The Amsterdam Treaty, june 1997
Knocking at the gate, june 1997
Rumania, preselection for the European Fortress
France, Human rights for 'sans-papiers'
Belgie, "He who keeps silent now must fear everything" Ratko Zamir
GERMANYWerkstatt 3 in Hamburg, communication- and information-center for development, peace and human rights, invited us to give a lecture about detention of refugees and illegal foreigners in Europe and, in particular, the Netherlands. The meeting was held in a week of actions against the so-called 'Abschieb- knste', the german version of deportation-prisons.
There are many deportation-prisons and some are big in, amongst others: Kassel, Bren, Hannover, Kln, Offenbach and Frankfurt (airport). At the end of the actionweek, on the 11th of november, a demonstration was held against the Glasmoor- prison. At the demonstration a declaration was read that we wrote together with a prisoner from the border-jail in Amster- dam.
The Glasmoor-gruppe started their activities around this prison in Hamburg last year, after the prisoners had refused to go back to their cell. This Glasmoor-gruppe can be compared with our visits- and actiongroup for the border-jail, the so- called Grenshospitium.
The spastic reaction of the German Ministry of Justice to this kind of critical visits-group, was also quite the same, like: harassing, delays and intimidation, when visiting. Members of the Glasmoorgroup were prohibited to enter the jail, because they had trespassed at a solidarityaction. The first time they were prosecuted on the ground of disturbing domestic peace. At the trial they were acquitted and given damages. The second time they lost the case, up till now 7 of the 9 members of the group are not allowed to enter the Glasmoor-prison. Every sunday the group organizes a solidarity-walk around the prison. The term of imprisonment can be up to 18 months.
Our lecture in the actionweek was preceded by a moving video about the Campsfield-prison in Britain. A video about the resistance in the prison and a tribunal that was held in memory of a woman, who died because of negligence of medical care in the Campsfield-prison. This prison is private property of Group 4, a security company, the security is also privatized. This tendency to privatize is also noticeable in other EU-countries, for example Germany. At Campsfield-prison this means that Group 4 takes care of the transportation to and from the court and also with expulsions. This is a danger- ous development, to which there is no means of control. Out of what ideology will warders work, who earn their money with the misery of refugees? Likewise the repression at Campsfield is heavy. The 'custody' can be up to 15 months.
If we look at the prisons and detention-systems in the differ- ent Schengen-countries, we can see a uniformity in regime, repression, architecture, use of isolationcells, long terms of confinement, the lack of perspective, the rate of suicide, the isolated location of the prisons and the harassing of critical visitors. In due time we want to collect and publish this information. The databank, the European network and our own home-page are means to that. We hope to be able to form a European network about the detention of refugees and illegal foreigners.
seminar about 'solidarity with illegal refugees' Prior to Hamburg we were invited to a seminar about 'solidar- ity with illegal refugees'. The seminar took place in Wissen, near by Frankfurt, from the 3rd until the 5th of november 1995. Main point of focus at the seminar was the building of a network for groups who work with and for refugees, immigrants and illegal foreigners. Participants were active refugee- and anti-racism-groups from Germany. The organizing committee was BUKO, the 'Bundes Kongress Entwickelungspolitischer Aktions- gruppen'.
We were asked to talk about the building of a network, like the Solidarity Network for Illegals in the Netherlands (SNIN). But also the 3rd Chamber-sessions in different cities in the Netherlands form a sort of network, where they try to in- tegrate different fields of work, like: migration, social security, democracy and environment, and the groups active in them. We also told about our experiences with the work in different prisons for refugees, which also takes place in some sort of network.
The groups that were present were each well equipped and active, but the cooperation with other groups in a network was difficult to realize. There were questions about the going in to hiding as a symbolic resistance against the foreigners- policy.
Perspectives?But what will be the perspective of hiding illegal foreigners, with Schengen and the EU breathing down your neck? It was striking that the background history of active groups in Ger- many was very different of those in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands registration, the Identification Bill and the new Linking Act, which will link different computernetworks, are a direct threat to illegal foreigners, indirect it is a threat to legal foreigners. The selection this creates bring about unity between the different groups that are threatened.
In Germany though, these mechanisms of exclusion already exist for a long time and are felt to be normal, for example the law on identification. The opposition against total registration, like in the Netherlands, is not present in Germany. This, although in Germany new laws have been introduced which introduce a Bed, Bath, Bread-arrangement not only for refugees but also for unemployed and handicapped people. In Germany church-asylum is a much wider used means, there is also a church-asylum-network, for information and logistics of sup- port.
The example worth mentioning is Villa Courage, an inter- national women's center. It is a house where black and white women and children live and work together to get violence against women acknowledged as a motive for fleeing your country; to take political action for independent right of stay for women and to directly support women refugees. They are even thinking of setting up a hotel for women, run by women.
General items of discussion about networking were: the pos- sible conflict between the public activities and the direct support of illegals; the perspectives of support for people who go into hiding and the possibilities of entering already existing networks; the formulation of political goals; and how to build a movement which can link different subjects. The seminars main importance was to intensify contacts and to exchange information about the European unification of asylum- policies. We launched our plan for an 'open borders'-databank and many groups signed up.
WildCatAt the seminar an example was told of a campaign in which different terrains of work were bundled, the 'WildCat' cam- paign: 'Razzia-Nix da'(Raid-Nothing there). Different groups and employees work together against police checks of (im)mi- grants and checks at the place of work. One of their goals is to prevent a split between legal and illegal (im)migrants. By provocating and publishing about human rights for everybody, this campaign tries to stop the dehumanisation of society. Among their demands are: advance pay of wages, raises and improvement of circumstances at the place of work and to show that raids often help employers to keep wages and circum- stances at a low level.
GelnhausenAfter the seminar we visited a Reception Center in Gelnhausen, near Frankfurt. A grey and cold complex of barracks, where officially 350 (in fact 1000) people have to live for months and do nothing. A private security company takes care of security. People can be lifted from their bed suddenly and be deported. They are also often summoned to go to the foreigners police for deportation, under the pretext that their papers have to be renewed. Where have we heard that before?