysis of EU legislation; identification of deficiencies or contradictory acts of Albanian law; drafting or reviewing of the approximated Albanian acts; and monitoring the implementation of approximated legislation. The 24th chapter of the plan, on “justice, freedom and security”, focuses on: border control; visas; external migration; asylum; police cooperation; the fight against organised crime and terrorism; cooperation on drugs issues; customs; and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters.

      Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the area of Freedom, Security and Justice is regulated in Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, running from Article 67 to Article 89.[6] This covers secondary legislation on: border checks, asylum and immigration; police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters; judicial cooperation in civil matters; and police cooperation. Primary and secondary legislation is complemented by a large body of jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU, whose primacy is a cornerstone principle of EU law. The acquis inherited by Albania for this specific chapter consists of a volume of 392 acts, divided into a “hard acquis” (which derives from binding acts such as treaties, directives, regulations, etc.) and a “soft acquis” (which derives from standards, principles and recommendations of EU or other relevant international organizations).

      Updating the laws on immigration and borders

      The government affirms to have completed and adopted a comprehensive national cross-sectoral migration strategy, included a new strategy on the diaspora for the period 2018-2024.[7] The government also says it has updated a contingency plan for a possible massive influx of migrants and asylum seekers, expected to be approved soon. But the other side of the coin is that Albania, as the project plan admits, is largely unprepared to host and protect migrants on its territory. Albania currently has one reception centre for irregular migrants in Karreç, with a capacity of only 150 beds. The centre was visited in September 2019 by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which found it to be inadequate in many respects.[8] Even more concerning is the lack of facilities for unaccompanied minors.

      According to a footnote in a 2016 law,[9] Albania’s border control legislation has been aligned with the Schengen Borders Code.[10] However, it appears that the wider legal framework for managing Albania’s external borders is not yet fully in line with EU standards. The government reports that the implementation of the integrated border management strategy and action plan is proceeding: the reconstruction of the two border crossing points Hani i Hotit and Morina has been completed; the country has signed a protocol with Montenegro on the establishment of joint checkpoints; the trilateral centre in Plav (in Northern Macedonia) has become operational; an agreement with Kosovo on the joint border crossing point in Morina has been concluded; anti-corruption preventive measures have been implemented at border crossing points through the installation of cameras; and cooperation between agencies and neighbouring countries has improved.

      Frontex: already on the scene

      The section of the government’s report on regular and irregular immigration states that the agreement with the EU permitting the deployment of Frontex officials on Albanian territory was finalised in February 2019.[11] The deployment began on 22 May 2019, for an indefinite period.[12]

      The joint operation – Frontex’s first outside the EU – deploys 50 EU officers in Albania to “help Albanian authorities with border surveillance and border checks… They will also assist their Albanian counterparts in screening of migrants”.[13] This is not the first time that an EU presence has been active on Albanian territory – an Italian operation in 1997 sought to prevent migration, and there have also been monitoring missions. However, the Frontex presence is an executive mission, marking a more active departure from the monitoring exercises of the past.[14]

      The Albanian Minister of Internal Affairs, Sander Lleshaj, has described the operation as “really effective, very collaborative… crucial in the way to EU integration”.[15] The Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has said the operation makes Albania a contributor to the EU in countering illegal migration and organised crime.[16] The Albanian press has so far expressed an uncritical view of the Frontex mission. In a state where many are supportive of EU accession, appetite for critical investigation is possibly low.

      And asylum?

      Albania reports that its Asylum Law is partially in line with the EU acquis. The country has the necessary institutions and procedures to handle asylum applications. Complaints can be filed with the National Commission for Refugees and Asylum, which was established in 2017 and reopened in 2019. All relevant national legislation should be publicly available on the government website,[17] but the information available does not clarify if complaints related to the application process are admissible, or if the word “complaints” refers to appeals related to unsuccessful applications. Regarding the asylum procedure, applications are registered by the Border and Migration Police by filling out the pre-screening forms, then reported to the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship to proceed with the status determination procedures.

      Although the number of asylum seekers increased significantly in 2018, with 5,730 arrivals, the authorities say they have responded to the large number of asylum applications. According to UNHCR asylum applications that year increased to 4,378, a 14-fold increase compared to 2017.[18] Albania’s official Gazette outlined in March 2020 that the number of people applying for asylum was at its highest in 2018, and 40 times higher than it had been in 2015.[19] According to the Project Plan for European integration, an asylum database has been functioning since April 2019; it serves as an integral data centre between the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship, the Directorate of Border and Migration and the National Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, exchanging information in real time between these institutions and enabling the completion of procedures as well as the issuance of statistics.

      The government also says it tripled its reception capacity for asylum seekers in October 2017. Total reception capacity, including the national reception centre in Tirana and the temporary accommodation centres in Gjirokastra and Korça, reaches almost 380 places. In October 2019, a new centre with a reception capacity of 60 beds was inaugurated to cope with the expected increase of people needing temporary housing in Kapshticë/Korça,[20] which has the same parameters as the transit centre in Gërhot of Gjirokastra.

      Summary

      Both Albania and the EU have undergone a transformative thirty years, with talks of accession beginning six years ago. The EU sees Albania’s incorporation into the bloc as a way of contributing to the economic growth and strengthened security; a different understanding of “expanding the fortress”. Accession negotiations were reinvigorated in March 2020, and the current goal is for Albania to approximate its law to the EU acquis, and implement those measures, within two years. This includes legislation on immigration and borders, which have been updated on paper. Though conditions for asylum seekers and migrants in Albania are not in line with fundamental rights law or the EU acquis, nor are those in EU member states – most notably the Greek island hotspots. The deployment of the EU’s border agency in Albania, unlikely to be criticised locally, represents further step in the EU’s mission to control migration across a wider terrain.

      Sara Ianovitz, Ph.D. in International Law

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire

      #Albanie

    • Foreign agents and violence against migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border

      An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.

      Midnight in Macedonia

      Around midnight on 14 August last year, a group of some 20 people were intercepted by border police just north of the Greek-Macedonian border, near the small town of Gevgelija. What happened next, according to the testimony of one member of the group, makes for grim reading.

      “[T]he police officers approached the group and became physically violent. The officers struck various group-members with their batons. Others were pepper-sprayed, including the women and children. After this, the officers loaded the group into a van and left them there without any air conditioning, jammed, soaking in sweat for around two hours, while going about to catch more transit groups. In the end, they squashed around 40 people in a van for fit for ten persons.”[1]

      Macedonian officials were not the only ones involved in the operation. The testimony also recounts “foreign officers wearing uniforms with the European Union flags on their shoulders,” the distinctive mark of EU border agency Frontex.

      Foreign agents

      The testimony is one of five reports gathered by Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), altogether involving some 130 people, that describe violence being meted out in the presence of, or even by, border guards allegedly deployed by Frontex on North Macedonian territory. A further 10 reports gathered by the network, encompassing some 123 people, recount the use of violence by foreign border guards and police officers operating in North Macedonia, but do not mention uniforms bearing the EU flag.[2]

      Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network have written to Frontex to demand an investigation into the allegations recounted in this article. Read more here.

