The following is a media report, info-drop and commentary I wrote two years ago this month while consumed with frustration about the lack of interest and attention on what everyone is calling the “Refugee Crisis”– which we refer to as the “Refugee Struggle”. After finding this unreleased writing just a few days ago I realized that all the information below is just as pertinent now as it was when I originally wrote it. The idea was/is that by exploring the struggles of Refugees from and in different regions that people, especially in the US would naturally connect the dots.
Shortly after writing this piece, I boarded a plane for Greece to find out for myself what was really happening in this “First Entry” country where so many Refugees are stuck (in arbitrary detention or by the Dublin III– More on that later). Due to unforeseen complications, all the video footage, photographs and writings compiled during that trip sit on a shelf collecting dust.
The Refugee Struggle is real and it’s global, and its knocking at all our doors. Now that the flood gates to “Fortress Europe” have opened with the blood of Syrians, this struggle is finally getting the attention it deserves, but so much is being left out the story. BAI hopes to dust off our aging material and release some new writings on this topic in the coming days. (So if you don’t see anything new, bug us about it, sometimes we need that)
A big and belated THANK YOU! to Lampedusa in Hamburg, Lampedusa in Berlin, We Are Here / Wij Zijn Heir (Amsterdam), KEERFA (Greece), Pakistani Workers Union (Greece), Afghan Refugee and Migrant Community in Greece, Finn Henning of Moogtography (Hamburg) and Global Uprisings (International) for all the time, stories, space and support.
Originally written in August/September 2013
By A Refugee Contributor to Bay Area Intifada
[BAI NOTE: Refugees and Migrants have taken center stage in news reports across the globe this past week. There are stories of heroic defiance and resistance, and of immense tragedy. BAI has reported on some of these, but has fallen far short of being able to share the vast majority of the stories. The point of these following updates is to help our readers see the connections between the colonial policies of the West and injustices we see at nearly every border.]
The following stories, pictures, videos, infographics and analysis have been compiled from: Indymedia Brussels, UK Indymedia, Kabul blog, No Borders, International, Democracy Now!, BBC, Daily Mail, Human Rights Watch, Calais Migrant Solidarity, Anonymous Contributors & Bay Area Intifada
(TRIGGER WARNING: Then again, everything we post should have one.)
The Undocumented & the Unafraid: ( From Democracy Now!)
In a few weeks, the number of undocumented immigrants deported since President Obama took office will surpass two million — more than any other president. In the time since the Senate passed the immigration reform bill in July, the Department of Homeland Security deported 100,000 people.
Earlier this week, more than 30 undocumented youth who lived in the United States as children, as well as three of their parents, were held by authorities after they attempted to re-enter the United States from Mexico at the crossing in Laredo, Texas. It is the second time in three months that undocumented immigrants have attempted to re-enter the United States through an official point of entry in an act of protest. On Monday, the activists marched across a bridge connecting Mexico to the United States wearing graduation caps and gowns, chanting “Undocumented and unafraid.”
Major protests are planned Saturday and this coming Tuesday to call on Congress to pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Dubbed a National Day for Dignity and Respect, events are planned Saturday in more than a hundred cities nationwide, from Los Angeles to Arizona to Georgia.
[BAI NOTE: Undocumented activists, their families and supporters have been engaging in many different forms of protest, including direct actions like stopping buses of deportees with their bodies, occupying government buildings and infiltrating migrant detention centers. The majority of these actions have been to seek reforms to US immigration policy. These are huge achievements and the courage of these activists should not be downplayed. (They’re doing much more than the “citizen” population of the US, including radicals.) But these reforms would also create barriers that would be impossible to break for undocumented peoples with criminal records–even those whose only violation was being “undocumented.” Caution should also be made with the DREAM act which offers a path to citizenship for those who join the US military. There can not be justice through committing ourselves to the inflicting of injustice to others, who then undoubtedly and ironically become displaced because of the violence others who were displaced brought upon them. ]
The Syrian Refugee Defiance in Calais:
65 Syrian refugees have been staging a blockade of the Calais ferry terminal for over ten hours now, demanding to speak to a representative of the UK Home Office. Some are on hunger strike.
