March 25, 2023


Your Partner in The Digital Era

With drones and thermal cameras, Greek officers monitor refugees | Technology News

Athens, Greece – “Let’s go see a thing that seems actually wonderful,” claims Anastasios Salis, head of data and communications technologies at the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry in Athens, just before moving into an airtight room sealed powering two interlocking doors, available only with an ID card and fingerprint scan.

Beyond these doors is the ministry’s newly-put in centralised surveillance room.

The front wall is coated by a huge monitor. A lot more than a dozen rectangles and squares exhibit footage from a few refugee camps by now linked to the system.

Some display a basketball courtroom in a refugee camp on the island of Samos. An additional display screen demonstrates the playground and another the inside of of one of the containers wherever men and women socialise.

Overhead, lights out of the blue flash purple. A potential danger has been detected in a person of the camps. This “threat” has been flagged by Centaur, a higher-tech protection system the Greek Migration Ministry is piloting and rolling out at all of the just about 40 refugee camps in the place.

Centaur consists of cameras and motion sensors. It uses algorithms to automatically predict and flag threats such as the presence of guns, unauthorised cars, or unconventional visits into restricted areas.

The process subsequently alerts the suitable authorities, these types of as the police, fireplace brigade, and private security working in the camps.

From the control home, operators deploy digicam-equipped drones and instruct officers stationed at the camp to rush to the site of the described threat.

Manage home operators simulate an unexpected emergency protocol at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum in Athens, Greece [Kenya-Jade Pinto/Al Jazeera]

Officers carry smartphones loaded with software package that makes it possible for them to talk with the control centre.

As soon as they decide the character and severity of the threat, the manage place guides them on the floor to resolve the incident.

Video clip footage and other knowledge collected as component of the procedure can then be stored less than an “incident card” in the method.

This unique incident is merely a simulation, offered to Al Jazeera in the course of an unique tour and preview of the Centaur technique.

The purpose of the programme, according to Greek officials, is to guarantee the safety of individuals who dwell inside of the camps and in encompassing communities.

“We use know-how to avoid violence, to prevent activities like we had in Moria – the arson of the camp. Mainly because safety is important for everybody,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi advised Al Jazeera at the November inauguration of a new, EU-funded “closed-controlled” refugee camp on Kos island, 1 of the first services to be linked to the Centaur process.

‘Dystopian’ surveillance job

Approximately 40 cameras are getting mounted in just about every camp, which can be operated from the manage area.

There will also be thermal cameras, drones, and other technological know-how – which include augmented actuality glasses, which will be distributed to police and non-public security personnel.

“This was not to keep an eye on and invade the privacy of the men and women [in the camps],” reported Salis, one particular of the architects of Centaur. “You’re not monitoring them. You’re hoping to protect against negative items from going on.”

Greek authorities headline this new surveillance as a type of protection but civil modern society teams and European lawmakers have criticised the move.

“This matches a broader trend of the EU pouring general public cash into dystopian and experimental surveillance assignments, which handle human beings as lab rats,” Ella Jakubowska, policy and campaigns officer at European Electronic Rights (EDRi), instructed Al Jazeera. “Money which could be applied to enable men and women is rather employed to punish them, all even though the surveillance market helps make broad income providing phony claims of magical technologies that claims to take care of complicated structural challenges.”

Latest reporting, which disclosed Centaur will be partly financed by the EU COVID Restoration fund, has led a group of European lawmakers to compose to the European Commission with their worries about its implementation.

Homo Digitalis, a Greek electronic legal rights advocacy team, and EDRi stated they built various requests for data on what knowledge security assessments had been carried out in advance of the development and deployment of Centaur.

These types of investigation is expected beneath the EU’s Common Details Security Regulation (GDPR). They have also requested what info will be collected and how extended it will be held by authorities. Those people requests, they said, have long gone unanswered.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not answer to Al Jazeera’s query on no matter whether an influence evaluation was finished, and on policies with regards to info retention and the processing of info similar to kids.

In Samos, mixed emotions

Advocates in Samos advised Al Jazeera they elevated issues about camp citizens staying adequately notified about the presence of these technologies.

But Salis, at the manage centre, claimed this has been attained by “signs – a whole lot of signs”, in the camps.

The process does not now incorporate facial recognition technological know-how, at the very least “not yet”, according to Leonidas Petavrakis, a electronic software expert with ESA Protection Alternatives S.A., a person of the companies contracted for the Centaur project.

The potential use of facial recognition in this context is “a big concern”, mentioned Konstantinos Kakavoulis of Homo Digitalis.

Facial recognition techniques often misidentify folks of color and can lead to wrongful arrests and convictions, in accordance to experiments. Human rights organisations globally have identified as for their use to be limited or banned.

An EU proposal on regulating synthetic intelligence, unveiled by the European Fee in April, does not go considerably enough to protect against the misuse of AI systems, critics assert.

A map of the closed and managed accessibility centre on Samos highlights the style of cameras utilised throughout the camp [Kenya-Jade Pinto/Al Jazeera]

For some of those living less than the glare of this EU-funded surveillance technique, the experience is blended.

Mohammed, a 25-12 months-previous refugee from Palestine living in the new Samos camp, reported that he did not constantly brain the cameras as he imagined they may well avert fights, which broke out routinely at the previous Samos camp.

“Sometimes it’s [a] superior experience simply because it makes you truly feel risk-free, from time to time not,” he explained but added that the perception of protection came at a value.

“There’s not a whole lot of change among this camp and a prison.”