Expanding the Fortress: new report exposes firms profiting from EU border militarisation

The front cover of the Expanding The Fortress report

This article is based on the summary of Expanding the Fortress, authored by Mark Akkerman and edited by Nick Buxton.

A new report from the Transnational Institute exposes the huge impact of the European Union's “border externalisation” policies, the companies that profit, and the huge numbers of people impacted. Expanding the Fortress explores how migration control has become a major part of the EU's foreign relations, with externalisation policies requiring neighbours to “act as Europe's border guards”. The report examines the 35 countries prioritised by the EU, unpacking the regimes where border security has been outsourced, the migrants forced into ever more dangerous routes, and arms companies profiting from an increase in funding for border security systems. Countries as far away from the EU as Senegal and Azerbaijan are being used by the EU to externalise it's borders, so that forcibly displaced people never even reach the physical border.

The report shows a significant growth in border externalisation measures and agreements since 2005, and a massive acceleration since the November 2015 Valletta Europe – Africa Summit. Using a range of new instruments, the European Union and individual member states are now providing millions of euros for an array of projects to stop migration of certain people from taking place on or across European territory. This includes collaboration with third countries in terms of accepting deported persons, training of their police and border officials, the development of extensive biometric systems, and donations of equipment including helicopters, patrol ships and vehicles, surveillance and monitoring equipment.


Expanding The Fortress also finds that:

  • The growth in border security spending has benefited a wide range of companies, in particular arms manufacturers and biometric security companies. French arms giant, Thales, also a major arms exporter to the region, is one prominent player, providing military and security equipment for border security and biometric systems and equipment. Significant biometric security corporate suppliers include Veridos, OT Morpho and Gemalto (which will soon be taken over by Thales). Meanwhile, Germany and Italy fund their own arms firms – Hensoldt, Airbus and Rheinmetall (Germany) and Leonardo and Intermarine (Italy) – to underpin border security work in a number of MENA countries in particular Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. In Turkey, the substantial border security contracts have been won by Turkish defence companies, in particular Aselsan and Otokar, who are using the resources to subsidise their own defence efforts that also underpin Turkey’s controversial attacks on Kurdish communities.

  • There are also a number of semi-public companies and international organisations that provide consultancy, training, and management of border security projects that have thrived from the massive growth in the border security market. They include French semi-public company Civipol, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). Civipol is part-owned by large arms producers as Thales, Airbus and Safran, and in 2003 wrote an influential consultancy paper for the European Commission, that laid some foundations for current measures on border externalisation from which it now benefits.

Programmes & Projects
Police militarisation theme

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