What we’re calling for:
- Stop the militarisation of borders (and stop the military-industrial complex)
- Stop framing security as meaning the militarisation of society and stop framing migration as a security threat. Stop the use of militaristic language, such as ‘combatting’ irregular migration
- Stop the militarisation of borders: no deployment of military personnel and equipment for border security and control
- Stop the use of autonomous systems, such as drones, for border security
- Stop funding the militarisation of borders and the military-industrial complex: abolish the Integrated Border Management Fund, the European Defence Fund and funding for military and security research and development. Make funding for border security and control under other EU instruments impossible
- Reject any proposed expansion to the EU ‘security’ and ‘defense’ budgets
- Stop the externalisation of EU borders. End agreements with, and funding for, third countries for border security and control. Stop pressure on third countries to strengthen border security and to stop migration. End ‘migration dialogues’ with third countries
- End Frontex operations in third countries and cooperation with third countries. Cancel all agreements with third countries, including intelligence and risk analysis networks. Abolish Frontex liaison officers and other Frontex presence in third countries
- End corporate influence over decision-making (in the EU and at the national-level) through lobbying. End industry’s privileged access to decision-making and to Frontex. No more Frontex meetings with industry. Cancel Frontex’ budget for buying/leasing equipment. Stop revolving doors between industry and decision-makers
- Stop buying from and cooperating with arms and security companies, including those that promote their goods and services as “battlefield tested”
- End Frontex Research and Innovation programmes and cooperation with companies, universities and research institutions to develop new border security and control capacities
Frontex is a key actor in the militarisation of the EU’s external borders. This process of deploying (para)military personnel and/or equipment for border security has been pushed by an influential industrial lobby for years, and it took ground especially since the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015. The expansion of Frontex – with its own standing corps, its own budget to purchase/lease equipment, the possibility of operations in non-EU-countries and far-reaching powers to force EU member states to strengthen border security – in the last few years is also something that has been propagated by the industry for years before 2015.
Frontex has increasingly close ties to arms and security companies, driven by a budget of about €2 billion to buy/lease equipment in the period 2021-2027. The same companies are also influential in shaping EU migration and border policies, positioning themselves as experts and being warmly welcomed by EU institutions, for example by being invited to take part in official advisory bodies. In this way the military and security industry has been able to push a narrative in which migration is framed as a security problem, to be combated by the products and services this industry has on sale. Large European arms companies as Airbus, Leonardo and Thales are the main winners, while the European Organisation for Security is the main lobby group.
Those same large arms companies are also responsible for many European arms exports to the rest of the world, fueling reasons forcing people to flee, such as war, internal conflict, repression, human rights violations and poverty. Over the last few years the EU has increasingly supported the ‘global competitiveness’ and exports of the European military and security industry, making this a part of its own process of militarisation through the European Defense Fund and other instruments.
Frontex and other border security authorities increasingly use autonomous systems for border surveillance. Over the last few years the agency has paid tens of millions of euros to arms companies Airbus, Elbit, Israel Aerospace Industries and Leonardo for providing drone surveillance services in the Mediterranean. This includes the use of so-called ‘killer drones’ which are promoted as ‘battlefield tested’ in wars and repression.
Maritime Frontex operations to stop migration in the Mediterranean and towards the Canary Islands go along with member states border security efforts, separate EU military missions (Operation Sophia and its successor Operation Irini) and pressure on third countries to act as outpost border guards for the EU, stopping refugees before they can even reach EU borders (the so-called ‘border externalisation’). Externalisation efforts often have serious consequences in third countries as well, by legitimizing and strengthening authoritarian regimes and their security forces, undermining local (migration-based) economies and diverting development aid.
Many EU financial instruments contribute to the militarisation of borders, next to Frontex’ own budget. The most important is the Integrated Border Management Fund, which is aimed at funding EU member states efforts’ to strengthen border security, including the purchase of equipment to be made available for Frontex operations. The European Defence Fund and research funding under the EU’s seven-year R&T-programmes (currently Horizon Europe) can also be used for funding new border security equipment, while the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, the Instrument for Pre-Accession and the European Peace Facility and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace can all fund border security and control efforts in non-EU-countries.
Who profits from Fortress Europe?
As well as racist ideas about the “European way of life” and colonial illusions of grandeur in deciding who ‘deserves’ to live in Europe, the EU’s militarisation of borders has been heavily influenced by the military and security industry. Large arms and technology companies such as Airbus, Thales, Leonardo and Indra, as well as lobby organisations such as the European Organisation for Security (EOS), have shaped this discourse on migration as a threat and the policies to respond to it. They have done this through countless meetings with EU officials, participation in official EU advisory bodies, round tables with participation of EU commissioners and publishing lobby papers for example.
