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

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

Athens, Greece – “Let’s go see a thing that seems actually pleasant,” suggests Anastasios Salis, head of info and communications technological innovation at the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry in Athens, in advance of getting into an airtight place sealed guiding two interlocking doorways, obtainable only with an ID card and fingerprint scan.

Past these doors is the ministry’s newly-installed centralised surveillance room.

The entrance wall is covered by a vast screen. More than a dozen rectangles and squares show footage from 3 refugee camps presently linked to the program.

Some exhibit a basketball courtroom in a refugee camp on the island of Samos. Another screen demonstrates the playground and one more the inside of of just one of the containers in which persons socialise.

Overhead, lights out of the blue flash pink. A prospective danger has been detected in a person of the camps. This “threat” has been flagged by Centaur, a significant-tech stability program the Greek Migration Ministry is piloting and rolling out at all of the practically 40 refugee camps in the place.

Centaur incorporates cameras and motion sensors. It utilizes algorithms to automatically forecast and flag threats such as the existence of guns, unauthorised vehicles, or abnormal visits into limited parts.

The procedure subsequently alerts the suitable authorities, these kinds of as the police, fireplace brigade, and private safety functioning in the camps.

From the manage area, operators deploy digital camera-equipped drones and instruct officers stationed at the camp to rush to the site of the reported menace.

Regulate area 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 that allows them to talk with the control centre.

Once they figure out the nature and severity of the threat, the regulate space guides them on the ground to take care of the incident.

Video footage and other knowledge collected as element of the operation can then be stored beneath an “incident card” in the program.

This distinct incident is simply a simulation, presented to Al Jazeera all through an special tour and preview of the Centaur process.

The purpose of the programme, according to Greek officers, is to make certain the protection of all those who dwell within the camps and in encompassing communities.

“We use engineering to reduce violence, to reduce occasions like we experienced in Moria – the arson of the camp. Simply because safety is significant for everyone,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi informed Al Jazeera at the November inauguration of a new, EU-funded “closed-controlled” refugee camp on Kos island, one particular of the 1st amenities to be linked to the Centaur procedure.

‘Dystopian’ surveillance task

Almost 40 cameras are becoming mounted in just about every camp, which can be operated from the handle place.

There will also be thermal cameras, drones, and other technologies – like augmented fact glasses, which will be dispersed to police and personal safety staff.

“This was not to observe and invade the privateness of the folks [in the camps],” said Salis, one particular of the architects of Centaur. “You’re not checking them. You are attempting to reduce terrible issues from happening.”

Greek authorities headline this new surveillance as a variety of safety but civil modern society teams and European lawmakers have criticised the go.

“This fits a broader craze of the EU pouring community cash into dystopian and experimental surveillance jobs, which deal with human beings as lab rats,” Ella Jakubowska, plan and strategies officer at European Electronic Rights (EDRi), advised Al Jazeera. “Money which could be employed to support people is rather used to punish them, all while the surveillance field will make wide earnings advertising untrue guarantees of magical technologies that promises to deal with intricate structural difficulties.”

Current reporting, which unveiled Centaur will be partly financed by the EU COVID Restoration fund, has led a team of European lawmakers to generate to the European Commission with their fears about its implementation.

Homo Digitalis, a Greek digital legal rights advocacy group, and EDRi mentioned they manufactured many requests for data on what info security assessments were carried out in advance of the growth and deployment of Centaur.

These types of investigation is expected less than the EU’s Typical Details Security Regulation (GDPR). They have also asked what facts will be gathered and how extensive it will be held by authorities. Those requests, they reported, have gone unanswered.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not reply to Al Jazeera’s question on whether or not an influence evaluation was concluded, and on procedures relating to info retention and the processing of facts relevant to children.

In Samos, mixed thoughts

Advocates in Samos informed Al Jazeera they raised problems about camp citizens currently being sufficiently notified about the presence of these technologies.

But Salis, at the manage centre, mentioned this has been reached by means of “signs – a great deal of signs”, in the camps.

The technique does not at this time incorporate facial recognition know-how, at least “not yet”, in accordance to Leonidas Petavrakis, a electronic program specialist with ESA Stability Answers S.A., one of the businesses contracted for the Centaur job.

The possible use of facial recognition in this context is “a significant concern”, explained Konstantinos Kakavoulis of Homo Digitalis.

Facial recognition systems often misidentify folks of color and can direct to wrongful arrests and convictions, in accordance to reports. Human legal rights organisations globally have called for their use to be restricted or banned.

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

A map of the shut and managed accessibility centre on Samos highlights the variety of cameras employed all through the camp [Kenya-Jade Pinto/Al Jazeera]

For some of those people dwelling underneath the glare of this EU-funded surveillance program, the feeling is mixed.

Mohammed, a 25-yr-previous refugee from Palestine residing in the new Samos camp, stated that he did not always intellect the cameras as he believed they could protect against fights, which broke out routinely at the former Samos camp.

“Sometimes it’s [a] fantastic emotion mainly because it would make you truly feel safe and sound, sometimes not,” he mentioned but included that the feeling of safety arrived at a selling price.

“There’s not a great deal of variation concerning this camp and a prison.”