Statewatch article: RefNo# 2858
Europe: Challenge to border regime
Statewatch bulletin, vol 10 no 3/4 (June-August 2000)
After two successive border camps in Germany in the summers of 1998 and 1999 (see Statewatch vol 9 no 5), activists in Europe, and also from the USA, have organised a "chain of anti-racist border camps", to oppose EU migration policies. The aim of the camps is to challenge as well as report on the different aspects of border regimes, from Poland and Slovakia to Germany and Italy. Another aim is to create a practical network between related groups and individuals across Europe through an international presence as well as direct support for refugees and migrants. This year's border camps were a success which the organisers say directly challenge the EU's migration politics.

Eastern European migration policy scrutinised

The first of the camps was organised by Polish anarchists in Ustrzyki Gorne in the Bieszczady region, where Poland meets Ukraine and Slovakia, in July. Over 150 people from Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria and Spain made their way to the sparsely populated border region. Participants organised a demonstration in front of the border guard offices in Lutowiski and around 40 activists organised an "illegal" border crossing through the mountains. At a protest on the building site of a planned Federal Border Guard headquarters activists climbed construction towers and hung banners on the complex which is being financed under the European Union PHARE programme (the Landrovers used by the Federal Border Guards even carry blue stickers advertising the EU sponsorship).

The main focus for participants were the migration policies laid down in the EU's acquis on justice and home affairs implemented by the Polish government. Since July 1998, Polish police officers have increased stop and search operations targeting undocumented migrants and Poland has since implemented large-scale detention and deportations.

Closure of detention centres in Sicily

In Italy, a border camp took place in Marzamemi (Sicily) between 23 and 30 July, focusing on Italy's role as "the guardian of Schengen country", referring to the multitude of deaths on Italy's shores each year due to the "militarisation" of the Adriatic Sea and the Otranto channel. Over 100 participants took part in demonstrations and debates. On 27 July, a demonstration calling for the closure of all detention centres marched through the town of Trapani, where last December, five north African immigrants died in a fire in the detention centre Serraino Vulpitta. After riots against the living conditions had erupted a fire broke out, and the five died because an emergency door had been locked from the outside (see Statewatch vol 10 no 1). Two days after the demonstration, Serraino Vulpitta was closed by the judicial authorities and activists report that legal proceedings have been initiated against the chief constable on grounds of manslaughter, neglect of duty and abuse of office.

Countering the culture of informing

The situation on the borders of Germany was at the heart of the activities which characterised the border camp in the town of Forst on the German-Polish border between the 29 July and 6 August. Around 1,000 people met for the third time in this eastern border region where over 90% of "detections" of undocumented refugees and migrants is attributed to information received from the local population. Activists met for a week and, as on previous occasions, local authorities attempted to prevent the organisation of the camp by refusing to grant a camping license. Police finally accepted the occupation of the site because of the large numbers of activists arriving in the small town.

For the preceding weeks the camp had been widely discussed in the local and regional newspapers, which mostly presented the participants as troublemakers. During the course of the week however, largely due to extensive leafleting and the posting of a camp newspaper informing local people<

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