Court case on " Residenzpflicht" in Braunschweig on the 10th of december 2012
Refugee Demonstration in Berlin 2001: Against "Residenzpflicht" - The Obligatory Residential Restriction of Movement for Asylum Seekers in Germany Bild: dpa
Court case on " Residenzpflicht" in Braunschweig on the 10th of december 2012
Call for public trial observation
10th of december 2012
Regional Court of Braunschweig, Münzstrasse 17, 38100 Braunschweig
Alain Nkurunziza, a war refugee from Burundi, defends himself against the prosecution of the so-called breach of the Residence Obligation.
Mr. Nkurunziza has to pay a 150 euro fine plus 60 euro administrative fees to the Treasury, because he was checked in Frankfort am Main without having a permit of the immigration office of Wolfsburg - one of the typical racist controls in Germany, where the appearance is a selection criterion.
Alain Nkurunziza introduced an objection and told the Wolfsburg District Court that the restriction on freedom of movement by means of the Residence Obligation is incorrect, and that he cannot accept punishment for his right to freedom of movement. He tried to explain that the immigration authorities sometimes granted permits for temporarily leaving the county and sometimes not. When being checked in Frankfurt he had a permit that had already expired for a few days. Due to health problems he had stayed longer in Frankfurt, he told the court. The court upheld the penalty, Alain Nkurunziza disagreed and the case is now taking place before the Regional Court of Braunschweig.
We call out for public trial observation and solidarity.
Freedom of movement is a human right – Residence Obligation violates our natural rights - abolition of racist special laws
Contact: 0176-303 66 55 9
Alain Nkurunziza has become as a young victim of the war in his homeland. He has lost his family. He was kidnapped and forced into military support services. He was imprisoned and eventually escaped. He was nineteen years old when he came to Germany traumatized. There his asylum application was immediately rejected as obviously unfounded by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, and a second trauma began. Alain Nkurunziza has lived since 2007 in Lagers in Lower Saxony, currently in Fallersleben / Wolfsburg, with the status of toleration under the threat of deportation. Alain Nkurunziza is active in a professional drum group from Burundi, whose members are scattered across Germany. To participate in the cultural work, he often has to cross travel through Germany. Participation in cultural and social life of his community are currently the only way to escape the madness and depression in the German Lager-System.
Berlin: Mbolo Yufanyi live Radio Broadcast Manifestation of THE VOICE and Plataforma on Reboot FM 88,4
Dear Friends and activists of The VOICE Refugee Forum and the Caravan for the rights of refugees and Migrants, We want to announce that our next time ON AIR in Reboot fm will be on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 (from 8-9pm). This time ON AIR will be dedicated to the upcoming Tribunal of the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, which will take place in Berlin in 2013.
You can also listen to our previous broadcasted programes on podcast from the links below.
Please try to spread it around if it is OK for you.
We hope to have you as listeners.
Listen to THE VOICE and Plataforma on Reboot FM 88,4:
The VOICE Berlin.
The VOICE Online - The 'Fortress Within': Restriction of Movement and Refugee Self-Organisation. by Sunny Omwenyeke
Sunny Omwenyeke is member of The VOICE and the Caravan-for the rights of refugees and migrants. A human rights campaigner, he was one of the activists who launched the anti-Residenzpflicht campaign in 2000 and for his protest was imprisoned for 15 days.
The concept of Fortress Europe entails in political and practical terms, the concerted will of the collective European Union (EU) to prevent unwanted migrants, refugees or asylum seekers from entering the territorial EU. And beyond preventing them from entering, it also describes the 'weeding' away of each and every one of the aforementioned groups who, by dint of courage or unyielding persistence already found themselves within the EU but have yet to secure a permanent legal residence. Underlying this concept is the idea that the EU must secure and protect itself from being swarmed by these unwanted elements; that could constitute a strain on the social system here. Therefore, the farther the territorial border is from mainland EU the higher the probability of actually preventing these groups of people from stepping into the EU. To this end, not only has the territorial EU border been broadened to Eastern Europe, coerced and dubious agreements have been reached with some of the countries that now border the EU aimed at preventing the 'unwanted' from reaching the EU.
These new border countries like Ukraine and across the See like Libya have been compelled to be recipient of EU camps (Lagers); where supposedly, asylum applicants are held and their application processed to prevent their presence in Europe. The audacious FRONTEX project of the EU is a step further in the intensification of border policing-both land and water, to achieve the aim of preventing the unwanted from entering and not the burnished humanitarian image that is sold to the public. Put differently, secured and externalised borders and externalised Lagers is the solution to the problem of the 'unwanted' in the EU, even at the expense of human freedom and dignity. This is because the EU turns a blind eye to its humanitarian commitment and obligations and the precarious condition of the 'unwanted' that is orchestrated by its own policies and actions like its lop-sided trade policies with the so-called third world countries.
The 'Fortress Within'
The above is only one side of the coin. The other side is what obtains within the EU proper and this complements the former, hence the 'Fortress Within'. To be specific, I use Germany and the 'Residence Obligation Law' (Residenzpflicht) for illustration. In Germany, refugees are restricted to the particular administrative Districts where they are registered and irrespective of the reasons and urgency, they can only leave there with a written permission issued by the foreigners' office. Any refugee who violates this restriction is either fined or sent to prison or can be both fined and imprisoned. The fine could be as much as 2500euro and the jail term as much as a year. Refugees are denied the right to freedom of movement and are forced to live in miserable Lagers for the endless years that it takes to decide their asylum applications. Most of these Lagers are isolated from the mainstream society and sometimes located in abandoned military barracks in the jungle with little or no access. They are deliberately isolated from the main populace like outcasts and stigmatised.
Now can these refugees be regarded as inhabiting an 'Area of Freedom' or simply living-out life in a Fortress? No doubt it is the latter. The Residence Obligation is a clear violation of the right to individual freedom of movement and a violation of the right to human dignity. It is a blatant violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 Protocol No.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UNHCR, human rights groups and refugee activists have long condemned this as inhuman and campaigners have rightly branded it as the 'Pass Law' in Germany, in direct comparison to the erstwhile Pass Law in apartheid South Africa. Its effects on refugees combined with their living conditions are broad and far reaching. As space will not permit these to be exhausted here, I will therefore briefly look at its history and the self-organisation of refugee groups in Germany.