      The violence recounted in those testimonies is shocking. According to the report on the 14 August incident, after cramming people into the van, the police drove them to the banks of the Vardar river. There, they threw peoples’ possessions into the water, took their phones and money, and “the group was beaten brutally with metal electroshock batons and some people were thrown into the river by the police. One person was thrown in despite crying and begging not to be thrown in.” They were subsequently taken back to the border and pushed through a gate leading to the Greek side, while police beat them with electroshock batons.

      In that incident, the witness said that officials with uniforms bearing EU flags were present, but did not directly participate in the violence. But a report from the same area, concerning an incident less than a week later, refers to officials in uniforms bearing Croatian, Slovenian, Czech and EU flags, who bound a group of four men with zip ties and beat three of them with batons (one of the group, who was a minor, was spared the beating).[3] Reports of other incidents allege the presence of Italian, German and Austrian officials.

      No reports at Frontex

      While BVMN volunteers have gathered multiple testimonies that allege Frontex’s presence or involvement in violence in North Macedonia, the agency itself says it has received no reports of any such incidents. The agency also denies any presence in the country – in May, a press officer told Statewatch that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      In December 2020, Frontex responded to an access to documents request filed by Statewatch some months earlier. The request sought copies of all serious incident reports (SIRs) concerning the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian land border from 1 January 2020 onwards. SIRs are supposed to be filed by officials deployed on Frontex operations for a variety of reasons, including in case of “suspected violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations.”[4]

      In its response, the agency said that it did not hold any SIRs concerning the geographic area and time period covered by the request. This does not mean, however, that the incidents recorded by BVMN did not take place – it may simply be that nobody is reporting them.

      A working group set up by Frontex’s own Management Board, in response to allegations of involvement in pushbacks in Greece, found numerous problems with the agency’s reporting system. It noted that there was no way of monitoring the quality of reports submitted, and there were no confidential avenues for team members to report rights violations by their colleagues.

      The report also called for “a newly introduced culture,” suggesting that the existing ambience at the agency is not one in which the rights of migrants and refugees are at the forefront of officials’ minds. The working group said that the agency needed “awareness of and sensitiveness towards possible misconduct,”[5] a call it repeated in its final report.[6]

      Not even numbers

      Serious incident reports may not exist, but the request from Statewatch to Frontex also sought to establish the scale of the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian border through another means – by requesting data on the number of migrants and migrant smugglers apprehended at the Greek-Macedonian border over the same period (1 January 2020 onwards).

      This data, argued Frontex, could not be released – doing so “would jeopardize the work of law enforcement officials and pose a hazard to the course of ongoing and future operations aimed at curtailing the activities of such networks,” despite the request seeking nothing more than figures that Frontex itself has published in previous reports.

      A public evaluation of the tongue-twistingly titled ‘Joint Operation Flexible Operational Activities 2018 Land on Border Surveillance’ (JO FOA Land) says that in 2018, 16,337 migrants and 313 smugglers were apprehended in the area covered by the operation – “the ‘green borders’ of Greece with Turkey, the North Macedonia [sic] and Albania, Bulgaria with Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia.”[7] Yet for reasons known only to Frontex, providing a breakdown of these figures for the Greek-Macedonian border would apparently undermine public security.

      A significant presence

      According to Frontex’s evaluation report, 25 member states took part in operations at land borders in south-eastern Europe in 2018, along with 47 officers acting as observers from six different “third countries”, namely Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine. Over 1,800 officials were deployed by Frontex over the course of the year. The operations recorded 2,011 “incidents”.

      A substantial Frontex presence at the border between Greece and North Macedonia has been in place since then. In a response to a parliamentary question from German MEP Özlem Demirel, the European Commission said last June that at Greece’s land borders with Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Turkey, 71 officials, 24 patrols and three “thermo-vision vans” were deployed as part of the 2020 edition of JO FOA Land. Thirteen different member states were providing contributions to the operation: Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.[8]

      While Frontex denies any physical presence on North Macedonia territory, the testimonies gathered by BVMN that allege the presence or participation of Frontex officials in violent acts raise serious questions for the agency. All the testimonies concern incidents that took place in North Macedonia, where the agency has no legal basis to operate. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia that would permit Frontex deployments, similar to those currently in place with Montenegro and Albania, is facing hold-ups due to objections from the Bulgarian authorities.[9]

      Bilateral agreements

      Frontex operations are not the only deployments of foreign officials in North Macedonia. As noted above, nine of the 15 reports gathered by BVMN describing the involvement of non-Macedonian officers in pushbacks to Greece make no mention of Frontex at all. There are, however, multiple references to violence being meted out by officials in uniforms bearing the flags of Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Serbia.

      The presence of some of these officials in the country is made possible by bilateral border control agreements. North Macedonia has cooperation agreements with eight other states in the region (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia), who provide the Macedonian authorities “with assistance from foreign police officers in patrolling the south border with Greece and in performing their daily duties.”[10] The agreement with Austria, Hungary and Serbia has come in for particular criticism, as it is a memorandum of understanding rather than a formal agreement, and therefore has faced no parliamentary scrutiny in Macedonia.[11] Germany, meanwhile, does not appear to have such a formal agreement with North Macedonia at the federal level – which makes the allegations of the presence of German officers puzzling – but the EU’s largest state has provided a ready supply of equipment, including vehicles, mobile thermal imaging cameras, boots and torches.[12]

      The Croatian and Czech governments have made extensive deployments under these agreements. Between December 2015 (when Croatia and North Macedonia signed a police cooperation deal) and February 2019 “over 560 Croatian police… intercepted almost 6,000 illegal migrants in North Macedonia.”[13] The Czech deployments have been even larger – by December 2019, “1,147 police officers [had] been sent to North Macedonia” to police the border with Greece, according to the Czech government.[14]

      High-level police coordination preceded the signing of many of these agreements. In July 2016, the police chiefs of 12 states said that “the deployment of foreign police officers along borders which are strongly affected by irregular migration conveys a strong message that the countries concerned are resolute in jointly coping with the migration crisis.”[15] Under the agreements with Macedonia, foreign officials can “use technical equipment and vehicles with symbols, wear uniforms, carry weapons and other means of coercion”.[16] In some instances, it seems coercion tips over into outright violence.

      An incident dating from 16 August 2020, recorded by BVMN volunteers, refers to officers “with black ski masks over their faces” and “Croatian and Czech flags emblazoned on their uniforms.” The interviewees said that “these officers were violent with them – kicking the group, destroying their mobile phones, taking their money, insulting them, pushing their faces on the ground with tied hands behind the back. One of the respondents was also attacked by a dog, while the officers [were] laughing at him.”[17] As far back as March 2016, an activist supporting refugees at the increasingly well-guarded Greek-Macedonian border told the newspaper Lidovky that, in Macedonia, “the Czech police are known for violence and unprofessionalism.”[18]

      Buffer states in the Balkans

      Bilateral cooperation between EU states and North Macedonia extends far beyond these police cooperation agreements. In September 2020, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU described the region stretching from Turkey to Hungary (known in official jargon as the “Eastern Mediterranean/Western Balkans”) as being “of great strategic importance for the EU in terms of migration management.”[19] Significant attention is therefore being given to reinforcing the ability of states in the region to control peoples’ movements (an issue highlighted in another recent Statewatch report).

