Border Militarisation Strategies in the US and EU
As mentioned above, border militarisation is manifested in both the application of military hardware and militarized tactics and ways of thinking. Concerning hardware, the link between the military and CBP in the US is readily apparent. Using “program 1033”, excess equipment worth some $5 billion has been transferred from army stockpiles to civilian law enforcement agencies, including CBP and ICE. This equipment includes body armour, assault rifles and armoured vehicles, now used to police the border. Next to that, CBP specifically recruits veterans into its force, even sending recruiters overseas to recruit soldiers from the battlefield (Jones & Johnson, 2016; Musgrave et al., 2014).
Just like the US, the EU is also using military hardware, like drones, to surveil its external border. Yet, except for FRONTEX’s Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs), military weapons aren’t common among European border guards, while variety exists across the member states’ agencies. Militarisation of borders in the EU is more pronounced in the application of military rationality when enforcing the borders. Three militarised principles employed in border enforcement stand out in both the US and EU: the control of the “enemy’s” mobility, preemptive logic of preventing future problems and techno-solutionism. Techno-solutionism and preemptive logic manifest themselves in what CBP calls “smart fencing”, the deployment of sensors in remote parts of the border, or in Eurosour (European Border Surveillance System), an information exchange platform that aims at integrating the border surveillance all over the EU to create real-time “situational awareness”, a term also borrowed from military jargon (Jones & Johnson, 2016).
Preemptive military logic also leads both the US and EU to attempt to externalise their border enforcement towards neighbouring countries, Mexico for the US and the North Africa and Turkey in the EU’s case (Jones and Johnson, 2016; Slack et al., 2016). These policies reward countries through which migrants pass to their final destination in the EU or US if they forcefully prevent irregular migrants from continuing their journey. In doing this, the EU doesn’t refrain from partnering with militias in Libya, that next to being the country’s “coast guard”, are also involved in torturing and enslaving migrants in Libya as well as smuggling of goods towards the EU (Pradella & Cillo, 2020).
Lastly, both the EU and US attempt to control irregular migrants’ mobility by various means. One manifestation of this is the mortification of previously well-frequented crossing sides, like the border fence between Tijuana and San Diego or around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, more or less deliberately drive migrants into more hostile terrain in order to “deter” their crossing (Pinyol-Jiménez, 2012; Slack et al., 2016). Another practice of controlling mobility is the kidnapping and forced relocation of migrants. Tazzioli and de Genoba (2020) use the term kidnapping to describe the “family separation” policy employed by the Trump administration in 2018, as well as the “closed ports” policy used by the EU to trap shipwrecked migrants and their civilian saviours at sea. Kidnapping in this context is used to regain control over the migrants' mobility for multiple reasons: as a punitive tactic for “deterrence”, as physical constriction and forced relocation of migrants bodies and lives or for intra-state political as well as inter-state diplomatic leverage (Tazzioli & De Genova, 2020).