Article by Andrew Rettman for EUOBSERVER, reprinted in full below. See also “A shameful investment in a dystopia“.

Greece to build wall on EU-Turkey border

The Greek government plans to build a wall along its 206-km-long land border with Turkey to help keep out unwanted migrants on the model of the US border with Mexico.

Greek junior minister for citizen protection, Christos Papoutsis, a former EU commissioner for energy, made the announcement in an interview with the Athens News Agency on Friday (31 December), saying: “Co-operation with other EU states is going well. Now we plan to construct a fence to deal with illegal migration.”

“The Greek society has reached its limits in taking in illegal immigrants … We are absolutely determined on this issue. Additionally, we want to provide a decisive blow against the migrant smuggling rings that trade in people and their hopes for a better life,” he added.

Mr Papoutsis compared the planned construction to the 1,050-km-long fence running through sections of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas on the Mexico-US border.

Built at a cost of €1.8 billion over the past five years and backed-up by cameras, radar surveillance, jeep-mounted patrols and predator drones, the 4.5-metre-high metal wall initially raised howls of protest on humanitarian and environmental grounds, but has since gained widespread public support in the US.

The EU and Turkey have not reacted to the Greek plan, even though it has the potential to cause upset.

The Union frequently voices complaints against Israel’s anti-Palestinian wall, while slow progress in EU-Turkey accession talks and historic Greek-Turkish tensions could see the new barrier become a symbol of EU antipathy toward its southern neighbour.

For its part, the European Commission in mid-December said it will extend until March its Rabit (Rapid Intervention Border Teams) mission and spend €9.8 million over the next six months on easing conditions in Greek migrant detention camps and on sending asylum and migration consultants to Athens.

The Rabit mission consists of 175 armed guards sent from 25 EU member states under the command of the Union’s Warsaw-based Frontex border control agency.

Greece is the main entry-point into the EU for irregular migrants from Africa and Asia. Noting the impact of the Rabit intervention, Brussels said that 7,586 people were intercepted on the Greek border in October prior to its deployment, compared to 4,270 in November after it was put in place.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a statement on 15 December called on Athens to improve conditions in its detention centres, which were described as “inhuman” and “degrading” by the UN and by Amnesty International late last year.

“The Greek authorities are benefiting from European solidarity through a package of financial and practical assistance and I urge them to put all necessary measures in place to assist the persons in need,” she said.

The original text of this article is available here.



The FP7 programme is supposed to be about implementing the ‘Lisbon strategy’ and making the EU the “most dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”. According to the Commission: “The ‘knowledge triangle’ – research, education and innovation – is a core factor in European efforts to meet the ambitious Lisbon goals. Numerous programmes, initiatives and support measures are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge”.

This includes the European Security Research Programme, which has just awarded Selex (a Finmeccanica company) a €10 million ‘research’ contract to develop an EU sea border surveillance system (the total project cost is €15.5 million, the EC contribution is €9.8 million).

The “SEABILLA” consortium, which includes a host of arms companies and defence contractors (BAE Systems, EADS, Thales, Sagem, Eurocopter, Telespazio, Alenia, TNO and others) promises to:

1) define the architecture for cost-effective European Sea Border Surveillance systems, integrating space, land, sea and air assets, including legacy systems;

2) apply advanced technological solutions to increase performances of surveillance functions;

3) develop and demonstrate significant improvements in detection, tracking, identification and automated behaviour analysis of all vessels, including hard to detect vessels, in open waters as well as close to coast.

According to the project synopsis, these surveillance systems will be used for:

a) fighting drug trafficking in the English Channel;

b) addressing illegal immigration in the South Mediterranean;

c) struggling [sic] illicit activities in open-sea in the Atlantic waters from Canary Islands to the Azores; in coherence with the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, EUROSUR and Integrated Border Management, and in compliance with Member States sovereign prerogatives.

In 2009, Finmeccanica revenues were somewhere in the region of €18 billion, of which 12% (approx €2.16 billion) was reinvested into Research and Development. Finmeccanica’s annual R&D budget is thus more than 10 times the annual budget of the entire European Security Research Programme.

Finmeccanica has already established itself as a global, market-leading provider of Homeland Security and maritime surveillance systems, as demonstrated by recent contracts with Libya and Panama (among others), each worth hundreds of millions of Euros.

This begs the obvious question of whether EU R&D subsidies for the likes of Finmeccanica are really warranted, and whether this kind of contract is strictly in accordance with FP7′s ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, education and innovation.

In reality the SEABILLA project has very little to do with innovation and everything to do with procurement. The EU is already committed to developing the kind of high-tech surveillance systems that only the defence sector can deliver [on maritime surveillance, see pages 36-40 of the NeoConOpticon report] but it lacks the mandate, budget and office to procure the requisite expertise, software and hardware.