After fleeing shelling and persecution in Syria, the refugees endured further brutality in Europe. In the small French port town they have been subject to evictions from emergency shelters, destruction of possessions and repeated arrest.
The blockaders have therefore resorted to direct action to have their voices heard. They are refusing to leave until their demands are met. In a town where the police act with considerable impunity on a daily basis, it is important that the blockaders receive solidarity from beyond Calais in publicising their demands.
The group of refugees say:
“We are syrian people here in Calais
We have been here now between one and two months. The french government and police have been very bad with us and do not care about us. They have kicked us out of our house into the street. Anytime we find a place to stay the police comes and arrest us, destroy our belongings, close the place. There is nowhere safe for us to shelter in Calais, we are here just for one thing and that is to have asylum in England. Many of us have family and friends in England who we would like to see and be able to live with. There is also a strong Syrian community there, more than in France. We are now demonstrating in the port of Calais, we will not leave until they let us go to England. We demand one person from the UK home office comes here to speak with us, and to see our situation. We have the right to claim asylum in England, but how do we get there ? There is not a legal way to cross. We are about 65 people from Syria at the port at the moment, with our families, old women, mothers, children the youngest being three years old, friends, and they are over 50 police officers. We have the right to live a peaceful life and we have unfortunately war in Syria. We need help quickly. We are looking for safety and shelter in Europe but we have not found it yet and we hope to find it in UK."
In solidarity with the protestors here’s what YOU can do:
1. Tweet to the following accounts, asking them to respond to the blockaders’ demands:
UK HOME OFFICE: @ukhomeoffice
UNHCHR UK: @UNHCRUK
2. Tweet the following account, asking the foreign office to back up its rhetoric on Syria with support for Syrian refugees at home:
UK FOREIGN OFFICE: @foreignoffice
The Afghan Refugee Resistance in Belgium: ( From No Borders International- Call Out)
Since July in Brussels, a group of 400 Afghan people – half composed of families with very young children – is taking action : demonstrations in front of the detention center for migrants in Steeokkerzeel, demonstrations at politicians offices, and so on.
[BAI NOTE:Unfortunately the original video has been taken down. Here’s another video from generally the same time]
On September 8, the group decided to occupy a building on Rue du Trône in Ixelles. It was a political occupation with one precise demand : stop all deportations to Afghanistan, a country devastated by a war in which the Belgian state is taking part. They also asked for a refugee status that would allow them to stay and work in Belgium.
This occupation was a place to gather and organize the struggle to obtain the claimed rights. Mid-September, during one week, the group has gone out every morning to demonstrate in front of the following politicians, in order to get an appointment : the minister of Interior Milquet ; the Afghan ambassador in Belgium ; the minister of War De Crem ; the State Secretary for Asylum and Immigration De Block ; the Prime Minister Di Rupo. This organized group of 400 Afghans is strong.
Too strong, from the state authorities’ point of view. Their determined struggle, involving daily demonstrations was visible and disturbing.
To silence these Afghans, the state has chosen the repressive way : it sent its police to suppress the struggle : water cannons, tear gas, dogs, arrests and detention center for 47 of them..
The struggle of the collective goes on nevertheless. They keep on occupying public buildings to organize themselves
THEIR DEMANDS: ( From KabulBlog ):
1 – Moratorium, no deportation to Afghanistan until the situation in Afghanistan is stable.
2 – Freedom for all detained Afghans in closed centers in Belgium.
3 – One year residence permit + permission for work for all Afghans whose asylum request is rejected
4 – Residence permit for 5 years for Afghans who have been 3 years or more in Belgium without papers
Belgium police violently charge against peaceful Afghan refugees who had gathered for a peaceful demonstration in Brussels Belgium. Police have used force and injured many young boys, women and children.
They have arrested more than 170 people including the refugees’ lawyer and a nurse. Shame on Belgium and Afghanistan’s numb Government which does not know or care about the condition of their citizens.
