Frontex, Acpo and the policing of Fortress Europe

[] On
23rd March 2010, No Borders activists disrupted a high-profile
conference about ‚policing the borders‘ that brought together Frontex,
the UK Border Agency and senior police officers from various UK police
forces [press release | video].
In their shock and dismay, some of the highly esteemed delegates left
behind their welcome packs as they rushed out of the conference hall
one after the other.

Here we reproduce the programme, the list of
delegates and their bios, and two of the main presentations that were
included in the welcome packs, one by Frontex and the other by ACPO.

Policing The Borders conference – programme, list of delegates and bios
– application/pdf 2.5M

Policing The Borders conference – The Frontex presentation
– application/pdf 3.2M

Policing The Borders conference – The ACPO presentation
– application/pdf 1.1M

Quick Notes

The conference was organised by Capita Conferences, a UK company that
specialises in organising policy forums and conferences that bring
together policy makers (local authorities, government agencies, police
forces, etc.) and private or semi-private bodies that use these
’networking opportunities‘ to influence policy makers and build
‚partnerships‘ with them. Capita Conferences is part of Capita Plc,
which describes itself as the UK’s leading business process outsourcing
(BPO) and professional services company.

– Following the action,
Capita Conferences wrote to all delegates apologising for the
"disturbance" at the conference and claiming that, "in our 20 years of
experience in producing and running conferences, we have never had our
events interrupted because of an illegal protest." Well, guess that
will change from now on – although the letter promised that Capita will
be "reviewing [its] procedures internally to ensure that unauthorised
persons do not enter [its] conferences" and that it is currently
"talking to [its] venues about security."

– The stated aim of Capita’s 2nd annual Policing the Borders
conference was to "bring together key stakeholders to discuss the
latest challenges, developments and improvements to the UK’s extensive
border security infrastructure and operations." Delegates included
senior police officers from the Association of Chief Police Officers,
the Metropolitan Police, Sussex Police and various other police forces,
as well as representatives of the European border agency Frontex, the
Identity and Passport Service and other UK government bodies (see the
list of delegates above). The conference also featured an exhibition
about border security and surveillance technology, which included Serco
promotional posters.

– The conference was chaired Ian Hutcheson,
the security director of BAA Airports Ltd, who is responsible for the
’security strategy‘ of all BAA business and works directly with many UK
and European regulatory and law enforcement agencies concerned with
aviation security. The former police officer is also said to be a
‚terrorism expert‘. BAA is a private company that owns and operates six
British airports and several other airports worldwide, making it one of
the largest transport companies in the world. It is now owned by ADI
Ltd, a consortium led by Grupo Ferrovial that also includes Caisse de
depot et placement du Quebec and GIC Special Investments.

– The
protagonist of the conference was Edgar Beugels, the head of the
Research and Development Unit at Frontex, who gave a presentation on
"how to solve cross-border challenges and create an integrated border
control system." Beugels, a lawyer by education, has been working for
Frontex since its foundation in 2004-5, previously as a security
officer and, since 2007, as the head of Research and Development, a
unit within the agency’s Capacity Building Division. Beugels had worked
for the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en
Naturalisatiedienst, IND) for 15 years, actively participating in the
development of border controls and security policy at both national and
international levels. From his bio, Beugels seems to be personally an
enthusiast of "innovative techniques in the field of border control,"
such as biometric chips and automated border checks.

– While none
of the information included in the Frontex presentation is particularly
secret or surprising, it is interesting to see how the agency sells
itself to public authorities without the spin and image-polishing that
usually accompanies its publicly available material.

The first
part of the presentation analyses the state of ‚illegal‘ immigration
into the EU. Commenting on the twisted, and probably inaccurate, data
he was presenting, Edgar Beugels claimed that "many illegal immigrants
will lie about their nationality to further their asylum claim" and
that "most illegals cross borders with a forged passport." This is then
used to justify the need for better border checks and surveillance. The
aim: "External [EU] borders [that are] open for bona fide
(in-good-faith) flows of persons and goods, but closed for illicit,
illegal activities." In other words, borders are that closed for those
with the ‚wrong‘ skin colour, passport or bank account. The ‚tools‘ to
‚manage‘ these flows advocated by Frontex are the introduction of
biometrics for identity verification, automated border checks and
border crossing databases, as well as the use of military-style
unmanned aerial and ground vehicles to monitor external EU borders and
‚catch‘ migrants trying to enter Europe. This is basically Frontex’s
‚future roadmap‘ presented at the conference and the money for the
research behind it would mainly come from the Seventh Framework
Programme for Research and Technological Development, the EU’s main
instrument for funding research in Europe between 2007 and 2013, which
was described by Beugels as "basically, a big pot of money that can be
used for border security research." The UK does not currently
participate in Frontex’s border security programme and one of the aims
of the presentation seems to have been convincing UK officials of its

Of course Beugels did not forget, as is the norm
these days, to mention the necessity of striking a balance between
security and the freedom of the individual. The individual he had in
mind, however, seems to be only a white, privileged, law-abiding
European citizen. For this is how he concluded his presentation:
"Illegal immigrants will always want to come to Europe. It is for this
reason that we must continue to work hard at securing the external and
internal borders of Europe as best as we can, with a sustainable plan
of keeping this security tight in the future." A few minutes before
that he had said, "We hope to create a system where it becomes less and
less important WHERE you are from, whether it is Africa or Nigeria or
Sudan, and more important WHO you are. Do you have a visa? Are you
permitted to work? Do you have money to travel? Are you a terrorist

We leave you with Frontex’s new theory of identity but
can someone tell this man that Africa is a continent not a country, and
that both Nigeria and Sudan are in it, so the use of ‚or‘ here is
incorrect and inappropriate!

– The other main presentation was by
Tony McCarthy of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on
"the national strategy for UK border policing." A candidate for ACPO’s
Terrorism and Allied Matters office since 2006, McCarthy is a senior
liaison to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and the Serious Organised Crime
Agency (SECA) for border-related matters and leads on matters
concerning Frontex. McCarthy is said to have been instrumental in the
establishment of the UKBA and is currently leading on assessing the
impact of the use of counter-terrorism legislation at ports and
airports, used mostly to stop and search and question wrong-looking
suspects, such as Muslims and activists, particularly the use of
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which overrides people’s right to
silence. ACPO is a private company and not a publicly accountable body.

The ACPO presentation focuses on the role of police at the UK borders
and their ‚collaboration‘ with other agencies. It also considers the
impact of counter-terrorism legislation used at ports and airports on
‚communities‘. ACPO seems keen on merging all police forces and other
border agencies into one agency to deal with organised crime at the
border (which presumably includes ‚illegal‘ immigration), as well as
the "active enhancement" of border policing arrangements (i.e. more
powers for the police), both of which "await" the government’s
approval. The presentation seems to put much emphasis on the role of
Special Branch and anti-terrorist legislation in protecting the UK
borders against multiple ‚threats‘, including that of ‚illegal
immigration‘, particularly the use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act
2000, whose details and statistics are currently withheld from the
public. ACPO’s efforts to come up with a "national accountability
framework" for its use appears to be a cynical attempt to silence
criticisms of its draconian powers and misuse.

We leave you also with ACPO’s new theories of security, terrorism and community.