On the Move with Begüm Başdaş (40): Surveillance and securitization in EU funded camps with journalist Lydia Emmanouilidou

Begüm Başdaş talked with journalist Lydia Emmanouilidou about how the new refugee camps called “Closed Controlled Access Centers” on the Aegean hotspot islands are constructed through new technologies of surveillance and securitization in collaboration with the European Union. 

Emmanouilidou who visited these camps in Kos, Samos and Leros described how these spaces are controlled with the use of NATO type security fencing, all the technology to enter the camps such as, turnstiles, magnetic gates, X-rays, two-factor access control system with ID cards and fingerprints as well as cameras and sensors inside the camps. She said also other striking issue in these new structures is the presence and ratio of security guards, for example in Leros, she noted that there were110 residents (asylum seekers and refugees) and 260 staff members, which includes private security, police and Migration and Asylum Ministry staff.

Emmanouilidou commented that most refugees and asylum seekers in these camps described their experience as being in a prison, but at the same time, she said, several residents also felt a bit safer to have some security to prevent the violence that occurred in the previous structures. Emmanouilidou said: “For the asylum seekers there are two dualities that are hard to square for them, because they are in these brand new, high tech, multimillion dollar facilities where all the money is poured into glitzy tech and yet at the same time their daily needs are not met.” Emmanouilidou argued that any use of smart AI technology is full of biases and can be misused for human rights violations, and thus they are ethically questionable.

Lydia Emmanouilidou is an independent journalist based between Greece and the US, and a fellow at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. She was previously a Greece correspondent for the US public radio program The World. She’s currently researching and reporting on the impact of surveillance at borders in Greece and the US. 

Cover photo: Lydia Emmanouilidou

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