When most refugees leave their friends and loved ones behind, they do so in search for safety, security and the preservation of their human dignity. They carry the hope to live a good life if not a better one than they have had and to lend a helping hand to those they leave behind. They are often driven by war-which they are not responsible for, hunger-arising from the loss of the means of livelihood, persecution-political and cultural; some of which are neither properly nor legally codified internationally and thus not a "sufficient" reason for being granted international protection (asylum). Contrary to widely held opinion in the West, they do not simply want to 'feed on the sweat of others'. They are being forced by the circumstances to seek a place more amenable to their desires and aspirations as human beings. They therefore also want to develop and live like other regular and normal human beings, study or work as the case may be even while they go through their travail. Much as no one expects a red-carpet reception, no one also expects to be restricted to a particular local District for years on end. The expectations and hopes always seem to be at odds with the reality. For some it is a shock and for others it is outright disbelief.
Peculiarity of Restriction
Several studies by different independent organisations across Europe reveal that the restriction on the refugee right to freedom of movement in Germany is unique. In other words, there is no other country in Europe where such a blanket restriction is placed on every refugee. What is also particularly troubling here is the arbitrariness of those in a position to issue any permission. They are not obliged to give any reason for their refusal and in most cases, you only hear that refugees are expected to eat and sleep in the Lagers and not travelling all over the country. And many refugees have been told that if they are tired of eating and sleeping, they can return to their countries. Moreover, there is no provision for appealing such refusal except by going to the court, which makes a mockery of any attempt to get permission in the first place. And in some Districts, refugees who only get 40euro a month have to pay 10euro for any permission. If the applicant is politically active, the chances of refusal are doubled and so are the attempts to intimidate and persecute him/her for being active against the miserable condition they are forced to live in. And when permissions are refused and refugees are then compelled to violate the restriction, they are treated and classified as criminals-a natural boost for statistics with the underlying message that most refugees are criminals and not fit to live here. For refugees, this criminalisation by default is a traumatic experience.
The so-called Residence Obligation was established with the introduction of the Asylum Procedure Law of 1982. The argument was that it would make it possible or easier for the authorities to contact refugees for their asylum cases. An argument that flies in the face since allowing refugees to move freely is not a hindrance to contacting them. Moreover, the registered address of the refugee is already enough for contact. In reality, the law was about intensified control-like the EU borders, making life uncomfortable as much as possible for refugees here and then sending them out if they can't bear it anymore. It was also to prevent other potential refugee from coming-since they will not like it here as it won't be comfortable. This recent history is ebbed on a 'control mentality' and it dates back much longer. Combined this with the Lager system, you arrive at a lager and control mentality which basically underlies the asylum system here in Germany with no respect for freedom and human dignity.
And even earlier.
It should be remembered that in former German colonial territory like Togo, villagers and local inhabitants were prevented from attending meetings outside their immediate localities without permission from their German colonial masters. This was specifically to ensure that the locals were prevented from meeting and fomenting any sort of unrest against their colonial masters. And even more chilling is the recollection that on 22nd August 1938, the National Socialists through the Foreigners' Police Order placed a very similar restriction of movement on foreigners in Germany. The consequence of a violation then like now was both a monetary fine and a possible one year jail term. And this law existed and remained valid until 1965 when a new foreigner law was enacted. Judging from the similarities in language, fine and consequences of the 1938 restriction and the Residence Obligation Law, it can hardly be doubted that the restriction placed on refugees today in Germany has not simply been paraphrased from the racist law enacted by the dreaded Nazi regime. That for a refugee in Germany in 2009 to leave his/her immediate District he/she needs a written permission from the foreigner's office-else a fine or possible jail term awaits upon police control is a startling and sad reminder of that 1938 restriction.
So far the focus has been on the Residence Obligation and the restriction of movement as a major problem to show that many of us are really living it out in a Fortress, contrary to what others would want us believe. But it should be said that it is not the only problem. There are the problems of refugees being denied private accommodation and privacy, leaving adults to be crammed together in single rooms, denied access to doctors and proper medication, being forced to use food coupons with its consequent public humiliation and of course the incessant police brutality; which sometimes results in the death of refugees at the hands of the police. These, combined, leave the refugees with hardly any better option than to organise and confront them, which brings us to refugee self-organisation. Normally, a few courageous individuals take the initial lead. They articulate the main problems before various audiences and in no time, they are speaking on behalf of the others while at the same time soliciting solidarity and support. It should be mentioned that although refugee self-organisations are also engaged with other fundamental issues like the exploitation of their home countries, neo-colonialism and the damning effects of globalisation amongst others, the focus here remains the experiences of these groups within the Fortress with particular attention to restriction of movement.
Starting from the scratch, refugee self-organisation is a hard and strenuous affair for a multiplicity of reasons. First, many refugees faced with the plethora of problems that is the asylum process and the constant threats of deportation simply withdraw onto themselves and begin to suffer depression with little or no attention. In some cases, the result is an attempted suicide or actual suicide. Second, because the formation of a refugee self-organised group is usually predicated upon the immediate problems that confronts the refugees, the primary aim of these groups is therefore to solve those problems. While it is true that some of these problems like closing down a camp or abolishing food coupon require long term planning and strong commitment to solve, such long term plans are usually not part of the original bargain at the beginning. One of the reasons for this is that you can never be sure of who will be around and for how long, to continue any such plans. This is because; the authorities always devise and employ the strategy of relocating most of the leading figures in such situations. Such activists are usually sent to far more remote places to isolate them, limit their possible support and solidarity to break any refugee resistance. Added to this is that they could be deported anytime. Third, even though many refugees live and experience the same horrible conditions in the Lagers, bonding together to confront these problems is not always an easy or straightforward project. Sometimes, differences in cultural background can be a problem. But more importantly, are both the issues of mistrust between refugees (in some cases due to previous experiences in their home countries) and the politics of 'divide and rule' by the authorities. For many who faced persecution and torture in their home countries, it takes time to trust strangers. Then there are those that are regarded as the "good refugees"-who are not complaining about their ordeals here and therefore not giving the authorities any problems and those seen as the "trouble makers"-who would never keep quiet about the problems they experience in the system. So, the authorities play them against each other and this affects how well they organise themselves against their common problems.