Of course, were the EU to attempt to fulfil its ambitions by establishing a European Department of Homeland Security, there would be fierce resistance among the member states, not to mention civil society groups and a reluctant public.

What we have instead is an unaccountable EU procurement strategy – masquerading as research – committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer Euros in ‘seed money’ to security apparatuses that pre-empt both the political and legal authority needed to put them into practice.

It’s certainly innovative, but is it the kind of innovation that the architects of the FP7 programme had in mind?

Here is an e-mail from FRONTEX that we did not receive:

We would like to inform you that Frontex R&D Unit has issued a tender call for the conduct of two studies as follows:

1.    Ethics of Border Security

2.    Forward Study on European Border Checks

The deadline for proposals is 21 May 2010 and the studies should be completed within 6 months, in close consultation with us.

As companies/institutions/individuals with whom we have had fruitful contact in the past, we would like to invite you to consider making a proposal for one or both studies should the subject be within your area of expertise, or to forward this information to others who you believe can offer the skills we are looking for.

Full details on the tender can be found at: http://www.frontex.europa.eu/procurement/calls_for_tenders_above_60000/

Please note that the “above €60,000” figure mentioned refers to both studies TOGETHER, though each lot can be bid on separately.

Two upcoming international conferences on the theme of border controls showcase the people, organisations and corporations building the state apparatuses of the future – but who is holding them to account?

Border Security 2010 is a commercial venture of the SMI Group on “land, air and maritime border security issues” that also has a counter-terrorism and public order focus. The event is sponsored by a host of defence and Homeland Security companies and takes place in Rome on 3-4 March 2010, following “sell out events in Istanbul in 2008, and Warsaw in 2009″.

Keynote speakers include Edgar Beugels (Head of Research and Development Unit, Frontex), Keith Best, (UK Immigration Advisory Service) and Thomas Tass (Executive Director, Borderpol). The conference also includes presentations on:

  • The EFFISEC project (an FP7 project on checkpoint security)
  • ‘Border Violence’ (brought to you by the European office of the Department of Homeland Security)
  • EADS National Security Programme for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Uses for unmanned aerial systems [drones etc.] in Border Security Operations
  • Security Planning and Technological Application in International Major Events: The Italian G8 Summit Experience
  • NATO’s International Border Security Agenda
  • Biometric Technologies for Border Processing (from the EU-funded European Biometrics Forum)
  • Analysis of the Mumbai Terror Attacks
  • UK National Security & UK Maritime Security
  • See full programme (pdf)

For its 2011 event SMI plans “a special focus on the use of border management technologies” with “special insights into how different surveillance technologies are being used to aid decision making and improve security at all levels”. Heralding a new era of government by robot, ‘Border Security 2011′ will consider “how far the human factor is being replaced and what your role will be in the 21st century environment”.

This theme is taken up by the second event. Towards E-Borders: The impact of new technologies on border controls in the EU takes place at the Academy of European law in Trier on 22-23 April 2010. The seminar will “take stock of the use and the impact of new technologies on EU borders” and the “role of Frontex and Europol”. Speakers include:

  • Erik Berglund (Director of Capacity Building Division, Frontex Agency, Warsaw)
  • Roland Genson (Director, Police and Customs Cooperation, Schengen Directorate, General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, Brussels)
  • Julie Gillis and Ian Neill (Director and deputy, e-Borders Programme, UK)
  • Jean-Dominique Nollet, Head of Analysis, Serious Crime Department, Europol)
  • Frank Paul (Head of Unit, Large-scale IT-systems and Biometrics, Directorate-General Justice, Freedom and Security, European Commission)

Article from David Cronin for Inter Press Service published 13.11.2010, reproduced in full here:

BRUSSELS: Aid traditionally reserved for keeping victims of war and disasters alive may now be used for security-related projects such as the fingerprinting of refugees, European Union officials have decided.

Although the European Commission’s humanitarian office (ECHO) regularly publishes statements detailing how much food, medicines or blankets it gives to people in distress, it has drawn no attention to a widening in the scope of its activities in recent years. Through a partnership with the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the office has been financing the development of a computer system designed to store the fingerprints and other biometric data of refugees.

An internal ECHO paper from September 2009 suggests that support for such activities is necessary as part of an “innovative” approach towards improving the response of international agencies to crises.

But civil liberties activists are perturbed that humanitarian aid is being used to extend fingerprinting, a technique universally associated with criminal investigations, to refugee management projects. “If the EU wants to finance security projects, it should be doing so from money earmarked for security projects (rather than from humanitarian aid),” Ben Hayes from the organisation Statewatch told IPS.

Through a project known as Profile, the UNHCR has registered the fingerprints of more than 2.5 million refugees in some 20 countries since 2004. This project has received some four million euros (six million dollars) from the humanitarian aid section of the EU’s budget. As well as taking fingerprints, the UNHCR has stored images of the eyes of Afghan refugees who were returning to their home country after fleeing to neighbouring Pakistan. Identity documents are issued to refugees as part of the project, in cooperation with the governments in the countries where the refugees are located.

