In austerity-stricken Europe, increasing funds are flowing to arms and security firms positioning themselves as experts on border control. Researcher Mark Akkerman documents the companies profiting from E.U. border externalization and the industry’s lobbying power.
The EU has made migration control a central goal of its foreign relations, rapidly expanding border externalisation measures that require neighbouring countries to act as Europe's border guards. This report examines 35 countries, prioritised by the EU, and finds authoritarian regimes emboldened to repress civil society, vulnerable refugees forced to turn to more dangerous and deadly routes, and European arms and security firms booming off the surge in funding for border security systems and technologies.
Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe is once again known for its border walls. This time Europe is divided not so much by ideology as by perceived fear of refugees and migrants, some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Member states of the European Union and Schengen Area have constructed almost 1000 km of walls, the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Walls, since the nineties to prevent displaced people migrating into Europe. These physical walls are accompanied by even longer ‘maritime walls’, naval operations patrolling the Mediterranean, as well as ‘virtual walls’, border control systems that seek to stop people entering or even traveling within Europe, and control movement of population.
This report is set in a wider context in which more than 70.8 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced, according to the 2018 figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (UNHCR, 2019). Some of these have reached the borders of the European Union (EU), seeking protection and asylum, but instead have encountered policy responses that mostly aim to halt and intercept migration flows, against the background of securitisation policies in which the governments of EU Member States see migration as a threat. One of the responses to address migration flows is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (hereafter Frontex), established in 2004 as the EU body in charge of guarding what many have called ‘Fortress Europe’, and whose practices have helped to consolidate the criminalisation of migrants and the securitisation of their movements.