Besides the continuous relocation and isolation of refugee activists by the authorities, some of the leading figures in any such resistance also cease to be active soon after their papers are regularised, move out of the Lagers and no longer face movement restrictions. In many cases, the void left is difficult to fill. Therefore, long term commitment to common purpose from the self-organisation perspective is a huge problem. Another problem is sustaining the structure of engagement or improving on what has been developed for a start. Because these structures are usually feeble and unstable, it is not uncommon to see them crumbling under pressure-both from refugees' expectations of immediate solutions to his or her problems and from the authorities. By far one of the biggest problems to refugee self-organisation and networking remains the restriction of movement. When refugees go out of their Districts to attend meetings and network with other refugees, the threat of being arrested possibly brutalised and the certainty of a fine hangs over his/her head. It takes a lot of courage and some preparedness to pay a heavy price to continuously violate the restriction. Moreover, the intimidation and punishment that comes with such action serves as a lesson to discourage other refugees from being politically active.
Effects and Results
Nonetheless, refugee agitation leads to solutions of other problems like improving the living conditions in the camps or sometimes securing private apartments in some cases. And what is undeniable is the motivation, encouragement and re-awakening of hope that such little practical and tangible successes can inspire in some refugees. They are then imbued with the self belief that they can fight and win even against the all-powerful state. This is also particularly true in deportation cases. When refugees are active, the authorities adopt a hostile and aggressive attitude towards him/her and usually attempt to deport such refugees with haste. For a known activist, it is easier to mobilise support and solidarity to stop such deportation attempts.
The fact that other refugees can see and feel the support and solidarity that hinder such a deportation; which can be traced back to the personal engagement of the refugee usually offers a huge motivation. At the same time, the so-called "good refugees" are made to realise that irrespective of how "gentle" they may be, it would not endear them to the authorities to stop their deportation. On the contrary, they see that their deportations are usually easier because, it is more difficult to mobilise support for them when it is needed because they are relatively unknown.
Resolve and Defiance
Given the enormity of the problems refugees face here coupled with the institutional and societal racism, it is not surprising that many refugees feel too intimidated and therefore afraid to confront the situation and fight for their rights. There is a mental and psychological block that needs be broken for many of these refugees. This is precisely where self-organised and courageous refugee activists and groups like The VOICE Forum (http://thevoiceforum.org) and networks like the Caravan-for the rights of refugees and migrants (http://thecaravan.org) come in. These groups consist of refugees and migrants of diverse background from different nationalities and continents. Formed over 15 and 10 years ago respectively, they have the experience of motivating and mobilising refugees in isolated Lagers to fight for their rights and not accept the deplorable conditions that are forced upon them here. They have been at the forefront in highlighting the isolation and social exclusion of refugees and the realities of the 'Fortress Within'.
In 2000, The VOICE Forum hosted the Caravan-organised International Refugee and Migrant Congress in Jena. As preparation got underway refugees were threatened with imprisonment if they attend the Congress without a written permission from the foreigners' offices. Many refugees defied the threat and attended the congress without permission. They rose from the congress and launched a civil disobedience and the campaign to abolish the residence obligation law. They vowed never to respect this law anymore and never to ask for any permission to leave their Districts. At the same time, they risked and were prepared to go to jail rather than pay any fine for exercising their right to freedom of movement. Since then, there have been lots of public events, discussions, rallies, demonstrations and other forms of protest against the residence law throughout the country. At the same time, litigations have gone through all the instances in the German judicial system with the cases ending up at the European court of human rights. As expected, many refugees have been fined and punished for violating the restriction. And while some have been threatened and remain threatened with imprisonment, others have actually been sent to prison for weeks or months depending on how angry the presiding judge was at the time. Nevertheless, these groups are determined to not only expose the nature of the Fortress but break its tentacles 'Within'.
A Harder and Operational Fortress
Finally, we can review how the Fortress has developed and operated in its fortification, both externally and 'Within' since the last several years and we can only come to one conclusion: it is that the Fortress has become harder and more ruthless in trying to achieve its aim of keeping out the unwanted. Just a few years ago, some people who sought asylum in this country away from dictatorship and other forms of oppression in their home countries still managed to secure that internationally guaranteed protection. But since the last couple of years, particularly with the reckless abandon with which the so-called war on terror has been prosecuted and its consequent anti-terror laws, the very reasons for which a lot of those people got asylum and international protection has become the very reasons to now withdraw that protection. Many are being forced to live and endure life in 'illegality' or face the ominous process of being returned to the tormentors they fled from years ago.
And as if to show how ruthless the Fortress can be, the horrors and the harrowing experience of the Boat people are further spiced with such cruelty and inhumanity that is only matched by the inconsiderate and selfish aim to keep away the unwanted. And even so at the expense of disregarding and discarding the much vaunted European value of human freedom and human dignity not to mention humanitarian obligation. If anyone ever needed to be reminded of where we are, the sight of Spanish police and soldiers shooting and killing innocent migrants and potential refugees at their borders in 2005 should do. If not, then the more recent deadly collaboration with Libyan authorities will help. We should note that the Fortress is operational and its functionality has been taken to a higher level in the just ended week by the horrendous example of Italy. Having watched hundreds of hapless Boat people braved the odds and risks to arrive on its border, it wasted no time and immediately repatriated them to Libya without even allowing them to make asylum claims. Libya of all places-where there is neither any form of asylum policies nor is it a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Germany, if accident occurred and a victim needed help, a passer-by who refuses to help when it is within his/her capability is normally charged and prosecuted for not helping-to save life. Now, those who have taken the risk to rescue and save drowning people on the high See have become villains and criminals. They are being prosecuted with jail terms awaiting them-for supposedly helping drowning people who 'ought to be left to drown'. And for the Fortress Within, it is the same-it is more brutal and more ruthless. As we speak a refugee is currently in jail to languish there for eights months for violating the restriction law and no other offence. Imagine a crime that would warrant eight months in jail for a German! The list goes on.the Fortress is here.
Since 1982, Germany is the only country in Europe were refugees are criminalized by the law of the Residenzpflicht. The Obligatory Residency Law keeps refugees from seeing their doctors, their lawyers, their friends and relatives and for some of them worst of all from continuing their activities which made them flee their country. When German politicians are in uproar about how foreigners are not willing to integrate into the society, such an absurd and inhumane law and the discussion surrounding integration can only be seen as cruel and cynical.
