The walls of Europe are steel, technology and fear

While Germany celebrated yesterday the 29 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe is filling itself with fences: physical walls, technological walls and mental walls. They are barriers that do not stop what is unstoppable, but they make the lives of those who want to enter a walled Europe, closed in and infected by the virus of fear, which is more miserable and dangerous. And that pose a threat to freedoms.

If in 1990 in Europe there were only the walls of Belfast and Cyprus, since then, at least 1,000 kilometers of tanks have been erected on 14 walls. The report says "Lifting Walls. Fear and securitization policies in the European Union "of the Delàs Center for Peace Studies and the Transnational Institute. Ten EU member countries have shielded their borders against immigration: Spain (with the fences of Ceuta and Melilla), Greece, Hungary (a wall with Croatia and another with Serbia), Bulgaria, Austria, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Outside the EU Norway and Macedonia have done so.

And the role of borders has been transformed in recent years, especially after the response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, when the narrative of governments was reinforced that immigration posed a threat to security "Before the borders were used to protect the territorial integrity of the states, but after the attacks of 11-S the threats are diversified. Mobility is understood as a suspicious activity and becomes a threat that must be monitored and controlled by expanding control and surveillance systems, "says the study.

At the same time, the Schengen area looks less like a free zone. If in 2006 three internal police controls were established – for example, in response to the announcement of major demonstrations -, what was then an exception is becoming a norm: last year they registered up to 20.

Shield goes well beyond European borders and moves to 35 states of origin and transit of migrants, with which the EU has reached border control agreements. And all this while the technological systems of control based on the collection of biometric data grow that later are used to establish profiles of people and patterns of our movements.

Frontex does not suffer austerity

All of this does not go free in the pockets of European taxpayers. In the midst of cuts, Frontex's budget, the European border control agency, has skyrocketed from 6.2 million euros in 2005 to 302 million last year. The chapter that has grown the most is that of deportation operations: from 80,000 euros to 53 million euros in the same period.

These policies of border securitization and criminalization of immigration, which began in the 90's and were accentuated as of 2012 with the increase in the arrival of refugees in Europe, have created a favorable framework for discourse of the extreme right. "The narrative that displaced people arriving in Europe are a threat, which emerges from the policies of the states since the 90's, is assumed from the extreme right and carried to the extreme in an alarmist manner," explains Ainhoa ​​Ruiz Benedict, researcher at the Center Delàs and co-author of the report.

The rise of xenophobia has also established mental walls that have led to a growing political influence of the extreme right, which in turn ends up translating into more physical walls. The researchers have entered into the EU 39 extreme right parties that have at some time become parliamentary representatives.

In ten countries, xenophobic parties have surpassed half a million votes between 2010 and 2018. In Italy, Austria, Finland and Poland the extreme right is part of the government, while in Germany, Denmark, Holland, Hungary and Sweden influence on migration policies. In France the National Front heads the opposition.

"The mental walls of fear are inextricably connected to the physical walls. Racism and xenophobia legitimize violence at European borders and reinforce the imagination of one interior sure and one outdoor insecure, which goes back to the medieval medieval fortress, "says the report.

Threatened rights and freedoms

Ruiz warns that not only are the rights of people calling at the door of Europe at stake, but the militarization dynamic poses a broader threat to freedoms, because this securitization logic is normalized. "Entry into the Schengen area also implies applying a surveillance society that controls the movements of everyone within the countries, as well as the reinforcement of the external borders," says Ruiz. "Not only are the rights of refugees and migrants violated, but they are expanding a series of control systems of how we all move: they are data that are stored, analyzed and crossed, and through algorithms They end up generating a level of risk that we assume for the system. If we accept these surveillance measures, we are accepting this security model. "

The Mediterranean, a militarized sea

On the land walls that fortify Europe, it is necessary to add maritime barriers, in the form of military operations in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Italy left 2014 Mare Nostrum, its rescue operation in the central Mediterranean, complaining about the lack of solidarity of European partners. The report analyzes seven of the main operations of the European border surveillance agency Frontex (called Indalo, Minerva, Hera, Hermes, Triton, Poseidon and Sofia), the latter in collaboration with NATO. "None of the main European operations in the Mediterranean has had as main mandate the rescue of people. All of them intend to eradicate crime in border areas and stop the arrival of displaced persons. This feeds that refugees and migrants are treated as criminals, "the report points out. The rescue vessels of NGOs, such as the Open Arms, they are still unable to work in the area due to the blockade of the Italian authorities.

The last border: biometrics in a society of

vigilance

The fortress Europe is also being built with control, monitoring, analysis and data collection systems that form a virtual monitoring system for the movement of the population. In 2012, EU-LISA, the European Agency for Operational Management of Information Systems of Great Magnitude in the Area of ​​Freedom, Security and Justice, was in operation, which is in charge of the management of computer systems linked to the control of movement and that applies the treatment of data on a large scale. These are the main active systems.

Eurodac

It is a fingerprint bank and other biometric data to identify people intercepted without documents at the borders, as well as asylum seekers.

VIS

The Visa Information System records all visa requests to enter the Schengen area and also works with biomedical data.

SIS II

The Schengen Information System controls access to the territory. The security forces that guard the borders can make the alarm jump according to the profile of the people who arrive.

Smart Borders

It controls the moment and place of entry and exit of the EU of all the national and third countries and verifies that the temporary authorizations of entrance are fulfilled. It replaces the stamp of the passport and also compiles fingerprints and facial registers. It also includes the Travelers Registry of people moving across Schengen borders.

Seiav

The European Travel Information and Authorization System must enter into force in 2020 and serve to control the entry of citizens who do not need visas to travel to the EU.

I-Checkit

It is the Interpol system that involves airline companies and the maritime industry and allows them to access the database of stolen or lost documents.

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