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Border Security Privatization. WTF!

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The US and several countries in Europe have privatised border security sighting tighter control on illegal migrants. And while this idea may seem preposterous for some, it has definitely brought in better technology and efficiency. The boons of privatisation definitely outdo the banes but one cannot negate the costs and corruption it has brought to some states. Let’s take a look at how public-private partnership in border security can affect nations for the better or worse.

The Good – Astonishing equipment proved to be boon:

Private organisations can invest more in R&D and create amazing equipment like Tony Stark. In US such equipment is used to resolve the US-Mexican border issues. The GuardBot – a rolling rubber sphere with surveillance cameras attached on two sides like small domed ears was first implemented to explore Mars. Now, after tests run by the US Marine, it is used to locate undocumented people on the blue carpet. The initial version of the GuardBot can roll about 6 mph on land and 3 mph on water and can detect radioactivity, gas, and illegal drugs. 

Of course, the general notion is that enhanced technology leads to better protection. 

The Good – Clear instructions through contract

Immigration control has traditionally been viewed as an inalienable sovereign function of the state. But now the task is being increasingly taken over by private contractors. And why is this a boon?

Private contractors could play an important role in recruiting and training border patrol. this means that the time and resources to be spent on hiring personnel is no longer on the state’s task list. Organisation of personnel into smalls cadres and assigning duty is also done by the private orgs. Authority is also distributed across the band, thus making each person responsible but only for small decisions. This gives them a sense of belonging, plus enables better communication since every officer has a single person of contact. 

Contracted workers also don’t come with long-term ulterior motives of breaking systems, their only purpose is to make money. Which may be a bane on the monetary side of defense. 

The Bad – Lack of accountability and transparency

The true cost of equipment and research may be far lower than is displayed in the report submitted to the Home Ministry. As a result, private contractors may embezzle money from the government for their own heinous activities. Moreover, systems installed for border security may be faulty or inefficient as compared to the costs of installation. But there’s no one to hold accountable as every department is outsourced to private parties. 

Public-private partnerships raise concerns related to transparency – in terms of reporting to the leading party and that to the general public. Both areas of transparency pose significant challenges because no one is willing or can be held liable for tech failure. 

Regular breakdowns in Britains border security systems are feared to leave the country vulnerable to terrorists and serious criminals slipping through the border unnoticed. In addition, their replacement IT project, known as “e-borders”, is still failing to cover 17 million people illegally traveling to Britain each year. 

The Good – Building Trust, Increasing Effectiveness

Privatisation of border security might have what may be called a “softer” benefit – the building of relationships, which leads to increase efficiency at work. Employees get along and ensure effective communication during times of emergency. The general public too has a sense of trust attached with private organisations, not just in border security but all other arenas as well. It thus disperses a feeling of security among the public, which bodes well when it comes to allocating resources to the defense sector. Of course, such security doesn’t transcend across all factions of society.

The Bad – Human rights abuse can take place

Let’s take the case of the US – Mexico border. 

The booming sale in private militarised border technologies directly affects the lives of families in Mexico. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico in the US sometimes forcibly separated from families, meet at the border wall in places like Nogales and Douglas. They hold hands, talk and see each other’s faces. But immigrants have stated that they no longer feel comfortable doing this. They are afraid of the cameras, the sensors, the drones and the Border Patrol checkpoints that pack the 75 miles between both countries.

Moreover, security personnel may ill-treat families who come to meet each other at the border or have to crossover for legal issues. Besides this, experimenting with new gadgets at the border leads to disruption of households in the border regions. And because of lack of accountability and transparency, it becomes even harder to hold the government responsible. Legally holding the state accountable for such human rights violations by contractors requires an additional step showing that it is the state and not just the corporation or individual employee that is responsible for the misconduct.

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