      As of May 2020, 15 EU member states were providing bilateral “support” on migration issues to states in the Western Balkans through a total of 228 activities, according to a survey carried out by the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The majority of that support was focused on control measures, “namely border management and combating the smuggling of migrants (over 50% of all MS activities),” said a summary produced by the Presidency. More than 50% of the 228 activities were taking place in Serbia and North Macedonia, both of which border EU territory.[20]

      The Croatian Presidency highlighted the “geopolitical importance” of those two countries, given that “Member States’ focus is on the prevention of irregular migratory movements to the EU.” This was “both expected and understandable, but may contribute to strengthening the Western Balkan partners’ self-perception as a transit region, which poses a challenge for the further improvement of all aspects of their migration capacities.” Rather than a transit region, the plan is to provide ‘capacity-building’ and technical assistance to develop buffer states that can keep people out of the ‘core’ of the EU after they depart from Greece.

      This is, of course, not a new plan. In February and March 2016, as the EU-Turkey deal was heading for agreement and in the wake of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people travelling by foot, road and rail to the ‘core’ of the EU, the ‘Balkan Route’ was declared closed by EU leaders. Initially done on the crude, discriminatory basis of nationality,[21] exclusion measures were extended to apply to all those crossing borders in the region. That process of closure continues today, and violence is a longstanding component of the strategy.[22] Indeed, it is a prerequisite for it to work effectively, and has been denounced repeatedly over the years by NGOs and international organisations. In March 2016, the Macedonian authorities sought supplies of pepper spray, tasers, rubber bullets, “special bomb (shock, with rubber balls)” and “acoustic device to break the mob.”[23] The concern now may be with smaller groups of people attempting to pass through the country, rather than with “the mob”, but the violence is no less brutal.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor

  • 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

  • Migration : la #France et l’#Italie déploieront des #navires et des #avions pour alerter la Tunisie sur le départ des migrants

    Le ministre français de l’Intérieur, #Gérald_Darmanin, est attendu, ce weekend, en visite en Tunisie pour de décisives discussions dans la foulée de l’attentat contre la basilique de Nice commis par un migrant illégal tunisien, qui a fait trois morts. Une visite qui intervient aussi dans un climat de plus en plus tendu en France dont le gouvernement et le président de la République, Emmanuel Macron, s’emploient à restreindre au maximum les flux migratoires à travers la Méditerranée.

    A la veille de cette visite, le ministre français de l’Intérieur, qui se trouve ce vendredi à Rome , envisage avec son homologue italienne, #Luciana_Lamorgese, de déployer des navires ou des avions pour alerter la Tunisie du départ de #bateaux clandestins transportant des migrants vers les côtes italiennes, comme le jeune Tunisien qui est le principal suspect d’une attaque à l’arme blanche dans une église française la semaine dernière, a déclaré vendredi la ministre italienne.

    A l’issue d’une entrevue entre les deux ministres, Gerald Darmanin s’est gardé de critiquer l’Italie pour sa gestion du suspect tunisien, qui a débarqué sur l’île italienne de Lampedusa en septembre, a été mis en quarantaine en vertu du protocole sanitaire relatif à la pandémie et reçu des papiers d’expulsion des autorités italiennes avant de gagner la France en octobre.

    « A aucun moment, je n’ai pensé qu’il y avait quelque chose de défectueux » dans la façon dont l’Italie a géré l’affaire, a déclaré Darmanin, en réponse à une question posée lors d’une conférence de presse avec Lamorgese après leurs entretiens. Il a plutôt remercié Lamorgese et les services de renseignement italiens pour l’échange d’informations dans les jours qui ont suivi l’#attentat de #Nice.

    Les Tunisiens qui fuient une économie dévastée par les effets du virus, constituent le plus grand contingent de migrants débarqués en Italie cette année, et ils arrivent directement de Tunisie dans des bateaux assez solides pour ne pas avoir besoin de secours, souligne le Washington Post, rappelant que, ces dernières années, la majorité des migrants qui ont atteint les côtes méridionales de l’Italie venaient d’Afrique subsaharienne et traversaient la Méditerranée dans des embarcations de fortune , donc en mauvais état pour la plupart, et opérées par des trafiquants en Libye.

    Lamorgese a déclaré qu’elle avait discuté avec Darmarin d’un #plan prévoyant le déploiement de « moyens navals ou aériens qui pourraient alerter les autorités tunisiennes d’éventuels départs » et les aider à intercepter les bateaux, « dans le respect de leurs souveraineté et autonomie que nous ne voulons pas violer ».

    Selon ce plan, il n’y aurait « qu’une #alerte que nous donnerions aux autorités tunisiennes pour faciliter le #traçage des navires qui partent de leur territoire pour rejoindre les côtes italiennes », a déclaré la ministre italienne. « Il est évident que cela suppose la #collaboration des autorités tunisiennes ».

    La France aurait-elle son « #Patriot_Act ?

    Après sa réunion du matin à Rome, Darmarin a déclaré qu’il se rend en Tunisie, en Algérie et à Malte, pour discuter des questions de migration et de #terrorisme.

    « La France et l’Italie doivent définir une position commune pour la lutte contre l’immigration clandestine au niveau européen », a-t-il déclaré.

    Il a été demandé à Darmarin si, à la suite des récents attentats terroristes en France, le gouvernement français devrait adopter une loi comme le « USA Patriot Act » promulgué après les attentats du 11 septembre 2001 pour intensifier les efforts de détection et de prévention du terrorisme.

    « Plus qu’un Patriot Act, ce qu’il faut, c’est un #acte_européen », a répondu Darmarin. « La France ne peut pas lutter seule contre la politique islamiste ».

    La Tunisie est l’un des rares pays à avoir conclu un accord de rapatriement avec l’Italie. Mais avec des milliers de Tunisiens arrivés par mer récemment et moins de 100 migrants expulsés et renvoyés dans le pays par voie aérienne chaque semaine, la priorité est donnée aux personnes considérées comme dangereuses, indique le Washington Post. Selon Lamorgese, rien n’indique que l’agresseur de Nice, Ibrahim Issaoui, 21 ans, constituait une menace.

    Les deux ministres se sont rencontrés un jour après que le président français Emmanuel Macron ait déclaré que son pays renforcera ses contrôles aux frontières après les multiples attaques de cet automne.

    L’Italie et la France lancent, sur une base expérimentale de six mois, des #brigades_mixtes de forces de sécurité italiennes et françaises à leurs frontières communes pour renforcer les contrôles, a déclaré Lamorgese aux journalistes.

