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.

22 December 2020

Algorithms are created to maximise certain interests – and it’s not ours, says Chris Jones from Statewatch

As part of an international campaign to lift the lid on data privacy violations, The Privacy Collective is asking some of Europe’s leading experts why online privacy matters.

22 December 2020

Greece: Government attacks on NGOs debunked

Claims by the Greek Migration Minister, Notis Mitarakis, that NGOs have been helping organise the irregular arrival of people onto the Aegean islands, have been debunked by a media investigation. Mitarakis' claims were made following the publication by the government of four video interviews with Somali citizens, which the government claimed proved they receiving illegal assistance from NGOs to arrive on Greek territory. However, the videos raise a number of questions that the government has failed to answer.

22 December 2020

European Civic Forum: Civic Space Report 2020: Stories From The Lockdown

A new report from the European Civic Forum looks at the how civil society has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the pandemic has affected the work of civil society organisations. The report includes a general analysis of the situation in the EU, seven interviews and six case studies looking at the situation for LGBTI people and the situation in the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Ireland and Slovenia.

22 December 2020

Final contracts arranged for €6 billion EU-Turkey deal

The EU has finalised the contracting of the €6 billion it owes to Turkey as part of the March 2016 deal to keep refugees off European territory. The failure to provide all the funds promised was one reason cited by Turkey in March, when it decided to stop preventing departures to Greece, leading to a spike in arrivals, a diplomatic crisis between the EU and Turkey, the provision of more assistance from other EU member states to Greece for border security, and a worsening situation for people arriving in Greece.

21 December 2020

EU: NGOs demand Portuguese EU Presidency puts public interest centre stage

64 civil society organisations have called on the forthcoming Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU - in post from January-June 2021 - to ensure corporate interests do not receive privileged access to decision-making; to ensure an absolute minimum of dealings with lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry; publish records of meetings with lobbyists; reject any form of sponsorship for its activities; improve legislative transparency by publishing minutes of meetings; and to publish its positions on new EU legal proposals prior to discussions in the Council.

21 December 2020

EU: Advisory group for security research: Report on "AI and security opportunities and risks"

The Protection and Security Advisory Group (PASAG) advises the European Commission on the content of the EU security research programme, which provides funds for research and development on new surveillance and security technologies. PASAG recently published a report entitled 'AI and security opportunities and risks: Towards a trustworthy AI based on European values', which argues that artificial intelligence (AI) "can have extensive application in public security and cyber security, if sufficiently large data sets are available," but calls for more training, research and education to make AI "secure, reliable, unbiased and explainable."

18 December 2020

Mediterranean: Nine new legal proceedings against civil search and rescue ships since June 2020

Over 1,000 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2020 and EU member states are still halting civilian search and rescue initiatives. An overview produced by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) documents nine new legal proceedings against civil search and rescue ships seeking to operate in the Mediterranean since June 2020, making a total of 50 proceedings since the beginning of 2018. The proceedings launched since June are all administrative in nature, but some of the 50 invoke criminal law against the crews of rescue ships, the organisations operating them or the vessels themselves.

18 December 2020

Sale of surveillance technology to oppressive governments in MENA region should be halted, say NGOs

Surveillance technologies used against human rights activists in the countries of the Middle East, North Africa and the Arabian Gulf should be halted, NGOs said at a recent online event organised by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. Software sold by companies such as FinFisher (based in Germany) and Hacking Team (based in Italy) has been used by states to monitor, track and undermine the work of people in a variety of countries in the region.

17 December 2020

EU: Pushbacks: “it is high time to break the silence of EU institutions”

Writing for the European Policy Centre, Green MEP Tineke Strik denounces the fact that “pushbacks at our external borders have become a widespread practice, often accompanied by violence... Their systematic character reveals that they are not only a matter of practice but also of policies in many EU border countries.” She calls for a wider scope of the newly proposed monitoring mechanism, stricter enforcement of the rules, and stronger scrutiny from the European Parliament and Commission.

16 December 2020

UK: MI6 kept quiet about 'criminality' of agent with ‘licence to kill’

The UK's foreign intelligence agency, MI6 (officially known as the Secret Intelligence Service, SIS) was running an overseas agent authorised to engage in serious criminality who had "probably" crossed some of the "red lines" set out by MI6 with regard to criminal activities. However, the agency failed to make this clear to the foreign secretary - who is responsible for authorising such operations - until it was pointed out by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, an oversight body tasked with monitoring the surveillance and spying powers of the UK's policing and intelligence agencies.

16 December 2020

Biosecurity research and development by the military and for health security purposes: a literature review

An extensive overview published by the Graduate Centre Geneva's Global Health Centre reviews the available evidence on biosecurity research and development (R&D), defined as "the development of medical products and strategies to address biological threats to security." The review finds that the literature generally refers to efforts to address chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents and emerging infectious diseases, and that while such research has historically been the preserve of military actors, in particular the US military - concerned with "force protection" and national security - a broader array of institutions has become active in the field in recent years.

