Germany funds new border control technology in Tunisia

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Tunisian border authorities are receiving equipment and training assistance from the German Bundeswehr and the Border Police in the course of a number of projects. Existing measures are now being extended. Manufacturers of surveillance technology stand to benefit.

By Matthias Monroy

The Federal Government is helping Tunisia pursue the ongoing development of an electronic border surveillance system. A section that has already been constructed is now being extended along the Libyan border to the border town of Borj El Khadra in the Sahara. This was disclosed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in response to a minor interpellation. The overall project is being planned together with the US Government. The intended recipient of this “training initiative” is the Tunisian military.

The American Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been tasked with the concrete implementation of these measures. Costs of extending the installations are not known. The financial aid received from Germany is explained vaguely as being “in the tens of millions”.

Donation agreement: the Bundeswehr pays, Airbus delivers

The Tunisian Government has built a 168-kilometre-long and two-metre-high barrier on the Libyan border. Germany had already supported the development of these new “border surveillance capabilities” with transportable barrier systems and “mobile ground reconnaissance systems”. These funds were contributed as part of a donation agreement by the Bundeswehr, while the company Hensoldt, a spin-off of the Airbus Group, was commissioned to supply and install the systems.

Since then, the Tunisian military has acquired five additional ground surveillance radars, 25 high-resolution binoculars, five mountable NightOwl M night vision units, and 25 smaller night vision units that can be mounted as rifle scopes on automatic weapons. Besides supplying this equipment, Hensoldt also trained operators in its use.

The Federal Ministry of Defence wrote last year that the shipments were “primarily intended to offer protection against terrorist and other cross-border threats (smuggling, etc.)”. Airbus itself claimed that the technology was particularly suitable for targeting a “wave of illegal immigrants” that it said would hit Europe’s southern coasts and islands. This formulation from last year has since been deleted from the company’s website.

Border Police also supplying binoculars and night vision devices

This continued support is also an outcome of this year’s G7 summit in Italy. Further measures are being coordinated in a border management working group of the G7 Executive Committee. The local embassies of all the G7 countries and the embassies of Spain and Belgium, as well as the delegation of the European Commission are involved in a G7 support group in Tunis.

The German Border Police (Bundespolizei) is also assisting Tunisia in the area of border surveillance as part of the G7 initiative. Joint measures are being carried out in coastguard services, maritime security and sea rescue missions, as well as border control and document security. The Tunisian National Guard and the border police benefit from the measures.

In the wake of the attacks in Tunis and at the seaside resort of Sousse, the German border police project was stepped up and 25 all-terrain vehicles, four tractor units and light-mast trailers, 121 binoculars, 41 night vision devices, nine thermal imaging devices and other equipment were delivered. A subsequent response to a minor interpellation made mention of 80 night vision devices and 26 quads.

Body scanner training

Last but not least, the Bundespolizei has carried out extensive training courses, including on the detection of forged documents, logistical considerations and qualifications for National Guard trainers. The border authorities were recently instructed in the “function and use” of body scanners. Training was conducted on equipment supplied by the US company L3 Technologies and the German company Rohde & Schwarz. The types used are those that are currently in service at German airports.

It is not known whether Tunisia is also receiving support for the procurement of this equipment. Regardless of whether the equipment is ordered and paid for by the German or the Tunisian government at Rohde & Schwarz, the border police project is also an economic stimulus package for the German surveillance industry.

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