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Repression starts here: protest the European Detention Summit

On the 15th November, you can join CAAT alongside those protesting outside the ‘European Custody and Detention Summit’ which is taking place at The Tower of London. The summit poses as a forum for providers and policy makers to share best practice and discuss the future of custody and detention. It is being supported by a number of penal reform organisations. In reality, it is a trade fair for prison builders and some of the world’s biggest security companies.

Red and black text graphic. "Borders kill! Stop the private companies who profit from refugee suffering. Stop the Custody & Detention Summit. Tuesday 15th November, Tower of London, protests at 7.45am & 4.40pm"

Anti-prison activists, migrant solidarity groups and anti-arms trade campaigners have called for a halt to the forthcoming European Custody and Detention Summit, due to take place at the Tower of London on 15 and 16 November and organised by International Research Networks (IRN). The organisers of the event have removed references to partners and sponsors from this year’s event in response to the campaign, but a glance at the list of “previous sponsors” from organisers IRS’s events in the programme is revealing. Among them are major arms companies Apelsan, Rafael, QinetiQ (in the form of its subsidiary OptaSense), and Thales; as well as private military and security companies Olive Group and G4S.

Thales is one of the world’s major arms companies, and produces a vast array of weaponry from radars, sonars and electronic surveillance satellites, to tactical communication systems and combat management systems, to UAVs (drones) and helicopter avionics, to armoured vehicles, mortar systems and missiles. As Stop Wapenhandel’s Border Wars report has shown, Thales are also a major beneficiary of the rapidly growing border security industry, including recent contracts to provide security facilities at Calais camp and the Eastern Latvian border enabling them to profit from the suffering of migrants trying to reach safety in Europe.

Arms companies are offsetting losses in traditional military orders with the rising demand for border security and surveillance. In other words, the same companies whose weapons are fuelling the wars which are creating millions of refugees are then profiting from a militarised response to the migrant crisis.

Speaking at the conference on Tuesday will be representatives of G4S, one of the world’s biggest security companies. As well as supplying technology used for Israel’s apartheid wall in Palestine, G4S has contracts to provide services in UK detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood and has faced criticism from a range of human rights groups over accusations of abuse by their staff. G4S have even faced claims of manslaughter after the unlawful killing of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being restrained by G4S guards during a deportation flight.

Reclaim Justice Network, who have called this demonstration, describe the event’s function: “this event is not about progressive reform and social justice – this conference is about promoting the penal industrial complex. In reality, the Custody and Detention Summit is a trade fair for security companies, prison builders, and other profiteers to present new technologies that expand and privatise the criminal justice system.”

If arms and security companies have a hand in policy events like this, the outcome can only be further criminalisation, repression and incarceration of migrants and other marginalised groups. It is appalling that people fleeing conflict, war and repression find that the same UK companies who are supplying the technology and weapons that fuel conflict are militarising the borders they try to cross to reach safety. Worse, once they reach the apparent safety of European shores, these same companies profit further from their detention and criminalisation by providing services to immigration detention services and assisting in deportations.

The event will be held at the Tower of London, described by organisers as “the world’s original high security prison”. This isn’t the first time the Tower of London has hosted arms company sponsored events. But it should be the last. It needs to join the growing list of institutions withholding the stamp of legitimacy such prestigious locations confer on the arms trade events they host.

If you’d like to join the actions on Tuesday 15th, you can join and share the Facebook event for the protests. Activists will be meeting on the morning of Tuesday 15th at the Tower of London at 7.45am. (so we can be there when attendees start to arrive), and the same afternoon at the Tower of London at 4.40pm (so we can be there when attendees leave).

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