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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Mitarachis: is he being hoodwinked? Are we?

Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis plans to spend close to €4m on ‘border surveillance’ technology, just a year after spending €15m on… border surveillance technology. Is he being swindled? And does he care?

Greece’s Migration Minster Notis Mitarachis has used his slot at the 86th Thessaloniki International Fair to ‘unveil’ plans to throw yet more money at ‘border surveillance’.

Despite Mitarachis’ government spending €15m on border surveillance – which, it appears, it refuses to use, or to pay attention to – just a year ago, Mitarachis told the event that he plans to spend €3.7m on a scheme he called ‘REACTION’.

Jokes about his being a genuinely reactionary government aside, ‘Real-time Artificial Intelligence for Borders Surveillance via RPAS data analytics to support Law Enforcement Agencies’ will, according to Mitarachis, be:

Unmanned drone vehicles but with artificial intelligence algorithms they will be able to monitor either alone or in swarms in inaccessible areas, analyse information and find threats at the border.

This is an interesting comment from Mitarachis, whose role is Migration Minister, because even if we were to accept that there was a ‘threat’ at Greece’s borders (and there really is not) it would be from the Turkish government and its armed forces, not from anything to do with ‘migration’.

Monitoring ‘in swarms’ is also an interesting idea. If Greece were being invaded, it is extremely unlikely that any armed force would not have the capacity to put drones of any number out of action with for example, an electro-magnetic pulse. And the reality is that the major activity at the Greek border is people hoping to find safe, decent places to live, learn and work, in which case one – possibly two to cover the possibility of an accident – drone per location (as a ‘swarm’ could also only be in one location at once) would be more than sufficient.

Could it be that, as there is absolutely no advantage to ‘a swarm’, Mitarachis is being tricked into wasting Greek cash? Or is it, perhaps, that he wishes to use emotive language like ‘swarms’ to wildly exaggerate the ‘danger’ at the border posed by vulnerable men, women and children, who he would like – even tangentially – people to associate with insects?

He went on:

Not only can it be used for immigration issues but also for other needs such as anti-smuggling and search and rescue.

And this sentence is the clincher.

Mitarachis wants to throw millions more euros at surveillance not because of any ‘threat’, but for ‘immigration issues’ – which for his Ministry to date means ‘breaking international law by preventing people entering Greece to apply for asylum, and/or illegally kicking out those who manage to enter’ – and secondarily to stop ‘smuggling’ which is certainly not a big enough issue for Greece to justify spending close to €4m on ‘swarms of drones’ to counter it.

Only thirdly does he mention ‘search and rescue’, but this is for two major reasons: first, on Mitarachis’ direct orders, Greece very seldom actually carries out ‘search and rescue’, particularly for refugees, who most often need it, and in any case GPS trackers in mobile phones make drones almost always unnecessary for it, and second, the Greek Coastguard already has drones.

Effectively, Mitarachis is looking to spend millions of euros on technology he hopes to use solely to break the law and potentially end people’s lives, while deliberately misleading the Greek public about its intended purpose.

He is spending money Greece really does not have, for the second time in a year, on ‘border security’ – an issue Greece really does not have – and this time on something that, even were it to be used legally and to protect anyone, is being sold to him in amounts far larger than needed.

Perhaps the minister does not mind being tricked into wasting our money. But perhaps we should.


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