The Somalian & Eritrean Tragedy off the Coast of Italy: (From Human Rights Watch)
The Somalian & Eritrean Tragedy off the Coast of Italy: (From Human Rights Watch)
The scale of this latest tragedy is unprecedented: at least 94 people have died and hundreds are missing after an overcrowded boat carrying some 500 people caught fire and sank off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, early Thursday morning. Some 150 people have been rescued and the search continues for more survivors even as hope fades.
But deaths of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach European shores are a recurring tragedy, and a continuing European shame. An estimated 1,500 died attempting the crossing in 2011, a year that saw a significant increase in crossings due to the conflict and upheaval in North Africa. Numbers were thankfully lower in 2012, with an estimated 500 deaths – still a shocking number. Yesterday I contacted UNHCR in Rome to get their most recent estimate for deaths at sea this year: they calculated about 100 (there is never any certainty). Tragically, that number has doubled in the space of a few hours.
The Italian government has called for a day of mourning tomorrow. This is appropriate, but of course not enough. The deaths of so many should shock the conscience of all in Europe, including Europe’s decision-makers. For too long, EU border control, including sea border surveillance, has been focused on barring entry, rather than saving lives. That has to change.
Preventing deaths at sea needs to be at the heart of a coordinated European-wide approach to boat migration. This entails improving search and rescue coordination among EU member states, resolving disputes over responsibility for rescue and disembarkation, removing disincentives for commercial vessels to conduct rescues, and replacing the persistent emphasis on border enforcement with the imperative of saving lives.
The Atrocities of Greece: (Anonymous Contributors & Bay Area Intifada)
Racist attacks have continued just days after large scale demonstrations and riots across Greece in retribution for the murder of Pavlos aka Killah P, a well know anti-fascist organizer by Golden Dawn nazi’s. The arrests (and subsequent release) of Golden Dawn’s MPs has meant very little to the refugee and migrant population living in squalor or concentration camps in and around Athens. In the past few days, another dismembered body of a migrant was found in a garbage dump. This is just the latest dismembered body to be found in what has become normal occurrence. Not one person has been convicted of any of these crimes. The Refugees and Migrants that are being hunted down often have no papers or identification. They are the unknown.
From a woman’s statement who had interactions with Golden Dawn (BBC)
“Inside, I saw clubs and shields,” she tells me. “Everyone stood to attention when the leader came in. They talked of beating up gay and dark-skinned people.”
She lights a cigarette and holds back the tears.
“A party member came to visit me,” she says. “He made me an offer: he could break someone’s arm and leg for 300 euros [£250]. Set a car on fire for 1,000 euros. Put someone in hospital for a month for 1,500 euros.
“I didn’t want any of it, so I broke off communication. Later he came back and told us not to say a word or he’d burn us alive.”
Another story which came out of Greece this week is that of a man who was promised asylum papers by the government after his employer had brutalized him– Leaving the man tied to a tree for two days until some sympathizers alerted others of the heinous crime. This story got a lot of attention and was a huge embarrassment for the Greek state. This man just got his deportation papers finalized in the past few days by the authorities. An obvious and transparent measure taken to kill the story.
[BAI NOTE: Here you can find an interactive map documenting time and place of racist attacks on migrants and refugees as well as a short description of the attacks: Crisis Maps]
There has been resistance to the injustices happening in Greece over the years as well. In the past few years Iranian asylum seekers sowed their mouths shut and
200 or more Afghans went on hunger strike. Members of the Pakistani migrant community have also been organizing demonstrations and linking up with local Greek activists. These are not small feats. These acts of defiance are almost always followed by spikes and waves of brutal fascist attacks.
On October 8th there will be a demonstration in solidarity with Nasir Ghasemi. He is from Afghanistan, a migrant in Athens and obtained a temporary refugee card for humanitarian reasons. He was immediately registered as political refugee but still hasn’t gotten his asylum papers. He, along with some fellow Afghans political refugees and asylum seekers, started hunger strike on October 2009 to protest the delay of the asylum process, after 3 months approx, early 2010 they were promised from the state and the municipality of Vyronas (Athens’ suburb) that 100 political refugees would be granted with asylum card in July 2010. They won their fight. He was always active with strikes and unions, and kept fighting along side other immigrants.
