This paper – presented to the European Parliament hearing on the ‘externalisation’ of the EU’s borders – is important.

The background the EU’s strengthening of its co-operation with Libya to prevent Africans from reaching Europe by sea. The EU is also working far deeper in Africa, with Niger and Mali, as well as Sudan and Egypt, to halt Africans before they reach the Mediterranean coast.

This is what is meant by ‘externalisation’ of the EU’s borders: building a virtual ‘wall’ that will prevent Africans landing in any part of Europe.

This paper explains the benefits to European military and security industries of this policy. Here are a few examples:

  • Germany provided Airbus equipment to Tunisia
  • Italy paid the Italian company, Intermarine, for ten patrol ships for Libya
  • The Dutch government allowed the export of Thales radar equipment to Egypt, in spite of an EU arms embargo

Stop Wapenhandel are planning a full report for next year



EU border externalisation benefits European military and security industry

Mark Akkerman of Stop Wapenhandel

EU border externalisation policies have devastating consequences. In the first place for refugees, who are confronted with ever more and more militarised border security and control measures. But these policies also undermine the development of countries, they strengthen dictatorships, feed repression and human rights abuses and threaten security and safety.

The way the EU deals with the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ has been marked by a discourse of securitarization of migration, framing migration and refugees as a threat, to be dealt with by boosting and militarising border security. The EU exports this model, these policies, which are heavily influenced by the military and security industry through intensive and succesful lobbying, to third countries. They have to act as border security outposts, preventing refugees from even reaching the external borders of the EU.

This ‘cooperation’, often enforced through blackmail, such as threatening to withold development aid, takes many forms. One of those is EU donations of equipment or EU funding for equipment purchases by third countries. With this, during the last years everything from helicopters, patrol ships and vehicles, via surveillance and monitoring equipment to biometric identification tools has found its way to countries outside the EU.

There’s a real danger that equipment provided, for example surveillance tools, will also be used for internal repression. Sudan, one of the worst dictatorships the EU is cooperating with, blatantly said it would use donated equipment for internal purposes as well. And, let’s remember, EU countries have a bad track record for supplying equipment to human rights violating regimes. For example, during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ popular uprisings were often surpressed with arms provided by European states.

Another problem is the diverting of money for development cooperation and peacebuilding to the goal of stopping migration. Oxfam recently calculated that over 80% of the budget of the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa comes from the European Development Fund and other development and humanitarian aid funds. And about 30% of the Trust Fund budget in the first two years goes to migration management or border security projects. One example of this is the purchase of six vessels from Dutch shipbuilder Damen by Turkey for strengthening its coast guard. The €20 million the EU used to finance this came from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), intended for peace-building and conflict prevention. It is even the largest project under this Instrument.

But the EU also pressurizes third countries into increasing on security and military, at the cost of much-needed spending on education, health care, fighting poverty and other social and environmental issues. At the same time, EU policies to decrease migration undermine migration-based economies, for example the one in the Agadez region in Niger, and economies that rely on remittances from refugees in Europe.

This feeds an untenable situation, threatening economic development, security and internal stability in many countries. In the end this will only force more people to flee, especially in the longer term. And though it shouldn’t be a leading question, given this, it is also very doubtful that these externalisation policies actually serve European interests, especially in the long term. As one unnamed EU official said: we are only “creating chaos in our own backyard” and that will eventually turn against us. Another point is that by making regular migration ever more diffcult, the EU is pushing refugees into the arms of criminal smuggling networks, that take over more and more from people who just had a job in facilitating migration.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the secutarization of migration in third countries, and the militarisation of borders, backed up with EU funding, benefits one group of interests however: those of the military and security industry. Major arms companies as Thales and Airbus have already shifted their attention in the field of border security to the African market.

Some examples: Germany donated large ammounts of Airbus equipment for border security to Tunisia, as well as 50 Rheinmetall fighting vehicles for border security to Jordan. Italy and the EU fund a large border security project in Libya from Italian company Leonardo. Another Italian company, Intermarine, sold ten patrol ships to Libya, again paid for by Italy. And French shipbuilder Ocea also provided patrol ships to Libya. One of those ships was used this year by the Libyan coast guard to intercept a NGO vessel on a rescue mission. The Dutch government allowed the export of Thales radar equipment to Egypt, in spite of an EU arms embargo, praising the role the Egyptian navy plays in stopping migration to Europe.

Biometric security companies, such as Veridos, OT Morpho and Gemalto, receive one order after the other for biometric and other identification equipment, because the EU pushes and funds third countries to register their population, including refugees present, with fingerprints or other biometric identification mechanism, to be able to identify (and often deport) them quicker if they enter Europe. French company Civipol, owned by the state and large arms producers as Thales, Airbus and Safran, sets up fingerprint databases in Mali and Senegal. In those fingerprints of the whole population of those countries will be stored. Big Brother on a global scale, but, again, also ignoring the risks of using those databases for internal repression.

Next to the military and security industry, several European state and intergovernmental institutions are main profiteers from EU funding for border security and control in third countries. Civipol was already mentioned. It is especially stunning that Civipol wrote a consultancy paper for the European Commission in 2003 that laid some foundations for current measures on border externalisation and already proposed that the EU should exercise heavy pressure on third countries to get them to act tougher on migration and refugees. Not suprisingly, Civipol has been a major beneficiary of EU border externalisation ever since, implementing many EU-funded projects. In other words: it helped shape the policies it now profits from.

Other institutional profiteers include the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, the International Organisation for Migration and the German state development institution GIZ. The for example last implements the Better Migration Project, under which Sudan is supported to strengthen its border security capacities.

If you take a list of the 35 countries the EU focuses most on in border externalisation, in strengthening border security and control and/or concluding readmission agreements to make deportations possible, this gives a mix of mostly African countries, some in the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, and some in Central and Eastern Europe. Of these 35 countries:

  • half (18) falls in the category ‘low human development’, only eight have a high level of human development;
  • half (17) has an authoritarian government, only four can be deemed democratic, yet still with flaws;
  • half (17) is listed as ‘not free’, with only three listed as ‘free’;
  • one-third (12) faces extreme human rights risks, the other 23 still face high risks;
  • one-fifth (7) has a EU and/or UN arms embargo in force against it.

Yet, the total value of licenses issued by EU member states for arms exports to these 35 countries in the decade 2006-2015 is over €76 billion. Arms exports that more often than not feed further conflicts, violence and repression.

The least to say is that there are other priorities, both for these countries and for the EU in relation to them, than stopping migration. EU policy should be focused on promoting democracy and human rights as well as fighting poverty and furthering sustainaible development. There are many red flags, in almost all of the countries, on why the EU should be careful about cooperating with them. This is especially important when such cooperation includes strengthening military and security capacities, with training, funding and providing equipment. Or in other words: the EU is doing exactly what it shouldn’t be doing, and in the end the only profiteers are military and security companies and institutions and those politicians that spread hate, racism and repression.