Fortress Europe: the millions spent on military-grade tech to deter refugees | European Union

From military-grade drones to sensor methods and experimental know-how, the EU and its members have spent lots of of millions of euros over the previous decade on applied sciences to monitor down and hold at bay the refugees on its borders.

Poland’s border with Belarus is turning into the newest frontline for this know-how, with the nation approving final month a €350m (£300m) wall with superior cameras and movement sensors.

The Guardian has mapped out the results of the EU’s funding: a digital wall on the harsh sea, forest and mountain frontiers, and a technological playground for army and tech corporations repurposing merchandise for brand new markets.

A map of Europe showing different types of technology in place at borders

The EU is central to the push in direction of utilizing know-how on its borders, whether or not it has been purchased by the EU’s border power, Frontex, or financed for member states by EU sources, comparable to its inside safety fund or Horizon 2020, a project to drive innovation.

In 2018, the EU predicted that the European safety market would grow to €128bn (£108bn) by 2020. Beneficiaries are arms and tech corporations who closely courted the EU, elevating the considerations of campaigners and MEPs.

“In effect, none of this stops people from crossing; having drones or helicopters doesn’t stop people from crossing, you just see people taking more risky ways,” says Jack Sapoch, previously with Border Violence Monitoring Network. “This is a history that’s so long, as security increases on one section of the border, movement continues in another section.”

Petra Molnar, who runs the migration and know-how monitor at Refugee Law Lab, says the EU’s reliance on these corporations to develop “hare-brained ideas” into tech to be used on its borders is inappropriate.

“They rely on the private sector to create these toys for them. But there’s very little regulation,” she says. “Some sort of tech bro is having a field day with this.”

“For me, what’s really sad is that it’s almost a done deal that all this money is being spent on camps, enclosures, surveillance, drones.”

Air Surveillance

Refugees and migrants attempting to enter the EU by land or sea are watched from the air. Border officers use drones and helicopters in the Balkans, whereas Greece has airships on its border with Turkey. The costliest instrument is the long-endurance Heron drone working over the Mediterranean.

Frontex awarded a €100m (£91m) contract final year for the Heron and Hermes drones made by two Israeli arms corporations, each of which had been utilized by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip. Capable of flying for greater than 30 hours and at heights of 10,000 metres (30,000 toes), the drones beam virtually real-time feeds again to Frontex’s HQ in Warsaw.

Missions largely begin from Malta, focusing on the Libyan search and rescue zone – the place the Libyan coastguard will carry out “pull backs” when knowledgeable by EU forces of boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

An illustration showing the flight path of a drone sent from Malta to locate refugee boats setting out from Libya

German MEP Özlem Demirel is campaigning towards the EU’s use of drones and hyperlinks to arms corporations, which she says has turned migration right into a safety difficulty.

“The arms industries are saying: ‘This is a security problem, so buy my weapons, buy my drones, buy my surveillance system,’” says Demirel.

“The EU is always talking about values like human rights, [speaking out] against violations but … week-by-week we see more people dying and we have to question if the EU is breaking its values,” she says.

Sensors and cameras

EU air property are accompanied on the floor by sensors and specialised cameras that border authorities all through Europe use to spot motion and discover individuals in hiding. They embody cellular radars and thermal cameras mounted on automobiles, in addition to heartbeat detectors and CO2 screens used to detect indicators of individuals hid inside automobiles.

Greece deploys thermal cameras and sensors alongside its land border with Turkey, monitoring the feeds from operations centres, comparable to in Nea Vyssa, close to the meeting of the Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian borders. Along the identical stretch, in June, Greece deployed a vehicle-mounted sound cannon that blasts “deafening” bursts of up to 162 decibels to power individuals to flip again.

Poland is hoping to emulate Greece in response to the disaster on its border with Belarus. In October, its parliament permitted a €350m wall that can stretch alongside half the border and reach up to 5.5 metres (18 feet), outfitted with movement detectors and thermal cameras.

A management room with 11 screens and 30 cameras for surveillance alongside the Evros River in Nea Vyssa, Greece. Photograph: Byron Smith/Getty Images

Surveillance centres

In September, Greece opened a refugee camp on the island of Samos that has been described as prison-like. The €38m (£32m) facility for 3,000 asylum seekers has military-grade fencing and CCTV to track people’s movements. Access is managed by fingerprint, turnstiles and X-rays. A personal safety company and 50 uniformed officers monitor the camp. It is the first of 5 that Greece has deliberate; two extra opened in November.

At the identical time, Greece opened a new surveillance centre on Samos, able to viewing video feeds from the nation’s 35 refugee camps from a wall of screens. Greece says the “smart” software helps to alert camps of emergencies.

Artificial intelligence

The EU spent €4.5m (£3.8m) on a three-year trial of synthetic intelligence-powered lie detectors in Greece, Hungary and Latvia. A machine scans refugees and migrants’ facial expressions as they answer questions it poses, deciding whether or not they have lied and passing the info on to a border officer.

The final trial completed in late 2019 and was hailed as a hit by the EU however teachers have referred to as it pseudoscience, arguing that the “micro-expressions” the software analyses can’t be reliably used to decide whether or not somebody is mendacity. The software is the subject of a court case taken by MEP Patrick Breyer to the European court docket of justice in Luxembourg, arguing that there ought to be extra public scrutiny of such know-how. A decision is expected on 15 December.

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