Divestment from the border industrial complex could spur “a politics that protects and upholds the rights of refugees and migrants”

A recent report reveals the largest corporate players in today’s global “border industrial complex” and calls for divestment from the industry, as a way to force states to halt the implementation of harmful border security models.


The report, Financing Border Wars, published by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Stop Wapenhandel earlier this month, exposes the corporations building and financing the infrastructures that facilitate state migration and border control.

The border security market is booming with a predicted annual growth of between 7.2% and 8.6%, likely to reach a total of $65–68 billion by 2025. In this, Europe stands out with an anticipated annual growth rate of 15% and where large expansion is expected in the biometrics and artificial intelligence (AI) markets.

However, as the report astutely points out, corporations are not just accidental beneficiaries of highly militarised border policies but “actively shape the policies from which they profit and therefore share responsibility for the [resulting] human rights violations.”

Building the border industrial complex

The report investigates five key sectors of the expanding industry: (1) border security (including monitoring, surveillance, walls and fences); (2) biometrics and smart borders; (3) migrant detention; (4) deportation; and (5) audit and consultancy services.

Table 1 (below) lists the main corporations involved in the global border and migration industry, as identified in this and in previous reports in TNI’s Border Wars series.

Key companies in the border industrial complex identified in Border Wars reports

Name

Country

Publicly listed?

Sector

Key countries/
regions provided

Accenture

Ireland

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• EU
• Japan
• USA

Airbus

Trans-European

Yes

• border security

• Africa
• Australia
• Europe
• Middle East

Atos

France

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• Europe

Boeing

USA

Yes

• border security

• USA

Booz Allen Hamilton

USA

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• USA

Civipol54

France

No

• biometrics & smart borders
• audit and consultancy

• Africa
• Europe

Classic Air Charter

USA

No

• deportations

• USA

Cobham

UK

No

• border security

• Australia

CoreCivic

USA

Yes

• migrant detention

• USA

Damen

Netherlands

No

• border security

• Africa
• Europe
• Middle East

DAT-CON

Slovenia

No

• border security

• Europe

Defendec

Estonia

No

• border security

• Europe

Deloitte

UK

No

• audit and consultancy

• Australia
• Europe
• USA

Elbit

Israel

Yes

• border security

• Europe
• Israel
• USA

Embraer

Brazil

Yes

• border security

• Latin America

Eurasylum

UK

No

• audit and consultancy

• Africa
• Europe
• Middle East

Fincantieri

Italy

Yes

• border security

• Europe

FLIR Systems

USA

Yes

• border security

• Europe
• USA

G4S

UK

Yes

• deportations
• migrant detention

• Australia
• Europe
• USA

General Atomics

USA

No

• border security

• USA

General Dynamics

USA

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders
• border security
• migrant detention

• USA

GEO Group

USA

Yes

• migrant detention

• UK
• USA

GMV

Spain

No

• biometrics & smart borders
• border security

• Europe

Hensoldt

Germany

Yes

• border security

• Africa
• Europe
• Middle East

IBM

USA

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• Australia
• Europe
• USA

IDEMIA

France

No

• biometrics & smart borders

• Africa
• Australia
• Europe

Indra

Spain

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders
• border security

• Europe

Intermarine

Italy

No

• border security

• Africa
• Europe

Israeli Aerospace
Industries

Israel

No

• border security

• Europe
• Israel
• USA

L3 Technologies

USA

Yes

• border security

• USA

Leonardo

Italy

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders
• border security

• Africa
• Europe

Lockheed Martin

USA

Yes

• border security

• Australia
• Europe
• USA

Mitie

UK

Yes

• deportations
• migrant detention

• UK

PAE

USA

No

• border security

• USA

Palantir Technologies

USA

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• UK
• USA

PriceWaterhouseCoopers

UK

No

• audit and consultancy

• Australia
• Europe
• India
• USA

Raytheon

USA

Yes

• border security

• Europe
• Middle East
• USA

Rheinmetall

Germany

Yes

• border security

• Africa
• Europe
• Middle East

Saab

Sweden

Yes

• border security

• Europe

Serco

UK

Yes

• migrant detention

• Australia
• UK

Sopra Steria

France

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• Europe

Thales

France

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders
• border security

• Africa
• Australia
• Europe
• Middle East

Thomson Reuters

Canada

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• USA

Unisys

USA

Yes

• biometrics & smart borders

• Australia
• Europe
• USA

It may come as no surprise that military and security firms, such as Leonardo, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Thales, are among the biggest profiteers in developing and selling border surveillance equipment, including autonomous and robotic systems. However, it is perhaps less known that large IT companies, such as IBM and Unisys, and large multinational services company, Accenture, are involved in the development of the EU’s ‘Smart Borders Package’ and biometric databases.

