18 June 2021 — Statewatch
Statewatch News 18 June (Issue 12/21, also available as a PDF)
Global call to ban public biometric surveillance
As public and private sector institutions push ahead with the development and deployment of remote biometric surveillance systems – currently best-exemplified by facial recognition technology – opposition is increasing.
A statement signed by over 200 individuals and organisations from across the globe to launch the #BanBS campaign demands action – namely, “an outright ban on uses of facial recognition and remote biometric recognition technologies that enable mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance.”
Challenging border violence
Since September 2019, volunteers for Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) have gathered multiple testimonies alleging the presence of and violence by Frontex officers on North Macedonian territory, where the agency has no legal authority to act. We worked with BVMN to investigate the agency’s activities in North Macedonia and last week sent a joint letter to Frontex demanding an investigation.
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News and analysis
Foreign agents and violence against migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border
The Canary cage: the making of deportation islands on Spain’s Atlantic border
Spain: New report calls for a halt to the use of rubber bullets
EU: States slow to introduce legal changes easing biometric identity checks by police
Greece: Legal case launched against Frontex director for “aggravated defamation”
EU: Drugs strategy includes actions to “tackle encryption” and postal snooping
UK: Metropolitan Police branded “institutionally corrupt” by inquiry into murder of private detective
EU: Tracking the Pact: Council ready for negotiations with Parliament on European Agency for Asylum
UK: MPs must ensure protection for encrypted communications
UK and USA confirm continued cooperation on undermining encryption
UN Special Rapporteur: report on the human rights impact of pushbacks
EU: Short-sighted Commission consultation on plan against migrant smuggling
Greece rebuffs refugee travel abuse claims from northern Schengen states
EU: Council Presidency discussion paper on artificial intelligence and internal security
The rise of antisemitism online during the pandemic: A study of French and German content
Frontex confronted with allegations of violence in North Macedonia
Frontex: EU Court of Auditors finds agency inefficient and ineffective
Whip Greece into shape so we can resume migrant removals, northern Schengen states demand
EU: New powers for Europol: Presidency progress report and latest member state comments
“The potential for abuse is too great”: Global call to ban biometric surveillance in public spaces
An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.
In line with concerning recent EU border control proposals, a deliberate policy of inhumane detention, illegal mobility restrictions and an overreliance on deportation ‘solutions’ is converting the Canary Islands into makeshift deportation waiting rooms and a black hole for human rights.
Between 2000 and 2020 the use of rubber bullets by Spanish security forces has caused the direct death of one person and contributed to the death of 14 others; 11 people have lost an eye. A new report renews the long-standing call for the Spanish government to ban their use.
Member states are making little progress in changing national laws to ease biometric identity checks by the police, one of the key aims of the EU’s ‘interoperability’ initiative.
A legal complaint has been submitted against Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri for “aggravated defamation by the press” by the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), on behalf of themselves and 27 people who were “illegally deported”.
The Draft EU Drugs Action Plan 2021-25 is heading to the Council for approval, and amongst other things includes an action to “improve possibilities to tackle encryption,” as well as the use of new technologies (including the near-ubiquitous “artificial intelligence”) for “monitoring suspicious postal items… while preserving the fundamental right of privacy of correspondence.”
London’s Metropolitan Police engaged in a form of “institutional corruption” by delaying and denying access to documents and information held by the force that were sought by an inquiry into the unsolved 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan, a private detective.
The Council has agreed its position – published here – on the proposed Regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), which would take the place of the European Asylum Support Office and have an extended remit and powers.
Over 30 organisations, including Statewatch, have signed a statement published in UK parliament’s magazine The House, calling on MPs to ensure that the Online Safety Bill does not undermine or threaten the encryption of digital communications.
The UK and USA have outlined their continued commitment to military and security cooperation, including through ongoing plans to undermine encryption for digital communications.
Pushback practices are widespread and have become “a routine element of border governance”, says the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
The European Commission recently launched a consultation on the EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025). However, its strategy for the new plan did not involve a thorough evaluation of actions to date, and its questions for contributors “are clearly geared towards legitimising a pre-determined set of actions”. Statewatch’s submission called for public debate about the root causes of migrant smuggling and the impact, legitimacy and effectiveness of EU action taken to prevent and punish it.
In response to a letter from six northern Schengen states calling for action to prevent the “secondary movement” of refugees from Greece, the Greek government has argued that “the focus needs to be placed on preventing primary flows,” meaning stricter border controls.
Final version of the Council Presidency’s paper on the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act and the implications for internal security use of AI technologies, sent to COREPER and the Council to inform discussion at yesterday and today’s Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting.
A study contracted by the European Commission finds that the coronavirus pandemic “has only served to exacerbate a worrying trend in terms of online antisemitism.”
Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter sent to Frontex today by Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) announced on Monday 7 June that its latest audit of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, found that the body is not ready to effectively implement its mandate under the 2019 Regulation.
A letter from six northern EU member states, obtained by Statewatch, calls on the European Commission to take steps to make it possible to resume removals of asylum-seekers and refugees to Greece and put a halt to “secondary movements”.
Discussions in the Council on granting extended powers to EU police agency Europol are pressing ahead, with a number of the “thematic blocs” in the proposal closed, according to an internal Presidency report published here alongside the member states’ most recent comments.
Statewatch is one of almost 180 organizations from across the globe calling for a ban on uses of facial and other remote biometric recognition technologies that enable mass and discriminatory targeted surveillance.
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