Launched in 1999 and updated regularly, Statewatch News includes our own reporting and writing as well as articles, announcements, documents and analyses from elsewhere on civil liberties, EU policies and state practices. You can receive updates in your inbox by signing up to our mailing list, or use our RSS feed to get instant alerts.

27 February 2024

UK: Law changes will make it harder to hold police to account for illegal data access

An office for West Yorkshire Police, based in Leeds, has been convicted of breaches of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, after using police databases to search for information on people she knew with no legitimate reason. The case highlights the risks posed by forthcoming changes to UK data protection law.

27 February 2024

Spain: Terrorism charges against protesters undermine "international human rights and democratic standards"

A letter signed by 20 organisations from across Europe, including Statewatch, calls for the dropping of terrorism charges filed by the Spanish authorities against 12 protesters. The 12 face the charges for organising a blockade of Barcelona's El Prat airport and the motorway at La Jonquera, near the border with France, in protest at the jailing of Catalan independence leaders. "The misuse of the accusation of terrorism is unjustifiable," the letter says. It goes on to say that it undermines "international human rights and democratic standards" and "has a chilling effect on civic engagement."

15 February 2024

Racial profiling and "internal pushbacks" in new Schengen borders legislation

Statewatch is publishing the final compromise text of the revised Schengen Borders Code, which is due for adoption soon by the Council and the Parliament. The text has been heavily criticised for encouraging racial profiling through the increased use of police patrols and checks at internal borders in the Schengen area, as well as legitimating "internal pushbacks", with the aim of avoiding the full-blown reintroduction of internal border controls.

14 February 2024

Civic space in Cyprus must be protected

KISA is a Cypriot NGO that works for "an all-inclusive, multicultural society, free of racism, xenophobia and discrimination," that has been the subject of ongoing and worsening attacks from the authorities and far-right groups. The most extreme such attack came on 5 January, when a bomb set off outside KISA's office broke all the windows, and destroyed much of the equipment and the organisation's archives. In response, over 40 organisations from across Europe, including Statewatch, are calling on Cypriot and European authorities to take action to condemn the bombing, launch an investigation, and halt the attacks upon KISA.

13 February 2024

MEPs can still halt the EU's harmful migration pact, say civil society groups

On 14 February, MEPs in the European Parliament's civil liberties committee will vote on the legislation that makes up the EU's Pact on Migration and Asylum, following political agreement between parliamentarians and EU member state representatives in December. A statement signed by more than 80 civil society organisations, including Statewatch, calls on MEPs to vote against rules that will have "devastating implications for the right to international protection in the bloc and greenlights abuses across Europe including racial profiling, default de facto detention and pushbacks."

13 February 2024

Italy: Trento council fined for illegal AI video and audio surveillance projects

Last month, the Italian privacy authority fined Trento city council €50,000 for the deployment of two artificial intelligence-driven urban surveillance projects that violated data protection rules. The two projects, which were funded by the EU, were accompanied by a third research project that avoided sanction from the privacy authority, as no data processing has so far taken place under its auspices.

13 February 2024

Deportations: EU considers stepping up visa sanctions after Iraq and Gambia change policies

Iraq and The Gambia have both been targeted with EU visa sanctions due to non-cooperation on deportations, and it seems the measures – or the threat of them – may have led to a new willingness to accept deportation flights from EU states. The instrument was first introduced in 2019, and was first applied to The Gambia in 2021. Now member states are discussing the way ahead for the visa sanctions regime, which may see more threats levelled at third countries deemed insufficiently cooperative with EU deportations.

12 February 2024

New powers for Europol: proposal gets frosty reception from member states

At the end of November the Commission proposed expanding Europol’s powers, in the name of fighting migrant smuggling. Member states have started discussing the proposal in the Council. Written comments obtained by Statewatch suggest that the plans have not been well-received in national capitals.

07 February 2024

Palestine: 300 academics call for halt to EU research funding that violates international law

Almost 300 academics from universities across Europe and beyond have called for the EU to stop funding research projects "that may, directly or indirectly, violate international law and human rights," in particular with regard to substantial research funding the EU provides to institutions in Israel.

