Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, is reportedly eyeing the possibility of using unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) for its anti-migration patrols.
Arms manufacturers, it has been reported in specialist media, have been asked to advise Frontex on how their products can be used to stop asylum seekers entering the bloc’s territory.
Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, is to organise an event in Spain this coming June at which several makers of pilotless drones will give presentations.
Although the camera-carrying planes have been designed for war and have been used extensively in conflict zones, Frontex is now studying how they can be adapted for border surveillance.
Frontex is said to be examining what “added value” they can bring to tasks performed by the coast guards of EU member countries. “Special attention” is being paid to drones as they could be capable of monitoring vessels at sea for longer periods than the equipment currently in use.
Frontex is one of many bodies in Europe eager to use drones for security purposes. Earlier this month, the Merseyside police in England sought credit for the first known use of a drone to arrest a suspected criminal. Yet the affair turned into a controversy, when it emerged that the police did not have a licence to use these planes.
The EU’s executive, the European Commission, published a plan to strengthen Frontex last month. Under the plans, EU governments would be required to ensure that boats and planes are at the agency’s disposal. Frontex, which has mainly performed a coordinating role between national border management authorities of EU states since its inception in 2005, would gradually be able to buy or lease its own equipment.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said that migrants are “not criminals” but “people coming in search of a better life”. Asked recently why technology invented for military purposes is being tested for migration control work, she insisted that “there has been absolutely no decision” on using drones for those purposes.
She also stated that “fundamental rights must not be infringed” by Frontex and announced that an independent monitor will be present when the agency is assisting with the expulsion of rejected asylum seekers. “I don’t exclude at all that there have been errors committed [by Frontex in the past],” she added.