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CAMPAIGNERS have accused the Home Office of profiting from refugees’ misery by hosting an arms fair displaying border security technology this week.
Security and Policing 2022, an annual Home Office-funded event in Farnborough, closes today, having seen arms firms, surveillance companies and police chiefs rub shoulders with ministers and civil servants.
Journalists and the public are not permitted to attend the secretive arms fair, which has been running for 40 years.
The Home Office says that the event promotes Britain’s “world-leading security capabilities and strengthens our relationships with our international partners.”
But anti-arms and refugee rights campaigners condemn the fair for being “at the heart of the hostile environment and repression.”
On Tuesday, groups including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign held a vigil in Westminster to coincide with the fair and remember the victims of Britain’s border-control regime.
Among the 23 arms exhibitors at this year’s fair is arms giant BAE Systems, French military equipment firm Thales and Italian company Leonardo, as well as Britain’s Border Force. Foreign governments invited to attend include those of Israel, Morocco, Iraq and Egypt.
Campaigners pointed out that several of the firms listed saw their share prices jump on February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
CAAT spokesperson Kirsten Bayes said: “At the same time as closing down routes to safety for people on the move, the Home Office is promoting the sale of weapons and technology to police our borders — and making crossing them ever more deadly.
“The war in Ukraine and the UK’s demonstrably poor support for those fleeing conflict and repression shows once again the terrible inhumanity of this approach.
“This has been true whether those needing the UK’s help have come from Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan or Ukraine. It is high time this arms fair, which has spread nothing but misery for over 40 years, was brought to an end.”
Israeli cyber-surveillance firms were also amongst the exhibitors pitching to 27 British government departments at the fair.
PSC director Ben Jamal said: "By inviting cyber weapons companies to exhibit their products to UK government agencies the Home Office it is not only facilitating human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians, but encouraging the proliferation of dangerous, anti-democratic cyberweaponry - that is first tested on Palestinians - and exported around the world.
"The Home Office should not be facilitating the sale and commercial integration of these technologies into the institutions of a democracy, it should be implementing a ban of the two-way arms trade with Israel.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on individual companies and attendance at this event. Attendance does not constitute support for anyone’s organisation.”
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