    #externalisation #asile #réfugiés #migrations #frontières #surveillance_frontalière #Tunisie #militarisation_des_frontières #Darmanin #accord_de_réadmission

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Union européenne – Tunisie : l’illusion d’une coopération équilibrée

      Dans la nuit de vendredi 12 au samedi 13 février, 48 personnes de différentes nationalités africaines sont parties de Sidi Mansour, dans la province de Sfax en Tunisie, direction les côtes italiennes. La marine tunisienne est intervenue à une centaine de kilomètres au nord-ouest de Lampedusa lorsque les passagers naviguaient dans une mer agitée. Tandis que 25 personnes ont pu être secourues, une personne est décédée et 22 autres sont déclarées « disparues », comme des milliers d’autres avant elles [1]. Cet énième naufrage témoigne des traversées plus importantes au cours des derniers mois depuis la Tunisie, qui sont rendues plus dangereuses alors que l’Union européenne (UE) renforce ses politiques sécuritaires en Méditerranée en collaboration avec les États d’Afrique du Nord, dont la Tunisie.

      Au cours de 2020, plus de 13 400 personnes migrantes parties de Tunisie ont été interceptées par les garde-côtes tunisiens et plus de 13 200 autres sont parvenues à rejoindre les côtes européennes [2]. Jamais les chiffres n’ont été aussi élevés et depuis l’été 2020, jamais la Tunisie n’a été autant au centre de l’attention des dirigeant·e·s européen·ne·s. A l’occasion d’une rencontre dans ce pays le 17 août 2020, l’Italie et la Tunisie ont ainsi conclu un accord accompagné d’une enveloppe de 11 millions d’euros pour le renforcement des contrôles aux frontières tunisiennes et en particulier la surveillance maritime [3]. Le 6 novembre 2020, à l’issue d’une réunion à Rome, la ministre italienne de l’Intérieur et son homologue français ont également décidé de déployer au large des côtes tunisiennes des « moyens navals ou aériens qui pourraient alerter les autorités tunisiennes d’éventuels départs » [4].

      Cette attention a été redoublée au lendemain de l’attentat de Nice, le 29 octobre 2020. Lors d’une visite à Tunis, le ministre français, jouant de l’amalgame entre terrorisme et migration, faisait du contrôle migratoire le fer de lance de la lutte contre le terrorisme et appelait à une coopération à l’échelle européenne avec les pays d’Afrique du Nord pour verrouiller leurs frontières. Suivant l’exemple de l’Italie qui coopère déjà de manière étroite avec la Tunisie pour renvoyer de force ses ressortissant·e·s [5], la France a demandé aux autorités tunisiennes la délivrance automatique de laissez-passer pour faciliter les expulsions et augmenter leurs cadences.

      Cette coopération déséquilibrée qui met la Tunisie face à l’UE et ses États membres, inlassablement dénoncée des deux côtés de la Méditerranée par les associations de défense des droits, n’est pas nouvelle et s’accélère.

      Alors qu’a augmenté, au cours de l’année 2020, le nombre d’exilé·e·s en provenance d’Afrique subsaharienne et quittant les côtes tunisiennes en direction de l’Italie [6], les dirigeant·e·s européen·ne·s craignent que la Tunisie ne se transforme en pays de départ non seulement pour les ressortissant·e·s tunisien·ne·s mais également pour des exilé·e·s venu·e·s de tout le continent. Après être parvenue à réduire les départs depuis les côtes libyennes, mais surtout à augmenter le nombre de refoulements grâce à l’intervention des pseudo garde-côtes libyens en Méditerranée centrale (10 000 rien qu’en 2020) [7], l’UE et ses États membres se tournent de plus en plus vers la Tunisie, devenue l’une des principales cibles de leur politique d’externalisation en vue de tarir les passages sur cette route. Dès 2018, la Commission européenne avait d’ailleurs identifié la Tunisie comme candidate privilégiée pour l’installation sur son sol de « plateformes de débarquement » [8], autrement dit des camps de tri externalisés au service de l’UE, destinés aux exilé·e·s secouru·e·s ou intercepté·e·s en mer. Le plan prévoyait également le renforcement des capacités d’interception des dits garde-côtes tunisiens.

      Si à l’époque la Tunisie avait clamé son refus de devenir le hotspot africain et le garde-frontière de l’Europe [9], Tunis, sous la pression européenne, semble accepter peu à peu d’être partie prenante de cette approche [10]. Le soutien que la Tunisie reçoit de l’UE pour surveiller ses frontières maritimes ne cesse de s’intensifier. Depuis 2015, Bruxelles multiplie en effet les programmes destinés à la formation et au renforcement des capacités des garde-côtes tunisiens, notamment en matière de collecte de données personnelles. Dans le cadre du programme « Gestion des frontières au Maghreb » [11] lancé en juillet 2018, l’UE a prévu d’allouer 24,5 millions d’euros qui bénéficieront principalement à la Garde nationale maritime tunisienne [12]. Sans oublier l’agence européenne Frontex qui contrôle les eaux tunisiennes au moyen d’images satellite, de radars et de drones [13] et récolte des données qui depuis quelques mois sont partagées avec les garde-côtes tunisiens [14], comme cela se fait déjà avec les (soi-disant) garde-côtes libyens [15]. Le but est simple : détecter les embarcations au plus tôt pour alerter les autorités tunisiennes afin qu’elles se chargent elles-mêmes des interceptions maritimes. Les moyens de surveillance navals et aériens que l’Italie et la France veulent déployer pour surveiller les départs de Tunisie viennent compléter cet édifice.

      Les gouvernements européens se félicitent volontiers des résultats de leur stratégie des « #refoulements_par_procuration » [16] en Libye. Cette stratégie occulte cependant les conséquences d’un partenariat avec des « garde-côtes » liés à des milices et des réseaux de trafiquants d’êtres humains [17], à savoir le renvoi des personnes migrantes dans un pays non-sûr, qu’elles tentent désespérément de fuir, ainsi qu’une hécatombe en mer Méditerranée. A mesure que les autorités européennes se défaussent de leurs responsabilités en matière de recherche et de secours sur les garde-côtes des pays d’Afrique du Nord, les cas de non-assistance et les naufrages se multiplient [18]. Alors que la route de la Méditerranée centrale est l’une des mieux surveillées au monde, c’est aussi l’une des plus mortelles du fait de cette politique du laisser-mourir en mer. Au cours de l’année 2020, près de 1 000 décès y ont été comptabilisés [19], sans compter les nombreux naufrages invisibles [20].