Second court hearing against Ahmed Sameer violation of the Obligatory Residence Law or Residenzpflicht
Palestinian refugee does not accept restriction of movement in Germany
The second court hearing against Ahmed Sameer on the three counts of being in violation of the Obligatory Residence Law or Residenzpflicht and his protest against “Residenzpflicht” will be held in the
Landesgericht Erfurt, Domplatz 37, Room 1.12, at 1pm, on the Wednesday, the 8th of December, 2004. In his first hearing he was sentenced to a fine of 150 euros or 50 days in prison. Since Ahmed considers the law to be unjust, he has decided to not pay even one cent to the authorities for his freedom of movement. After Ahmed’s appeal, the case has now been taken to the Landesgericht in Erfurt.
Ahmed Sameer, member of The VOICE Refugee Forum, protests against the German Obligatory Residency Law, also known as Residenzpflicht, which restricts the movement of asylum seekers to their Landkreis (municipals) pending previous permission by state authorities and which is in complete violation of the most minimum human rights standards.
Why Ahmed Sameer fights against this law:
“When I sought asylum here in Germany, I never expected to be subjected to conditions similar to what I fled from in Palestine. The residence law does not only dehumanise and criminalize me, but goes to great length to prevent me from informing the German society about the current situation in the Occupied Territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as to engage in my political activities for the rights of refugees and migrants in exile.
My fight against this law must simply be understood as a fight of solidarity and to express my conviction for human dignity. I will not compromise my natural and constitutional right to freedom of movement, association and expression. I will use every peaceful means possible to express my convictions against the Residenzpflicht and for its abolition in Germany. Even if the consequence of my protest against this law is that I must go to prison, I am not prepared to pay any fine that can only be seen as an instrument for the criminalization and repression of refugees.”
Since 1982, Germany is the only country in Europe were refugees are criminalized by the law of the Residenzpflicht. The Obligatory Residency Law keeps refugees from seeing their doctors, their lawyers, their friends and relatives and for some of them worst of all from continuing their activities which made them flee their country. When German politicians are in uproar about how foreigners are not willing to integrate into the society, such an absurd and inhumane law and the discussion surrounding integration can only be seen as cruel and cynical.
Some representatives of self-organised groups like The VOICE Refugee Forum in Jena, Initiative of Refugees and Migrants from Berlin, the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants” and Brandenburg Refugee Initiative (FIB) will be observing the trial with Ahmed Sameer and the defence lawyer Ulrich v. Klinggräff from Berlin. After the hearing, there will be a short meeting where more information can be obtained.
Ahmed Sameer, Tel. Handy: 0049 (0) 173 8463038 and Osaren Igbinoba, 0049 (0) 3641 665214
Ahmed Sameer against Residenzpflicht
At the moment, Ahmed Sameer has four pending cases against the Residenzpflicht. He was first controlled by the police in Berlin in February, 2003, when he was asking for information in the police station on behalf of a friend who wanted to seek asylum. His second control came in March, 2003, at a filling station on the highway Munich-Nuremberg, when he went to meet with his auntie, who actually came from Sweden to see her nephew; in September 2003 he was controlled again both in Hof and Jena respectively, when a bus of refugees was underway to participate in the actions days against the Ausreisezentrum in Fürth, where Residenzpflicht and the social exclusion of refugees was one of the main topics.
For the first three controls, the court decided to combine them into one hearing and the state prosecutor demanded that Ahmed pays a total of 272 euros. In his first hearing, the judge decided to reduce the sentence to either a fine of 150 euros or 50 days in prison. Ahmed immediately appealed this decision and the case has now been taken to the Landesgericht in Erfurt, which will hear his case on the 8th od December.
Ahmed is also threatened with fines for several hundred more euros for other controls (the fine for the 4th control, not yet taken before the court, is 200 euros or 40 days in prison).
The Residenzpflicht-law in Germany
Since 1982, Germany is the only country in Europe were refugees are criminalized by the law of the Residenzpflicht. This law shows that refugees in Germany are meant to be socially isolated, not only by being kept in far away camps in the middle of forests, but also the restriction of movement by this racist law is intended to keep refugees away from the society, not allowing them to be in contact with the general populace and much less fellow refugees and migrants who may be living in other cities.
The Obligatory Residency Law keeps refugees from seeing their doctors, their lawyers, their friends and relatives and for some of them worst of all from continuing their activities which made them flee their country. When German politicians are in uproar about how foreigners are not willing to integrate into the society, such an absurd and inhumane law and the discussion surrounding integration can only be seen as cruel and cynical.
The Obligatory Residency Law has its roots in a time where many Germans do not want to be remember (or be remembered for that matter). Even as far back as 1938 there was a police decree for foreigners published in the Reich Law Bulletin (Reichsgesetzblatt) number 132. In paragraphs one and two of the document, the authorities decreed that any foreigner who left his municipal without previous of the authorities would be fined with 150 Reichmarks and/or sent to prison (Never Again?!).
Thus, Residenzpflicht for refugees violates article 13 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration (Freedom of Movement) as well as article 1 of the German constitution and article 2 paragraph 1, which “guarantee” the right to human dignity and the right to development of the human personality, respectively. Furthermore, the right to assembly is highly restricted with this law.
The Struggle against Residenzpflicht has already its history since the year 2000
Ahmed Sameer is not the first refugee who is not willing to accept such injust restrictions of his most basic rights. Other cases against refugees who do not accept the restriction of their freedom to move, such as Janak Pathak in Lübbecke district (North Rhein – Westphalia), Sunny Omwenyeke (Bremen), Cornelius Yufanyi (Göttingen) and Akubuo Chukwudi in Parchim (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) have already created awareness
both in public opinion and in the press.
Imprisoned for the right of freedom of movement?
The activist of the refugee organization The Voice Refugee Forum Germany, Cornelius Yufanyi from Victoria-Limbe/ Cameroon, father of a child and Student of forestry at the University of Göttingen, is requested to appear at the district court on Thursday, 27.10.2005, to follow the warrant of arrest issued against him. Yufanyi has been living in Germany since 1998 and has been figthing for years against the so called Residenzpflicht. Three times he had to answer to the court already, since having been accused of violating the Residenzpflicht law in 2000. The offers of the court to drop the case because of minor guilt were all rejected by Cornelius Yufanyi. Now Yufanyi is supposed to pay a fine of 15 daily rates each 10 Euro.
