Athens, Greece – “Let’s go see anything that looks actually good,” suggests Anastasios Salis, head of info and communications technological innovation at the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry in Athens, just before moving into an airtight room sealed guiding two interlocking doors, accessible only with an ID card and fingerprint scan.
Outside of these doors is the ministry’s newly-mounted centralised surveillance room.
The front wall is included by a extensive screen. Much more than a dozen rectangles and squares exhibit footage from three refugee camps already linked to the procedure.
Some demonstrate a basketball courtroom in a refugee camp on the island of Samos. A different screen shows the playground and another the inside of 1 of the containers wherever people today socialise.
Overhead, lights quickly flash red. A prospective risk has been detected in one of the camps. This “threat” has been flagged by Centaur, a superior-tech stability system the Greek Migration Ministry is piloting and rolling out at all of the almost 40 refugee camps in the nation.
Centaur consists of cameras and motion sensors. It works by using algorithms to immediately forecast and flag threats this kind of as the presence of guns, unauthorised motor vehicles, or uncommon visits into limited areas.
The technique subsequently alerts the appropriate authorities, these kinds of as the law enforcement, fireplace brigade, and personal safety performing in the camps.
From the management room, operators deploy camera-outfitted drones and instruct officers stationed at the camp to rush to the area of the claimed risk.
Officers carry smartphones loaded with application that will allow them to talk with the management centre.
As soon as they ascertain the nature and severity of the threat, the manage space guides them on the floor to take care of the incident.
Movie footage and other facts gathered as section of the procedure can then be saved less than an “incident card” in the procedure.
This individual incident is merely a simulation, presented to Al Jazeera for the duration of an special tour and preview of the Centaur technique.
The goal of the programme, according to Greek officials, is to guarantee the security of people who dwell inside the camps and in encompassing communities.
“We use know-how to avoid violence, to avert occasions like we experienced in Moria – the arson of the camp. Mainly because protection is crucial for anyone,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi informed Al Jazeera at the November inauguration of a new, EU-funded “closed-controlled” refugee camp on Kos island, a single of the initially amenities to be linked to the Centaur program.
‘Dystopian’ surveillance challenge
Nearly 40 cameras are getting installed in each individual camp, which can be operated from the control area.
There will also be thermal cameras, drones, and other technology – such as augmented fact eyeglasses, which will be dispersed to police and personal security personnel.
“This was not to keep an eye on and invade the privateness of the individuals [in the camps],” mentioned Salis, one particular of the architects of Centaur. “You’re not checking them. You are trying to reduce bad things from happening.”
Greek authorities headline this new surveillance as a kind of stability but civil modern society groups and European lawmakers have criticised the move.
“This suits a broader craze of the EU pouring public funds into dystopian and experimental surveillance assignments, which handle human beings as lab rats,” Ella Jakubowska, coverage and campaigns officer at European Electronic Legal rights (EDRi), instructed Al Jazeera. “Money which could be used to assist people is rather used to punish them, all when the surveillance sector would make broad revenue providing false claims of magical technological innovation that claims to fix complicated structural difficulties.”
Latest reporting, which discovered Centaur will be partly financed by the EU COVID Restoration fund, has led a group of European lawmakers to publish to the European Commission with their fears about its implementation.
Homo Digitalis, a Greek electronic rights advocacy team, and EDRi reported they manufactured various requests for details on what details safety assessments ended up carried out ahead of the enhancement and deployment of Centaur.
This kind of analysis is expected under the EU’s Common Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They have also questioned what data will be gathered and how prolonged it will be held by authorities. People requests, they reported, have long gone unanswered.
The Greek Migration Ministry did not react to Al Jazeera’s question on regardless of whether an influence assessment was concluded, and on policies about details retention and the processing of information related to children.
In Samos, blended feelings
Advocates in Samos informed Al Jazeera they elevated considerations about camp citizens being adequately notified about the existence of these systems.
But Salis, at the manage centre, stated this has been obtained as a result of “signs – a lot of signs”, in the camps.
The procedure does not at this time incorporate facial recognition technology, at minimum “not yet”, according to Leonidas Petavrakis, a digital application professional with ESA Security Solutions S.A., one of the companies contracted for the Centaur challenge.
The likely use of facial recognition in this context is “a massive concern”, said Konstantinos Kakavoulis of Homo Digitalis.
Facial recognition methods frequently misidentify people of color and can direct to wrongful arrests and convictions, in accordance to experiments. Human legal rights organisations globally have termed for their use to be restricted or banned.
An EU proposal on regulating synthetic intelligence, unveiled by the European Commission in April, does not go significantly plenty of to avoid the misuse of AI units, critics claim.
For some of all those dwelling beneath the glare of this EU-funded surveillance procedure, the experience is blended.
Mohammed, a 25-calendar year-previous refugee from Palestine living in the new Samos camp, stated that he did not usually brain the cameras as he considered they could possibly reduce fights, which broke out often at the previous Samos camp.
“Sometimes it is [a] great sensation for the reason that it will make you come to feel safe, in some cases not,” he claimed but extra that the perception of protection came at a value.
“There’s not a good deal of variation between this camp and a jail.”