06 February 2024

Tarajal border deaths: 11th March for Dignity demands justice as new lawsuit opened

Last Saturday, the 11th 'March for Dignity' took place in Ceuta, marking the killing of 14 people who died by drowning on 6 February 2014 after being pushed back by Spanish border guards, tear-gassed and fired upon with rubber bullets. A fresh lawsuit against Spain was recently filed at the UN by one of the survivors.

02 February 2024

No real safeguards for new Europol data powers, says data protection authority

A new proposal to enhance the powers of Europol and to strengthen its cooperation with Frontex in the name of fighting migrant smuggling falls short of respecting data protection and fundamental rights standards, according to the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

29 January 2024

EU: Tracking the Pact: Texts of the Asylum Procedure and Eurodac Regulations

The laws making up the EU's Pact on Migration and Asylum were agreed in feverish secret meetings between the Council, Commission and Parliament at the end of December. However, they only reached "political agreement" - the actual texts of the different pieces of legislation have since been hammered out in "technical discussions". Statewatch is publishing the consolidated texts of the Asylum Procedure Regulation and the Eurodac Regulation, two of the multiple new laws set to govern asylum and migration in the EU in the years to come.

29 January 2024

UK: More than 250 organisations call for rejection of "legal fiction" of Rwanda Bill

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is to receive its second reading in the House of Lords today. A statement signed by 265 civil society organisations and other entities from across the UK, including Statewatch, calls for it to be rejected.

25 January 2024

EU: Council Presidency seeks “common vision” on US database access demands

The US wants to vet travellers through direct access to foreign databases, including those of EU member states. Bilateral discussions are ongoing and are at different stages in different states, but it remains unclear whether the agreements are an EU or national competence. The US is organising an “informal information meeting” for EU member states and institutions, after which the Presidency wants to develop a “common vision”.

17 January 2024

Risk screening and watchlists: Europol and Frontex reports on development of the “permission to travel” system

Reports circulated by Europol and Frontex to member states last October show that the development of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) was – at least at the time – still plagued by delays, which both agencies blame on eu-Lisa, the EU’s database agency. Frontex’s report says the delays were causing problems for the “assessment functionality for the risk screening of the ETIAS applications,” through which travellers will be profiled. Meanwhile, Europol continues to develop its new “watchlist” of potential terrorists and criminals, and is seeking permission to use data supplied by non-EU states in the assessment of travel applications.

11 January 2024

EU: Police data access working group needs transparency and critical advice, says joint civil society letter

A letter signed by 21 organisations, including Statewatch, calls on the EU's new High Level Group on Access to Data for Effective Law Enforcement (HLG) to ensure its proceedings are transparent and that it facilitates the participation of independent civil society experts, instead of relying solely on the input of police, interior ministry and industry officials.

10 January 2024

US migration data demands are “challenging”, say Norwegian authorities

Norwegian government officials have met with their US counterparts to discuss the US' demands for direct access to biometric, identity and criminal record databases as part of its new “border security” plan, according to a report in the newspaper Bergens Tidende. The Norwegian police have apparently described the proposals as “challenging,” given existing legal requirements.

10 January 2024

EU missions in Palestine ponder role for "day after" Gaza bombardment ends

Two reports from EU security missions in Palestine, dealing with policing and border control, indicate that officials are pondering their role in the planning for whatever happens when Israel's bombardment of the Gaza strip ends.

19 December 2023

Tracking the Pact: Council for detention of families, against legal advice and sibling reunion

A discussion document circulated by the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU prior this week's crunch trilogues on new migration and asylum legislation sets out the Council's red lines: families with children should not automatically be excluded from border procedures, and thus may be detained; free legal advice should not be provided to asylum applicants; and siblings should not be considered as family members. The Council also wants to maintain "a menu of derogations as broad as possible."

19 December 2023

All EU institutions want billions more for borders, but disagree on the details

At its meeting last week, the European Council – made up of the heads of state and government of EU member states – backed the European Commission’s proposal to boost the EU’s 2021-27 border budgets by €2 billion. This is not enough for the European Parliament, however, which would like to see the budgets increased by €3 billion. Meanwhile, all three institutions have different positions on the proposed increase for development aid, which includes funding for externalised migration control.


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