Athens, Greece – “Let’s go see a little something that appears to be like actually great,” claims Anastasios Salis, head of information and communications technological know-how at the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry in Athens, right before moving into an airtight room sealed at the rear of two interlocking doorways, available only with an ID card and fingerprint scan.
Further than these doorways is the ministry’s freshly-installed centralised surveillance home.
The front wall is covered by a wide monitor. Additional than a dozen rectangles and squares display screen footage from a few refugee camps already connected to the program.
Some display a basketball court in a refugee camp on the island of Samos. Another screen reveals the playground and one more the inside of a person of the containers exactly where persons socialise.
Overhead, lights all of a sudden flash red. A opportunity risk has been detected in 1 of the camps. This “threat” has been flagged by Centaur, a superior-tech protection program the Greek Migration Ministry is piloting and rolling out at all of the approximately 40 refugee camps in the state.
Centaur involves cameras and movement sensors. It makes use of algorithms to mechanically predict and flag threats this sort of as the presence of guns, unauthorised autos, or uncommon visits into restricted areas.
The technique subsequently alerts the proper authorities, these types of as the law enforcement, fireplace brigade, and private safety doing work in the camps.
From the control place, operators deploy digicam-equipped drones and instruct officers stationed at the camp to hurry to the locale of the documented threat.
Officers have smartphones loaded with software package that will allow them to converse with the handle centre.
As soon as they decide the mother nature and severity of the menace, the command home guides them on the floor to solve the incident.
Online video footage and other details collected as element of the procedure can then be stored below an “incident card” in the method.
This individual incident is simply a simulation, presented to Al Jazeera through an exclusive tour and preview of the Centaur technique.
The purpose of the programme, according to Greek officials, is to guarantee the basic safety of those people who reside within the camps and in bordering communities.
“We use know-how to avert violence, to stop situations like we experienced in Moria – the arson of the camp. Since protection is crucial for every person,” 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 related to the Centaur process.
‘Dystopian’ surveillance job
Virtually 40 cameras are getting put in in each camp, which can be operated from the handle area.
There will also be thermal cameras, drones, and other know-how – including augmented truth eyeglasses, which will be distributed to police and non-public stability staff.
“This was not to keep track of and invade the privateness of the folks [in the camps],” claimed Salis, one particular of the architects of Centaur. “You’re not monitoring them. You’re making an attempt to avoid poor factors from going on.”
Greek authorities headline this new surveillance as a variety of security but civil culture groups and European lawmakers have criticised the transfer.
“This matches a broader development of the EU pouring public cash into dystopian and experimental surveillance initiatives, which take care of human beings as lab rats,” Ella Jakubowska, plan and strategies officer at European Electronic Legal rights (EDRi), explained to Al Jazeera. “Money which could be applied to enable folks is in its place made use of to punish them, all though the surveillance business tends to make large revenue advertising false guarantees of magical technological innovation that promises to take care of intricate structural troubles.”
New reporting, which discovered Centaur will be partly financed by the EU COVID Recovery fund, has led a team of European lawmakers to publish to the European Fee with their concerns about its implementation.
Homo Digitalis, a Greek digital rights advocacy team, and EDRi mentioned they designed quite a few requests for information on what info security assessments were carried out prior to the progress and deployment of Centaur.
This sort of analysis is demanded beneath the EU’s Normal Data Security Regulation (GDPR). They have also asked what data will be collected and how lengthy it will be held by authorities. Individuals requests, they claimed, have gone unanswered.
The Greek Migration Ministry did not answer to Al Jazeera’s query on no matter if an impression assessment was accomplished, and on guidelines relating to details retention and the processing of facts associated to young children.
In Samos, combined emotions
Advocates in Samos instructed Al Jazeera they elevated concerns about camp residents currently being adequately notified about the existence of these systems.
But Salis, at the handle centre, said this has been attained via “signs – a good deal of signs”, in the camps.
The system does not presently integrate facial recognition technological innovation, at the very least “not yet”, according to Leonidas Petavrakis, a electronic program specialist with ESA Stability Alternatives S.A., one of the businesses contracted for the Centaur task.
The prospective use of facial recognition in this context is “a significant concern”, claimed Konstantinos Kakavoulis of Homo Digitalis.
Facial recognition systems frequently misidentify folks of color and can guide to wrongful arrests and convictions, according to experiments. Human rights organisations globally have identified as for their use to be minimal or banned.
An EU proposal on regulating artificial intelligence, unveiled by the European Fee in April, does not go far enough to avoid the misuse of AI methods, critics declare.
For some of people dwelling beneath the glare of this EU-funded surveillance method, the emotion is combined.
Mohammed, a 25-yr-previous refugee from Palestine residing in the new Samos camp, reported that he did not constantly thoughts the cameras as he imagined they could possibly stop fights, which broke out usually at the previous Samos camp.
“Sometimes it is [a] very good emotion because it will make you experience risk-free, in some cases not,” he claimed but extra that the perception of safety arrived at a rate.
“There’s not a ton of variation concerning this camp and a prison.”