In addition, migrant detention is increasingly privatised, with businesses cutting corners (and undermining civil liberties and human rights) to bolster profits. Deportations are also now largely facilitated through commercial or charter flights. For instance, the UK has hired British company, Mitie, for its whole deportation process, while EU border agency Frontex has signed a variety of multi-million euro contracts with private companies for the provision of deportation charter flights.

Less visible are those who audit these companies, such as Deloitte and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and those who provide consultancy services to states on border security. “Industrial lobbying in this domain is characterised by a push for the security narrative in dealing with migration,” says the report. Therefore, studies by the French public-private company Civipol, co-owned by the state and several large French arms companies, have shaped European policy on externalisation, including elements of the EU-Turkey Statement and the EU’s Operation Sophia.

These corporations promote and profit in turn from the externalisation of European border militarisation into the Middle East, Asia and, increasingly, Africa. Civipol has since been selected to set up fingerprint databases of the whole population of Mali and Senegal, projects that are intended to facilitate forced removals from the EU.

Financing the border industrial complex

Going further, the report notes that the operations of the private military and security companies involved in border control would not be possible without the involvement of financial actors who provide both public and private equity. The markets for military and border control procurement are characterised by massively capital-intensive investments and contracts.

Table 2 of the report shows the investment companies that are among the largest shareholders in three or more of the 17 publicly listed companies profiled.

Investment companies among the ten largest shareholders in >2 companies profiled (% of total shares of company)

Company

Accenture

Airbus

Booz Allen

CoreCivic

Elbit

G4S

GEO Group

IBM

Leonardo

Lockheed Martin

Mitie

Palantir

Serco

Sopra Steria

Thales

Thomson Reuters

Unisys

Investor

BlackRock

2.43

 

2.82

2.79

   

3.28

5.62

1.63

2.13

 

1.42

5.33

 

1.27

 

2.75

Capital Group

1.97

9.09

 

2.72

         

8.98

             

Geode Capital Management

1.50

           

1.47

 

1.46

             

Fidelity

1.55

     

2.36

         

3.00

   

3.35

0.93

1.68

12.8

Harris Associates

         

6.85

       

3.02

       

1.58

 

Morgan Stanley

1.36

       

3.60

 

0.00

                 

Norges Bank Investment
Management

             

1.01

1.24

 

2.82

   

2.41

     

Northern Trust Investments

1.51

           

1.23

   

5.19

           

SSgA Funds Management

4.21

 

2.54

3.30

   

3.13

5.95

 

15.1

           

3.25

T. Rowe Price

   

9.64

         

1.33

         

2.78

   

The Vanguard Group

8.35

2.07

9.69

15.8

1.38

2.63

15.4

7.87

1.97

7.45

1.99

 

2.98

1.94

1.37

 

12.6

As might be expected, the world’s largest investment companies are among the major shareholders in companies involved in the border industrial complex. The Vanguard Group, in particular, owns shares in 15 of the 17 companies, including over 15% of the shares of CoreCivic and GEO Group, which manages private prisons.

Ultimately, from where is this money derived? “As with most share ownership, the answer is that most of the money is actually ours—with asset managers placing investments on behalf of pension funds, insurance companies and university endowments, as well as directly investing individuals’ savings through brands like Blackrock’s iShares,” says the report.

States, too, are heavily invested: the three large European arms companies, active in the border security market, are principally owned by the governments of the countries where they are headquartered.

Every company involved in or accused of human rights violations either denies them or says that they are atypical exceptions to corporate behaviour. As this report shows, however, militarised border regime built on exclusion will always be a violent apparatus that perpetuates human rights violations.

The report, therefore, concludes by calling for campaigns to divest from the border industry: “a widespread exodus of the leading corporations on which the border regime depends could force states to change course, and to embrace a politics that protects and upholds the rights of refugees and migrants.”

Find the report, Financing Border Wars: The border industry, its financiers and human rights, here.

 

Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error