International Day of Peace: Who profits from the discourse of fear in migration control?

By Arés Perceval and Andrea Farrés


Today, September 21st, is the International Day of Peace. The United Nations established it in 1981 and two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly decided to designate this day as a day of non-violence and ceasefire, dedicating it to strengthening the ideals of peace. In 2016, it took a step further, recognising the Human Right to Peace as part of the so-called third generation rights or solidarity rights.


Peace, however, is not just the absence of conflict. Peace is the right to a life free from violence and discrimination. However, when we look at the Mediterranean, we find a space where these rights, which are fundamental to the construction of peace, are far from being respected. In Spain, migration policies, the result of structural and highly militarised racism, cause thousands of deaths for which no one is held responsible.


This year, the “Caravana Obrim Fronteres” has continued to denounce the violation of rights suffered by people who migrate, and has focused on the relationship between the sale of weapons to countries in conflict and migration. As stated in the report "The Spiral of Violence of Fortress Spain" by Novact and the Centre Delàs, one in five Spanish weapons have been exported to places involved in armed conflict or tension.


As can be seen in the database published by Centre Delàs "Building walls", in addition to the triple fence in Melilla, which is one of the most unequal land borders in the world, there are three maritime operations (Hera, Indalo and Minerva) carrying out migration control in the Spanish Southern Border (Frontera Sur). These are mainly financed and led by FRONTEX, the European Border Agency, as the southern Spanish and European border is a key and strategic landscape for migration control.


However, nearly 90% of migrants enter Spain legally (by plane) and then stay on an irregular basis, so this phenomenon has nothing to do with border control. As the Por Causa foundation analyses, the migration control industry, which includes the outsourcing and armoring of borders, deportation flights and internment centres, and moves huge amounts of money, is governed by political interests and corporate profits that use the discourse of fear and hate to justify this disproportionate investment in securitization.


These land, sea and virtual borders, which cost billions of euros to the public purse, are Europe's laboratory, and their expansion, as the Transnational Institute, the Centre Delàs and Stop Wapenhandel point out in their report "The Business of Building Walls" is on the rise.


Who, then, benefits from this "industry", which promotes the politics of fear and a repressive border regime with armoured borders? Por Causa, through its research, uncovers a tangle of opaque public tenders, powerful lobbies and the revolving door system. Contrary to what we might think, this industry is no minor one: as Por Causa also identified, from 2014 to 2019, the government awarded 660 million euros in contracts related to migration control. This does not even include the funds transferred to governments outside the European Union, such as Morocco, which are known as "development aid". Spain channels this aid directly to public or private institutions in the countries or indirectly through ONGD partner organisations (Spanish NGO coordination for development) and international organisations (Where is the money? Por Causa).


Analysing more than 1,600 contracts, PorCausa concludes that in Spain the major beneficiaries of this public spending, which between 2014 and 2019 amounted to more than 100 million euros, are multinationals such as Indra, Dragados, Ferrovial, Babcock Mission, ACS, Atos, Telefónica, Amper and El Corte Inglés. In addition, these companies, after these contracts were awarded to them, employed dozens of politicians, becoming a worrying example of the revolving door system.


The declaration adopted by the General Assembly in 2016 on the Right to Peace proclaims that everyone has the right to enjoy peace in such a way as to promote and protect all human rights and to achieve their full development.


However, as the report "Human Rights on the Southern Border" by the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía ( Andalusian Association for Human Rights) concludes, Spain has a repressive border regime, which results in "a deterioration in the conditions in which mobility takes place. [...] Migration is a social reality and an everyday practice. The creation of legal and safe routes must be the consequence". As Por Causa emphasizes, from 2014 to 2019 Spain spent 8 times more public money on detaining and expelling migrants than on promoting their reception and social and labour integration.


As long as Spain continues to encourage the discourse of fear in order to promote securitisation and the large multinationals, especially in the military industry, profit from migration control, the right to peace will never be possible.


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