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Break Isolation 2012 – Close down the refugee isolation camps

Short Report on 2011 and Donation Call for The VOICE Refugee Forum http://thevoiceforum.org/node/2345

Break Isolation 2012 – Close down the refugee isolation camps

Report on the Action Day on October 22, 2011 in Erfurt.
Self-organization strengthened and demand on refugee lager committees for Break isolation in 2012

Report by Die Karawane Wuppertal

On October 22nd 2011 we met in Erfurt in the federal state of Thuringia to raise public awareness for Germany's racist exclusion system of isolation camps and residence obligation. Our goal was not to make demands of any representatives of the state or institutions. We have learnt one thing in years of flight, migration, eviction and living in camps in Germany: our freedom will not be given to us. We have to fight until we get it.

And so Milud Lahmar Cheriff from the isolation camp Zella-Mehlis (Thuringia), member of THE VOICE Refugee Forum, began his speech to the citizens of Erfurt and the passers-by as follows:
"Today we are here because there is something wrong. Today we are here because we want you, the people on the street, and this society to learn about us. We want you to listen to us. So I would be very grateful for your attention."

He stressed the fact that our goal is not to reach politicians and parliaments. The point is to describe the situation to people so they can judge for themselves and act accordingly, for it is up to the citizens to change society and the government. He listed the means the state uses to isolate migrants and exclude them from society. He then asked the people on the street, "You shop using cash - we use vouchers. You can move freely in this country - we can't. You live in flats - we live in isolation camps. Why does this happen? [...] Accept it or not: the state of Germany is racist. They do their work, and they are very highly qualified in destroying human lives. The state of Germany is racist, and its laws are racist. Racism is the domineering note here," Milud L. Cheriff continued.

Rex Osa, a member of THE VOICE Refugee Forum from the state of Baden-Württemberg added, "During our public actions and protests, German citizens often tell us that they did not know about the conditions refugees were subject to. Neither did they know about the special laws against us or the use of tax money for maintaining a horrible camp system. The isolation and exclusion of refugees doesn't only violate the refugees' fundamental rights, it also violates those of the German citizens. They all have a right to know the truth and to learn what goes on in their country."

The goal of the BREAK ISOLATION campaign, he continued, is to bring the refugees as well as the German citizens closer together in order to create solidarity structures against our shared problems and in order to reach a common perspective.

Basics of Continuity

Our meeting was also a symbol of power through solidarity. After the CARAVAN festival 'United Against Colonial Injustice, Remembering the Dead of Fortress Europe' in 2010, the demonstration and march in Erfurt were a highlight of the self-organisation of refugee communities in Thuringia and the BREAK ISOLATION campaign.
Says Osaren Igbinoba, member of THE VOICE Refugee Forum, "We know what it means to be here. We know what it means to fight. Your presence here is what matters most. Your presence here makes history today."
THE VOICE Refugee Forum is the oldest self-organised refugee group in Germany. In Thuringia and in other parts of Germany, refugees from this group have been involved in struggles against deportation, camps and residence obligation. Their exemplary and active part in the refugees' struggles has led to the foundation of many more initiatives and refugee communities. A few examples from recent years that promoted self-organisation are listed here:

• The offensive struggle for the closure of the camp in Katzhütte, which led to further struggles in other camps in Thuringia, such as Gehlberg, Apolda, Zella-Mehlis, Sommerda/Ganglofsömmern, Breitenworbis and Gerstungen including Greiz and in other federal states (Sachsen-Anhalt, Baden-Württenberg and North Rhine Westphalia).

• The conference against colonial injustice in Jena (Thuringia) in September 2009 (http://thecaravan.org/node/2125), where the decision was made to organise the festival in Jena and to hold a tribunal against the Federal Republic of Germany. Also, at this conference the refugee communities from Thuringia, Sachsen-Anhalt, North Rhine Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg declared that their most important goal was to develop refugee communities (http://thecaravan.org/node/2264). Following the discussions and experiences from the refugees' struggles, the text against colonial injustice was written (THE VOICE network on colonial injustice in Germany: http://thecaravan.org/node/2017).

• The CARAVAN festival 'United Against Colonial Injustice, Remembering the Dead of Fortress Europe', which took place in Jena in 2010, demonstrated in a unique way the strength of self-organised groups, the refugees' cultural diversity and their will to remember the dead victims of colonial injustice whilst defending life and the dignity of the living. An important factor in making the festival possible was the active participation of numerous young people from Jena, who afterwards, along with other groups and individuals, founded the BREAK ISOLATION network. The festival also inspired other refugees outside Thuringia to get organised and create networks, for example in Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine Westphalia.

The organisation of continual meetings in camps and central towns in Thuringia in 2011, which was done by THE VOICE Refugee Forum and the BREAK ISOLATION network. This continual work was possible only through the conviction and determination of all the activists in THE VOICE Refugee Forum and BREAK ISOLATION. Every meeting is a victory over residence obligation, achieved through civil disobedience and through the dedication of all those who did not only give their time to organise, prepare and document the meetings, but who also provided the financial basis to make their refugee friends able to travel.

