imc-uk-features | 09.10.2006 03:59 | Transnational Day of Action Against Migration Controls | Migration | Social Struggles
October 7 saw many decentralised, coordinated migration-related actions and events across the world. From Warsaw to London, from Hamburg to Nouakchott, thousands of migrants and their supporters protested against the denial of their rights, against the criminalisation and scapegoating of refugees and, above all, against all immigration controls. They were demanding a European unconditional legalisation and equal rights for all migrants; the closure of all detention centres in Europe and everywhere; an end to all deportations and the 'border externalisation' process.
Links: October7 Campaign | No Border | MakeBordersHistory | UK NoBorders groups and communication channels | UK Indymedia's Migration topic page | Dutch: All Included | French: pajol | German: no-racism.net | fluechtlingsrat-hamburg | deutschland-lagerland | Greek: socialcenter | Italian: GlobalProject | Melting Pot Radio | Spanish: Indymedia Estrecho
The call for the Transnational Day of Action was made by a broad network of migration-related initiatives during the European Social Forum in Athens earlier this year, following an initial call at the World Social Forum in Bamako, Mali, in January 2006. Over 250 groups from 23 countries signed the call, 18 of which were in the UK.
The day was the 3rd of its kind. The first, which took place on 31 January, 2004, demanded the closure of detention centres, the regularisation of all immigrants in Europe and the recognition of the right of exile. Some 50 different protests around the world took place. The theme for the second, which was held on 2 April, 2005, was the "freedom of movement and the right to stay". This year, it was agreed to focus on migration controls and the border regime.
This seems to have stemmed from the increasing militarisation of EU migration policies, as with the European Border Agency, Frontex, which was set up to intensify controls, using ships and air planes, to prevent more so-called African Boatpeople from reaching Europe; from the 'externalisation' of European borders, with the EU 'commissioning' North African and East European countries to block migrants on their way to Europe and help to deport them to the desert or Sub-Saharan countries; and, least but not last, increasing the pressure on African countries to implement more visa restrictions, to establish detention-camps and adopt 'repatriation programmes'.
In a clear example of what the day was all about, a bus carrying Chechen refugees from Lublin to a demonstration against immigration policies in Warsaw was stopped by the Polish police around 15:00 (Polish time) on Friday, October 6 [full report]. The passengers, with their children, were held for over 7 hours, and 3 of them, of whom two were not carrying ID cards, were facing deportation. In response, the demonstrators decided to block the Bureau of Deportation Affairs and Foreigners in Warsaw, where the demo was being held, and then the Prime Minister's Chancellory. Eventually, the bus of refugees was returned to Lublin escorted by the police. On Saturday, one of the refugees was formally arrested.
In Bologna, Italy, a 'delegation' of anti-racist and autonomous activists from the TPO and Crash social centers waited several hours outside the city's detention centre (CPT) for the Ministerial Commision, which is led by UN ambassador De Mistura and made up of representative of various Italian NGOs and associations that are working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to study and report on the conditions of the detention centres [report]. The activists confronted the commission, stopped the convoy and asked for a face-to-face discussion to criticise what the commission was doing. They demanded the immediate conclusion of the Commission's work and the immediate closure of the detention centres.
The actual day saw many protests in tens of cities throughout Europe and beyond. In London, over 500 people marched in a loud, colourful and diverse march that had a festive atmosphere [timeline | pics 1 and 2]. At one point, they stopped at Becket House, an immigration reporting centre, where asylum seekers have to 'sign on' regularly. A letter was handed in to the reporting centre. Speeches described what was happening there and a manifesto was read out and translated into Spanish, as the Latin American group was one of the biggest on the march.There was also a protest outside Communication House in London on Friday 6th. The All African Women's Group, Global Women Strike and Payday Men's network called this protest against this 'reporting enforcement centre' [Pic and report]
Elsewhere in the UK, members of Birmingham's Anti-Racist Campaign, supported by Birmingham NoBorders, gathered in Victoria Square in Birmingham to lay wreaths to commemorate asylum seekers who have died as a result of the government's immigration policies [report and pics]. In Glasgow, several hundred people converged on George Square, having set off from points north, west and south of the city centre, for a march and rally organised by the Union of Asylum Seekers (UNITY). The rally finished with a performance by local / international hip-hop crew Fugees United [report].
In Vienna, 2 small actions took place in the city centre, followed by a relatively big demonstration. The Aliens Law was symbolically exploded in Kärtnerstraße [report (de) | pics]. At Stock im Eisen Platz, a "bouncy castle" symbolised Fortress Europe for a couple of hours: No one was allowed to jump! [report (de)]. Some 350 people then marched from the Hernalser Guertel immigration detention centre to the Rossauer Laende police holding centre, which is party used as a detention centre as well. Among other stops, they called at the court building in Wickenburggasse, where people are detained while awaiting trial. A speech told of the situation of one detainee who had been on hungerstrike for 38 days, and the new law against foreigners whereby officials can use forced feeding to break hungerstrikes [report | timeline].
