EU-Spain: New report provides an "x-ray" of the public funding and private companies in Spain's "migration control industry"

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New report provides an "x-ray" of the public funding and private companies in Spain's "migration control industry"
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A new report offers an "x-ray" of the public funding and the companies that make up Spain's "migration control industry", with technology and construction firms such as Indra, Dragados and Ferrovial amongst the chief beneficiaries of national and EU funding directed towards border control, surveillance and the detention and expulsion of irregular migrants.

The report, 'The industry of migration control: the Spanish winners of European Union border policies' was compiled by Fundación porCausa, a non-profit research and journalism organisation, and examines €610 million distributed through over 940 public contracts signed between 2007 and 2017 with almost 350 companies.

Of these contracts, Indra, Dragados and Ferrovial are the three publicly-listed companies that received the majority of funding: €125 million collectively. Other firms benefitting from public funding for border control and management initiatives include Eurocopter, Atos, Tecosa and Amper.

Amper is a Madrid-based company that in 2016 had a turnover of €14.78 million. In 2017, it has been awarded contracts related to migration control worth €14.66 million, leading the newspaper El Confidencial to suggest that its annual results "depend directly on this 'industry'."

According to Fundación porCausa, "For the first time at Spanish-level, our research identifies and to a certain extent quantifies the migration control industry in Spain. It looks at the main industry operators and actors, estimates the importance of its role and offers some tools and resources for further research and investigation."

Questions to the European Commission

The report has prompted questions to the European Commission from Marina Albiol, a Spanish MEP from the GUE/NGL group. She has asked:

"Does the Commission have mechanisms to monitor situations involving violations of human rights in relation to funds directed towards private companies?"

"Can the Commission provide a list of contracts awarded at community level in this field during the last five years?"

It is likely the Commission will take several weeks, if not months, to respond.

Hundreds of contracts, hundreds of millions of euros

This €610 million represents the value of the contracts that the investigation was able to identify, but it is not the total amount of funding available to the "migration control industry": between 2007 and 2017, almost €900 million of public funding directed towards contracts concerned with:

  • border protection and surveillance;
  • detention and expulsion of irregular migrants;
  • reception and integration of migrants through temporary and long-term programmes; and
  • the externalisation of the control of migration flows.

The report focuses on the first two sectors: "they concentrate over 97% of the resources channelled through the 943 public contracts identified in our investigation."

Just over 80% of the total number of those contracts (some €490 million) have been related to reinforcing borders in one way or another, with the report dividing them into:

  • control (22 contracts worth €4.76m);
  • border (141 contracts worth €91.4m);
  • surveillance (120 contracts worth €135.2m);
  • SIVE (the Integrated System for Border Surveillance, Spain's principal component of Eurosur: 119 contracts, €188.7m);
  • maritime surveillance (171 contracts, €65.2m); and
  • joint operations (36 contracts, €4.7m).

From Brussels to Spain

The report also makes clear that this is far from being purely a Spanish affair: "The bulk of the resources for these activities come from different European funds, such as External Borders, Return, Internal Security, and Asylum, Migration and Integration. They also come from Frontex, and from the investments of the Spanish government, through the co-funding of European funds and the construction of infrastructure."

This relation was also examined in the recent Statewatch/Transnational Institute report, Market forces, which notes that:

"While the Commission officially refuses to fund border fences, it has had no qualms about supporting the Spanish system of “border management” through financing “CCTV camera-equipment” in Ceuta and “a watchtower in Melilla,” (€164,000 in 2010),57 the establishment in both enclaves of “police offices to manage procedures related to the irregular influx of migrants” (€448,000 in 2012) and “reinforcement of resources of the State security forces in Ceuta and Melilla” (almost €4 million in 2012)."

The porCausa report provides a forensic examination of the financial-political relation between the EU, Spain and Spanish industry - which is undoubtedly important given the key role that Spain has played in the formulation and enactment of European border control policies:

"As the guarantor of the protection of Europe's south-western border, because of its proximity to Morocco and due to its geographical frontier with the African continent, Spain has been a precursor and a laboratory of the policies that today drive the institutions of the EU and its Member States. It is fair to say that in our country the migration industry began to develop before Europe began to panic over the refugee crisis. And that development has taken place with the connivance of the governments of both political stripes."

However, while the investigation demonstrates that in Spain an industry has developed "without which it would not be possible to carry out the stated objectives of border management policies and which is totally dependent on public funds," the authors state that they have been unable to prove:

"[O]ur second hypothesis, related to regulatory or political capture by the sector. The impossibility of obtaining key information about the relation between the companies and their regulators limits the possibility of drawing unequivocal conclusions in this regard. Despite this, we have good reasons to think that this effect may already be in place or may come to exist in the future - something that should set alarm bells ringing. When an issue as delicate as the management of human mobility falls into the hands of a few organisations and individuals motivated by money, it is likely that they will try to maintain their business."

Read the report

Further reading


Indra, Dragados y Ferrovial, los grandes beneficiados del control de fronteras (El Confidencial, 13 November 2017)

IU pide a la UE información sobre las empresas que se lucran con la represión de la migración (GUE/NGL, 15 November 2017)

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