“I won’t pay for my right of freedom of movement and I am ready to go into prison for this”, says Cornelius Yufanyi who continues his fight for an acquittal and the repeal of the discriminating Residenzpflicht law for asylum seekers.”
Yufanyi shall now be forced to disclose his financial conditions. On Thursday 27th of October he is supposed to go to the bailiff. If not, the warrant of arrest against him will be remitted. The background: In the year 2000 Yufanyi attended a congress in Jena. Cornelius Yufanyi then was subject to the Residenzpflicht law. This law indicates that refugees are not allowed to leave the district they are allocated to by the authorities without permission of the Ausländerbehörde. Yufanyi’s apply for permission was rejected although he was one of the main organizers of the congress. An employee of the Ausländerbehörde Heiligenstadt (Landkreis Eichsfeld/ Thüringen) saw an interview with Yufanyi in an article of the Thüringer Allgemeine and reported him to the police.
“This is an inhumane policy we will not submit to”, says Yufanyi. And he has many supporters. Yufanyi and other activists now have accused the German state to the European Court of Human Rights because of racist legislation. Germany is the only European country that actually prohibits refugees to Move freely. “This law strongly reminds of the Apartheid law in former Southern Africa”, comments Yufanyi.”
“Perhaps the Germans will be able to understand us better, in the times of Hartz IV – one of the central so-called reforms of the current cutbacks in The social welfare system in Germany” says Osaren Igbinoba, chairman of the refugee organization The Voice Refugee Forum Germany. Germans unemployed need a permission by the employment office when they want to leave their place of residence. According to the minister of state Andres the affected persons have to be every working day personally available at their residence. “This is different to the refugee issues though”, Osaren Igbinoba continues, “ as it will hardly lead to increasing controls by the police and BGS.” Non-German looking people however always have to expect being controlled. And then they get a penalty of leaving the district without permission. When violating the Residenzpflicht law several times refugees have to face a fine of up to 2500 Euro or even a one-year prison sentence.”
“I will definitely continue fighting”, says Cornelius Yufanyi, “for the right of freedom of movement and for my human dignity.” Yufanyi will, as arranged with his lawyers, not go to court on 27th of October. “I have been to the courts – up to the Federal Constitutional Court – to fight for my rights. I will not cooperate any longer.” What awaits him now is very likely prison. Until he has disclosed his financial condition and done his time for the fine of 323,20 Euro. Having fought against the Residenzpflicht law two other activists and refugees of the organization The Voice Refugee Forum Germany have already been in prison for two weeks each.”
There are several organizations that have been protesting against the discriminating law for years. The refugee council UNHCR has applied several times to the German authorities and courts to revise the Residenzpflicht law – without success. The law is, according to the UNHCR, incompatible with international law. The case Yufanyi together with the case of Sunny Omwenyehe in the European Court for Human Rights are supported among others by the Human Rights Organization Pro Asyl.
For further information, see also:
Years of fighting for the right of free movement ends with imprisonment?
Cornelius Yufanyi, a refugee from Cameroon and member of the human rights organisation The Voice Refugee Forum is threatened with imprisonment for having violated the travel restriction regulation imposed on asylum seekers in Germany - this threat is becoming reality 5 ½ years after his participation in the refugee congress in Jena, eastern Germany, which is when proceedings were first initiated against him. By now, Cornelius has a young daughter, who is a German citizen. He has almost completed his degree in forestry. He is still politically active and continues to fight against the racist refugee politics prevailing in Germany.
Because his life was under threat in Cameroon, Yufanyi fled to Germany in December 1998 and applied for asylum in January 1999. Refugees cannot determine their place of residence so he had to live in an asylum seekers home located in the middle of a forest in Weilrode in Eichsfeld, which has since been closed down as a result of protests against the bad living conditions. Despite the authorities' intention to isolate refugees by forcing them to live a non-cash existence in remote areas, Yufanyi became an active member of the refugee organisation The Voice as well as the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants.
In 1999, together with other refugees, he organised the refugee congress "Together against deportation and social exclusion", which took place from 20 April to 1 May 2000 in Jena. Many refugees were stopped from attending the conference because the local foreigners authorities refused to issue travel permits. Refugees are subject to the so-called Residenzpflicht (literally: "obligation of residency") which lays down that they can only leave their designated regional district with permission from the foreigners authority. Cornelius Yufanyi was also not in possession of such a permit.
On 28 April, eight days after the start of the conferences, an interview with Yufanyi was published in the regional newspaper Thüringer Allgemeine. This article was read by Mr Schäfer, representative of the foreigners authority of Heiligenstadt, who copied it and sent it to regional police force, which ordered Cornelius Yufanyi to appear at the station for an interrogation. Yufanyi refused to attend upon which the regional administrative court imposed a fine of 600 DM without a hearing.
Cornelius Yufanyi refused to pay the fine: "I will not pay a fine for wanting to move freely. It is the right of every human being to go where ever he wants to go". This is why he had to go to court for the first time on 12 October 2000.
The first court case
On 12 October 2000, at the start of the first trial against Yufanyi, around 80 supporters came to the regional administrative court in Worbis to protest against the residency law. Only 36 supporters fitted into the court room, the others had to wait outside. Those who had been able to get an entry tickets had to undergo body searches, including metal detectors. The whole charade (and following demonstration) was accompanied by an excessive police presence. The authorities obviously wanted to give the impression that the incident discussed in court was a dangerous matter.
However, during the trial, it was not Cornelius Yufanyi but the residency regulation itself that was put in the dock as a racist exceptional law. The lawyers as well as Yufanyi "addressed the racist practice of implementing the law as a central theme and thereby gave insight into the depths of institutional racism in Germany. It is an exemplary piece for showing the remits for control, spying and denunciation that exceptional laws for foreigners create for law enforcement officers and civil servants", an observer later described the trial.
The civil servant who had passed on the article to the police was invited as a witness. During his interrogation by the defence, the arbitrariness of the granting of travel permits was revealed: "one has to find a balance in issuing travel permits, also with regard to other refugees". He gave the following criteria for granting a permit: "family and friends' visits if an address is given, visits to expositions, religious activities, if they give support to the refugee". Frequency and aim of requests were also important: "I also check return movement, and we should not be naïve: shop-lifting also exists". In that case, he asserted, he would not give an applicant another permission to travel to the place in question.