Solidarity and Support as the Basis of the Movement

The protest in Erfurt was a demonstration of the power and solidarity of all the activists from Thuringia and a clear declaration of the goals of the refugee communities: 'Close all refugee camps.' The action showed distinctly that the refugees from Thuringia, THE VOICE Refugee Forum and BREAK ISOLATION do not stand alone. Apart from the refugee communities from the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg and Nidersacnsen there were representatives of CARAVAN groups from the towns of Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Hannover and Wolfsburg, and Wuppertal; representatives of VOICE groups from Berlin and Stuttgart; representatives of many other anti-fascist and anti-capitalist groups from Thuringia; and associations of artists from Berlin and Jena. Shortly after arriving, a refugee from Bramsche in Lower Saxony (http://thecaravan.org/node/3038) took the microphone and, speaking on behalf of his friends there, addressed the people present saying, "I'm bringing you greetings of solidarity from Bramsche!"

No Compromise on Camps

A speaker from the Wuppertal group of the CARAVAN for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants pointed out that there could be no compromise on camps:
"However, we also live in a time where victims believe in their own strength and can overthrow governments and dictators. They believe in their own strength and take it to the streets, just as we, in this street Am Anger in Erfurt, in the capital of Thuringia, believe in our own strength and say that we won't be kept in this camp system. Our children have the right to live. The right to live is our right. And if you attack it, you will have to face our resistance. [...] Long live solidarity between all of us. And let's damn well close those camps. Let's fight for everybody's right to a life of dignity, let's fight so our children won't find themselves in a country with prisons for humans and children. Let's fight so there'll be freedom in this country too."

Germany Itself Causes Flight and Eviction

A refugee from Afghanistan spoke about the question of how far Germany is to blame for people being forced to flee. He mentioned Germany's high level of arms exports and the fact that 80,000 employees in the arms industry earn their living through arms sales. The big business of arms production, he said, makes war and armed conflict necessary, and it usually takes place in the refugees' countries. On the other hand, the officials in public authorities and camps tell you on a daily basis that if you don't like it in Germany, you should go back. 'But who is responsible for those wars?' he asked finally.

Strengthening Self-Organisation

The action day in Erfurt inspired and strengthened all participants from the whole country. THE VOICE Refugee Forum declared 2012 as the 'Year of Closing All Camps'. Next August there is to be a larger gathering involving action, information and discussion against refugee camps in Thuringia. Its purpose is to strengthen solidarity through the exchange of experiences and through common action. The gathering is a step on the way to the tribunal against the Federal Republic of Germany, which will take place in Berlin in summer 2013.

What needs to be done until then? Our strategy should be to further strengthen refugee communities, committees and their networks. What does this mean in concrete terms? It means that activists from camps will regularly visit other camps. Together they will analyse the situation, describe their own struggles and invite their sisters and brothers from the camps to meetings and actions. Our progress should be measured by how intensely further refugees get involved in the movements and how we can continue to complement and strengthen each other through our abilities and experiences.

Which steps would be appropriate to facilitate the self-organisation of refugees in other federal states such as Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony and the creation of camp committees? How should we regularly provide information to our sisters and brothers in the camps? How frequently can we organise local or regional meetings to get even closer together in fighting deportation and the camp system, and in defending our friends?

Perhaps it should be added that self-organisation won't make any progress unless actual exclusion, repression and deportation are fought at the same time. In other words: there will be no self-organisation without a daily, uncompromising, concrete struggle against public authorities and camp directions; and the struggle will not grow into a further perpetual support of our fight against the deportation regime if there is no permanent intense communication between activists. This means that we should do everything to provide means and space for active, forward-pushing sisters and brothers so that they can communicate and also defend themselves immediately against attacks, either through actions or through public campaigns.

Therefore our networks must strongly support rising struggles in Lower Saxony and work intensely on the defence campaigns for the siblings Nurjana and Nuradil from Gifhorn/Lower Saxony and for our sister Bela from Gotha/Thuringia.

The day in Erfurt closed with two songs by Nuradil, in which he describes his experiences as a young refugee and his life in Germany:
„...Und wenn Du gefangen bist in diesem Asylantenheim
Wünschst du dir nur eins: Ein freier Mensch zu sein.
Migranten in Deutschland gibt nicht auf.
Wir müssen stark in unserem Leben sein.“

"... And when you're caught in this asylum seekers' home
All you want is to be a free human being.
Migrants in Germany, don't give up
We must be strong in our lives."
Nuradil's song

Videos on Break Isolation Campaign:
http://thevoiceforum.org/node/2294
Videos: http://breakisolation.blogsport.de/
Break Isolation Links: The VOICE Refugee Forum
http://thevoiceforum.org/search/node/break+isolation+english

Links: Information on the “Break Isolation Network” – Refugee Community Initiatives und Campaigns in Germany. >> http://thevoiceforum.org/node/2343

Donations can be made by single or regular transfer to the account of the Förderverein The VOICE e.V. Göttingen, Kontonummer: 127829, BLZ 260 500 01, if you wish also with certain destination (e.g. Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, Vernetzung, Mobilität/Auto, Baden-Württemberg).
http://thevoiceforum.org/node/2345
If you prefer „Lastschriftverfahren“, please write an email to foerderverein_the_voice@web.de

Thank you in solidarity,

The VOICE Refugee Forum, Förderverein The VOICE e.V.

Report by Die Karawane Wuppertal

The VOICE Refugee Forum Network: On Colonial Injustice and the Continuity of Barbarity in Germany
http://thevoiceforum.org/node/1279
CARAVAN‐Platform 
Exchange on Organizing and Resistance in the Lagers  
made during the Conference on colonial Injustice  
held in Jena, from September 9 to 13, 2009 
http://thecaravan.org/files/caravan/united_vs_colonial_injustice_exchang...

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