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14 Dec 2022

Judith Sunderland & Lorenzo Pezzani, Human Rights Watch

Libya: HRW reports use of aerial surveillance tech. makes EU border agency "complicit" in abuse of migrants while avoiding duties under intl. law

See all tags Allegations
Aerial view of fishing boats and fish market in the south of Sri Lanka.

"Airborne Complicity: Frontex aerial surveillance enables abuse," 8 Dec 2022

Over the last few years, Frontex has established contracts with private companies to operate a remote-piloted Heron drone—a relatively large, unarmed drone designed for intelligence gathering and surveillance—and several piloted planes out of airports in Malta and Italy.

This surveillance forms a central plank of the EU’s strategy to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from reaching Europe by boat despite knowing the consequences are that migrants will be returned to face systematic and widespread abuse in detention by Libyan authorities and smugglers in Libya...

Companies like Airbus that have contracts with Frontex also have responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to ensure their activities don’t harm human rights; Airbus did not respond to questions about whether they undertook any due diligence on their contracts with Frontex....

As long as Frontex operations are designed to enable interceptions by Libyan forces, the agency, and the EU, should be held accountable for their role in the abuses suffered by people returned to Libya.

Aerial surveillance contributes directly and meaningfully to interceptions of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees at sea.