In Brussels, the day was celebrated with several demos, one of them a Reclaim the Streets party, another by sans-papiers from Congo (Congolese Against Borders) [report]. About 300 people danced in the sunshine to the sounds of a Samba band and some trumpets, as well as a solar-powered sound system. 300-400 policemen then blocked everyone in from all sides, and teargas was used, while demonstrators kept playing their music [report (nl) | timeline (fr)]. A new squat was opened and banners were hanged out of the windows.
In Germany, some 400 people joined an anti-racist demonstration in Cologne to protest against Fortress Europe [pics]. Another 700 marched in Hamburg, where many refugees took part and a woman from Afghanistan talked about her experience and the deportations policies of the Hamburg City Council [report | de1 | de2 | pics1 | pics2]. In Lindau, activists performed a 'lake theatre', where a group arrived on a raft on the shore of Lindau and were picked up by cost guards and put into detention [report]. In Freiburg, a march through the inner city, with some 250 to 300 participants, started at the town hall square, where an exhibition called "the moving of the world" by the Libertad collective (Frankfurt, Germany) about refugee camps was on display. The manifestation also left many paper traces in the town: about hundreds of foot prints were left on the ground, with texts like: "A human being remains a human being, nevermind where it is", "Every person has the right to have rights", "legalisation for Sans-Papiers" etc. [report (de) | pics]. In Potsdam, activists did a street theatre in the pedestrian area of the city center, where they brought the daily happenings at the borders to the people. On several bus stops, posters informed people about the impacts of papers on the freeedom of movement and criticised that refugees have to live in asylum accommodation [report and pics (de)].
In Berlin, the first action had taken place on Oct 5, where activists visited the public authority responsible for refugees in Berlin-Lichtenberg and awarded the employees with a "bloody stylograph" (blutiger Füllfederhalter). During the action the activists were arrested for two hours and the police suspected them with violation of the public peace [report and pics (de)]. On Oct 7, a manifestation was supposed to take place in front of Dussmann 'cultural store', which is a company serving bad food in Spandau refugee camp, but police didn't allow the the action to take place in front of the store, so the activists had to move with their street theatre. Later, a manifestation was supposed to take place in front of the refugee home on Motardstrasse, with the participation of the people living there, but the police didn't allow tem to use tables, so the crowd of 50 people had to meet on the sidewalk [report (de) | further info].
In Switzerland, around 500 people marched through the streets of Lausanne [call-out]. Many sans-papiers (immigrants without documents) took part in the protest and a global village was errected, where people played music and danced.
In the Netherlands, there was an action in the shopping centre of Zaandam (near Amsterdam) to inform and mobilise the public on 2 newly built detention boats in the Zaandam harbour [pics]. The day before, activists had, once again, occupied 'detention ships' in Rotterdam [report | nl and pics]. At around 6am, they climbed the ships and blockaded the entrances by lock-ons. They were met with very violent reaction from the guards and eight activists were arrested.
In Athens, several hundred people marched through the city to raise the issue of the citizenship for migrants' children born in Greece [pics | report (de)]. The march was called by the African Women's League and the Network of Migrant Women in Greece, with the support of many migrant, feminist and social groups.
In Italy, several migrants' groups, some autonomous unions and other political groups demonstrated in front of the local government building in Bologna [report and pics (it) | video]. A similar manifestation took pleace in Gorizia [report (it)]. In Venice, people demonstrated against a regional bill in parliament, initiated and promoted by the Movement for Life, a reactionary fundamentalist Catholic movement [report (it)]. There was also a sit-in in Palermo [report (it)] and other demonstrations in Milan and Rome.
In Spain, some 600 people demonstrated in Málaga to demand a change in the current migration policies and the closure of the local detention centre [report and pics (es)]. In Barcelona, more than 1000 people demonstrated to denounce the externalisatin of Europe's borders, detentions and deportations, and demanading the permanent regularisation of refugees, equality at work and equal social and political rights for all immigrants [report and pics (ca) | report (ca)]. Similar demonstrations took place in Valencia [report (es)], Madrid, Almería, Sévilla, Bilbao, Las Palmas, Motril and Ténérife.
In Russia, the local No Borders group in Moscow decided to celebrate the day by picketing the Federal Migrattion Service, which directly carries out deportations. A cheerful demonstration of some 25 participants, with drums and clowns, left the silent street of Sadovo-Chernogrjazskuju, onto the underground, to the Migration Service building, where a banner was dropped bearing the words: "No One Is Illegal". There were 3 groups of activists: one symbolising refugees, with surgery masks on their faces, crosses on their mouths and brief life histories written on paper attached to their clothes; a samba band beating a tattoo of execution; and the ACAB clown army, with lashes beating the 'refuges' [ report | ru | pics].
In Benin, in western Africa, a conference was organised on October 6, followed by a praying session on October 7. An assembly was supposed to take place on Monday, October 9, in front of the European Union headquarters, but the organisation has unfortunately lost "a member with much influence, because of not enough care of the UNHCR in Benin." So a spontaneous assembly is planned in front of the UNHCR to protest against this 'mistake'.