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.
Who killed the dream of a more open Europe? What gave rise to this new era of walls? There are clearly many reasons — the increasing displacement of people by conflict, repression and impoverishment, the rise of security politics in the wake of 9/11, the economic and social insecurity felt across Europe after the 2008 financial crisis — to name a few. But one group has by far the most to gain from the rise of new walls — the businesses that build them. Their influence in shaping a world of walls needs much deeper examination.
This report explores the business of building walls, which has both fueled and benefited from a massive expansion of public spending on border security by the European Union (EU) and its member states. Some of the corporate beneficiaries are also global players, tapping into a global market for border security estimated to be worth approximately €17.5 billion in 2018, with annual growth of at least 8% expected in coming years.
It is important to look both beyond and behind Europe’s walls and fencing, because the real barriers to contemporary migration are not so much the fencing, but the vast array of technology that underpins it, from the radar systems to the drones to the surveillance cameras to the biometric fingerprinting systems. Similarly, some of Europe’s most dangerous walls are not even physical or on land. The ships, aircrafts and drones used to patrol the Mediterranean have created a maritime wall and a graveyard for the thousands of migrants and refugees who have no legal passage to safety or to exercise their right to seek asylum.
This renders meaningless the European Commission’s publicized statements that it does not fund walls and fences. Commission spokesperson Alexander Winterstein, for example, rejecting Hungary’s request to reimburse half the costs of the fences built on its borders with Croatia and Serbia, said: “We do support border management measures at external borders. These can be surveillance measures. They can be border control equipment…But fences, we do not finance.” In other words, the Commission is willing to pay for anything that fortifies a border as long as it is not seen to be building the walls themselves.
This report is a sequel to Building Walls — Fear and Securitization in the European Union, co-published in 2018 with Centre Delàs and Stop Wapenhandel, which first measured and identified the walls that criss-cross Europe. This new report focuses on the businesses that have profited from three different kinds of wall in Europe:
- The construction companies contracted to build the land walls built by EU member states and the Schengen Area together with the security and technology companies that provide the necessary accompanying technology, equipment and services;
- The shipping and arms companies that provide the ships, aircraft, helicopters, drones that underpin Europe’s maritime walls seeking to control migratory flows in the Mediterranean, including Frontex operations, Operation Sophia and Italian operation Mare Nostrum;
- And the IT and security companies contracted to develop, run, expand and maintain EU’s systems that monitor the movement of people — such as SIS II (Schengen Information System) and EES (Entry/Exit Scheme) — which underpin Europe’s virtual walls.
You can read the executive summary or download the full report
at TNI’s website.
Source URL — https://roarmag.org/2019/11/05/the-business-of-building-walls-a-new-tni-report/