On the Greek island of Samos you can swim in the same sea where refugees are drowning. Aegean sunset-colored sandy beaches and rolling hills hide a human emergency symptomatic of a global turn against migration.
During my visit to Samos last week, I was told that refugees had been stopped by the Greek authorities without the opportunity to claim refugee protection or even speak to a lawyer. Without these opportunities, they often return to Turkey under cover of darkness.
This practice is known as “pushback” or “occlusion at sea”, where boats of people seeking refugee protection are turned back into Turkish waters by Greek and European authorities without permission to claim asylum. . This process is facilitated by various monitoring techniques.
I am a lawyer and researcher specializing in how different surveillance technologies affect people on the move. Much of my work takes place on the ground, documenting the use of technology in border areas such as the borders of Europe.
The reality for refugees in Greece
I met a group of refugees from Somalia who, thanks to the prompt action of local lawyers, doctors and journalists, managed to register with the authorities. But many others are not so lucky – I have heard stories of families in Syria with children sent back to Turkey, and of a woman having an abortion in the woods due to tension.
People are not only sent back to Turkey on boats, death also occurs in the waters of the Aegean Sea.
A group of Ivory Coast women living in a “forest” tent-city around the old refugee camp on Samos told me about two young men who drowned during a forced evacuation last week, a case confirmed off the coast of Turkey. The protector did
While the exact details of these stories are difficult to confirm due to the secrecy of pushback practices, what is undeniable are the experiences of people at the edge of Europe against a violent migration regime.
Violence on the border is a global problem. The scenes of Border Patrol agents kicking Haiti people on horseback trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas are part of the same migration mechanism that kept children on boats in the Aegean Sea and in Australia’s offshore detention facilities for years. sequences people from
For those who survive these trips, and make it a place where they can seek protection, there is barbed wire, surveillance and isolation.
Refugee Camps and Surveillance Technologies
On Samos, marked last week Opening of a huge new refugee camp, a major city full of tourists enjoying the beauty of the Aegean Islands, is nestled in sun-bleached barren hills more than 10 kilometers from Vathi.
I am one of the few who was able to see during the official opening ceremony of the new camp during an invited tour on September 18, 2021.
Once inside, you can see cameras, loudspeakers, and various surveillance technologies throughout the camp. It is the first in a series of five proposed refugee camps on the Aegean Islands filled with various surveillance technologies. It is widely used as an . appreciated as “Significant Milestone” In the Management of Migration by EU Home Affairs.
This new “Closed Controlled Access Center” is magnetic with kilometers of “double NATO-type security fences” and “smart software” using motion detection algorithms to notify the local incident center and control center in Athens of any suspicious activity. The door is covered. Various drones and surveillance technologies are also used to monitor the waters of the Aegean Sea, which assists in maritime disruptions.
This monitoring is fully funded by the European Union.
The people I talk to are scared of what’s to come. Some people refer to the new camps as “prisons”, and they are always concerned about being turned away from services and being watched. Others worry about further discrimination, or being limited to fingerprints and eye scans. While the condition of many of the existing camps is pathetic, the security and surveillance only serves to further dehumanize the security-seekers.
A global appetite for securitization and surveillance
Greece reflects a growing global demand for securitization and surveillance.
Automated decision-making, biometrics and unpiloted drones are increasingly controlling migration as states turn to unregulated technological intervention, driven by the lucrative and privatized border industrial complex.
Last week, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a moratorium on high-risk technologies, including border surveillance, but the global migration management industry is not heeding the call.
Greece is one of many places around the world where technology experimentation is given free reign at the border. Our ongoing work at Refugee Law Lab seeks to weave together the tapestry of an increasingly powerful and global border industrial complex that legitimizes technological solutions at the expense of human rights and dignity.
These technical experiments do not happen in a vacuum. The interests of the powerful state and the private sector increasingly set the stage for what technology is developed and deployed, while communities experiencing the sharp edges of these innovations are constantly left out of discussion.
Policymakers are increasingly choosing drones over humanitarian policies, with states prioritizing protection and surveillance over human rights.