EU border surveillance - A 'cynical' response to the Arab Spring says new report

May 29, 2012

The leading German policy thinktank, the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, has published a report on the EU's actions in upgrading the European External Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR) in response to the 'Arab Spring' of 2011.

 

Borderline - EU Border Surveillance Initiatives: An Assessment of the Costs and Its Impact on Fundamental Rights points to the resolution passed by EU heads of state  in June 2011 which they say 'will result in new border policies “protecting” the Union against migration'  In addition to the adoption of new rules and the re‐introduction of border controls within the Schengen Area, the heads of state also insisted on 'upgrading the EU’s external borders using state‐of‐art surveillance technology, thus turning the EU into an electronic fortress.'
 
This study  by Ben Hayes and Mathias Vermeulen argues that EUROSUR fosters policies that undermine the rights to asylum and protection. They point to the fact that the EU border surveillance agency, FRONTEX has been criticised for its “push back” operations during which refugee vessels are being intercepted and escorted back to their ports of origin.
 
In February 2012, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for carrying out such operations, arguing that Italian border guards had returned all
refugees found on an intercepted vessel back to Libya – including those with a right to asylum and international protection. As envisioned by EUROSUR, the surveillance of the Mediterranean using UAVs, satellites, and shipboard monitoring systems will make it much easier to spot such vessels. 
 
The report points to costs of 1.1 billion euros accruing from the EU heads of state deciding to push ahead with this programme.  The authors express the view that what has really been learnt from the failure of the Arab Spring to generate any sizeable immigration pressure and that therefore the case for 'smart' borders has not even properly been made by the political leaders.  In the meantime the measure they have taken continue to undermine the humanitarian right to protection within the borders of the EU.
 
A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the links above.