Controversial prison industry summit held at Tower of London targeted by protesters

Controversial prison industry summit held at Tower of London targeted by protesters

Date: 15 November 2016

  • G4S among the security firms and other companies profiting from the detention system who will be gathering at £1500 per head event
  • Tower of London trustees asked to cancel event warned of ‘reputational risk’

More photos can be found here.

A controversial security industry summit being held at the Tower of London was targeted by protesters this morning, who accused the event of “ profiting from migrant suffering.” Campaigners say that while the public face of the European Custody and Detention Summit is careful to spin itself as a networking event to share best practice, a leaked copy of the summit’s agenda exposed both the commercial motivations and the involvement of a series of disreputable companies in the sector.

Originally the event organisers had described the Tower of London as ‘the world’s original high security prison,’ but subsequently removed it from their publicity materials after criticisms from the campaigners.

The protesters handcuffed themselves to each other while prominently displaying barcodes on their bodies, symbolizing the profits being made from the suffering inherent in prisons, borders and the arms industry.

Among the security companies speaking at the £1500 per head event today 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. In 2010 alone there were 773 complaints against G4S by detainees, including 48 claims of assault, and over half related to Brook House detention centre, near Gatwick airport. 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

The coalition of campaigners have written to the trustees of the Historic Royal Palaces charity who are responsible for the management of the Tower of London saying that “By allowing the Tower of London to be used by industries whose profits are directly based on repressive and violent practices that result in the suffering of marginalised communities, we feel that the reputation of the Historic Royal Palaces’ Trust is being tarnished.”

On Friday 11 November the organisers of the protest were invited to hear justifications about the nature of the summit from the organizers, but they left the meeting with their original criticisms unchanged.

Aisha Dodwell, a migration campaigner at Global Justice Now said: “There’s such an ocean of human misery and suffering involved in militarised borders, detention centres and prisons, and it’s obscene that a private sector is not only making billions of pounds out of that misery, but actively looking for ways to expands its markets. The Tower of London is one of the UK’s most iconic cultural landmarks, and it’s disgraceful that it would allow itself to be associated with such disreputable arms companies and private security firms.”

Tom Kemp of the Reclaim Justice Network said: “Despite the claims of the organisers, this summit is not about improving conditions for people in custody.  Security companies, prison builders are coming together to sell technologies that expand and privatise the criminal injustice system. This is not a penal reform event, this is a trade fair that promotes the interests of the industries of incarceration and border enforcement.  We want an immediate end to profiteering that contributes to the expansion of unjust systems of punishment and detention”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “As long as companies like G4S have a hand in policy events like this, the outcome can only be further criminalisation, repression and incarceration of migrants and other marginalised groups. The Tower of London can not allow itself to be used as a prop to legitimise arms companies and those who profit from misery.”

The coalition of groups who are organizing the protest include:

Reclaim Justice Network. SOAS Detainee Support. Campaign Against Arms Trade. The London Latinxs. Right to Remain. Brick Lane Debates. Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol). Lesbian and Gays Support the Migrants. NUS Black Students’ Campaign. Stop the Arms Fair. Global Justice Now.