Steve Wright – Cashing in on Fears of Mass Migration- The Political Economy of EU Border Management [EN]

Dr Steve Wright – Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom.

The recent European Parliamentary elections resulted in a significant lurch to the right, on an anti-migrant agenda. However, this xenophobic process has been consolidating for some time. It can be understood more fully in the context of a deepening securitization of border controls in the face of multiple challenges. These include migrants fleeing wars in Africa and the Middle East, as well as a Fortress Europe Approach emerging in response to the failure of the International Community to address and prepare sustainable responses to climate change, as if people mattered. These processes of border militarisation are further linked to attempts to extend the policing of borders into areas far beyond current nation state boundaries, both for purposes of political pacification and protecting and extending the existing pathways dependencies on fossil fuel supply lines. The legitimation of such approaches are complex: and are partially masked by current security emergencies – including decisions to re-bomb Iraq and related to on-going security measures to prevent Jihadists returning to the West, to seek revenge.

This new security agenda shaped the form of previous research priorities funded under the FP7 framework and the key areas to be funded under the new Horizon 2020 programme. Already the Frontex work programme reveals a massive ambitious new hi-tech watching, alert and targeted action programme across all land, air, maritime and space borders as revelaed in the GLOBE 1 integrated border management demonstration events in the EUROSUR programmes. Post 9/11, we have witnessed a bureaucratic capture of the security funding programmes by major multinationals in EU process of setting future priorities designated to establish smarter borders for the gateways into Europe. These include:
– GLOBE (European Global Border Environment – described as “the gradual convergence of […] checks on people, checks on goods, surveillance and police investigation”) and,

– OPERAMAR (Interoperable approach to the European Union maritime security management), which is spearheaded by the mega-multinational Thales and but also including Indra and Finmeccanica, the Italian company that built the border fence between Libya and Europe. Such initiatives were funded under the ‘Integrated border management system’ call for proposals, 149 of which were templates purpose-designed to prepare the ground for larger-scale demonstration projects.

The most apt lens to understand this political economy of exclusion is structural violence. What is emerging is a military, industrial, university, security, media, entertainment complex, which channels political worries about future mass migration into tangible, technology dominated “fixes” which are essentially cash-cows for those who work and own that complex:. Just like CCTV, it doesn’t matter if the systems show little significant reductions in migrant flows: politically the hi-tech border fences become political theatre, symbolizing that the authorities are tackling this critical problem. And because the focus of the initiative lies beyond the border, the scope of activity will slowly creep beyond existing borders using surveillance and robotics to create more targeted early warning and deterrence capacities. In this way, the poorest and most vulnerable of people, the flawed consumers of Zygmunt Bauman, become expendable parts of an unprecedented money making process to fix rather than resolve the urgent human fallout of current energy, climate and security agendas.
The presentation will name, exemplar and map the emergent initiatives across Europe and look at potential and sustainable policy initiatives which were both more treaty compliant and humane in securing people not just territory.