Schäfer, on his own accord, zealously passed on his knowledge on Cornelius Yufanyi to the Federal Office for the Acceptance of Asylum Seekers and the regional administrative court. He strongly suspected, he said in his letter to the authorities, that Mr Yufanyi was using his residency in Germany to be politically active. Also, Schäfer claimed he was only present at the asylum seekers home on the days the pocket money was being paid out. Finally, Schäfer thought it was worth mentioning that Yufanyi was often accompanied by a German student from Lower Saxony. According to the Thuringian data protection officer, almost all of these information transfers were "impermissible communications", for the lawyers, they are an aggregation of racist thought and practice.
After the interrogation, the proceedings were postponed. Yufanyi refused a closing of proceedings. He said that his aim is the abolition of the residency law, not a stop in proceedings on grounds of negligibility.
The second court case
On 24 October 2002, the second court case started in Worbis. This time, the court was able to ascertain that Cornelius Yufanyi had actually been in Jena in April 2000. Again, it was the practice of issuing "holiday certificates" which was at the centre of the hearing. According the internal documents of the foreigners authority, asylum seekers are only allowed one "holiday certificate" per month. Other "rules" for the issuing of these permits could not be established during the interrogations. A blanket definition for issuing permits would be unlawful.
Neither the public prosecutor nor the defence were satisfied with the information given by the cross-examined civil servant. For the third trial day, it was therefore initially planned to summon the then chief of the foreigners authority of the regional district of Eichsfeld, Michael Wickman, as well as a representative of the Thuringian interior ministry as witnesses. Meanwhile, Wickman is engaged in promoting the mass deportation of stateless Lebanese refugees in his function of regional MP in Northeim and proudly declared to colleagues of Cornelius Yufanyi that he had been the "architect" of the residency regulation.
The third court case
On 4 September 2003, the third and last hearing took place in Worbis. 80 people gathered for a rally and trial observation in front of the administrative court.
The presiding judge at this hearing, however, had not invited representatives from the interior ministry or Wickman. She had not thought their interrogation necessary.
The defence started the hearing by lodging an application for a stop of proceedings and a referral to the Federal Constitutional Court. The court refused this with the justification that in an earlier ruling, the Constitutional Court had deemed the residency regulation constitutional. After Cornelius was interrogated, his lawyers demanded his acquittal. They argued that the unlawful travel to Jena had been a "case of emergency" because although he could have appealed to a travel ban, it would have taken too long to guarantee his attendance at the conference.
The trial ended with a fine of 150 Euros for Cornelius. In her reasoning for the judgement, the judge said she could not identify the claimed emergency. An emergency would only exist, she argued, if there was a danger to life, physical integrity or freedom. Freedom, she said, was the freedom given to a person by the state. Although his motivations were respectable, Cornelius would have to fight the law politically, the judge held. The lawyers announced they would appeal against the decision and declared their intentions to go the European Court of Justice if necessary.
Meanwhile, Cornelius' case, together with that of Sunny Omwenyeke, has indeed been lodged with the European Court of Justice. A decision, however, will take several years. By then, the residency regulation will continue to be implemented, with the aim of isolating and excluding refugees from social life in Germany.
An arrest warrant has been issued against Cornelius Yufanyi because he continues to refuse to pay for his right to freedom of movement. He is not the first to go to prison for this right. Sunny Omwenyeke has already been imprisoned for the same reason. Just like Yufanyi, he did not have permission to travel to the refugee conference in Jena. In December 2004, he started serving his prison sentence (instead of paying a fine). On 4 April 2005, Momodou Barrow was imprisoned in the JVA-Rottenburg for having violated the residency regulation several times.
Already during the colonial period, German tried to control and restrict the free movement of the colonised. Then, the colonies introduced a so-called "natives register" and a "passport" (in form of a tin chip). "Because each passport is only valid in one district and marked by correlating serial numbers, it was possible to ascertain at any given time if Africans had left their borough or district. If they wanted to leave legally - for a limited time period - they had to apply for a passport from the relevant police station. At the travel destination they had to get a confirmation of their time of arrival. The intention of this consistent surveillance was to deny the colonised freedom of movement". (from: Lawful injustice, p. 139*). One of the former colonies in which this law applied is Cameroon, Cornelius Yufanyi's country of origin.
It is high time that the residency regulation and any other exceptional laws discriminating against refugees are abolished!
Contact: Cornelius Yufanyi, Mobile: 0049 (0) 170 87 88 124
anti-lager tour refugee call 2004:
Millions of people throughout the third world died under colonial expansion because of the exploitation of their wealth and their natural resources. Today we are confronted with the problems of neo-colonial globalisation, the capitalistic machinery of global trade and the militarisation of border controls.
The Lager regime and militarisation of borders are now even intensified beyond Europe to the countries and continents where the refugees and migrants come from. The western countries have advanced their rigid policies against migrants in general, including those who flee due to persecution and in solidarity with the oppressed.
The Majority of the refugees and migrants in Europe are stigmatised, persecuted and socially excluded.
Many refugees and migrants get killed or drown in the sea while attempting to reach the richer and safer countries. Those who survive to reach the borders are put in lagers by the European military border guards.
The refugees are packed together first in the ZAST (Reception and Transit camps/Lager), then in asylum homes and later in inhuman lagers, deportation centers and deportation prisons.They face constant racist controls and are permanently threatened by deportation. In Germany refugees are criminalized by the law of the residence obligation (“Residenzpflicht”), which restricts their movement to their local districts.
In the last years the German deportation regime succeeded in reducing the entry of refugees into Germany, with the politicians supporting the continous mass deportations and social exclusion of the foreigners.
The Lager culture of the deportation regime breeds racism, violence, prejudice, stupidity, hate, ignorance and xenophobia, including the public´s fear of migrants. Segregation and isolation expose them to discrimination and exploitation, Terror, torture, sexualized and/or racist attacks and dehumanisation.
Lager, represents the systematic abuse of foreigners by the repression of the state, for persecution and for the restriction of movement of refugees and migrants against their will.
In the last 10 years, more than ever before, refugees have been protesting against the lager regimes, even more so against the inhumane conditions of accomodations in the forests, in former military barracks, in industrial lagers and container ships.
