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Report No Border Camp Lesbos 2009
Some autonomous activists from Germany - 19.09.2009 16:01

How we see the No Border Camp – A reporting from autonomous participants
from different cities in Germany

There is a lot of talking about success in the reports bout the No Border in Lesbos 2009. We don't agree completely with that.

First, the story about the development, the idea and the following preparation was somehow puzzling for us. We at least see now – after the Camp – some things more clear. That's how we see it now: In Germany parts of the antiracist movement invited for the No Border and the activists from different political scenes started to prepare for travelling. In Greece the dictio (network for global social rights) was part of the preparation but only mobilised their people. Greek anarchists didn't know about the preparation till December, though the greek anarchists are an important part of the political movement about migration and the work with immigrants. Only a few anarchists knew about the upcoming camp, mostly because german autonomous friends told them about the idea.

In December the locals from Mitilini (Lesbos) were invited. There a only a few anarchists in Mitilini and they weren't sure about taking part in the preparation of the No Border. Some saw a chance in taking part to support the political actions about migration on the island, others objected totally because they (like other anarchists in Greece) don't wanted to work together with dictio. Also the anarchists groups in Thessaloniki and Athens refused to take part because of their political differences with dictio. They didn't want to work together with them. That was not surprising at all, because normally the don't work together. There a just a few exceptions from this decision, only when the starting point is the same, then sometimes it worked out, but never, if one of the groups is just informing the others after preparing something. So there weren't any political anarchists groups from Greece taking part, only a few individuals.

But only a few internationals knew about that political decision of the anarchists not being part of the No Border. The preparation teams from Germany and Greece didn't communicate this openly. For that reason the internationals expected that they will meet – like in other No Border Camps in Germany – a lot of activists from different political scenes. Their expectation were only partly delivered. There were a lot of anarchists and autonomous activists and groups from different countries but not from Greece. That was a confusing situation. In our opinion a presentation about the history of protest at the beginning of the Camp should have made the situation more clear but unfortunately this didn't happen. At the same time and for the some reason we missed a presentation about the preparation team. That would have made the situation more clear for the internationals.

Some activists from Germany were aware of the point that the anarchists groups wouldn't take part in the No Border, but nevertheless decided to go to Mitilini. This was a political decision, because on camps like this there is always a „camp-own“ dynamic, so that it's possible to develop and to permute radical left topics and actions.

Unfortunately it wasn't like that. During the week the participants had more and more the feeling to be exploited and controlled by the preparation team. Direct actions and own ideas were blocked and dismissed with always the same reasons:

a) the former political work of the locals is is danger, if there are any confrontations on the island, because till then there were some first successes trough NGO-delegations and negotiations with the local authorities

b) direct action will harm the migrants, because they only want to get the paper to come to Athens

c) direct actions in Lesbos can't be mediated to the local people

and above all this reasons there seemed to be a more or less open fear or „hazard analysis“ that the „black bloc“ is going to destroy Mitilini completely...

The possibility that human rights policy and direct actions can be combined and complement one another wasn't seen in this discussions.

Before the No Border started officially it was clear that a lot of anarchists and autonomous activists are going to take part. According to this, there were - beside of the important direct support of the migrants in the camp and at the infopoint in Mitilini – a lot off activists, who wanted to develop responsible political actions. But already in the first action-plenaries there was shown this immense fear for direct actions that somehow also attack. So it was more and more clear that the political views about what should happen on this camp diverge completely. To sharpen it: At the end there was mostly a humanitarian human rights policy with all its facets like dealing with the authorities and play their games. Against this background we see the „fear“ of some local activists. They were afraid to loose their „power“ if there were some direct actions from anarchists and autonomous activists without them controlling it.

In this situation day for day more and more internationals were dissatisfied. Most of them came with positive experiences from other international camps and were really disappointed about the strict denial of every civil disobedience or just a tiny paint-ball.

For to make clear and transparent for the people that weren't in Militini how ideas were objected and decisions were made, we would like to go more in detail about an idea for an action at Pagani detention-centre:

After people have seen the detention-centre, there were just shocked and angry. A former store-house, where 1000 migrants are caged in a few rooms each with about 180 migrants. (Originally there were plans to put 280 people at all in Pagani.) The unacceptable circumstances in Pagani are documented on a video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP2yT6EjBXo).