15 December 2020

EU: More scrutiny of visa applicants in the works as Council and Parliament reach agreement on new rules

The Council of the EU and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on new rules for the Visa Information System (VIS), which contains information on all applicants for short-stay Schengen visas. Under the new rules, the system will be extended to include certain data on long-stay visas, more data will be held on short-stay visa applicants (including by lowering the fingerprinting age from 12 to 6 years of age) and the system will be made 'interoperable' with other EU databases. New checks will be performed on visa applicants by cross-referencing their data with those databases, and the system will also make use of a profiling tool to assess the potential 'risk' posed by visa applicants. "Technical" discussions are ongoing to finalise the text.

15 December 2020

Greece: Refugees in 'Moria 2' camp face appalling conditions

Refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos living in the 'Moria 2' camp - set up to replace Moria when it burnt down in September - are living amongst mud and water, with inadequate access to hygiene and in the presence of old military equipment, such as mortar shells. The camp was hastily constructed on a former military firing range after the destruction of Moria. Photos and videos shared by residents and activist groups have documented the situation. The Dunya Collective, who recently shared a photo of a mortar shell, said: "Over 7,000 people are living in this camp, many of them children, in inhumane conditions.”

15 December 2020

UK: Intelligence agencies now vetting coronavirus personal protective equipment suppliers

With a number of shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers having turned out to defective or inadequate, the UK's intelligence agencies are now vetting companies bidding for the contracts, according to a report in The Telegraph. The paper cites evidence given to parliament's Public Account Committee by Alex Chisholm, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, who said that company names "are now being run through intelligence databases to guard against fraudsters." The government has been accused of cronyism on numerous occasions, with contracts being awarded to companies with no relevant experience in supplying PPE - and in some cases with no apparent experience of anything, having been set up just days or weeks before receiving government funds.

14 December 2020

Charities call for urgent closure programme for England’s child prisons

Press release from the End Child Imprisonment campaign, published on 10 December 2020.

14 December 2020

Four Greek officials charged with assaulting migrants

Three Greek border guards and one police officer were charged on Saturday with assaulting migrants during an identity check on Lesvos, according to a variety of press outlets. The charges reportedly include "beating asylum seekers" and "inflicting bodily harm, torture, and breaking anti-racist laws." The four men appeared before a prosecutor on Saturday evening and have been released, pending an investigation. The investigation comes following the publication of a video by the newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton, which shows officers landing blows on two individuals even after they have been arrested and handcuffed.

10 December 2020

EU: Frontex report on removal operations in the first half of 2020 and fundamental rights observations

Statewatch is publishing Frontex's report on its forced removal operations in the first half of 2020, along with the observations of the agency's fundamental rights officer (FRO). The FRO report highlights a number of problems: a failure to correctly brief escorts on fundamental rights; not enough monitors available to cover all flights and not enough monitors on each flight; a failure to protect dignity and privacy during strip searches; wrongful disclosure of medical data to escorts; improper treatment of vulnerable groups; and problematic use of force and coercive measures. On this latter point, the FRO's report notes that: "A few monitors found that unauthorized coercive measures were used (steel shoes, helmets)."

10 December 2020

EU: Terrorist content online: Council presidency and European Parliament reach provisional agreement

The Council of the EU and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on the text of the proposed Regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online, a controversial proposal that raises numerous fundamental rights concerns. The announcement comes following a series of secret "trilogue" meetings. Numerous organisations, including Statewatch, have previously called for changes to the text in order to protect individual rights; it remains to be seen what is in the final Regulation, which now has to be approved by votes in the Council and the Parliament as a whole.

09 December 2020

EU: Justice and home affairs agencies step up cooperation "to shape the digital future of law enforcement, border management and justice"

The EU's justice and home affairs agencies - which include Frontex, Europol, the European Police College, Eurojust and others - regularly cooperate through the JHA Agencies Network. Their annual meeting in mid-November focused on "digitalisation" in the fields of law enforcement, border control and justice, including "Artificial Intelligence and digital capacity building, training tools and innovative learning."

09 December 2020

German courts repeal more than 5,600 Afghan asylum rejections

Over 5,600 Afghan asylum seekers in Germany have had negative decisions on their applications for protection overturned by the courts in the first nine months of 2020, according to a report published by InfoMigrants. This represents a success rate for appeals of almost 60%; there were 9,557 appeals overall against negative asylum decisions in the same period. A politician from The Left (Die Linke), who submitted a parliamentary question that led to the government publishing the figures, says that they point to a need for a change in asylum decision-making policies.


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