Aerial Surveillance Is Enabling Interceptions, Return of Migrants to Harm

Report by Border Forensics

In Echoes No. 3 we published an interview with members of the independent agency Border Forensics. A current investigation about the aerial surveillance by Frontex in the central Mediterranean was already mentioned. On the 12th of December 2022, Border Forensics and Human Rights Watch published the results of their impressive investigation. 

„The use by the EU’s border agency, Frontex, of aerial surveillance to enable the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrant boats, knowing that migrants and asylum seekers will face systematic and widespread abuse when forcibly returned to Libya, makes Frontex complicit in the abuse. (…) Using data analysis and research testimony, the interactive web feature “Airborne Complicity: Frontex Aerial Surveillance Enables Abuse” documents the role that Frontex-chartered aircraft – several planes and a drone – play in detecting migrants’ boats in the central Mediterranean and their subsequent interception by Libyan forces.

The aircraft, operated by private companies, transmit video feeds and other information to a situation centre in Frontex headquarters in Warsaw, where operational decisions are taken about when and whom to alert about migrants’ boats. 

While Frontex argues that aerial surveillance saves lives, the evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch and Border Forensics demonstrates it is in service of interceptions by Libyan forces, rather than rescue by the civilian rescue organisations or merchant ships that also operate in the area.“

The multimedia investigation is available here: https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2022/12/08/airborne-complicity-frontex-aerial-surveillance-enables-abuse

More Information here: https://www.borderforensics.org/investigations/airborne-complicity/

ECHOES Issue 4, January 2023