The European Union (EU) is to use a £1.4bn satellite network to monitor the movements of refugees and asylum seekers.
Officials in the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA) are planning to extend the use of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, which was originally designed for tracking coastal erosion, air pollution and climate change.
The EU now wants to use the next generation of ESA satellites to support military peace-keeping missions and track refugees outside the EU's borders.
Philippe Busquin, the EU commissioner for research, said the initiative was "a good example of how Europe can develop technologies that contribute to improving the quality of life and meeting security needs".
But civil rights groups are alarmed by the decision, claiming that it signals a further tightening of Europe's borders against refugees and migrants.
Keith Best, director of the Immigration Advisory Service, said the initiative could have positive benefits. It would allow the EU or Nato to track an exodus of refugees fleeing conflicts such as the civil war in Kosovo in 1999.
But he added that he feared refugees could simply be treated like some sort of pollutant heading the EU's way.
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