Refugees did struggle to close lagers in Zittau, the ship containers in Bremen, Saalfeld Lager, forest home in Tambach Dietharz and Jena Forst in Thueringen, and Parchim-Dschungel-Heim Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, of course with the support of non – refugee activists, and more so with the resistance of those living inside.
We will support the refugees’ struggle and the protest campaigns of the renowed refugee activist from Nigeria Akubuo Chukwudi against lager and police racist controls/brutality, social exclusion, residenzpflicht, and deportation. His engagement in Parchim also inspires the refugees in Tram to protest against the Lager there.
The refugees oppose the Otto Schilly’s Zuwanderungsgesetz which advances migration control for the purpose of Brain draining and selection at the expense of migrants by intensifying the lagerisation and deportation of refugees and migrants.
Refugee activists will co-organise the Anti-Lager-Tour 2004 against lagers and deportation prisons in Neuss, Bramsche, Hannover, Halberstadt, Tram and Eisenhüttenstadt and others in Germany.
During the tour the significant efforts of the refugee struggle will be emphasized.
Solidarity begins at home! We call on refugees and migrants committed to solidarity with the oppressed all over the world to continue to condemn and expose the colonial dominance and exploitation of the west in their home countries, including the criminalisation and discriminaton here. We call on all Germans to stand and fight for an open society, and to share with us the burdens of the oppressed people here in concrete solidarity without any form of discrimination. In solidarity, our struggles for liberation are bound together!
We will act together in solidarity to protest against lagers, the permanent state of controls and the deportations
Our Autonomy is our Self-organisation, our Solidarity, our Freedom of movement and our Resistance against lager, deportation, social exclusion and migration control.
No lager here or anywhere! No deportation! Become an activist!
Silence will not protect anyone. Free movement is for everyone! We are here and we will fight!
There will be demonstrations, discussions, direct actions, festivals, theatre, music, arts, exhibitions, films and etc.
The VOICE Refugee Forum
Stop all deportations! Close all detention and deportation centers for refugees and migrants!
When the people of continents such as Africa, Asia or Latin America first came to Europe, we were brought over as slaves, and many of us were literally placed in human zoos, where the Europeans could see how exotic, savage animals looked and dressed. In our homelands, millions throughout the world died under the colonial expansion and exploitation of our wealth and resources. Left behind were the neo-colonial servants and slaves drivers, also known as our supposed governmental leaders, so that the capitalistic machinery could continue.
Today, this reality is not much different. Our countries remained the same colonized and exploited countries as before; we are still looked down upon for who we are and we only gain respect when we are considered as folklore; we are still trampled upon, spat on and excluded, and we refugees are placed in Heims far from many possibilities of integration into the society like in Freienbessingen or Markersdorf in Thüringen and Eisenhüttenstadt in Brandenburg.
The construction of modern day, brutal neoliberal deportation and persecution centers such as the Projekt X in Braunschweig and Bramsche, the Ausreisezentrum in Fürth or the innumerable deportation prisons throughout this country represents nothing more than the decadence of a neo-colonial power that has never been capable of making the empty slogans and promises of liberty, justice and democracy or even nie wieder! a reality. On the contrary, their abused and hollow meanings have long since unmasked the truth of the injustice behind their supposed help and goodwill: terror, hunger and injustice!
With an ever increasing racist and repressive system, the restriction of our freedom of movement is lashed out from the whip of the slave driver with the „Residenzpflicht“ restrictions of movement against the refugees in Germany, racist police controls and police brutality. Even in our own countries the local police receive European financial aids to criminalize the peoples' desire for justice. If we manage to make it past the increasingly rigid and brutal controls of the European Fortress then we are immediately considered to be terrorists and criminals and our deportation is prepared even before they know who we are.
When something is to be done to fight this inherent injustice, then the European sees the refugee as someone who needs to be helped and given charity. However, if the boot of oppression is on the back of the majority of the world, then no helping hand will be worth more than any but a simple empty gesture, just like their slogans of liberty, justice and democracy. And it must be clear that this symbolic boot on our backs is the reality of our lives in our world today, whereby few countries and a handful of rich and powerful corporations and individuals try to control the wealth (human and material) of the entire planet
No matter where we are, whenever we attempt to live a decent life, feed our families, enjoy education or even struggle for the right to life, we are criminalised, imprisoned and sent to our deaths (be it through hunger or repression) by the very societies which benefit most from our devastation and misery occasioned by their greed and economic intervention. The bureaucratic machine of oppression and injustice continues to work endlessly to keep us as a people without faces and rights. They simply want us to remain as objects to be stared at and talked about as they envisioned for us in the human zoos they constructed hundreds of years ago.
Stop the deportations! Deportation is a human rights abuse. So it is a crime.
The German authorities must be held accountable for the consequences of these deportations and the deportation threats which often led to absolute desperations and frustrations with repressions and death of the refugees or migrants here in Germany and after their deportations, including the imprisonments, persecutions, tortures or death of those deported.
When we are deported, we are sent back to the very lands that have been destroyed and raped of any future. And like when colonialism began, we are treated like animals not worthy of the so-called Europeans ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy. We are placed in Cages (Heims, Ausreisezentrum or deportation prisons) which they do not consider good enough for their dogs. They "wisely" expect us to accept this injustice without complaints and be grateful to them for their purported "magnanimity". They expect us to praise the U.S.A and European governments, WTO, IMF, World Bank, NATO,IOM and etc. for "trying to rescue us" from the poverty and ugly situation they imposed on us.
Yet after so many centuries of colonialist and capitalist exploitation of our wealth and peoples, after so many massacres, repressive regimes and torture, we are still fighting both in our countries and here to overturn this injustice once and for all! We are still here, we are still strong and we still have our dignity! In Germany, France, Italy, Nigeria, Colombia, Palestine, Cameroon, Iraq, Peru, Iran, Irak, Togo, Sri-lanka and many other places, no matter where we are, our resistance - inherited from so many generations who fought and died for our liberation before us - continues and will not be defeated!
We call on all refugees, migrants and progessive-minded peoples to come together in order to demonstrate that another world is possible and that solidarity, justice, brother- sisterhood and liberty are more than mere words and slogans without substance (unlike the words of the powerful that are nothing more than masked lies!), that each finger by itself is weak and can be broken, but that when the fingers come together, they form a strong and resilient fist of resistance!
