EU border guards test high-tech regulation as Afghanistan fights spread

Alexandroupoli, Greece — Just as the rapid increase in Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has raised the prospect of a surge in people fleeing to Europe, EU border agencies are experimenting with new high-tech surveillance equipment to detect illegal migrant vessels. I am.

A balloon system with a camera has been tested at Alexandroupoli Airport and Lemnos near the Greek-Turkish border in northeastern Greece, with the aim of providing a clearer view of boats approaching border authorities. is.

The recent Taliban are planned before moving forward in Afghanistan, which is part of a wide range of efforts, including an analysis of new pressures from the region.

“Of course, we are observing and tracking progress, especially in Afghanistan and Tunisia, which can affect the flow of immigrants to the European Union,” said Frontex spokeswoman Piotr Switalski. ..

View of the Greek-Turkish border barrier in Alexandroupoli
View of the Greek-Turkish border barrier in Alexandroupoli, Greece, August 10, 2021. (Alexandros Avramidis / Reuters)

With an integrated combination of a ship transponder and a camera with a link to satellite communications and a thermovision sensor, authorities see a 60-kilometer (40-mile) ocean circle covering 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) in real time. can do.

“This innovative system should significantly improve border surveillance in the waters,” he said.

At the forefront of the immigration crisis, Greece has more than 400 Frontex personnel stationed with dozens of vehicles, including vehicles equipped with thermovision technology, and eight patrol vessels.

Both the agency and the Hellenic Coast Guard were accused of pushing back immigrants from Turkey while the border agency was waiting, but both denied improper conduct.

Staff at the European Union border agency FRONTEX operate an aerostat balloon system with high-tech surveillance cameras in Alexandroupoli.
Staff at the European Union border agency FRONTEX are operating an aerostat balloon system with high-tech surveillance cameras in Alexandroupoli, Greece, on August 10, 2021. (AlexandrosAvramidis / Reuters)

As the fighting intensified, some EU member states stopped the forced return of Afghans who refused asylum. But Greek immigration minister Notis Mitarachi said this week that the EU cannot cope with another major immigration crisis.

Random immigrants arrived in the EU via the western Balkans after last year’s slowdown, when the coronavirus blockade restricted movement, almost doubled this year, Frontex said.

According to Switalski, arrivals in Greece surged in July, with about 1,000 detections.

From January to July, 22,600 migrants were found to have illegally entered the EU via the western Balkan Peninsula, and more than one million passed through Greece, mainly in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq in 2015. Far from the level.

But what Switalsky called the “tricky” geopolitical situation in the EU’s surroundings puts a strain on the welfare system and raises the risk of repetition that could foster already strong political opposition to immigrants. ..

Alexandros Avramidis