Erik Prince founded the private military contractor once known as Blackwater, which became notorious during the Iraq War for a series of scandals, including a 2007 massacre that left 17 Iraqis dead.
Today, Prince runs a Chinese government-backed firm called the Frontier Services Group. And in a new op-ed for the Financial Times, Prince says that he has the solution to the ongoing European migrant crisis, and that it involves working with companies that sound an awful lot like Blackwater.
Prince, an ex-Navy SEAL, says that a “public-private partnership” between European governments and “professional providers” should be struck in order to deal with border security. He advocates for armed border policing units that would be staffed by locals (predominantly Libyans), who would be mentored by instructors with a “European law enforcement background” over a 10-week course.
“There would be nowhere for migrant smugglers to hide: they can be detected, detained and handled using a mixture of air and ground operations,” Prince wrote. “This type of security operation could be established quickly and efficiently, for less than the cost of the EU’s current operations, through a public-private partnership.”
If Prince’s history with the military contract work in the U.S. is any guide, his proposal for privatizing border police will raise some eyebrows.
Four ex-Blackwater contractors were sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2015 for their role in the 2007 massacre in Iraq. Blackwater, which Prince sold to investors in 2010 (who renamed it multiple times), received more than $1 billion in contracts from the American government between 2001 and 2007; at one point Congressional investigators found that the firm charged more than $1,200 a day for its mercenaries in Iraq — more than six times what a U.S. soldier is paid.
Earlier this year, The Intercept reported that since 2014, “Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force” for use in Africa. These efforts include an attempt to build a private, mercenary air force with help from Blackwater-era associates. Prince is reportedly being investigated by the Justice Department.
Prince is today estimated to be worth more than $2 billion. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education. She is perhaps most well-known for backing school privatization reforms in Michigan that gutted Detroit’s education system.
Privatizing border police wouldn’t be the first time that regional governments rely on for-profit companies to help manage migrant and refugee problems. Such firms, which are commonly hired by cash-strapped European authorities, have been linked to human rights abuses in Austria, Greece, and elsewhere.