Closing Europe’s Borders Becomes Big Business

As austerity policies squeeze European economies, defense contractors profit from anti-immigrant furor
by Apostolis Fotiadis and Claudia Ciobanu

ATHENS/WARSAW - The European Union is implementing a new border management system with tougher migration control the core aim. Major security and weapons companies are already reaping the benefits.

A detention camp at Evros in Greece. The placard an inmate holds up says ‘Guantanamo’. (Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS) Frontex, the EU border agency, has financed major weapons and security equipment producers to present their equipment in demonstrations. European national border guards have participated in these demonstrations as potential customers, IPS learns.

Frontex confirmed to IPS that the agency has been paying weapons and security equipment manufacturers to participate in demonstrations of equipment which national agencies attended as potential customers.

“In the case of companies Lockheed Martin, FAST Protect AG, L-3 Communications, FLIR Systems, SCOTTY Group Austria, Diamond Airborne Sensing and Inmarsat, it (the reimbursement) was 30,000 euros,” the agency told IPS in an emailed response.

“Against the background of pervasive budget cuts and austerity measures, it is unbelievable that the EU is spending millions of euros for ‘smart gates’, [drones], and other surveillance technologies."

The companies participated in demonstration of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (Drones) in Aktio in Greece in October 2011. Thirteen companies and consortiums (Israel Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin, FAST Protect AG, L-3 Communications, FLIR Systems, SCOTTY Group Austria, Diamond Airborne Sensing, Inmarsat, Thales, AeroVision, AeroVironment, Altus, BlueBird) demonstrated technological solutions for maritime surveillance.

“The payments made to the companies to cover the costs incurred by them to participate in the demonstration in Aktio varied from 10,000 euros to 198,000 euros,” said Frontex.

U.S.-based Lockheed Martin, French Thales and Israeli IAI are among the biggest weapons and security equipment producers in the world.

At least five other demonstrations of land and aerial surveillance technologies are known to have been organised by Frontex to date – three in Finland, one in France, and another in Alexadroupolis in Greece in October 2012.

The demonstrations are part of the preparation for the launch of EUROSUR, the European External Border Surveillance System meant to enhance cooperation between border control agencies of EU member states and to promote surveillance of EU’s external borders by Frontex, with a particular focus on the Mediterranean and North Africa, in view of controlling migration to Europe.

Surveillance plans envisage the possibility of using drones to spot migrant boats trying to cross the Mediterranean.
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