The UNHCR is also implementing a related project known as ProGres with the software giant Microsoft. While this relies mainly on basic data such as the names and birth dates of refugees, UNHCR sources say that biometric indicators are being stored in it on a trial basis in several countries. “There is considerable thought on expanding its use,” said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The UNHCR’s decision to resort to fingerprinting has been made despite previous concerns expressed by the organisation that refugees could be unfairly stigmatised if techniques associated with criminal investigations are widened to asylum and migration policies. The agency has, for example, been critical of the way the EU’s own system for fingerprinting asylum-seekers has evolved. Known as Eurodac, this system was originally confined to preventing asylum claims from being lodged in more than one EU member state, but the European Commission formally recommended last year that law enforcement agencies should have access to this database.

Gilles Van Moortel, the UNHCR’s Brussels spokesman, said that the agency has drawn up guidelines stating that police will not be able to scrutinise its fingerprinting files. “Sharing this kind of information for law enforcement purposes would not be in the keeping with the spirit of our work,” he added. “Our registration of asylum-seekers and refugees is purely being done for the purpose of international protection. While we fully understand the need for security, we are against the sharing of such data with law enforcement authorities.”

Hayes from Statewatch, however, described the UNHCR’s assurance as “meaningless”, given the history of the Eurodac system. “Once these things get big, their appeal for law enforcement agencies can become huge,” he added. “It becomes very difficult to resist calls that law enforcement agencies should have access to them.”

Ross Anderson, a specialist in computer technology with Cambridge University in Britain, said that while international aid organisations have long been involved in handing out ID cards, “poorly designed systems can do great harm.” He cited the situation in Rwanda during the 1990s, where people designated as Tutsis on official documents become victims of genocide, as an example of why great care is needed when ID systems are being set up.

John Clancy, the European Commission’s spokesman on humanitarian affairs, said that supporting the fingerprinting system is “not in any way a departure from ECHO’s traditional role” of providing emergency relief. “An effective registration system is crucial for refugees because it allows them to have their status clearly established and their rights respected,” he said. “They gain access to humanitarian assistance, social services in the host country and sometimes even local employment.”

Kathrin Schick from Voluntary Organisations in Cooperation in Emergencies (VOICE), a grouping of relief agencies, said that she had no difficulty with the principle of refugee registration. “It is very often forgotten by the person on the street that humanitarian aid is not just about food and milk,” she said. “It is also about ensuring that people are protected. It is very important to stress that humanitarian aid involves both protection and assistance.”

But Simon Stocker from the anti-poverty campaign group Eurostep said that the use of humanitarian aid for security projects “could be seen as compromising.” ECHO, he noted, is officially committed to ensuring that its activities are focused purely on relieving the distress of vulnerable people and that they are independent of more strategic political considerations.

The law of the sea dates back to the 17th century. It is derived from the concept of the ‘freedom of the seas’, when international waters were seen as ‘free to all nations, but belonging to none of them’. It still contains principles such as the ‘presumption of innocent passage’ through international waters and includes conventions like SOLAS, which puts the safety of the lives of those at sea above and beyond all other values and objectives.

None of this sits too easily with the EU’s ‘war on migration’ and its desire to police the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. In 2003 Statewatch reported how the EU intended to interpret the law of the sea creatively to:

* “punish” states that used the open seas for “non-peaceful” purposes,
* to conduct coastal patrols in African territories,
* to intercept boats on international waters,
* to undermine the right to asylum,
* to plug “legal loopholes” like human rights provision.

Last month FRONTEX, the EU borders agency, which has effectively put the 2003 plan into practice, hosted a seminar on the “challenges” posed by the law of sea. How far we’ve come in such a short space of time.

FRONTEX

While governments are dragging their feet when it comes to agreeing targets to cut carbon emissions, a ‘consensus’ is emerging around the need to prepare militarily for the adverse effects of climate change (meaning the adverse impact on western interests and not necessarily the environmental catastrophe itself). Vice Admiral Lee Gunn (retired) is the latest voice to call for military preparations for climate change, following the likes of NATOand Javier Solana. Read his article here: http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/climate-change-could-be-the-next-great-military-threat.

Gunn’s recommendations to the US government include:

Invest in capabilities within the U.S. government (including the Defense Department) to manage the humanitarian crises–such as a new flow of “climate refugees”–that may accompany climate change and subsequently overwhelm local governments and threaten critical U.S. interests.

Controlling and restricting the movements of the world’s poorest inhabitants is already a central tenet of globalisation. Putting ‘climate refugees’ in the sights of the world’s military is another damning indictment of the ‘international community’.

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