      Nous refusons que cette coopération euro-libyenne, dont on connaît déjà les conséquences, soit dupliquée en Tunisie. Si ce pays en paix et doté d’institutions démocratiques peut à première vue offrir une image plus « accueillante » que la Libye, il ne saurait être considéré comme un pays « sûr », ni pour les migrant·e·s, ni pour ses propres ressortissant·e·s, de plus en plus nombreux·ses à fuir la situation socio-économique dégradée, et aggravée par la crise sanitaire [21]. Les pressions exercées par l’UE et ses États membres pour obliger la Tunisie à devenir le réceptacle de tou·te·s les migrant·e·s « indésirables » sous couvert de lutte contre le terrorisme sont inacceptables. La complaisance des autorités tunisiennes et le manque de transparence des négociations avec l’UE et ses États membres le sont tout autant. En aucun cas le combat contre le terrorisme ne saurait justifier que soient sacrifiées les valeurs de la démocratie et du respect des droits fondamentaux, tels que la liberté d’aller et venir et le droit de trouver une véritable protection.

      De part et d’autre de la Méditerranée, nos organisations affirment leur solidarité avec les personnes exilées de Tunisie et d’ailleurs. Nous condamnons ces politiques sécuritaires externalisées qui génèrent d’innombrables violations des droits et ne font que propager l’intolérance et la haine.

      –—

      Notes :

      [1] « En Tunisie, 22 migrants sont portés disparus après le naufrage d’un bateau », La Presse.ca, 13 février 2021

      [2] Rapport du mois de décembre 2020 des mouvements sociaux, suicides, violences, et migrations, n°87, Observatoire social tunisien, FTDES

      [3] Quel est le contenu du récent accord entre la Tunisie et l’Italie ? Réponses aux demandes d’accès introduit par ASGI, FTDES et ASF, Projet Sciabaca & Oruka, 7 décembre 2020

      [4] « Migration : la France et l’Italie déploieront des navires et des avions pour alerter la Tunisie sur le départ des migrants », African Manager, 6 décembre 2020

      [5] Chaque semaine, deux charters partent de Sicile pour renvoyer une centaine de migrant·e·s tunisien·ne·s. En 2019, selon les chiffres du FTDES, 1 739 ressortissant·e·s tunisien·ne·s ont été expulsé·e·s d’Italie via ces vols. En 2020, ceux-ci étaient encore affrétés malgré la crise sanitaire.

      [6] Rapport du mois d’octobre 2020 des mouvements sociaux, suicides, violences, et migrations, n°85, Observatoire social tunisien, FTDES

      [7] Le nombre de migrant·e·s ayant été intercepté·e·s par les pseudo garde-côtes libyens en 2019 est estimé à 9 000 selon Alarmphone (voir : Central Mediterranean Regional Analysis 1 October 2019-31 December 2019, 5 janvier 2020).

      [8] Migration : Regional disembarkation arrangements - Follow-up to the European Council Conlusions of 28 June 2018

      [9] « Tri, confinement, expulsion : l’approche hotspot au service de l’UE », Migreurop, 25 juin 2019

      [10] « Comment l’Europe contrôle ses frontières en Tunisie ? », Inkyfada, 20 mars 2020

      [11] Programme du Fonds fiduciaire d’urgence de l’UE pour l’Afrique, mis en œuvre par l’ICMPD et le Ministère italien de l’intérieur - Document d’action pour la mise en œuvre du programme Afrique du Nord, Commission européenne (non daté)

      [12] Réponse de la Commission européenne à une question parlementaire sur les programmes de gestion des frontières financés par le Fonds fiduciaire d’urgence, 26 octobre 2020

      [13] « EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis », Matthias Monroy, 28 juin 2020

      [14] Réponse question parlementaire donnée par la Haute représentante/Vice-présidente Borrell au nom de la Commission européenne sur le projet Seahorse Mediterraneo 2.0, 7 mai 2020

      [15] « A Struggle for Every Single Boat- Central Mediterranean Analysis, July - December 2020 », Alarm Phone, 14 janvier 2021

      [16] « MARE CLAUSUM - Italy and the EU’s undeclared operation to stem migration across the Mediterranea » ; Forensic Oceanography, Forensic Architecture agency, Goldsmiths, Université de Londres, Mai 2018

      [17] « Migrants detained in Libya for profit, leaked EU report reveals », The Guardian, 20 novembre 2019

      [18] « Carnage in the Mediterranean is the direct result of European state policies », MSF 13 novembre 2020

      [19] Selon les chiffres de l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM) en Méditerranée : https://missingmigrants.iom.int/region/mediterranean?migrant_route%5B%5D=1376

      [20] « November Shipwrecks - Hundreds of Visible and Invisible Deaths in the Central Med », Alarmphone, 26 novembre 2020

      [21] « Politiques du non-accueil en Tunisie : des acteurs humanitaires au service des politiques sécuritaires européennes », Migreurop, FTDES juin 2020

      https://www.migreurop.org/article3028.html

    • La Tunisia come frontiera esterna d’Europa: a farne le spese sono sempre i diritti umani

      Migreurop, FTDES e EuroMed Rights lanciano un appello congiunto contro la riproposizione del “modello libico” in Tunisia.

      La Tunisia è divenuta negli ultimi anni uno degli interlocutori principali per le politiche securitarie europee basate sull’esternalizzazione delle frontiere. Il governo tunisino si presta, in modo sempre più evidente, a soddisfare le richieste dell’Unione europea e dei suoi paesi membri, Italia e Francia in particolare, che mirano a bloccare nel paese i flussi migratori, ancor prima che possano raggiungere il territorio europeo.

      Ma la situazione non può essere sostenibile sul lungo termine: una grande quantità di denaro viene investita nel finanziamento e supporto alla Guardia costiera tunisina e alle forze di polizia, che controllano i confini marittimi e riportano indietro le persone intercettate in mare, in quelli che sono stati definiti “respingimenti per procura” di cui le autorità europee non vogliono farsi carico, per non dover rispondere degli obblighi internazionali in materia di protezione e asilo.

      Intanto, nel paese imperversa una crisi socio-economica molto grave, che sta smorzando l’entusiasmo nei confronti della giovane democrazia tunisina, unico esperimento politico post-2011 ad aver resistito finora alle spinte autocratiche. Al malessere della popolazione, che nelle ultime settimane ha manifestato nelle strade di diverse città, lo Stato sembra saper rispondere solo con la forza e la repressione.
      La precarietà della situazione economica e sociale non farà che alimentare le partenze dalla Tunisia, che avevano registrato numeri consistenti durante il 2020.

      La guardia costiera, seppure ben equipaggiata e addestrata, non può rappresentare un vero deterrente per chi non ha nulla da perdere: e infatti negli ultimi giorni sono sbarcate a Lampedusa complessivamente più di 230 persone provenienti dall’area di Sfax, attualmente isolati nell’hotspot dell’isola. Altri arrivano invece a Pantelleria, situata a pochi chilometri dalle coste della capitale [1].