He was arrested by Frontex and10 months ago, charged with human trafficking after being
caught on the Greek borders with Turkey while he was attempting to meet his wife and 3 year old daughter in the country. . Note, according to Geneva Convection, as a political refugee he has the right to bring his family to the country in which he is living.
Greek organizers and migrants are working together acoordinate a solidarity demonstration this Tuesday 8 Oct. at 9.00 in Komotini’s court of felonies where he is held. Komotini is a city near the northeast borderline of Greece.
The Need to Destroy Dublin III (And Nations, And Borders):
Originally Posted in freechoiceformigrants
The Dublin system is effectively a trap. It is a trap for the asylum seekers and migrants who find themselves stuck in EU member states which are at the external border of the EU, which they can’t leave or to which they are returned, and in which they have no intention to stay as there’s no future there for them and their families. It is also a trap for those EU member states at the external border of the EU, which, very often, don’t have the labour markets to support all these migrants, don’t have the resources to arrest, detain and return them all while respecting the Rule of Law, and don’t get much practical help from other more prosperous EU member states, especially in the form of allowing certain groups of migrants to enter their territory for family reunification or other worthy motives. EU funds only go some way to alleviate the immense suffering of the migrants who are trapped and need to go elsewhere to start a new life. A policy of freedom of movement for everyone on the territory of the EU should replace that system, in order to facilitate matching job markets with human resources, albeit accompanied with sanctions against exploitative employers of irregular migrants (in order to reduce the exploitation and the pull factor constituted by unrecognised underground labour markets), and with more effective, human-rights-conscious return policies for irregular migrants who can be returned home.
Migrants coming to Europe via Turkey get trapped in Greece against their will. Although European courts agree that refugees human rights are violated by Greece, there is no legal way for them to move to a different European country, even though in Greece they are at risk of violent attack and even murder. Find out more.
The “Lucky Ones”: Bay Area Intifada:
From the concentration camps for migrants and refugees in Greece and off the coast of Australia we’ve seen prison riots and escapes. From the borders of the US we’ve seen people taking risks by puposefully being arrested and deported to make a stand against injustice. Building occupations, street fighting, hunger strikes from the most vulnerable of the human population. And these are the “lucky ones“. These were the ones who didn’t get hung or shot by the Iranian authorities for coming in “illegally” from Afghanistan. These weren’t the ones murder by Greek border guards sneaking in through Turkey. These weren’t the thousands upon thousands who drown at sea, the ones who get robbed, raped and murdered by fiendish opportunists who promise migrants safe entry, these were the “lucky ones“, The “lucky ones” who made it to Europe to be greeted with bats and bottles, welcomed with knives and guns. The “lucky ones” who finally found work and realized that they would never get paid, the “lucky ones” who would and have been murdered for demanding pay from their labor, the “lucky ones” who were met by nazis who feel safe to roam the streets of “sophisticated and civilized” western countries– the countries that promised us all so much if we fought their battles for them in our homelands. These, the “lucky ones” who who did not suffocate in a shipping container. These weren’t “the lucky ones‘ who ended up chopped into pieces and thrown in garbage bags to be found by sea gulls and scavengers. The “lucky ones” who out of their desperation are now pimping out their younger sibling in the city center of Athens, those are the “lucky” little boys and girls who dodged a drone bombing, a barrel bomb and gas attack. These “lucky ones” are f**king resisting and we’re not even paying attention. And we’re the “lucky ones” the really really really “lucky ones” who have had our ancestries severed, can not speak our native tongues, the lucky ones whose lives can be reduced to “assimilate or die“- and that is actually the luckiest, because at-least-there-is-that-choice.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un انا لله وانا اليه راجعون
“Surely we come from Allah , And to him shall we return”