marec 27, 2017

Report Back: The Big International Mobilization on March 18th and Those To Come

For those of us at the Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza community, the need and the call for a large pan-European mobilization against the completion of anti-refugee policies by the EU and its member states, and e focus on an alternative to these, became prominent last November, during the celebration of the first six months at City Plaza.

enough18m

Originally published by Hotel City Plaza

The 18th of March, a date which makes one year since the signing of the EU-Turkey deal, was the ideal opportunity to turn this idea into a reality. The response to our call by initiatives, organizations and structures from over 50 European cities is enough to make this mobilization a success. However, we believe that we have to insist on he following points:

In Athens, the initiative for the organization of the 18M protest, through its common call and actions in camps, social spaces and workplaces, led to the biggest antiracist protest of the past few years. It is not a given that this was going to be achieved together by everyone involved. Over the past few years, we were divided into separate protests. City Plaza contributed to this (not on its own, of course) through its call for a common assembly for setting up the framework for the mobilization.

This way, thousands of different moths, thousands of different slogans in many different languages rallied against racism, war, poverty and fascism, against the EU-Turkey deal of shame. The participation of refugees from camps was very large, and sets an important precedent for ongoing struggles.

The picture in cities across the country was similar. Over 19 demonstrations took place in the rest of Greece, on islands and cities, where refugees and locals created a big event that resonated throughout the country. The Panhellenic Network of Antiracist and Migrant Organizations contributed significantly to making this a nationwide event.

Despite and disagreements which may have arisen, the initiative and the demonstration showed, in practice, the potential and the counterexamples which can be set within the movement through the coordination and unity of struggle, when these have deep roots.

At the same time, we should give special mention to the international campaign, and to the great response to the call for an international day of action. From Rome to London, from Berlin to Basque Country, the streets were filled with people protesting against racism and austerity. This is an important internationalist precedent, not only because it highlighted the fact that the issue of refugees is not cut off from the other forms of oppression and discipline for people’s, but also because it can serve as a reference point for a systematic networking of European social movements.

From the first day, City Plaza has, since day one, attempted to serve as a wider center of struggle for the solidarity movement. It wishes to show that, apart from the terrible government camps, there is an alternative, that it is possible for spaces to exist with cities, in which living conditions are dignified and relationships are equal. Spaces in which, despite their localization or material constraints, the wish to «live together» is turned into reality. And it is exactly this desire which filled the City Plaza block with a multitude of colours, people, languages, and feelings. A block in which the sense of community and of the essential common struggle were not only theoretical declarations but lived experiences. In this way, refugees, locals, as well as many international activists, contributed to breaking the routine and monotony of mobilizations last, reminding us that it is beautiful to struggle collectively in order to change the world.

We therefore keep 18th March in our memory as a practice and as a reminder of the potential of social movements, without disregarding our duties for the coming period. The whole of the social movement should stand against the European atrocity against refugees, which is presented as the only alternative (that, too!), and to oppose it through an internationalist and class lens, to defend the unity of individual, political, and social rights.

In the coming period, City Plaza will attempt to take new initiatives for the continuation and deepening of movement coordination for the refugee issues, both inside and outside Greece.

The events to celebrate one year at City Plaza in April may be an opportunity to share experiences, thoughts, and ideas.

Close the camps of shame, not the solidarity squats.

No to the EU-Turkey deal

Against the government policies of repression and «management»

 Freedom of movement. Equal Rights.

Solidarity will win.

marec 27, 2017

#RefugeesGR Keep #CityPlaza Open. Refugee Hotel #Athens, #Greece

On the April 22nd 2016 refugees, volunteers and solidarity activists occupied City Plaza Hotel in Athens, Greece which had been closed for 7 years. About 400 people now live in City Plaza. The self-organised project needs support.

Written by Riot Turtle.

After the closure of European borders, almost 65,000 refugees are trapped in Greece. The Greek government created more than 49 detention centers, hotspots and camps. Because of EU border policies thousands of refugees are living in cold unheated tents. City Plaza offers a safe and dignified alternative to these places where the conditions are wretched, unclean and inhumane.

                                  The occupied building has 126 rooms on 7 floors. A reception, bar, dining room, kitchen, storage, play ground, health care center, roof terrace, classroom and library.  The self-organised CIty Plaza project is supported exclusively through political solidarity and individual donations.

400 people are living together at City Plaza.
The numbers: More than 100 families: 165 children, 100 men, 115 women, 35 locals, activists and volunteers. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan & Gambia.

The philosophy of the self-organised City Plaza is clear. Refugees, locals, activists and volunteers live, work and struggle together.

