Ending Border Violence Open Letter
Human rights abuses take place at borders around the world. People who move are subjected to hostile and degrading treatment at every stage of their journey. This is not a failure of the system – it is the system - hostile and violent by design. It is well-evidenced that the world's most powerful countries are pouring billions of public money into weapons and walls, recasting what is fundamentally a humanitarian crisis into a security threat that requires a militarised response.
The government’s hostile environment policies export bordering to the private sector, forcing doctors and teachers to act as immigration enforcement officers. Furthermore, the profit-making border industry has catalysed this trend by giving states the tools, technologies, and militarised equipment to perpetrate violence against racialised and vulnerable groups. Companies such as Serco, Airbus, Tui and Accenture make billions from the detention, deportation, surveillance and persecution of people who move, and in turn lobby for more aggressive policies to increase profits and misery.
Universities across the UK currently hold huge investments in the border industry and hold contracts paying millions to these companies for on-campus services, providing those who profit from border violence with both funding and academic legitimacy. No university should be funding firms that profit from detention centres in which people are imprisoned, abused and neglected; surveillance systems which deny basic privacy rights; or equipment designed to hurt and even kill people seeking safety.
As academics and university staff, we expect our universities to be leading on the major social and environmental issues of our time. We join these institutions dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the bettering of society. We become a constituent part of these institutions. They teach about rights and human dignity, while silently profiting from the same violence they claim to condemn. Our universities should be examining and exposing industries that systematically cause harm, not benefitting from them.
We have the power to organise for dignity and justice but doing so requires all of us acting together in solidarity. Students and workers at universities have a crucial role to play in holding these institutions to account for complicity in harm. Academic communities cross borders. It is our responsibility to question and hold these institutions accountable. It is our responsibility not just to ensure our institutions are not complicit in profiting from misery, but to ensure that they contribute toward building a better world for all.
We must resist border violence and the industry that supports it. We demand border divestment for what borders historically represent, for the violence they perpetuate, and for the many ways our universities have profited from them through the centuries.
Therefore, we the undersigned call on higher education institutions to respect people's right to seek safety and to move, stay and thrive as they please. This requires universities to be transparent about their investments, and to break ties with all companies that strengthen the physical and virtual walls which violently control, track and prevent movement.