      Ma nel Mediterraneo si continua anche a morire: l’ultimo episodio noto che ha coinvolto la Tunisia è avvenuto tra il 12 e il 13 febbraio, quando un’imbarcazione in difficoltà è stata soccorsa dalla marina tunisina al largo di Lampedusa. Secondo le informazioni disponibili, la barca era partita da Sidi Mansour, nella provincia di Sfax, e le 48 persone a bordo erano di varie nazionalità africane. Il maltempo aveva spinto la marina tunisina a interrompere le operazioni di soccorso: delle 48 persone a bordo, 25 sono state tratte in salvo e ricondotte in Tunisia, una è morta e le altre 22 sono state dichiarate “disperse” [2].

      Sono numerose, ma ancora ampiamente inascoltate, le voci che contestano l’approccio del governo tunisino in tema di emigrazione nei rapporti con i paesi a nord del Mediterraneo. Un comunicato congiunto pubblicato il 17 febbraio da Migreurop, del Forum Tunisino per i Diritti Economici e Sociali e di EuroMed Rights, dal titolo “Unione europea - Tunisia: l’illusione di una cooperazione equilibrata” [3], denuncia la complicità delle autorità tunisine nell’assecondare le politiche securitarie europee, che rende sempre più preoccupante la situazione per chi tenta di raggiungere l’Europa dalla Tunisia. Lo Stato tunisino non è in grado di difendere i diritti dei propri cittadini o di chi, in generale, parte dalle proprie coste, di fronte alle pressioni europee che perseguono imperterrite delle politiche emergenziali insostenibili sul lungo periodo.

      Il comunicato esprime la propria contrarietà alla riproposizione in Tunisia del tristemente noto modello libico, basato sulla delegazione alle forze locali dei controlli frontalieri europei, sui respingimenti collettivi e sulla criminalizzazione delle persone migranti. Il 2020 è stato un anno cruciale per l’inasprimento dei controlli alle frontiere nel paese: l’aumento delle partenze dalle coste tunisine a causa della crisi economica, e l’attacco di Nizza ad opera di un cittadino tunisino hanno comportato una maggiore attenzione dei governi europei al paese nordafricano, con conseguente aumento dei finanziamenti destinati al controllo frontaliero. A farne le spese, nel caso tunisino come in quello libico, saranno ancora una volta le persone che vedranno violati i loro diritti:

      “Con le autorità europee che si sottraggono alle loro responsabilità in materia di ricerca e di soccorso in mare, affidandole alle guardie costiere dei paesi nordafricani, i casi di mancata assistenza sono in aumento e i naufragi proliferano. Benché la rotta del Mediterraneo centrale sia una delle più controllate al mondo, è anche una delle più mortali, a causa di questa politica di lasciar morire la gente in mare. Durante il 2020, sono stati registrati quasi 1.000 morti, senza contare i casi di naufragi invisibili.

      Ci rifiutiamo di lasciare che il modello di cooperazione euro-libica venga riproposto in Tunisia, con le conseguenze che già conosciamo. Se questo paese, in pace e con istituzioni democratiche, può a prima vista offrire un’immagine più «accogliente» della Libia, non può però essere considerato un paese «sicuro», né per le persone migranti né per i suoi stessi cittadini, che fuggono dal deterioramento della situazione socio-economica, aggravata dalla crisi sanitaria.

      La pressione esercitata dall’Ue e dai suoi Stati membri per costringere la Tunisia a diventare un rifugio per tutti/e i/le migranti «indesiderabili» con il pretesto della lotta al terrorismo è inaccettabile. La connivenza delle autorità tunisine e la mancanza di trasparenza nei negoziati con l’Ue e i suoi Stati membri sono altrettanto inaccettabili. In nessun caso la lotta contro il terrorismo può giustificare il sacrificio dei valori della democrazia e del rispetto dei diritti fondamentali, come la libertà di movimento e il diritto a una vera protezione.”

      https://www.meltingpot.org/La-Tunisia-come-frontiera-esterna-d-Europa-a-farne-le-spese.html?var_mod

      #Tunisie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #modèle_libyen #externalisation

    • Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

      The agencies #EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

      According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for #EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

      The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes.

      Military research on drone technologies should also benefit border police applications. This was already laid down in the conclusions of the “ First European High Level Conference on Unmanned Aerial Systems“, to which the Commission and the EDA invited military and aviation security authorities, the defence industry and other „representatives of the European aviation community“ to Brussels in 2010. According to this, once „the existing barriers to growth are removed, the civil market could be potentially much larger than the military market“.

      Merging „maritime surveillance“ initiatives

      Because unmanned flights over land have to be set up with cumbersome authorisation procedures, Europe’s unregulated seas have become a popular testing ground for both civilian and military drone projects. It is therefore not surprising that in 2014, in the action plan of its „Maritime Security Strategy“, the Commission also called for a „cross-sectoral approach“ by civilian and military authorities to bring together the various „maritime surveillance initiatives“ and support them with unmanned systems.

      In addition to the military EDA, this primarily meant those EU agencies that take on tasks to monitor seas and coastlines: The Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in Lisbon, founded in 2002, the Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in Warsaw since 2004, and the Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) in Vigo, Spain, which followed a year later.

      Since 2009, the three agencies have been cooperating within the framework of bi- and trilateral agreements in certain areas, this mainly concerned satellite surveillance. With „CleanSeaNet“, EMSA has had a monitoring system for detecting oil spills in European waters since 2007. From 2013, the data collected there was continuously transmitted to the Frontex Situation Centre. There, they flow into the EUROSUR border surveillance system, which is also based on satellites. Finally, EFCA also operates „Integrated Maritime Services“ (IMS) for vessel detection and tracking using satellites to monitor, control and enforce the common EU fisheries policy.

      After the so-called „migration crisis“ in 2015, the Commission proposed the modification of the mandates of the three agencies in a „set of measures to manage the EU’s external borders and protect our Schengen area without internal borders“. They should cooperate more closely in the five areas of information exchange, surveillance and communication services, risk analysis, capacity building and exchange. To this end, the communication calls for the „jointly operating Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) in the Mediterranean Sea“.

      Starting in 2016, Frontex, EMSA and EFCA set out the closer cooperation in several cooperation agreements and initially carried out a research project on the use of satellites, drones and manned surveillance aircraft. EMSA covered the costs of €310,000, and the fixed-wing aircraft „AR 5 Evo“ from the Portuguese company Tekever and a „Scan Eagle“ from the Boeing offshoot Insitu were flown.

      EMSA took the lead

      Since then, EMSA has taken the lead regarding unmanned maritime surveillance services. The development of such a drone fleet was included in the proposal for a new EMSA regulation presented by the Commission at the end of 2015. Drones were to become a „complementary tool in the overall surveillance chain“. The Commission expected this to provide „early detection of migrant departures“, another purpose was to „support of law enforcement activities“.

      EMSA initially received €67 million for the new leased drone services, with further money earmarked for the necessary expansion of satellite communications. In a call for tenders, medium-sized fixed-wing aircraft with a long range as well as vertical take-off aircraft were sought; as basic equipment, they were to carry optical and infrared cameras, an optical scanner and an AIS receiver. For pollution tracking or emission monitoring, manufacturers should fit additional sensors.

