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EU using Israel drones to track migrant boats in the Med

Migrants swim to safety after travelling on the Mediterranean sea, seen on August 30, 2016 [Tamer Yazar/Twitter]
Migrants in the Mediterranean Sea as they try to reach Europe [Tamer Yazar/Twitter]

The European Union (EU) invested over $115 million in Israeli-made unmanned drones to police the Mediterranean Sea.

The Observer discovered three contracts with Frontex, the EU’s border and coastguard agency, and the European Maritime Safety Agency, totalling at $115 million with Israeli arms companies Elbit Systems, and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries.

The money is being spent to purchase drones from the Israeli companies to be used to provide intelligence to Frontex. The drones in question; models Hermes and Heron, have been used on combat missions in Gaza.

READ: Italian political standoff keeps rescued migrants stranded at sea

Frontex have previously been accused by Sea-Watch, an organisation that rescues refugees, of using surveillance drones to supply information to the Libyan coastguard.

Sea-Watch captain Tamino Böhm said: “They never leave port unless there is a boat to head to for a pullback. This means the information they have comes from the surveillance flights of Italy, Frontex and the EU.”

Frontex has previously posting drone footage on Twitter.

It claims it still uses rescue boats, despite the fact that EU maritime vessels have not carried out a single rescue since last year.

“This spending has come as the EU pulls back its naval missions in the Mediterranean and harasses almost all search-and-rescue charity boats out of the water,” the Guardian  reported.

The death-rate of refugees at sea has increased from a two per cent average to 14 per cent this month, with over 500 deaths recorded.

In March, “Operation Sophia” – a scheme to combat people smuggling – saw the EU scaling back maritime operations.

The EU have previously been accused of crimes against humanity as it further relies on the Libyan coastguard to drag refugees to EU-funded Libyan detention camps where many have been abused.

This comes as the Italian government imposed a law which would see migrant rescuers slapped with a $1.12 million fine and a prison sentence.

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