Afghan refugees on hunger strike; demand border opening.

2/28/16
A group of around 150 Afghanis in Victoria square, central Athens, go on hunger strike. They demand that the northern borders of Greece leading into Macedonia are opened to let them in. They announce their plan to march by foot from Athens to the border, which is more than 500 km away.

Afghanis go on hunger strike – Athens from Ross Domoney on Vimeo.

Rethinking Solidarity with Refugees

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By Budour Hassan

In an attempt to challenge the rising tide of prejudice and incitement against refugees, world renowned artist Banksy sprayed a graffiti of the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs, on a wall in Calais Refugee Camp last month.

The piece depicted Jobs, himself the son of a Syrian immigrant to the United States, carrying an Apple computer in his hand and a black bin bag over his shoulder.

Banksy, who rarely comments on his art, wrote in a statement:

“We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7bn a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.”

While it is commendable that Banksy is dedicating his art and reputation to the cause of supporting refugees, he has provided an example of how even the most well-meaning initiatives to counter anti-refugee propaganda can get it completely wrong.

The problem with Banksy’s latest work does not solely lie in the fact that the move whitewashes Apple Inc., overlooking the corporation’s exploitation of workers and its flagrant and well-documented violations of their most basic rights.

Banksy’s action points to another profound problem: namely, the resort to a consequential argument in order to encourage more humane policies towards refugees.

While it is true that the myth that immigration is responsible for draining resources must be debunked, should our priority then be to saturate the media with individual success stories of immigrants to prove the propagandists wrong?

What position does this argument then force us into when confronted with the reality that millions of immigrants fail to become Steve Jobs? How will then we discuss those who were never granted the opportunity and privileges afforded to Jobs? Should they be dismissed? Of perhaps we agree they are worthy of vilification?

And even more still, what about those who cannot or do not want to be assimilated? Why should immigrants bear, in the first place, the burden to prove that they can “pay back” to the communities that absorb them, a burden with which a white male citizen isn’t encumbered?

In recounting the success stories of immigrants who turned out to be profitable to their host countries, not only are stories of wealthy, educated, and pioneering immigrants brought up. Some even go as far as boasting of those immigrants of Muslim origins who would go on to serve in the American army and fight in the Iraq war.

One can understand why Muslim immigrants facing blanket defamation would desperately try to prove their loyalty to their host countries. Yet was is not so readily recognized is that such arguments only further boost right-wing propaganda, reinforcing the notion that immigrants and refugees must constantly be obliged to prove their loyalty through assimilation—and that those who fail to do so are somehow the “bad immigrants” who then deserve our scorn and disdain.

The same applies to using the consequential argument that refugees, in the long run, will bring economic assets to their host countries.

It is likely that the migrants and refugees trapped in the Calais jungle will identify more with the sweat-drenched workers at the Apple factories than with Steve Jobs, the man who founded said factories.

It is also very likely that many of them will not be able to undergo such a dream transformation from being lost migrants to spectacularly successful businessmen.

That should not make them unworthy of reception, and they should not always be expected to beat impossibly tough odds to show that giving them asylum will provide the host country a sizable return on investment.

When advocating for the reception of migrants and refugees, our main argument should be a deontological rather than a utilitarian one. That’s not to say that there are not actual benefits for opening the borders. And those benefits are not just economic. The social interactions and multicultural diversity that open migration allows can only advance us a species. But it is the conviction that we hold a moral duty to open our borders and hearts to people fleeing war, poverty, persecution and other vulnerable statuses that should guide our attitudes towards refugees. Migrants and refugees should be welcome even if they fail to become the new Steve Jobs of this century or commit the very human sin of struggling to settle and succeed. In fact, human survival is dependent upon our consciousness of this moral duty not only to welcome refugees but to overthrow the man-made boundaries that restrict their movement.

“Only in a world in which the spaces of states have been perforated and topologically deformed and in which the citizen has been able to recognize the refugee that he or she is,” writes Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, “only in such a world is the political survival of humankind thinkable.”

