Baste info night December 4, 2014: About the fight for freedom of movement
Only 12 days ago we sat on the wall of border prison Kamp Zeist, witnessing families with children locked up in there. Showing it to the world. But this action did not come out of thin air.
For many years now, the Anarchist Anti Deportation Group Utrecht, in short: AAGU, has focused on taking action against this specific border prison. Demonstrations. Civil inspections, trespassing, cutting fences, occupying buildings, getting onto the wall. Leaflets and papers were spread door to door in the area. On our website you can find a list of companies involved in the detention and deportation industry. Another group has blocked the entrance of Kamp Zeist twice. According to several publications over the years, companies and their CEO's are bothered by the focus on their business. Some have even stopped their involvement.
But.. Kamp Zeist, as well as two other border prisons at Schiphol and Rotterdam airport, are still there. We invite you to join us in our effort to have them shut down.
AAGU takes action from an anarchist point of view. This is not just about one border prison. This is about borders, or: states. This is about exploitation, or: capitalism. And: this is not just about refugees that were refused a legal status. This is about claiming the right to freedom of movement, regardless of the reason. This is about free migration.
Migration has always existed. Earth had no borders before state leaders decided. Borders were drawn on a map by those who wanted to protect their own wealth (of the state), and the wealth of multinationals against lower class citizens and lower class non-citizens from the poor countries, the underdeveloped countries: the exploited countries.
This is also about colonialism. The production and stealing of goods, raw materials, the use of cheap labor, slavery. And so: the need to be in control over where people live, where they can best be of use to the capitalist economy. Colonialism and capitalism need borders for that.
They also need nationalism for that, the idea that people from the outside, named "illegal aliens", "foreigners", "illegals", are a threat to a prosperity called our own (but is in fact a prosperity taken, stolen), so as bankers, capitalists rob us of our money, make us pay dearly for housing, health care, food and other basic needs, it will be these immigrants that people are made to think are to blame. Divide and concur.
We, AAGU, strongly reject the notion that the world needs this system of exploitation of earth, animals, people. It is only a wealthy few that need it. War and borders are supposed to keep us all busy, to keep us in place and in line.
Nationalism is to keep us fighting amongst each other, blaming the scape goat that immigrants are made to be. Meanwhile the scape goats are kept out by border control, locked up inside border prisons, hunted down the street.
There is a lot of work to be done if we want to change all of this...
AAGU strives for a society in which all political and economic power from above is replaced by a structure of free cooperation. In these partnerships the political and economic life is organized collectively and decisions are taken only jointly. That free society can only exist if that freedom applies to everyone: a man can only be truly free when all the other people are also free. The quest for peace therefore automatically means a struggle against state and capital worldwide.
But where to begin? Here we are, time and again standing at the gates and the walls of one of those prisons that is a border on its own, and there is a reason for that.
We could have done a lot of things. But this border, this prison is visible. It is tangible. We can be literally standing in the way, we can attack it, we can make it public: look what is happening. But also: there are people inside. You can hear them call out: "We need help!" And they can see us, or at least hear us, and know: there are people out there who care and protest, who resist.
Fighting this one border prison, challenging its existence, supporting its prisoners, it serves a short term goal: to have this border prison shut down. And: to NOT have a new prison built in its place, as has been the plan for many years.
In our attempts to stop this, AAGU occupied the meetings of town councils of the towns Soest and Zeist, because they agreed on new building plans. But as time went by, we heard nothing about the new building plans anymore.
Meanwhile, AAGU has been involved in setting up the Dutch No Border network, and supporting actions of refugees that started with the first tent camp in Ter Apel in November 2011. Refugees themselves have taken matters into their own hands. Tent camps, squats, demonstrations and marches. Refugee groups such as We Are Here in Amsterdam made their struggle and their lives visible.
But just as important supporting the refugee struggle is, is taking our own responsibility and therefore: our own action. It is European and Western democracies that close their outer borders by militarizing border control. Border agency Frontex has been put into place to stop migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea, to deport by charter flights, to build fences between for example Greece and Turkey, by technical support to find refugees in the back of trucks, by taking and storing their fingerprints. During the Refugees' March To Freedom from Strasbourg to Brussels last summer, one of the demands was: Remove our fingerprints!
As it is the governments of the countries we were born in and live in, we as privileged citizens with passports and social security numbers, we have a responsibility to fight against the policies of these governments. To keep silent is to accept. The struggle for freedom of movement is intertwined with the struggle against capitalism as a whole.
New developments in Kamp Zeist made us turn our attention to Kamp Zeist again more.
