Bremen, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Rhein-Main, 8th of March 2011
the impressive movements of revolt in the Arab world and the downfall of
the dictators in North Africa produced a problem for the externalised EU
border regime: they now lack their watchdogs. The question of an
increased repressive migration control through the European border
agency Frontex has been discussed in politics and media for the last
days. In this vein, we believe it urgent to press for the demand of
freedom of movement, made by refugees and migrants, and position
ourselves against the dying and suffering at the external borders.
The three anti-racist networks afrique-europe-interact, welcome to
europe and network of critical migration and border regime research have
agreed to pusblish this joint statement under the titel „freedom not
We would like to spread this statement as fast and as wide as possible,
so we ask if your networks, organisations and initiatives as well as
individuals want to sign. Please send a short message to email@example.com.
The statement and the signatures will be published on the websites of
our networks. We will also inform you about further steps.
Freedom, not Frontex
There cannot be democracy without global freedom of movement
The dynamic of the Arab spring is emanating into the entire world. The
movements of revolt in the Maghreb encourage and give hope, not only
because despotic regimes that have been believed invincible were chased
away. Although the direction of further developments remain open it is
obvious that the domino effect of the Tunisian jasmine revolution
swiftly brought back the old insight that history is driven from below.
The struggles are directed against the day-to-day poverty as well as
against general oppression, they are as much about better living
conditions as they are about dignity, in short: “bread and roses”.
The incredible days of Midan Al-Tahrir, the Liberation Square in Kairo
signify the quest for new forms of self organisation and grassroots
democracy. The desire for equal rights, autonomy and a share of the
economic wealth is also mirrored in the boats crossing the Mediterranean
towards Europe: today casting off from Tunisia while during the last
years from North and West Africa . “Exit” – to claim one's freedom of
movement and to migrate in order to find a different, better life, and
“Voice” – to raise one's voice and struggle locally, are not
contradictory, they are rather mutually intertwined.
This was even more obvious during the upheavals of 1989. The vote of the
feet catalysed the protest movements against the oppressive regime of
real socialism. The wall fell because the people enforced their freedom
of movement. This makes the rhetoric of freedom by western politicians
appear even more dishonest, as it is exactly these politicians who
employ the threatening scenario of a flood to characterise the movements
of migration from and across Northern Africa and to the end of
legitimising the deployment of Frontex, the European border agency.
The governments of the EU have courted and supported the North African
rulers, and showed a hesitant and slowing position towards the movements
of revolt during the last weeks. This policy is not only driven by
strong economic interests, but also due to the grown collaboration in
the control of migration. The more effective a despot functioned as a
watchdog for the externalised EU border regime, the more he became an
important “partner”. Movements of migration from Africa were to be
stemmed by any means necessary.
Thousandfold death and suffering, not only at sea, but also in the
deserts and in the detention camps were and are the consequences of this
nefarious complicity. The sub-Saharan migrants, who today are victims of
pogrom-like persecution in Libya, have been systematically
disenfranchised by the regime of Gaddafi and were subject to arbitrary
abuse and maltreatment. The EU paid millions to the Libyan dictator and
delivered surveillance technology. A similar cooperation exists with the
Moroccan ruler, and until recently with the Tunisian regime. The Arab
revolutions mark a potential collapse of the EU's brutal project of
exclusion in the Mediterranean.
Through a media campaign spreading fears about the collapse of migration
control, the increased aggravation and militarisation of the EU border
regime -- symbolised by Frontex -- is being legitimised. The European
border agency adds to and extends the national control systems, which
have aimed at the deterrence and the criminalisation of movements of
migration for many decades. Frontex will be deployed vis-a-vis the North
African coast, as it is already the case at the West African coast and
at the Greek-Turkish border.
The fact that Italy is given overall control for "Operation Hermes“ is
consequent and shockingly honest: as a result of the collaboration
between Berlusconi and Gaddafi in recent years, countless acts of
unlawful push backs were carried out in the Mediterranean. Italy
performed a master piece in breaking all refugees’ conventions. And it
is not by chance that those who save the lives of the boat people are
being criminalized, as the cases of Cap Anamur and the Tunisian
fishermen whose trials are still ongoing, show.
Migrants are seeking protection or a better life in Europe. They move
against a gap of wealth and prosperity, rooted in Europe’s neocolonial
relations of dominance and exploitation towards Africa. Therefore
Europe’s universal claim of freedom and democracy must be measured
against its tratment of those who demand equal rights by migrating.
Frontex stands for the expansion of a deadly border regime – there is no
place for it in a free world. Death at the external borders could be
history by tomorrow. However politically there is no will to do so.
Instead the EU authorities are waging an outright war at the external
Within the EU disenfranchisement and deportation are part of a racist
daily life. "Integration" is used as a means of pressure to enforce
assimilation while exploitation in the low wage sector persists. However
resistance and insistence thwart the selective manner in handling
migration and challenges a system containing inequality and the lack of
liberties. It is not by coincidence that in these turbulent times 300
Maghreb migrants went on hunger strike in Greece demanding their
legalisation. Struggles for the right to stay as well as migrant strikes
are flaring across Europe, since 15 years ago Sans Papiers in Paris –
especially those from Africa – went public with the demand “Papers for
The departures occuring in Northern Africa demonstrate what is possible.
They refer to a new Arab World, a new Africa, a possible new Europe.
They refer to new spaces of freedom and equality, to be created in
transnational struggles: in Tunis, Kairo or Bengazi as well as in Europe
and in the movements of migration, crisscrossing both continents.
8th of March 2011
Welcome to Europe
Network Critical Migration and Border Regime Research