In other words, our collective social, political and cultural survival rests upon realizing that we are all, in one way or another, refugees on this earth. As such, shaking the holy trinity of state-nation-territory, and dismantling the political, economic and bureaucratic regimes and structures that protect and buttress it, is our collective obligation.

Many might claim that this sounds too utopian and will be of little value when we face impoverished local workers who are convinced that migrants seek to deprive them of the scant opportunities they have and compete with them over the very limited resources at their disposal. It is inevitable that this perceived competition over meagre resources will lead an embattled working class to express antagonism and react with outright hostility towards migrants.

As the late historian Howard Zinn argues in his seminal book “A People’s History of the United States,” “the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.” This conflict is not solely fueled by the far right and the populist fascist propaganda. It is also the state, the political and business elite who also fan the flames as they thrive on the emergence and perpetuity of conflict amongst the different oppressed and marginalized groups. While the latter have the kind of rationality and political correctness that prevent them from employing the blatantly racist lexicon promoted by the far right; they incessantly work to alienate oppressed groups against each other to maintain the status quo and remain in power.

But just as abstract utopian principles will not suffice to overcome those very real and tangible tensions and clashes, neither will consequential arguments. Our empirical data to prove the opposite will matter little for those whose racist incitement against refugees is not grounded on facts and figures even if it is cloaked by them.

Highlighting the falsehoods of their claims is essential; yet more essential is to build alliances between the local working classes and marginalized groups and between refugees and migrants. The genuine conflict doesn’t take place between the oppressed but rather between them and the political and corporate elite. The latter are the ones monopolizing the wealth and concentrating resources in their hands while antagonizing their victims against each other and deflecting their outrage from the real oppressor to the most oppressed. Building those alliances and coalitions requires a long process but can only be achieved through intense and horizontal organizing on the ground and forming new networks of solidarity.

Such networks of solidarity are also important to build among the different groups of migrants and refugees. The starting point this process is for our advocacy not to be confined to legal definitions and classifications. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees only applies to those persecuted “for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Excluded from this protection are those who leave everything behind in their home countries to escape poverty and economic deprivation and in search of a more dignified life.

Poverty is war by other means and is the result of a structurally unjust local and global systems. It is primarily funneled by the same global powers that fund wars. Incidentally, those are the same forces that create this division between refugees and labor migrants, barely accepting the former while completely dehumanizing the latter.

It is mandatory to move beyond this legal classification and adopt a humanist, universal approach, because, as Nigerian novelist Teju Cole puts it: “moving for economic benefit is itself a matter of life and death. Because money is the universal language, and to be deprived of it is to be deprived of a voice while everyone else is shouting. Sometimes the gun aimed at your head is grinding poverty, or endless shabby struggle, or soul crushing tedium.”

Rather than being embroiled in a formalistic debate on who is a ‘real” refugee and on who deserves protection, our vocation should revolve around supporting refugees and migrants in challenging the global capitalist system that dispossesses them by shaking the borders that protect it. Shifting the discussion from refugees vs. migrants to mobilizing for open borders. Our discourse has to be as radical as the sacrifices of those migrants and refugees risking their lives leaving their homeland.

Driven from country to country, they, in Hannah Arendt’s words, “represent the vanguard of their peoples.” They do so not only by virtue of their courage to pave the way for others and search for new routes; they do so by exposing the crisis of the nation-state and shaking the concept of sovereignty to its very core. Inspired by their courage, we should follow their lead and break with the narrow legal categorizations that only aim at protecting the modern nation-state and defending its sovereignty. As the slogan goes, “protect humans not borders,” and this stands whether those trying to cross the borders are asylum or job seekers.

From Borders: Injustice, Atrocity, Tragedy & Resistance [The Refugee Struggle]

Survivor of a Golden Dawn attack in Greece

Survivor of a Golden Dawn attack in Greece

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 MailHuman Rights Watch, Calais Migrant Solidarity, Anonymous Contributors & Bay Area Intifada

(TRIGGER WARNING: Then again, everything we post should have one.)

