Fort of Europe 2.0

From Corriere Immigrazione
In under a year, the new cross-border control system, Eurosur, will be in operation. It will then be the turn of the ‘smart border’. But does anyone have any idea how much this system is going to cost? Reducing illegal entry into the EU; reducing the number of deaths linked to attempted illegal immigration by saving lives at sea; and, cutting cross- border crime. These were the objectives, which in 2008 Franco Frattini, the then European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security used to present two proposals to the European Parliament, which are currently being put in process.

The first of these proposals focuses on the construction of an integrated surveillance system for EU borders, which includes the use of satellites and drones. The second is the creation of the ‘smart border’. The smart border is a system which aims to biometrically recognise people entering and exiting Europe, thereby aiding the transit of “welcomed” travellers. The first of these projects, Eurosur (European External Border Surveillance System) will be in operation by 1st October 2013.
Eurosur aims to improve the cooperation and the exchange of information between border control authorities of member States and Frontex (the European Union agency for external border security). Each State will divide its borders into sections, each of which will be ranked according to an ‘analysis of risks and of the number of episodes which occur there’. The results will then be collected by a National Coordination Centre, which will be responsible for sharing them with Centres from other countries and Frontex. But how much is all of this going to cost?
According to the European Commission, €340 million by 2020. But a Borderline report, financed by the Heinrich Boll Foundation and carried out by Ben Hayes and Mathias Vermeulen, estimates a different figure, one which is two or even three times higher. Yet this is not the only worrying information: the authors of the report also raise concerns over how efficient such a programme can actually be.
But it is on the question of Human Rights that the contradictions which the Eurosur project poses are most evident. If, on the one hand, the project stipulates complete compatibility “with fundamental human rights” and the relative “prohibition of refoulements”, it does not, on the other hand, make it clear how these principles will work with the externalisation of the borders. The cooperation of neighbouring countries is indeed considered, “crucial for Eurosur’s success”. “If the EU provides financial assistance to the majority of third countries nearby in order to help them manage their borders, the specific need to develop a working cooperative (…) will force the EU to increase this financial and logistic support.” And how will it be possible to seek asylum if the migrants are blocked on Tunisian, Egyptian or Lybian coasts? “Those wishing to apply for international protection,” Ska Keller, an MEP for the Green Party, told Corriere Immigration, “will be prevented from even reaching European borders. If they are stopped in their country of origin or a country of transit, it is obvious that they are never going to be able to present their application for asylum in Europe.” Keller, along with her fellow party members, has launched the “smash border” campaign opposing the introduction of the smart borders which are so dear to Frattini. “This project will see millions and billions of euro spent to create these high- tech external borders without any certainty of their effectiveness.”
Those, however, who do manage to find a way into the Fort of Europe, will have to deal with satellites and drones. The first of which are necessary, “to control and collect the relative information from specific zones,” while the second serve to produce, “detailed images of a specific area at any given moment.” The combined potential of these two instruments will enable Frontex, in league with the border control authorities of the member States to have a clear idea of the situation and adopt “counter- measures”. But once again, it fails to explain what will happen to the migrants who are intercepted and who will responsible for them.
As far as Borderline is concerned, the sole groups who have any real interest in Eurosar are Frontex and those who will be supplying the necessary technology. “The companies providing the sophisticated technology are those currently applying the most pressure,” confirms Keller. “The idea of reinforcing border controls does not arise from any real need but obeys the ideological principles which feed off economic prinicples. But the objective still remains unclear: “stronger” borders are being called for, but just what exactly is meant by “stronger” has not been clearly defined.” Holding a similar point of view is the legal practitioner, Claire Roder, from the French association Gisti. Roder has written the aptly entitled book, Xénophobie Business (La Découverte, pp. 194, 16 euro), aimed at exposing xenophobia in business today. “In five years the activities carried out by the Frontex agency have multiplied its budget fifteen fold: this is enormous in times of crisis!” she said in an interview published in Liberation. “It is impossible not to draw the conclusion that the walls, fences, radars and, now also, drones which cover Europe’s borders are there, not so much to prevent people from entering, but rather to generate all types of profit, not only that of the undeniable financial gain, but also ideological and political gain too.”
The second project, that of the “smart border”, is still in the drawing board phase. The project has two main parts, the first of which includes an entering and exit system which will collect together the biometric and personal data of all those arriving from third countries. The second part aims to create a register, using the Registered Traveller Programme. This would enable those who are accredited, to travel with greater ease. For example, it would not be necessary for them to join the long queues, which will instead be reserved for the “suspects”. Each traveller will have their general information, including fingerprints and a mug shot style photo, taken both on entering and leaving Europe. This will enable the number of “undesirables” who have stayed over the limit prescribed to them to be easily seen. “This mechanism,” Keller explains to us, “will undoubtedly be more useful for collecting statistics on who is entering and who is leaving. But do we really want to spend a billion euro just to have a database? In this way all of the data of the non- European migrants will be collected and possibly used in the application of the law. Is this not a clear discrimination and stigmatisation of foreigners?”
Borderline would also like to raise a further delicate matter: the conservation and handling of the personal data. According to EU law, a legitimate reason is required in order to keep the physical characteristics of a person. Furthermore, without going into too much detail, there are many possible reasons that could prevent a person from leaving Europe- for example, something as simple as having to spend time in hospital. “The smart border will create a wide range of costs without having a clear objective, “concludes Keller. “In my opinion, ‘smart’ means something else.”
Luigi Riccio