As well as increasing the EU’s military spending, for example with the creation of the European Defence Fund – benefiting the military-industrial complex (no coincidence given that the idea of the Fund was largely based on recommendations from an advisory group in which arms company and military research institutions played a leading role) – the EU has been funding border security purchases by EU member states and by third countries – mainly in Africa. And again, the military and security industry is the biggest beneficiary of this spending on border security – selling everything from ships and helicopters and ships, to surveillance and (biometric) identification technology.
Research and resources
- Fact sheet ‘Frontex and the military and security industry‘ by the Abolish Frontex Research Group (November 2021).
- Guarding the Fortress: the role of Frontex in the militarization and securitization of migratory flows in the European Union: a report by Centre Delàs, Transnational Institute and Stop Wapenhandel.
- SPECTRAM: an investigation by porCausa into the EU’s policies of securitisation, privatisation, externalisation, and criminalisation of migrants.
- Crossing a Line: the use of drones to control borders: a report by Drone Wars UK on the use of drones for border security.
On arms industry lobbying and profiting:
- Lobbying Fortress Europe: the making of a border-industrial complex: a report looking into Frontex’s relationship with industry lobbyists.
- The Frontex Files: a database of over 130 documents exposing the interactions between Frontex and industry lobbyists.
- Lobbyfacts.eu: Online platform to find out about lobby spending in the EU. CEO research toolbox: A list of free online tool to help investigate corporate lobbying
- Covid 19 and Border Politics (2020): This briefing takes a look at the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for refugees and migrants and its anticipated influence on the border security and control market. What are the direct effects on migrants and refugees who are already living in vulnerable situations? What does it mean for people crossing international borders, seeking asylum and transiting the deadly and treacherous migrant routes across regions, continents and seas? And how are they affected by government responses to the outbreak?
- Border Wars (2016): a report by Stop Wapenhandel and the Transnational Institute which exposes the military and security companies that have profited from the militarisation of borders – winning contracts to provide the equipment to border guards, the surveillance technology to monitor frontiers, and the IT infrastructure to track population movements. The executive summary is also available in English, Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Portugues
- The report was updated with Border Wars II (2016). It shows that the European policy response to the refugee tragedy continues to provide a booming border security market for Europe’s arms and security firms, some of whom are involved in selling arms to the Middle East and North Africa and all of whom encourage European policies focused on keeping refugees out. It’s a win-win for the security corporations, but the cost is a deadly toll for migrants forced into ever more dangerous routes as they flee wars, conflict and oppression. Also available in Spanish.
- Border surveillance, drones and militarisation of the Mediterranean: analysis for Statewatch which chronicles investments into and tests and deployments of drone technology by EU and national agencies in the Mediterranean.
- Market Forces: The development of the EU Security-Industrial Complex (Transnational Institute and StateWatch) looks at how EU funding for new security tools and technologies will double in the 2014-20 period compared to the previous six years
- An infographic on the EU’s Security-Industrial Complex explains what is behind Europe’s ‘Security Union’; who is shaping EU security policy and who is benefiting from it. It also identifies what are the key policies and which EU institutions are involved.
- European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT)’s website has a lot of information about the EU and the arms trade, including a data browser which shows official EU arms export data by country of origin, country of destination, weapon type and value.
- Financing Borders (2021) by TNI This report seeks to explore and highlight the extent of today’s global border security industry, by focusing on the most important geographical markets—Australia, Europe, USA—listing the human rights violations and risks involved in each sector of the industry, profiling important corporate players and putting a spotlight on the key investors in each company.
- No business without enemies: War and the arms trade: Article by TNI and Centre Delàs d’Estudis per la Pau
- A Walled World: Towards a global apartheid (2020) by TNI
Full report – English
Mundo Amurallado – Espanol
Resum en català: Món emmurallat cap
Samenvatting in het Nederlands: Een ommuurde wereld
On border externalisation:
- Expanding the Fortress:The policies, the profiteers and the people shaped by EU’s border externalisation programme by the Transnational Institute and Stop Wapenhandel (2018). 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.
Full report in English.
Expandiendo la fortaleza (resumen ejecutivo en español)
Espandendo la fortezza sintesi (Italiano)
Expanding the Fortress résumé (Francais)
Expandint la fortalesa (resume executiu en català)
Uitbreiding van het fort samenvatting (Nederlands)
Die Festung wird erweitert (Deutsch)
πρόγραμμα «εξωτερικής ανάθεσης» των συνοριακών ελέγχων της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης: Οι πολιτικές, οι εταιρείες και οι άνθρωποι του
مدّ الحصون: السياسات، المستفيدين والمتأثرين ببرنامج الاتحاد الأوروبي لتصدير الحدود
- Security and Migration: a report by ARCI on EU border externalisation in the cases of Libya, Niger and Egypt.
- Borders without Borders: using documents obtained after a year of filing requests to major EU agencies, Privacy International summarises how the system of EU border outsourcing works.