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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. Continue reading

14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax For the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization

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Originally Posted in Silicon Africa

By:

When Sékou Touré of Guinea decided in 1958 to get out of french colonial empire, and opted for the country independence, the french colonial elite in Paris got so furious, and in a historic act of fury the french administration in Guinea destroyed everything in the country which represented what they called the benefits from french colonization.

Three thousand French left the country, taking all their property and destroying anything that which could not be moved: schools, nurseries, public administration buildings were crumbled; cars, books, medicine, research institute instruments, tractors were crushed and sabotaged; horses, cows in the farms were killed, and food in warehouses were burned or poisoned.

The purpose of this outrageous act was to send a clear message to all other colonies that the consequences for rejecting France would be very high.

Slowly fear spread trough the african elite, and none after the Guinea events ever found the courage to follow the example of Sékou Touré, whose slogan was “We prefer freedom in poverty to opulence in slavery.”

Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of the Republic of Togo, a tiny country in west Africa, found a middle ground solution with the French.He didn’t want his country to continue to be a french dominion, therefore he refused to sign the colonisation continuation pact De Gaule proposed, but agree to pay an annual debt to France for the so called benefits Togo got from french colonization.It was the only conditions for the French not to destroy the country before leaving. However, the amount estimated by France was so big that the reimbursement of the so called “colonial debt” was close to 40% of the country budget in 1963.

Continue reading

[Video] Police Violence Against Refugee ” Freedom March From Strasbourg to Brussels ” in Luxembourg

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From Freedom Not Frontex

Luxembourg

Today we were brutally attacked by police forces in Luxembourg during our peaceful blockade action against the summit of the European Council. While the Ministers of Interior Affairs of every EU member state were sitting inside behind closed doors speaking about the Mediterranean Task Force, the new Executive Director of Frontex as well as better ways to administrate the Schengen Area. As the agenda of the summit concerns us, the victims of their laws and policies, we wanted to send representatives of the Protest March for Freedom to read out our demands, since our voices – as a group that‘s fighting for the rights of the oppressed – should be the priority topic of such a summit. Our peaceful blockade got violently smashed by the police and security forces in and around the conference building. During their whole operation the police was not communicating with us in any way, even though most of the officers speak three languages (english, french and german). They ignored all our attempts to talk with them in order to explain to them that we want to talk in behalf of the refugees during the summit. Pepper spray attacks, beating with battons, kicks and bites of the police dogs were the only answer we received. The police also told us that in case we move further into the building where the summit took place, they have the authority to use their guns against us. Many of us got injured.

We pushed back and gathered in the middle of the square with our banners and loudspeakers. We held speeches in order to make ourselves be heard from the outside, as our demand to participate in the summit continued to go totally ignored. Once again we read out our demands, addressed the police burtality and asked the police over and over again to stop escalating the situation as we are a non-violent protest march well known in the public. CONTINUE READING/WATCH VIDEO

For More BAI Coverage of the Refugee Struggle: CLICK HERE

‘No one is listening to us’ : Britain’s Migrant Rebellion

TV grab from a helicopter shot shows det

Posted in Ceasefire

By

On Friday May 2, 150 detainees at Harmondsworth Removal Centre went on hunger strike. The GEO private security firm that runs Harmondsworth quickly responded with repression, breaking up meetings and placing ringleaders in solitary confinement, in an attempt to snuff them out quickly.

By the following week the strike had spread to four wings – more than half the centre, as the detainees presented the authorities with an 8-point list of issues which they wanted resolved.  These included an end to the ‘Fast Track’ asylum processing system which keeps migrants in detention while their cases are being heard; the lack of legal assistance in preparing their cases; an improvement in health conditions and the quality of food.