      From 2018, EMSA awarded further contracts totalling €38 million for systems launching either on land or from ships. Also in 2018, the agency paid €2.86 million for quadrocopters that can be launched from ships. In the same year, EMSA signed a framework contract worth €59 million for flights with the long-range drone „Hermes 900“ from Israeli company Elbit Systems. In 2020, for €20 million, the agency was again looking for unmanned vertical take-off aircraft that can be launched either on land or from ships and can stay in the air for up to four hours.

      In addition to the „Hermes 900“, the EMSA drone fleet includes three fixed-wing aircraft, the „AR5 Evo“ from Tekever (Portugal), the „Ouranos“ from ALTUS (Greece) and the „Ogassa“ from UAVision (Portugal). The larger helicopter drones are the „Skeldar V-200“ from UMS (Sweden) and the „Camcopter S-100“ from Schiebel GmbH (Austria), as well as the „Indago“ quadrocopter from Lockheed Martin (USA).

      EMSA handles flights with different destinations for numerous EU member states, as well as for Iceland as the only Schengen state. Due to increasing demand, capacities are now being expanded. In a tender worth €20 million, „RPAS Services for Maritime Surveillance with Extended Coastal Range“ with vertically launched, larger drones are being sought. Another large contract for „RPAS Services for Multipurpose Maritime Surveillance“ is expected to cost €50 million. Finally, EMSA is looking for several dozen small drones under 25 kilograms for €7 million.

      Airbus flies for Frontex

      As early as 2009, the EU border agency hosted relevant workshops and seminars on the use of drones and invited manufacturers to give demonstrations. The events were intended to present marketable systems „for land and sea border surveillance“ to border police from member states. In its 2012 Work Programme, Frontex announced its intention to pursue „developments regarding identification and removing of the existing gaps in border surveillance with special focus on Unmanned Aircraft Systems“.

      After a failed award in 2015, Frontex initially tendered a „Trial of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) for long endurance Maritime Aerial Surveillance“ in Crete and Sicily in 2018. The contract was awarded to Airbus (€4.75 million) for flights with a „Heron 1“ from Israel Aeronautics Industries (IAI) and Leonardo (€1.7 million) with its „Falco Evo“. The focus was not only on testing surveillance technology, but also on the use of drones within civilian airspace.

      After the pilot projects, Frontex then started to procure its own drones of the high-flying MALE class. The tender was for a company that would carry out missions in all weather conditions and at day and night time off Malta, Italy or Greece for €50 million. The contract was again awarded to the defence company Airbus for flights with a „Heron 1“. The aircraft are to operate in a radius of up to 250 nautical miles, which means they could also reconnoitre off the coasts of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. They carry electro-optical cameras, thermal imaging cameras and so-called „daylight spotters“ to track moving targets. Other equipment includes mobile and satellite phone tracking systems.

      It is not yet clear when the Frontex drones will begin operations, nor does the agency say where they will be stationed in the central Mediterranean. However, it has announced that it will launch two tenders per year for a total of up to 3.000 contracted hours to operate large drones.

      Drone offensive for „pull backs“

      So since 2016, EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services. On top of that, the Commission has spent at least €38 million funding migration-related drone research such as UPAC S-100, SARA, ROBORDER, CAMELOT, COMPASS2020, FOLDOUT, BorderUAS. This does not include the numerous research projects in the Horizon2020 framework programme, which, like unmanned passenger transport, are not related to border surveillance. Similar research was also carried out during the same period on behalf of the Defence Agency, which spent well over €100 million on it.

      The new unmanned capabilities significantly expand maritime surveillance in particular and enable a new concept of joint command and control structures between Frontex, EMSA and EFCA. Long-range drones, such as those used by EMSA with the „Hermes 900“ and Frontex with the „Heron 1“ in the Mediterranean, can stay in the air for a whole day, covering large sea areas.

      It is expected that the missions will generate significantly more situational information about boats of refugees. The drone offensive will then ensure even more „pull backs“ in violation of international law, after the surveillance information is passed on to the coast guards in countries such as Libya as before, in order to intercept refugees as quickly as possible after they set sail from the coasts there.

      https://digit.site36.net/2021/04/30/unmanned-surveillance-for-fortress-europe
      #drones

  • 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

  • Automated Suspicion
    https://www.statewatch.org/media/1235/sw-automated-suspicion-full.pdf

    The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has raised the possibility of widespread surveillance and location tracking for the purpose of disease control, setting alarm bells ringing amongst privacy advocates and civil rights campaigners. However, EU institutions and governments have long been set on the path of more intensive personal data processing for the purpose of migration control, and these developments have in some cases passed almost entirely under the radar of the press and civil society (...)

    #algorithme #biométrie #migration #vidéo-surveillance #surveillance # #StateWatch

    ##_

    • 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, http://www.statewatch.org/news/2018/sep/eu-com-frontex-proposal-regulation-com-18-631.pdf

      [6] EDPS, ‘Formal comments on the Proposal for a Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard’, 30 November 2018, p. p.2, https://edps.europa.eu/sites/edp/files/publication/18-11-30_comments_proposal_regulation_european_border_coast_guard_en.pdf

      [7] Article 2(23): “‘hotspot area’ means an area created at the request of the host Member State in which the host Member State, the Commission, relevant Union agencies and participating Member States cooperate, with the aim of managing an existing or potential disproportionate migratory challenge characterised by a significant increase in the number of migrants arriving at the external borders”

      [8] Article 26(3)(c), 2019 Regulation

      [9] Article 26(4), 2019 Regulation

      [10] Article 25, 2019 Regulation

      [11] Article 26, 2019 Regulation

      [12] European Commission, ‘Commission Recommendation adopting the Practical Handbook for implementing and managing the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR)’, C(2015) 9206 final, 15 December 2015, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/securing-eu-borders/legal-documents/docs/eurosur_handbook_annex_en.pdf

      [13] Article 24(3), 2019 Regulation

      [14] ‘’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

      [15] Documents related to meetings of committees operating under the auspices of the European Commission can be found in the Comitology Register: https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regcomitology/index.cfm?do=Search.Search&NewSearch=1

      [16] Kira Schacht, ‘Border checks in EU countries challenge Schengen Agreement’, DW, 12 November 2019, https://www.dw.com/en/border-checks-in-eu-countries-challenge-schengen-agreement/a-51033603

      [17] European Parliament, ‘Temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders’, https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2017/0245(COD)&l=en

      [18] ‘Report on the annual report on the functioning of the Schengen area’, 3 May 2018, para.9, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-8-2018-0160_EN.html

      [19] Elpseth Guild et al, ‘Internal border controls in the Schengen area: is Schengen crisis-proof?’, European Parliament, June 2016, p.9, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/571356/IPOL_STU(2016)571356_EN.pdf

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2019/monitoring-secondary-movements-and-hotspots-frontex-is-now-an-internal-s

      #mouvements_secondaires #hotspot #hotspots

  • Automated suspicion: The EU’s new travel surveillance initiatives

    This report examines how the EU is using new technologies to screen, profile and risk-assess travellers to the Schengen area, and the risks this poses to civil liberties and fundamental rights.

