Australia’s militarised border

Recurring claims about the militarisation of the Department of Immigration & Border Protection have been denied by the Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Michael Pezzullo. He asserts that the introduction of a law enforcement approach with uniformed officers and arrest powers is a result of modernisation as a result of government direction. But is Pezzullo really naïve enough to miss the larger reality?

While Pezzullo talks of law enforcement capabilities and denies claims of militarism the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, and the Minister for Defence, Senator Marise Payne, are issuing a joint media release confirming that “The Australian Defence Force, in partnership with the Australian Border Force (ABF), operate the largest and most capable maritime surveillance and response fleet in Australia’s history”; Operation Sovereign Borders is known as a military-led, border security operation; Department of Immigration and Border Protection public servants are chartering RAAF jets to move asylum seekers, refugees and their escorts between Australia, PNG and Nauru; and FOI documents reveal that the appalling case of a Somali refugee raped on Nauru aroused the interest of the Border Security Policy National Security division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet rather than its Social Services & Immigration division.

The border security industry has all the hallmarks of the nascent military/industrial complex from the 1960s.

We may be appalled by Donald Trump’s proposed border wall to block the entry of Mexicans into the United States, but Australia created its own security wall some time ago.  It’s called the ‘excision of the mainland of Australia from the migration zone’ and is vigorously defended with P-8A Poseiden aircraft and medium altitude unmanned aerial systems.

Cashing in on the political ‘dog-whistling’ about “illegal arrivals” are multinational, military conglomerates many of whom have substantially contributed to the mass exodus of people from war torn countries. The Border Security System Market – Global Forecast to 2022 released in May expects that with rising territorial conflicts and geopolitical instability the market will reach USD $52.95 billion by 2022.

Documents released by WikiLeaks from the Italian surveillance malware vendor Hacking Team included the global border security market forecasts from 2014-2024 which explains that ‘The global border security market is currently undergoing an unprecedented boom period as a result of the ‘virtuous cycle’ that has recently formed and will be driving spending for some time.  This dynamic is fuelled by three interlocking developments. First, there are increased pressures and risks impacting national borders, such as illegal immigration or terrorist infiltration. Second more financial resources are available for border security projects especially in developing countries…but also in rich countries such as Saudi Arabia or Australia. Third, there is the maturation of new technologies (such as UAVs) which are now offering accessible solutions to previously intractable border security problems’

The promotors of the 2016 annual Border Security Expo encourage corporations to exhibit in order to ‘tap into multi-billion dollar budgets for equipment, products and services.’ They’re on the right track: the Coalition’s first funding pledge of the 2016 election campaign was not to regional Australia or health or education but was $99.2 million to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for a new system to provide more information to officials about travellers.

Particularly since 9/11, consecutive Australian governments have shunned international obligations and diminished asylum seeker protection in favour of highly lucrative obsessive technologies and a militarised means of blocking the arrival of legitimate asylum seekers. They have rolled out the warehousing of human beings in poor third states, bribed people smugglers and ramped up border management equipment and weaponry, biometrics and their populist awareness raising campaigns for would be “illegal arrivals”.

Public fear whipped up by nationalism and populism combined with extravagant spending on new technologies have already led to the militarisation of our border. The multinational border control industry sniffed the procurement breeze long ago and has seized the opportunity to take advantage of Australia’s ignorant, weak, self-interested political leadership. Darkness lies ahead.

Copyright Kellie Tranter 2016 

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