REFUGEES arriving on Aegean islands are whisked to “hotspots”—registration centres run by the European Asylum Support Office. It is often a traumatic moment. Those who fear being sent back to Turkey can turn angry or violent. “We have had a number of riots, staff have had to be evacuated quickly”, says an EASO spokesman, Jean-Pierre Schembri. So, for the first time, a private-security firm, G4S, has been contracted to guard the hotspots, bolstering the efforts of Greek police. “We felt we needed additional security”, he adds.

Such firms are increasingly active across much of Europe. “More missions previously done by the police, or by public authorities, are now given to private companies” says Catherine Piana, head of COESS, a pan-European industry lobby group in Brussels. She estimates there are 2.2m licenced guards in Europe, roughly as many as there are police. Infrastructure, such as airports, ports, nuclear power plants and hospitals, are mostly protected by privately contracted firms these days.

Migration is one reason that such firms are flourishing. Austrian officials, as they struggled with a refugee influx...Continue reading