An arms company in Fife, funded by the taxpayer, has won dozens of contracts globally for border security walls, prompting claims it is profiting from “state repression and conflict“.
US firm Raytheon, which makes systems for smart bombs in Glenrothes, is named in a new report revealing that more than 63 walls have been built along borders, or in occupied territories, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Fourteen walls were built in 2015 alone.
Raytheon, the world’s fourth largest arms firm, has received around £205,000 of taxpayers’ money from Scottish Enterprise. These business grants have been condemned by groups concerned about human rights issues.
The US firm has been linked to alleged war crimes in Yemen. Scottish Enterprise has defended its grants, however, arguing that the defence industry supports thousands of jobs in Scotland including around 700 at Raytheon’s factory in Glenrothes.
The new report says Raytheon’s contracts include the Jordan Border Security Programme, which includes the construction of several barriers on the border with Syria.
The report says: “Winning a series of contracts, worth over $150 million, Raytheon constructed border barriers, patrol paths and watchtowers. The system is integrated with day and night cameras, ground radars, and a full suite of command, control and communications.
“The company and its Jordanian subcontractors also trained the Jordanian Armed Forces to maintain and operate the system.”
Four of the five countries bordering Syria have built walls, the report highlights, adding that the situation of the civilian population there remains critical.
The report says 13 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid and 6.2 million are internally displaced. An estimated 5.6 million have fled the country as refugees since 2011.
Raytheon has also won contracts for border security in Moldova and the Philippines, and between 2005 and 2019, the US awarded Raytheon 35 contracts, worth $37 million for providing surveillance and radar systems for maritime drones.
The report was co-published by the Transnational Institute (TNI), the Dutch campaign against the arms trade, Stop Wapenhandel, peace research group, Delàs Center, and the Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall campaign.
Earlier research by TNI, as reported by The Ferret, said large arms companies such as Leonardo and Thales were also the major beneficiaries of contracts connected to the building of border walls and fences in Europe and the US. Both firms have received grants from Scottish Enterprise.
The report also reveals that Israel has six border walls – the most in the world – followed by Morocco, Iran and India, all with three. South Africa, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Hungary and Lithuania, have all built two.
The report explains that many border walls and fences are built by local construction companies or by state entities, such as the military. However, the walls are invariably accompanied by “a range of technological systems – such as monitoring, detection and identification equipment, vehicles, aircraft and arms – which military and security firms provide”.
The report adds: “Behind the rise in walls and the border industry lies a powerful and manipulative narrative…It argues that migrants, in particular, are a threat to a way of life in particular countries, rather than victims of economic and political policies perpetuated and promoted by some of the world’s richest countries that force people to leave their homes.
“This narrative uses a language of fear to persuade citizens to support security-based solutions, in particular the militarisation of borders, and to turn a blind eye to its deadly consequences.”
Critics of Raytheon include Scottish Greens’ external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer MSP, who said it was “shocking” that the Scottish government has “for years handed public cash to one the world’s biggest arms dealers”.
‘Implicated in alleged war crimes’
He claimed Raytheon’s products have been “implicated in alleged war crimes in Yemen and now in the oppressive infrastructure of ‘border protections’, whereby rich nations fortify themselves against innocent refugees fleeing wars largely caused and fuelled by their own arms exports and direct interference”.
Emma Cockburn, Scotland co-ordinator for Campaign Against Arms Trade, said many of the “worst humanitarian crises are exacerbated by militarised borders and hostile migration policies”.
She claimed this could not happen “without the complicity and technology of companies like Raytheon, who enable and profit from state repression and conflict”.
Cockburn continued: “They profit from selling weapons that fuel conflict and force people from their homes. The same companies then profit again by building the fences and walls, and by producing the technologies to police borders.
“The Scottish Government should not be supporting any of the companies that are profiting from war at any stage, let alone those who are doing it most directly.”
In reply, a spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said it has not provided funding for “projects of this nature to these companies as we do not support the manufacture of munitions”.
“Aerospace, defence and marine companies employ tens of thousands of people in Scotland and we work with them to diversify their businesses with a view to sustaining and growing employment,” the SE spokesperson added.
“We carry out rigorous human rights due diligence based on independent evidence from authoritative sources. Should our investigations raise human rights concerns then support could be declined.”
Raytheon did not respond to our request for a comment.
The company employs more than 1,700 people across England, Wales and Scotland and has estimated that it contributes about £130m a year to the Scottish economy.
Last year it announced plans to open a second high-tech manufacturing facility in Scotland.
Raytheon UK said the 130,000 sq ft site in Livingston would help develop power components for platforms such as armed vehicles and radar systems.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said the export of arms is the responsibility of the UK government, and “we expect them to properly police such exports and to properly investigate any concerns raised”.
“The Scottish Government does not provide funding for the manufacture of munitions – either directly or via Scottish Enterprise,” the spokesperson added.
“The support provided is focused on helping firms to diversify and develop non-military applications for their technology and ensure Scotland continues to benefit from the thousands of jobs in the defence, aerospace and shipbuilding sectors.”
Human rights “due diligence checks” have now been fully rolled out and are a normal part of the Scottish Enterprise application process, they added.