Part of Kamp Zeist is now an AZC (Asylum Seekers Center) where mainly people from Syria are awaiting a decision on their asylum request. They are not the only ones placed in a former prison. At the same time the state secretary of asylum and immigration Fred Teeven keeps saying there are so many asylum seekers, that they need to be put in former prisons, old AZC's stand empty because over the past few years there have been less and less asylum claims, so they were shut down.
This way, the idea is been brought forward to the general public that we are being flooded with refugees. All the more reason, according to Teeven, to deport those that, again according to Teeven, "are no real refugees". Divide and concur. Again. This time among refugees: the ones that are 'real' and the ones that are 'not real'.
Refugees and migrants in general are always presented as being the problem, where as it is the exhaustion of thirds worlds land, oceans and waters, that is the problem, and arms trade. This is the reason why people leave, to seek a better life. And rightly so.
Due to the continuous pressure on the policy that was built by actions of various groups, Dutch policy has been criticized many times by organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Defense for Children. Unfortunately, this concerns circumstances only. At best, it has lead to some marginal and/or temporary changes that serve only the public face of the policy. To veil the crime called immigration control.
In 2011, former minister of immigration Leers, was forced by a court verdict to give shelter to refused refugee families with children. At this moment there are 7 family locations where they have been put, a sort of open 'sober' prisons where people are obliged to get a stamp daily around noon: Den Helder, Emmen, Amersfoort, Katwijk, Gilze-Rijen, Goes, Burgum.
No stamp, no shelter.
Here, families are being intimidated and pressured into what the ministry of Veiligheid en Justitie calls: "voluntary return". Evidently, this means deportation just as much as deportation by force, since the alternative is detention or the street. There is no such thing as "voluntary return".
Detaining families with children became a political issue again in 2013. After a debate in parliament about the suicide of the Russian refugee Dolmatov in Rotterdam detention center in January 2013, it was first decided that families with children would not be detained so easily anymore.
But now, a year later, by taking a new family prison into use, claiming that it would not look and feel like a prison, a giant step has been taken towards more detention and successful deportation of families with children.
After all, we can do it 'humane' now. So, what is there to complain? There are no children in cells anymore?! Teeven clearly expects the moderate protestors against children in cells to be quiet now... But if it is up to us..
Humane and child-friendly detention and deportation...? NOT
As of October 1st, in Kamp Zeist, inside the five meter high grey wall where there also still is the detention center, now the family prison, euphemistically called "Gesloten Gezins Voorziening" - "Closed Family Location", has been taken into use.
We knew this was about to happen, but this was a lot faster than we expected, because this one is temporary. A definitive one is planned to be built in Kamp Zeist during the first quarter of 2015, to be opened by the end of this first quarter, so March. It is surprising how fast a prison can be decided upon and be built, compared to giving shelter to refugees who have been denied asylum. A shelter, that the government still refuses to give, despite the fact that recently the European Committee for Social Rights stated that refused refugees have to be given shelter.
According to Fred Teeven in a letter to parliament and according to a promotion video of the ministry, the family prison is some sort of bungalow park. No cells, but small houses, 'chalets'. Lots of facilities. Guards without uniforms. Not at all a prison setting. Apart from the fact they cannot leave that is. And apart from the fact that people locked up in there are about to be deported to a hazardous situation, there is no need to worry about anything at all. It will be a green environment, it will be "humane" and "child friendly".
By now, we also have seen the inside with our own eyes, as I began to say, twelve days ago, when we were up on that wall.
But it was not the first thing we heard from the inside. We already knew about the Turkish family Karabulut, that has been deported to Istanbul despite the fact that mother and father had already spent 10 years in a Turkish prison and suffered from torture. They would have escaped this fate if this prison had not been there. But this is exactly what this prison is for: to make sure families can be deported.
And no matter how hard you try to cover this up: you can put people in a golden cage, but that does not change the fact that this cage leads to torture, to violence, to prosecution. You can put children in a golden cage, but they still will see and feel the fear and despair, the enclosure. It is psychological torture.
As we sat on that wall, we talked to two families that were there to be deported to Afghanistan. Both of them were from Sikh religion. If you are a Sikh in Afghanistan you are subject to discrimination and torture. One man we talked to, told us that his beard and hair had been pulled out, that he had been cut and stabbed with knives, that boiling oil had been poured out over him. When I asked him what he expected would happen to him upon deportation to Afghanistan, he said: "I will be killed".
We can tell you more, but you can also see for yourself in this next video. Images from the livestream and a recording camera show the situation. You can hear children tell about getting arrested, missing school. And as for the guards: a bar of chocolate thrown over the electric fence, picket up by a father and his son, was immediately taken away from them. Uniform or no uniform: a prison guard is a prison guard. And cells or no cells: a prison is a prison. And deportation.. is deportation.