High-tech border in numbers:
- Total length: 98 kilometers
- Checkpoints: 5 (two of them for trains)
- Frontier guards: 886
- Cameras: 250 stationary ones, 160 mobile ones with night-vision
- Vehicles: 51 private cars, 74 cross-country vehicles, 58 motorcycles, 6 boats, 17 scooters
Sobrance, East Slovakia - A man hiding in a bush peeps out. After a moment of carefully looking around, he decides to go for it. Yet, his attempt to clandestinely pass from Ukraine to Slovakia is doomed from the first moment by a smart camera system the unfortunate migrant is completely unaware of.
"The location in the map begins to flash which sends a signal to an operator to find our nearest patrol with the help of GPS data and send it right there," explains Miroslav Uchnár, the head of the border police in the Slovakian town of Sobrance, pointing towards the green figure at one of the monitors.
Cameras, cameras and more cameras
The border between Slovakia and Ukraine, the new eastern frontline of the European Union's Schengen system, is 98 kilometers long. In southern lowlands, the frontier is 35 kilometers long and is under total surveillance by a system of cameras, complete with night-vision.
"I don't know of anything similar existing in any other part of Europe," says Uchnár, visibly pleased at the sight of the wall full of monitors that can at any time project a vision of any of the 250 cameras watching over the border.
And it´s no walk in the park for the smugglers and illegal border crossers in the northern mountainous part of the frontier, either.
EU granted one billion of Slovakian crowns (approximately 30 million euros or 44 million USD) for the thermo-vision cameras that can "see" things as far as 5 kilometers away. They can be installed on vans or special 17-meter-high towers.
Criminals or victims?
Procurement of these high-tech gadgets and increase in manpower (there are now 9 policemen on every kilometer of the frontier) have already resulted in the decrease in the numbers of detained migrants and trespassers - last year it was 2500, this year only 1700.
It is, however, a victory of a dubious kind. Despite the police efforts, the structures of transferrers' mafias remain largely intact.
And those led across the border are frequently poor people who had to pay fortunes for the services of transferrers. "This year, we have already had three dead immigrants. They were overcooled, when we found them, there was no way to save them," says Uchnár.
It's Shenga-cular, baby
This new electronic curtain put in place by Slovaks is a result of the country joining the Schengen system and Slovakia thus finds itself in a new role of Europe's patrolman. The objective of the majority of trespassers is to get further to the western Europe.
Millions of euros granted for development of the high-tech frontier is hence nothing else than Brussels buying its own sense of security.
And what the insiders view as a long awaited arrival of the freedom of movement, increasingly looks like the proverbial fortress Europe to the less fortunate ones left outside.