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30 Jan 2022

Middle East Eye

No rescue from above: Europe's surveillance in the Mediterranean leaves migrants to their fate

See all tags Allegations

...The EU’s air surveillance relies heavily on the private sector, an opaque and unregulated web of arms and tech companies contracted by Frontex.

Regulation in 2016 granted Europe’s border agency the ability to procure, loan and lease its own assets. Now it spends a sixth of its budget on aerial surveillance, chartering planes from private companies for its Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service (FASS)...

Last year, Frontex awarded contracts worth €100m to companies for the operation of unmanned drones to spot refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. 

One €50m ($56m) deal went to...Airbus and the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), to operate its Heron drone. Another €50m deal was signed with Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, to operate its Hermes 900 drone.

Both drones have been used by the Israeli military in its assaults on the Gaza Strip, meaning they can be promoted for border surveillance as “combat proven” equipment...

In the central Mediterranean, the technology is another tool used by state actors to evade their legal obligations to rescue persons in distress - the law does not apply to unmanned aircraft...