The first impulse was: “we have to shut this hole thing down”. But that's unfortunately not that easy. After talking to the people inside, it was clear that most of them didn't want to break out. Some of them for sure would have chosen the way to live illegally in Greece, but that was not common sense between them. Most of the people inside are waiting for a paper to leave the island. With this paper they are allowed to travel to athens, at the same moment the paper is an order to leave Greece within 30 days. This paper is the only legal way to leave the island. Because of the „Third Country Regulation“ of the EU the migrants are not allowed to seek for asylum in other european countries than Greece. With this paper they only can go to seek for asylum in Athens (0,1 percent allowance of claims) or to live illegally in Europe. In Pagani regularly migrants are released with this paper, sometimes more than a dozen a day, mostly because the cops arrest daily new people and take them to Pagani.

Besides there was for good reason the fear, that in case of a riot in front of the jail they cops could use tear-gas (the greek cops love it) and that could cause a uncontrollable and dangerous panic inside Pagani. Because of this reason we decided to look for a clever action to minimise the danger.

With some people we developed an action and presented it. Our idea was to rededicate the detention-centre into an open transit without cells and fences. While the people are waiting for their paper there is no need to have a jail, they can wait everywhere in Lesbos for that. To make this action in a responsible way it must have been sure that there are as less cops as possible at Pagani (only the six securities working there). Another action in the city of Mitilini, at the same time – the occupation of the prefecture – should cause enough work for the cops. Meanwhile a „technic-team“ could open everything at Pagani. Leaflets should inform the local society and the tourists about the „new transit-centre“ and about our general political demands. This action should have taken place a day before the official Pagani action day.

This proposal was presented at a delegation-meeting, where also sat some people of the preparation-team. There was a long discussion about it and finally it was blocked (specially from people in the preparation-team) for the same reason we wrote about in the beginning of this text. Instead of that it was decided that the official demonstration should take place at the day it was already planned and the prefecture should be occupied by „surprise“. With this decision it was accepted that the local police and the riot cops from athens will be at Pagani, who didn't have something against an escalating situation in front of the detention-centre.

During the discussion about our proposal we more and more got the feeling, that there was no confidence that we as international anarchist/ autonomous activists could handle the situation responsible. Rather it went out that some people just wanted to control whatever is going to happen. For some of the organisation-team their human rights policy was at the foreground, the ideas and the dynamic of the participants in the camp was completely negated and direct actions were objected and finally blocked, instead of having different actions at the same time side by side respecting each other. For us neither the release nor a riot was in the focus of our action, the only idea was to rededicate the detention-centre because the only reasons for this inhuman way treating migrants are harassment and determent. Also it was not the idea to „release“ people if they want to wait for their paper, if somebody would chose to get out of the situation, ok, everyone can chose for him or herself.

>From our proposal only the occupation of the prefecture remained. This action was not openly announced but failed because of our bad preparation. On the spontaneous delegation-meeting afterwards it wasn't even possible to decide for a spontaneous demonstration, because this „couldn't be communicated and mediated“ to the local society and the fear that the autonomous / anarchist activists are going to destroy everything stood in the foreground.

This is only one example that just should make it more transparent how ideas of direct actions were blocked on this camp. Again and again ideas were discussed so long that nothing came out of it and it needed a lot of time to figure out what kind of power games were played and by whom. For sure this kind of discussion were also part in other action-camps, but most of us had the impression that this time it was worse and that some really had a special interest in controlling everything.

The structure of power inside the camp was in-transparent, we all stayed to long in this kind of discussions instead of organising ourselves. For this situation there is also a critique on the local anarchists who partly also prepared the camp. There wasn't a clear position and some of them were also part of the blocking people. Later we understood that most of them didn't expect so many autonomous/anarchists activists with other ideas than the human rights fraction. But for them as well it was complicated to find out who is who and who wants what..

Only at the end of the camp we had a common sense that we would have needed a autonomous/anarchists plenary beside. For that there was also a proposal at the beginning, but at that time most of us thought that there will be an own camp dynamic depending on the participants and we didn't expect this blocking behaviour.

Some german antira-activists also had their hands in some of the „bottom situations“ of the week. After a demonstration in Mitilini some activists had prepared paint-balls for one office of the border police and Frontex. The demonstration ended about 100 metres before, but one group tried to mobilise people to go further in the direction of the office. One from the preparation-team for the No Border stopped them in a confrontative way and threatened them even with beating if they continue. He argued with a so called „consensus against confrontation“ of the camp that never had existed. Fascinating was also the estimation of the greek anarchists that even with some paint-balls the situation with the riot cops from Athens would escalate and we as internationals couldn't stand such a situation. Therefore they also objected this action.

To top this the greek anarchists who for political reasons didn't take part in the No Border appeared fully covered and armed out of nowhere in the demonstration with banners and greek slogans at the same time. They planned their own action without communicating their aim. About 300 activists followed them without knowing where they were going and for what. After a long while passing the dark tiny streets of Mitilini it turned out that we are on the way to a traditional greek concert where some people wanted to put some banners with political demands and held a speech on the stage about the greek migration policy. Not a bad action at all but this also shows that there was no communication at all.