Free Movement Now! Close all detention and deportation centers!
Stop the deportations! Abolish the“Residenzpflicht“ restriction of refugees to local districts in Germany!
Wherever the repression is, we will be there! No injustice is secure from our resistance!
Karawane for the rights of refugees and migrants in Germany.
The VOICE Refugee Forum, Jena. E-mail.: email@example.com
Freedom of movement for refugees
on 17.-19. Mai 2001 in Berlin
We Demand the Immediate and Unconditional Abolition of German Apartheid Residential Restriction and the Obligation Laws "Landkreis-Residenzpflichtgesetz" against the Refugees in Germany!
We protest against the permanent controls and the persecution of refugees by the German authorities, the politicians and the Legislation responsible.
Movement is our (my) individual and fundamental Right!
Join the Civil Disobedience!
In a democratic land the only reason for state authorities control and monitoring of persons is to keep the peace and to protect other members of the society. Such a control should be done on the base of the constitution without prejudice of origin, religion, colour or race of the controlled person. The reality in Germany is another.
Refugees in Germany are victims of the "Residenzpflichtgesetz", a system of residential restriction like the Apartheid in the former racist South Africa. Also Germany has its Pass Law. It is for Refugees forbidden to move free in Germany. They are not allowed to leave the local district where they are confined as habitation places. They must live in the refugee homes, often in isolated areas and in the woods. These laws in reality put migrants under segregating police controls. These controls are run on the base of the external differences between migrant people and the white German majority.
The Freedom of movement is non-negotiable and should be protected by each democratic society as the foundation of the development of the human personality.
Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that Germany is a signatory states: Every human being has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each nation... We (I) therefore strongly protest this police control restricting freedom of movement as an act of discrimination and total disregard of human dignity and human rights, like the Pass Laws of the Apartheid Era in South Africa. The residential restriction Law is the base for racist motivated selective police enforcements; based on "race", body colour, religion and nationality, which is not only unconstitutional and uncivilised but endangered the refugees, the general insecurity of the refugees and the migrants in Germany are forcefully executed by the authorities.
This police control restricting movement of the refugees without a crime, is an act of intentionally inflicting severe pain of physical and mental suffering, instigated by the state institutions, intimidating and destroying personal development, constituting deliberate cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment; For which the state officials are protected when they do not permit the freedom of movement ensuring Institutionalised Racism, violating data protection laws by investigating the privacy of persons including Germans who associate with the refugees and migrants. They do that accordingly to a law, which forbids the refugees' individual right of free movement.
These police controls are made criminal by the forceful fingerprinting and photography leading to an opening of a criminal file according to the German-Foreigners law-(AuslG) article 36 and the German law governing asylum application(AsylVFG) article 56. The state prosecution for freedom of movement brings about state and police brutality by battering and stripping-off, putting fingers into the mouth and anus that sometimes lead to police murder.
This apartheid residential restriction -Obligation Pass law "Residenzpflichtgesetz" makes a refugee an open suspect without being a criminal that leads to racist detentions without crime according to (article 59 of the German law governing asylum application-AsylVFG). A repeated violation of this apartheid residential restriction -obligation "Pass law" exposes the refugee to a jail term of up to one year, at the discretion of the state authorities by (Article 85 No.2, and Article 59 of the law governing asylum application-AsylVG). You may be fined as much as 5000DM according to article 86 of the German asylum law (AsylVFG) for the violation of the Apartheid residential restriction -Obligation "pass law" and if the fine cannot be paid by the refugee who gets meagre 80DM per month, he or she is slave worked as punishment for the fine. This is exploitation that is repressive and prohibited by the United Nations declaration of human rights Articles 4,5,6,9,13 and 14.
With this criminalization controls we are (I am) treated as potential criminals or murderers, a refugee could be lawfully detained and put into custody awaiting deportation for 18 months without having committed a crime as regulated in Article 57 of the German-foreigners law (AuslG) and Article 59 of the law governing asylum application (AsylVFG). Are we (Am I) as travellers equal to murderers in Germany? We (I) protest racist control, arrest, detention and the institutionalised racism.
Germans often forgot or ignored the fact that they benefited more than other countries from international asylum rights - first in the Nazi-Era, when many German people searched for asylum all over the world, the second time after World War Two, when even guilty Nazi people obtained asylum rights in foreign countries including the countries of the refugees and migrants of today under the protection of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Right. But how is the situation now in Germany? The German reality is the political destruction of the individual and fundamental asylum rights for refugees and migrants, of which the German society must be reminded of their historical duty against destruction!
The German state global politics of refugee repression is in continuous escalation and collaboration with the fascists, dictators and the corrupt regime in the refugees' countries.
We (I) protest, calling for the immediate abolition of the Apartheid Residential Restriction -Obligation Pass Law "Residenzpflichtgesetz" which exist only in Germany since 1982. Our protest against the discrimination of refugees is part of our(my) political engagement for the continuation of our (my) political struggle for human freedom in exile, as our (my) right to freedom of opinion, expression and association regardless of frontiers is also restricted, in violation of Articles 13, 19, 20, 27 and 29 of the universal declaration of human rights which Germany ratified.
For any compromise with the restriction of the individual right of movement and the confinement of refugees, are political corruption, discrimination and gross human right abuse.
We (I) appeal against this control forbidding our (my) individual and fundamental right to move, forbidding our (my) right to live, for movement is life and freedom for liberty in an expected democratic state.
Stop enforcing racial laws. There is one-humanity and it cannot be divided by anyone or the German state.
It is time now for civil disobedience! Break the Apartheid Residential Restriction Obligation "Pass Law"!
Free Movement is Our Right! Germany is not safe for Refugees!
17-19.May 2001 Protest March and Demonstrations in Berlin
Abolish Residential Restriction -Obligation "Pass Law" (Landkreis-Residenzpflichtgesetz): Law governing asylum applications (Asylverfahrensgesetz) Article 56 and German-Foreigners' Law (Ausländergesetz) Article 36 against the Freedom of movement for refugees in Germany.
Die Karawane for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants in Germany
Campaign Co-ordination: The VOICE Africa Forum, Refugee Human Right Group, Schillergäßchen 5, 07745 Jena-Thueringen