The protest also spread to other detention and removal centres at Colnbrook, Brook House and Campsfield, where 50 people went on hunger strike until the strike was called off on Friday 16. The causes of these protests are not difficult to understand. Last year a report by H.M. Inspectorate of Prisons on Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre found: Continue reading

Camp Evictions met with Occupations and Resistance

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From Calais Migrant Solidarity

May 28th, 2014

Calais, France

Today more than 300 police descended on Calais to evict three tent camps in the city centre which have existed since last October: the «Syrian camp», which was set up following the occupation of the port, the «Eritrean camp» under the bridge, which was established after the eviction of their squat, also in October, and a smaller camp close to the food distribution. Together these places were home to around 650 people in Calais. The state has tried to disguise this police operation as a humanitarian intervention, citing scabies and poor sanitation to justify destroying people’s homes without providing them with any alternative solution. They neglect to mention that these problems exist only because they have forced people to live in very crowded conditions without regular access to toilets, showers, or places to wash their clothes and bedding. They legitimize the paternal intervention of the state by painting a picture of migrants as diseased and unable to care for themselves, rather than accepting responsibility for creating the circumstances which have caused these problems.
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The humanitarian veil over this police eviction could not have been thinner. Last night at food distribution, nurses from the hospital arrived to distribute scabies medication to those who wanted them. The scene more closely resembled street pushers trying to convince passers-by to buy drugs to stop the itch than free patients consenting to a medical treatment. Understandably, many people were hesitant to swallow unknown tablets for a medical condition which they may not have under the watchful eyes of the police, just a day before they would be kicked out of their homes.

Continue reading

Protest March against Fortress Europe! From Strasbourg to Brussels, May and June 2014

Coming up soon! Freedom March to Brussels kicks off!

Interconnected Refugee & Migrant Movements –
Protest March against Fortress Europe!
From Strasbourg to Brussels, May and June 2014

MARCH-POSTER-A2-Dates2Check out the latest version of the route as well as the main events !
Découvre la toute dernière version de la route ainsi que les événements principaux !
Hier findest Du die letzte Version unserer Route sowie die wichtigsten Events !
Descubre aquí la ultima versión de la ruta y los principales eventos !

If you know any solidarity groups and people in the villages or cities on the way, please connect us with them! We need local support! Please send an e-mail to: freedomnotfrontex[at]riseup[.]net

For Updates and Route information follow Freedom Not Frontex: http://freedomnotfrontex.noblogs.org/route/

For More BAI Coverage of the Refugee Struggle: CLICK HERE

More than 500 refugees from war-torn nations wait in squalid Calais camp

 

From Mirror

Clawing his way over a 12ft razor-wire fence, an immigrant camped on Britain’s doorstep makes a desperate bid for a new life, reports the Sunday People in Calais.

The Yemeni is among more than 500 refugees from war-torn nations holed up in the French port of Calais where they hope to sneak on to trucks ferried 23 times a day to Dover.

Before hurtling over the fence, the Arab unzips his anorak and tracksuit top to display deep cuts across his chest which he says were inflicted by police in Saudi Arabia.

He believes the only place he will be safe is Britain.

So he braves the razor-wire, landing with a bump, then scuttles towards a lorry park in hope of clinging to the axle of a truck heading to the UK.

“This place is terrible,” he exclaimed when the Sunday People visited a new migrants’ camp this week.

Jabbing his fingers towards the sea, he ­insisted: “I must go to England.”

Continue reading

Protest March against Fortress Europe! From Strasbourg to Brussels, May and June 2014

Protest March to Bruxelles: Mobi Video from claudio on Vimeo.

Shared by Wij Zijn Hier/We Are Here (Amsterdam)

Protest March against Fortress Europe! From Strasbourg to Brussels, May and June 2014

Different groups of refugee and Migrant movements in Europe plan a protest march
from Strasbourg to Brussels. This will begin shortly before the European
parliament elections at the end of May. The marching refugee and supporting
activists will walk about 450 km within one month. In an action week before
the council’s summit, we will raise our protest against the policies of
fortress Europe. Read more on: freedomnotfrontex.noblogs.org