What else happened?

Important and eminent was the Info-point in Mitilini. It was not planned before but spontaneous build up and it has shown the fatal migration policy in the middle of the city. First sceptical eyed by the locals day for day more locals showed up, bringing food and other needed things. There were leaflets and the migrants could get support and juridical information. A positive example was the support for a family from Afghanistan. They were not send to Pagani but to an open camp-side near the airport where they could wait for their papers. With tips and tricks some migrants were supported and with this political pressure the writings of the papers sometime went quicker. But for a lot of people their activism ended at the infopoint - of course also because they were exhausted and overstrained. Their energy and dynamic all went into the direct support and there was neither energy nor time for something else.

Also at the camp there was a dynamic that in our opinion was fatal. Trough the cooperation with local social workers at Pagani, the NGOs and Human Rights Organisations (Lawyers) the part of the human right issues were more and more the main parts. At the same time political demands or contexts between different issues were more and more unattended. Because of that the „paper“ and the released people were pointed out as the only political and most important issues. There where news about “success” daily without saying that there are also released people normally and without scandalising that the paper for the 140 released migrants were written on the 21. august – one week before their release from Pagani. Which consequences this kind of political work has, that only wants to deal and only looks for juridical solutions, was shown on Saturday in front of and inside of Pagani. Here the proposals of the people inside itself were blocked.

In the morning the people inside rebelled and the gates were opened because of their demands. Some people from the camp got there to have a look what's going on there. Because of the action against Frontex in the harbour only the usual securities and a few cops were there. So the situation was good to support the migrants but more people were needed. This was prevented by some people from the camp who communicated trough the infopoint at the camp that „everything is ok and there are enough people to support“. Probably there was the same fear that the situation could get out of control. So most of the people decided to join the great action in the harbour.

At Pagani the situation meanwhile went somehow bizzare. One woman who works at Pagani (we don't know if she is a lawyer or NGO or whatever) called the people to go inside in their cells, because she wanted to read the rest of the 140 names of the people who should be released. (The papers that already were one week old) When people of us asked why they couldn't do that while the people stayed outside, she argued that the situation is to confused to read the names and inside the situation is more under control. The protests of the few activists outside couldn't do anything against it and the people went under this pressure „voluntarily“ inside the overcrowded cells. Meanwhile some more activists arrived because it had turned out that the migrants very well wanted support.

One hour later about 50 activists got inside because of a lucky break. Some sat down, other started to talk to the people inside and also others tried to make the open gate unusable. The security and the cops were overstrained with the situation and their colleagues from Athens had enough work at the harbour. … really a good situation …. till, well, till the human rights activists again destroyed the situation and the possibilities. One of them made a deal - without someone has asked for that – with the police that we are going to leave and therefore the cops are not going to attack us. To make more pressure on the activists he also pointed out that the rest of the woman and children wouldn't be released if we stayed. He acted like a cop to sabotage this action. To make it short: The cooperation between NGO's, social workers and parts of the camp preparation scotched every action. In the opposite every – partly planned – release was pointed out as a political success of the camp.

Also in other issues it was impossible to figure out a context between contents. After a short spontaneous blockade of a military parade that takes place in Mitilini every Sunday there were a lot of critique for this action. In Greece there is unfortunately also for the radical left just a small discussion about the military. In the rest of the society there is less to no discussion. The military parade on the next Sunday was not only companied by riot cops but also by nationalists and some fascists who attacked verbally the info point. Also the military action of the greek army (in Afghanistan) is no point of discussion in Greece. Contexts like war and reasons for migration are ignored. So this action as well was criticised because of the confrontative character. Here again we missed the chance to dispute politically. Instead of that, the camp only pointed at the illegal detention and tried to encourage the dealing position of the local social workers.

In spite of all our fundamental critique there also where some good pointed actions like the boat-action in the harbour or the occupation of the roof in Pagani. There is a good documentation about all this so we don't want to stress more on this. Everyone can watch the videos. We made this report mainly because of all the “success news” coming from Lesbos and we really disagree with that point of view. We really don't want to play our role as "small sheriffs" to enforce the Geneva Convention or to be the cue ball of the local social workers. We criticise emphatically the politic of power of some of the preparation team to blockade the dynamic of the camp and the idea of having direct actions. And of course we would like to have a discussion about our critiques in Solidarity.

At the end we send solidarity greeting to the comrades in Rotterdam, keep at it!

Lees meer over: anti-fascisme / racisme europa globalisering

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