torsdag 29 september 2011

News: from Frontex land

Frontex – new customer for the arms industry

Last week the European Parliament voted largely in favour of a
stronger mandate for Frontex, the EU border control agency. One of the
changes is that Frontex is now allowed to buy or lease its own
equipment, such as patrol boats and helicopters. New opportunities for
the defense industry!

Before Frontex was completely depending on EU member states for the
provision of its equipment. While its new European Border Guard Teams
will still consist of national border guards personnel provided by
member states, having its own equipement means Frontex will now be
more independent, with greater freedom to act. Frontex also gets an
additional 24 million euro – on top if its 88,4 million euro budget
for 2011 - to step up maritime surveillance.
The extra funding and the expanded mandate of Frontex come in response
to complaints by member state governments and right-winged politicians
about its alleged inefficiency in stopping migration to Europe, and
the call for strengthening of the EU's external borders.

The increasing militarisation of border security, as well as growing
overlap of defense and security matters – not only in the EU - makes
this a rapidly growing market for the industry. Major profiteers
include European defense company EADS, which provided communication
equipment to both the Bulgarian and Romanian border guards and is
involved in a major Saudi border patrol project. Other well-known
defense companies have also moved into the border security business:
Boeing is building a network of watchtowers to guard the US-Mexican
border, Lockheed Martin has its own Border Enforcement Solutions
Center and Thales is involved in EFFISEC, a border security research
project financed under the EU Seventh Framework Program (FP7).
Now that Frontex can has its own procurement budget, new profit
opportunities arise.

Meanwhile, Frontex operations, and EU asylum policies in general, are
severely criticised by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty
International. Just this week HRW launched its new report: 'The EU's
Dirty Hands: Frontex involvement in ill-treatment of migrant detainees
in Greece', in which it states “that Frontex activities in Greece do
not meet the standards set out in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental
Rights, by which Frontex is bound.”

It is very hard to believe that the installation of “a dedicated
fundamental rights officer, to ensure that EU border checks respect
human rights” will change much in this matter. After the vote in the
European Parliament Ska Keller of the Greens said: “The measures
adopted today to improve the guarantee of human rights on Frontex
missions are half-hearted and unconvincing. At least 1,500 people have
already died this year on Europe's borders and, against this
background, it is not acceptable that human rights protection should
be an afterthought for the EU's border agency.”

Frontex' sole purpose is to keep as many refugees out of the EU as
possible, meanwhile disregarding human rights and overlooking the
reasons why people feel the need to escape their home countries. As
German MEP Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke) stated in the debate about the
new Frontex mandate: “We don't need Frontex but a humanized refugee
policy to deal with situations in Africa where people are living in
dire conditions, an asylum system based on solidarity and a new
neighbourhood policy more in tune with our values.”

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