Statewatch article: RefNo# 1075
EU: Report on the: Border Tour (feature)
Statewatch bulletin, vol 3 no 6
Report on the: Border Tour of the New Walls in Europe organised by Bndnis 90/Die Grnen, 29 October - 3 November 1993.

The tour was organised by the office of Claudia Roth MEP to investigate the situation at the new walls of Europe on the borders between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Visits included the detention centre for deportees at Berlin airport, the central reception camp for asylum seekers at Rostock (Hinrichshagen); the working conditions of foreign contract workers in southern Germany. Information was collected on the militarisation of the borders from interviews with police, border guards and town officials in the three countries. The final visits were to Usti nad Labem and Prague where members of the tour saw the appalling conditions in which Roma people live in the Czech Republic and learned of the effects on their lives of changes to citizenship laws. This is a summary of the full report which is available from Statewatch. A Statewatch contributor reports.


The economic infrastructure of eastern Germany has been devastated and the five new Lander of eastern Germany are struggling to cope with the reorganisation of local and regional government. Privatisation of former state owned properties and industries has resulted in a massive rise in unemployment, with the loss of thousands of jobs in rural and urban areas. Large areas are polluted by heavy industry and brown coal extraction. Many villages, including those near the borders, are not connected to the telephone system. These economic and social conditions have provided a breeding ground for racism which has been whipped up by the debate over asylum seeking and the changes to the German constitution in July 1992. There has been racist violence against black people, asylum seekers, migrant workers, Roma people and east Europeans in many of the areas visited.


In Rostock the producers of a video, 'The Truth Lies in Rostock', showed film taken from inside the flats of Vietnamese residents during vicious attacks by gangs on 24 August 1992. Over 3 days concrete blocks were thrown at the building and the residents were put in fear of their lives. The attacks culminated in the burning of six floors of the building. One man was filmed carrying a gun, then with others scaling the walls, setting fire to curtains and flats in which people were living and attacking the police. Residents had returned to the burnt flats after 14 days and were given a month free of rent. Two newspapers, the Ostsee Zeitung and NNN, had been anonymously informed about the events before they happened. The Ostsee Zeitung supported the right of the former contract workers to stay. There had also been an attack 2 weeks before our visit, after which people who were attacked were not allowed back in the building and the attackers were released.

There are about 350 Vietnamese former contract workers in Rostock, more are men than women. Only single people were given contract work. They are "allowed to marry", but if women are pregnant they have to "go home" or have an abortion. A change to the law on 17 June 1993 has allowed some rights to family reunion. Roma organisations say the Roma are not allowed even these rights to stay although it has been difficult for them to prove this.
The head of the workers council of a shipping firm gave his account of living and working in Rostock. Born in Rostock in 1938 he hadn't been aware before of the latent xenophobia and racism in the town and felt powerless to react in August 1992 to the racist attacks. Police had taken the residents to Hinrichshagen, the centre for asylum seekers outside the town, but he said that the same thing could happen at the camp which is isolated and marginalised geographically from the town. He had been shocked at the sight of the ordinary people applauding in the streets whilst the attacks were going on.

In GDR times ships crews were instructed to check for people who were try

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