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 an RSS feed to get instant alerts.

24 November 2020

Frontex awards €50 million in border surveillance drone contracts to Airbus, IAI and Elbit

The EU border agency, Frontex, recently awarded contracts for border surveillance by drone to the companies Airbus, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit. For Airbus and IAI, the contracts follow on from trial flights conducted in 2018. The surveillance arrangement will see one of the three companies contracted for specific missions in response to calls from Frontex. The agency expects to seek "2000-3000 contracted hours [of surveillance] in total" every year; the deal will initially run for two years but maybe extended for two more.

24 November 2020

Greek authorities ordered pushback to Turkey, documents show

Internal emails obtained by EUobserver show that the Greek authorities ordered that a group of people be pushed back to Turkey. The case came to public attention earlier this year when a Danish coast guard vessel operating in the Aegean as part of a Frontex mission refused to carry out the orders. Despite mounting evidence, the Greek government continues to deny that its officials have ever been involved in any form of pushback, and the revelations also raise questions for EU border agency Frontex.

24 November 2020

UK: Undercover Policing Inquiry: evidence must be heard in public

The Undercover Policing Inquiry, which was set up in 2015 to investigate undercover policing operations in England & Wales since 1968, has been mired in controversy from the start. At the beginning of November, hearings finally began - but they remain shielded from public view. Despite the best efforts of campaigners to ensure that the transcripts published are made more accessible, this is no substitute for genuine public hearings, as Donal O'Driscoll demonstrates in a recent article.

24 November 2020

EU: Council's plans for Europol: mass processing of personal data, simplified cooperation with non-EU states, artificial intelligence

Member states' home affairs ministers met recently to discuss the future of Europol and adopted a ten-point document on the policing agency's role and activities. The document sets out the member states' priorities for the future of Europol - the ability to process more data, simplified cooperation with non-EU states, and more engagement with new technologies such as AI - and has now been formalised into a Council Resolution. The Commission is due to publish a new legal proposal for the agency soon, despite the current legal basis only having come into force in 2017.

24 November 2020

EU: Beefing up police databases: plans for increased input, data quality roadmap, automation

The German Presidency of the EU has made a 'European Police Partnership' one of its policy priorities. Part of this involves trying to ensure that member states insert as much data as possible into the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the Europol Information System (EIS). The Presidency has developed a "roadmap" for ensuring data quality in the EU's policing and migration databases, which includes common standards for biometric data and "mobile devices" for law enforcement officials. Work is underway to increase the use of automation by national units dealing with SIS data, and the Presidency is aiming to coordinate "change management" at the national level for the implementation of new rules on the SIS.

24 November 2020

UK government running ‘Orwellian’ unit to block release of ‘sensitive’ information

The UK government is running a secret "clearing house" for freedom of information requests that is used to coordinate which information to release and to whom, according to a new report. The unit shares information on journalists and organisations making requests, leading one shadow cabinet minister to describe it as being involved in "blacklisting". A legal challenge has been launched by openDemocracy, who have published the report detailing the government's attacks on freedom of information, and the law firm Leigh Day.

20 November 2020

Addicted to denial: Greek government dismisses official report documenting pushbacks to Turkey

In the face of well-founded accusations from NGOs and journalists, the Greek government has continuously and vehemently denied that its officials engage in pushbacks at the borders. Now the Council of Europe's anti-torture committee (CPT) has documented the practice and it also demanding that it halt - but the Greek government is sticking to the same line.

19 November 2020

Greece: Moria: Logbook of horrors

In the smouldering ruins of the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, a journalist found a logbook kept by employees of the International Organization for Migration tasked with looking after unaccompanied minors. Although unaccompanied children were housed in a so-called "safe zone", entries in the book reveal it to be anything but.

19 November 2020

European Ombudsman to investigate human rights violations at Croatian borders

The European Ombudsman is taking aim at alleged human rights violations at the EU's borders. As well as a recently-announced inquiry into Frontex's compliance with its fundamental rights obligations, the watchdog agency is to investigate the alleged failure by Croatia to set up a human rights monitoring mechanism at the borders following receipt of EU funds, and the European Commission's failure to ensure that the country did so.

19 November 2020

New reports explore migration, racism and digital technologies

Three recent reports take a close look at the ways in which the increasing use of digital technologies in migration management and border control can compound existing forms of discrimination and inequality, at the same time as creating and contributing to new types of discrimination.

18 November 2020

EU: Police seeking new technologies as Europol's "Innovation Lab" takes shape

EU law enforcement structures have been making moves to take advantage of new technologies for policing purposes. One aspect of this includes setting up an "Innovation Lab and Innovation Hub" at Europol, which will both monitor emerging technologies and their usefulness for law enforcement, and take part in projects aiming to develop new ways of using those technologies for the police. This includes AI, machine learning, big data and augmented reality.

18 November 2020

Frontex: multi-million euro contracts signed while lobby register still in the works

Frontex has issued 21 calls for tender with an estimated value of over €210 million since the entry into force of its new Regulation in December 2019.

18 November 2020

Webinar, 14 December: Deportation Union: the role of Frontex

Join Statewatch and the Transnational Institute (TNI) on Monday 14 December for the third and final webinar in the series covering Statewatch’s report ‘Deportation Union: Rights, accountability and the EU's push to increase forced removals’.

17 November 2020

Frontex: will a Management Board "sub-group" find the truth about pushbacks?

On Tuesday last week, an extraordinary Frontex Management Board meeting was called by Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, following allegations that the agency has been involved in illegal pushbacks of migrants from Greece. During the meeting, the Commission presented questions for Frontex to answer by the end of the month, when another Management Board meeting will be held. A "sub-group" has now been set up by the Board to investigate allegations of abuse and other matters.

17 November 2020

Brexit: Police warn of ‘major operational impact’ when UK loses access to EU crime databases in January

Key information systems will be lost even if a security deal is struck before 31 December, National Crime Agency says

16 November 2020

Greece: Sentenced to 50 years in prison – Freedom for Amir & Razuli

Two men who were subject to an attempted illegal pushback by the Greek coastguard have been sentenced to 50 years in prison. An appeal hearing is pending.

16 November 2020

History repeats itself again as hundreds of people die in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic

Over 110 people died after being shipwrecked in the Central Mediterranean over the course of a week in early November. Meanwhile, almost 500 people lost their lives attempting to reach the Canary Islands from Senegal in one week in late October. Seven years ago, following a similar tragedy, EU officials promised that beefing up Frontex and increasing border surveillance would help prevent such incidents.

16 November 2020

UK: Children in the criminal justice system: parliamentary committee calls for changes

"The House of Commons Justice Committee has recommended that children who enter the criminal justice system should receive a much wider range of treatments because of the complexity of their needs and the seriousness of the crimes they commit."

16 November 2020

EU statement on recent terrorist attacks: Counter-Terrorism Coordinator's input

The EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC) provided detailed submissions to the Council for last Friday's "statement on the recent terrorist attacks in Europe". The CTC's recommendations are wide-ranging and not all of them made it into the final statement. However, many of them seem likely to be included in the forthcoming Council Conclusions on 'Internal Security and European Police Partnership'.

16 November 2020

EU: Regulation on terrorist content online - Council position paper for discussions with European Parliament

Statewatch is publishing a Council document setting out the German Presidency's thoughts and proposals on the proposed Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The Council and Parliament are currently holding secret "trilogue" discussions and it is expected that the text of the Regulation - which contains some highly-controversial measures, for example on automated filtering of uploads - will be agreed soon. Member states have been applying renewed pressure on the EP to finalise the rules, following terrorist attacks in Paris and Austria.


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