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Athens, Greece – “Let’s go see anything that looks definitely nice,” suggests Anastasios Salis, head of facts and communications technological know-how at the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry in Athens, prior to coming into an airtight space sealed guiding two interlocking doors, accessible only with an ID card and fingerprint scan.
Beyond these doors is the ministry’s freshly-mounted centralised surveillance room.
The entrance wall is included by a extensive display. A lot more than a dozen rectangles and squares exhibit footage from a few refugee camps already linked to the procedure.
Some show a basketball court docket in a refugee camp on the island of Samos. Yet another display screen demonstrates the playground and another the within of one particular of the containers the place people today socialise.
Overhead, lights abruptly flash red. A probable danger has been detected in a person of the camps. This “threat” has been flagged by Centaur, a large-tech stability procedure the Greek Migration Ministry is piloting and rolling out at all of the virtually 40 refugee camps in the state.
Centaur involves cameras and movement sensors. It takes advantage of algorithms to instantly predict and flag threats this kind of as the presence of guns, unauthorised cars, or strange visits into restricted areas.
The technique subsequently alerts the suitable authorities, such as the police, hearth brigade, and private stability doing work in the camps.
From the handle area, operators deploy camera-geared up drones and instruct officers stationed at the camp to hurry to the locale of the noted menace.
Officers have smartphones loaded with software program that will allow them to converse with the regulate centre.
When they determine the mother nature and severity of the danger, the regulate area guides them on the floor to solve the incident.
Movie footage and other information collected as element of the procedure can then be stored beneath an “incident card” in the program.
This specific incident is simply a simulation, offered to Al Jazeera through an unique tour and preview of the Centaur technique.
The aim of the programme, in accordance to Greek officials, is to make certain the security of individuals who stay within the camps and in encompassing communities.
“We use technologies to prevent violence, to stop activities like we experienced in Moria – the arson of the camp. Mainly because basic safety is important for anyone,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi instructed Al Jazeera at the November inauguration of a new, EU-funded “closed-controlled” refugee camp on Kos island, a single of the to start with facilities to be connected to the Centaur process.
‘Dystopian’ surveillance job
Approximately 40 cameras are being installed in each camp, which can be operated from the command home.
There will also be thermal cameras, drones, and other technology – which include augmented actuality eyeglasses, which will be distributed to police and non-public stability personnel.
“This was not to monitor and invade the privateness of the individuals [in the camps],” reported Salis, a person of the architects of Centaur. “You’re not checking them. You are making an attempt to protect against terrible points from going on.”
Greek authorities headline this new surveillance as a form of safety but civil modern society teams and European lawmakers have criticised the go.
“This suits a broader pattern of the EU pouring community funds into dystopian and experimental surveillance assignments, which address human beings as lab rats,” Ella Jakubowska, coverage and strategies officer at European Electronic Rights (EDRi), explained to Al Jazeera. “Money which could be used to assistance persons is as a substitute used to punish them, all although the surveillance sector makes wide income selling untrue claims of magical technological know-how that statements to fix intricate structural difficulties.”
Latest reporting, which disclosed Centaur will be partly financed by the EU COVID Recovery fund, has led a team of European lawmakers to publish to the European Commission with their problems about its implementation.
Homo Digitalis, a Greek electronic rights advocacy team, and EDRi stated they designed various requests for info on what knowledge safety assessments have been carried out in advance of the development and deployment of Centaur.
These evaluation is needed less than the EU’s Standard Facts Security Regulation (GDPR). They have also asked what information will be collected and how long it will be held by authorities. Individuals requests, they explained, have absent unanswered.
The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to Al Jazeera’s query on regardless of whether an effects assessment was done, and on procedures relating to knowledge retention and the processing of info linked to little ones.
In Samos, combined inner thoughts
Advocates in Samos instructed Al Jazeera they raised worries about camp inhabitants currently being sufficiently notified about the existence of these systems.
But Salis, at the control centre, claimed this has been accomplished by way of “signs – a lot of signs”, in the camps.
The system does not at this time incorporate facial recognition technology, at least “not yet”, in accordance to Leonidas Petavrakis, a electronic program expert with ESA Safety Remedies S.A., 1 of the companies contracted for the Centaur job.
The likely use of facial recognition in this context is “a significant concern”, stated Konstantinos Kakavoulis of Homo Digitalis.
Facial recognition units normally misidentify people of color and can lead to wrongful arrests and convictions, according to scientific tests. Human rights organisations globally have referred to as for their use to be constrained or banned.
An EU proposal on regulating synthetic intelligence, unveiled by the European Fee in April, does not go significantly adequate to reduce the misuse of AI programs, critics declare.
For some of individuals dwelling below the glare of this EU-funded surveillance procedure, the experience is combined.
Mohammed, a 25-12 months-previous refugee from Palestine dwelling in the new Samos camp, reported that he did not often head the cameras as he considered they could possibly avoid fights, which broke out regularly at the previous Samos camp.
“Sometimes it is [a] superior sensation for the reason that it will make you truly feel safe, from time to time not,” he stated but included that the sense of stability came at a price tag.
“There’s not a great deal of variance involving this camp and a prison.”