    By developing ‘interoperable’ biometric databases, introducing untested profiling tools, and using new ‘pre-crime’ watchlists, people visiting the EU from all over the world are being placed under a veil of suspicion in the name of enhancing security.

    Watch the animation below for an overview of the report. A laid-out version will be available shortly. You can read the press release here: https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/july/eu-to-deploy-controversial-technologies-on-holidaymakers-and-business-tr

    –----

    Executive summary

    The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has raised the possibility of widespread surveillance and location tracking for the purpose of disease control, setting alarm bells ringing amongst privacy advocates and civil rights campaigners. However, EU institutions and governments have long been set on the path of more intensive personal data processing for the purpose of migration control, and these developments have in some cases passed almost entirely under the radar of the press and civil society organisations.

    This report examines, explains and critiques a number of large-scale EU information systems currently being planned or built that will significantly extend the collection and use of biometric and biographic data taken from visitors to the Schengen area, made up of 26 EU member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. In particular, it examines new systems being introduced to track, analyse and assess the potential security, immigration or public health risks posed by non-EU citizens who have to apply for either a short-stay visa or a travel authorisation – primarily the #Visa_Information_System (#VIS), which is being upgraded, and the #European_Travel_Information_and_Authorisation_System (#ETIAS), which is currently under construction.

    The visa obligation has existed for years. The forthcoming travel authorisation obligation, which will cover citizens of non-EU states who do not require a visa, is new and will massively expand the amount of data the EU holds on non-citizens. It is the EU’s equivalent of the USA’s ESTA, Canada’s eTA and Australia’s ETA.[1] These schemes represent a form of “government permission to travel,” to borrow the words of Edward Hasbrouck,[2] and they rely on the extensive processing of personal data.

    Data will be gathered on travellers themselves as well as their families, education, occupation and criminal convictions. Fingerprints and photographs will be taken from all travellers, including from millions of children from the age of six onwards. This data will not just be used to assess an individual’s application, but to feed data mining and profiling algorithms. It will be stored in large-scale databases accessible to hundreds of thousands of individuals working for hundreds of different public authorities.

    Much of this data will also be used to feed an enormous new database holding the ‘identity data’ – fingerprints, photographs, names, nationalities and travel document data – of non-EU citizens. This system, the #Common_Identity_Repository (#CIR), is being introduced as part of the EU’s complex ‘interoperability’ initiative and aims to facilitate an increase in police identity checks within the EU. It will only hold the data of non-EU citizens and, with only weak anti-discrimination safeguards in the legislation, raises the risk of further entrenching racial profiling in police work.

    The remote monitoring and control of travellers is also being extended through the VIS upgrade and the introduction of ETIAS. Travel companies are already obliged to check, prior to an individual boarding a plane, coach or train, whether they have the visa required to enter the Schengen area. This obligation will be extended to include travel authorisations, with travel companies able to use the central databases of the VIS and ETIAS to verify whether a person’s paperwork is in order or not. When people arrive at the Schengen border, when they are within the Schengen area and long after they leave, their personal data will remain stored in these systems and be available for a multitude of further uses.

    These new systems and tools have been presented by EU institutions as necessary to keep EU citizens safe. However, the idea that more personal data gathering will automatically lead to greater security is a highly questionable claim, given that the authorities already have problems dealing with the data they hold now.

    Furthermore, a key part of the ‘interoperability’ agenda is the cross-matching and combination of data on tens of millions of people from a host of different databases. Given that the EU’s databases are already-known to be strewn with errors, this massively increases the risks of mistakes in decision making in a policy field – immigration – that already involves a high degree of discretion and which has profound implications for peoples’ lives.

    These new systems have been presented by their proponents as almost-inevitable technological developments. This is a misleading idea which masks the political and ethical judgments that lie behind the introduction of any new technology. It would be fairer to say that EU lawmakers have chosen to introduce unproven, experimental technologies – in particular, automated profiling – for use on non-EU citizens, who have no choice in the matter and are likely to face difficulties in exercising their rights.

    Finally, the introduction of new databases designed to hold data on tens of millions of non-citizens rests on the idea that our public authorities can be trusted to comply with the rules and will not abuse the new troves of data to which they are being given access. Granting access to more data to more people inevitably increases the risk of individual abuses. Furthermore, the last decade has seen numerous states across the EU turn their back on fundamental rights and democratic standards, with migrants frequently used as scapegoats for society’s ills. In a climate of increased xenophobia and social hostility to foreigners, it is extremely dangerous to assert that intrusive data-gathering will counterbalance a supposed threat posed by non-citizens.

    Almost all the legislation governing these systems has now been put in place. What remains is for them to be upgraded or constructed and put into use. Close attention should be paid by lawmakers, journalists, civil society organisations and others to see exactly how this is done. If all non-citizens are to be treated as potential risks and assessed, analysed, monitored and tracked accordingly, it may not be long before citizens come under the same veil of suspicion.

    https://www.statewatch.org/automated-suspicion-the-eu-s-new-travel-surveillance-initiatives

    #vidéo:
    https://vimeo.com/437830786

    #suspects #suspicion #frontières #rapport #StateWatch #migrations #asile #réfugiés #EU #UE #Union_européenne
    #surveillance #profiling #database #base_de_données #données_personnelles #empreintes_digitales #enfants #agences_de_voyage #privatisation #interopérabilité

    ping @mobileborders @isskein @etraces @reka

  • L’UE crée un gigantesque fichier biométrique : un « point de non retour » ?
    https://usbeketrica.com/article/l-ue-cree-un-gigantesque-fichier-biometrique-un-point-de-non-retour-1

    Le Parlement européen a donné son feu vert à la création d’un gigantesque fichier qui centralisera des données incluant des informations biométriques - empreintes digitales et images faciales - des citoyens européens et non-européens. L’ONG Statewatch avait alerté en mai dernier sur la création d’une « Europe Big Brother ». Le 16 avril, le Parlement européen a voté à Strasbourg un ensemble de mesures permettant d’« améliorer l’échange de données entre les systèmes d’information de l’UE pour gérer les (...)

    #anti-terrorisme #biométrie #migration #surveillance #voyageurs #Statewatch

    ##voyageurs

  • Les Européens n’ont pas à connaître la position de la #France sur les #Frontières_intelligentes
    https://reflets.info/les-europeens-nont-pas-a-connaitre-la-position-de-la-france-sur-les-fronti

    Nous vous parlions il y a quelques jours de la contribution française à la création des frontières « intelligentes ». #Statewatch avait récupéré un document exposant la position française. Nous avions immédiatement demandé viaz le formulaire ad hoc au Conseil une copie de ce document. Nous avons reçu une réponse à notre demande. Et, elle est, comment […]

    #Politique #Technos #Conseil_de_l'Europe #Europe #Shengen