International volunteers who have spent the last months at City Plaza started a  crowdfunding campaign to cover expenses.

The volunteers write that donations will go towards the essential working groups of City Plaza:

Kitchen
– 3 meals a day for all, that’s 1,200 meals a day
Health Care Center
– Daily appointments with doctors and nurses & coordination with public hospitals, working to resolve refugee-specific health care services
Storage space and distribution of supplies for basic needs
– Everyday the people of City Plaza are given supplies to provide for basic needs (toiletries, washing powder, supplies for babies etc) but supplies are currently low.
Maintenance of the building
– A team of volunteers working for maintenance. City Plaza has not yet had enough funding to provide heating for the building.
Language Classes
– Greek for children, English for adults and children, German for adults and children.

All donations, big or small will.help, if you want to support the City Plaza project please visit the crowdfunding page: https://www.youcaring.com/refugeeaccommodationandsolidarityspacecityplaza-716186

marec 25, 2017

#NoG20 Report: Preparatory Weekend on G20 and Logistics in #Hamburg

From the 10th-12th March, Beyond Europe organized a weekend of exchange and dialogue concerning the mobilization to the G20 summit in summer in Hamburg. On Friday, about 100 people took part at our discussion panel on capitalism and logistics. On Saturday, over fifty delegates from 12 countries had an assembly and discussed a common mobilization to the G20-protest in Hamburg with the focal point of capitalist logistics, and more specifically the harbour of Hamburg. This assembly decided to launch an open, antiauthoritarian platform based on five common points, which will go online soon.

nog20Shut-down

Originally published by Beyond Europe

On Friday, Beyond Europe organized a panel discussion with the title “It’s the logistics, stupid?!” to approach the issue of logistics in a public format. The speakers were TPTG (Greece), the Berlin Migrant Strikers (Italy/Germany; organised in the Transnational Social Strike Platform) and …umsGanze! (Germany/Austria; organized in Beyond Europe). The facilitator from Beyond Europe introduced by explaining the non-synchronism concerning theory and practice on logistics amongst the European radical left; depending on region and political focus, the issue of logistics has experienced very different feedback as a focal point for anticapitalists. Despite the substantial role logistics plays for capitalism and always has played since the very first steps of the accumulation of value and labour-power, logistics has attracted more attention in the context of the highly modern just-in-time-neoliberalism (#platformcapitalism) relying on sensitive technology and the inter-connection it relies on. The idea of the panel was to set a common analytical and practical tone on which to work with the following days and to be worked out in greater detail in the following months.

The comrades from TPTG (Greece) elaborated on the interdependence of logistics, world trade and crisis politics, especially austerity politics in Greece and the role that global harbours and other hubs play in capitalism. The Italian comrades from the Berlin based collective “Berlin Migrant Strikers” presented their approach to re-activate and re-actualize the traditional form of left-wing politics – the strike – for the relatively new field of logistics and underlined logistic’s dependence on the actual migration regime; they referred to recent experiences in labour-struggles of Foodora-workers and asked questions about the subject of struggle. The …ums Ganze!-comrade linked what was said by the previous speakers to the G20-summit as a political dilemma; the summit hosts openly authoritarian, chauvinist, resp. protectionist or even fascistic depots like Trump, Putin and Erdogan and therefore is an expression of the rise of the right wing, challenging the catastrophic and disastrous protectors of the neoliberal status-quo – none of which comes close to an alternative for the Left. Nonetheless, the G20-summit is an institution by and for the capitalist understanding of politics and therefore only simulates finding solutions to global problems, while in reality it only administers, negotiates and optimizes to keep the conditions we have – or make them even worse. This is why …umsGanze! and Beyond Europe invite all antiauthoritarians to expand the focus on the red zone – on the logistics of the summit and politics – to the logistics of capital itself; Hamburg, with its vital and internationally important harbour in the middle of a city with many connections, is just the right place for that.

The discussion with the audience tackled different issues, from the importance of workers directly involved in the logistics to the question of whether logistics needs to be abolished because it is capitalist per se – and therefore anti-human – or whether it can be “liberated” from the logics of markets and profit. However, there was common agreement about the importance to keep on researching and gathering information about logistics and its deep interdependence with the current capitalist order, but also to develop this approach directly in struggles and on the streets. Therefore, unlike most summit mobilizations, the issue of logistics presents an opportunity to keep working on that field even after the big event has taken place.

nog20logistic

Saturday’s assembly started with an introduction by …ums Ganze! and the genesis of their motivation to tackle the issue of logistics on on the G20 summit action-days in Hamburg. Even though in the end the G20-summit is characterized as an institutionalized event by the political elite of capitalism and therefore independently of its personal aims to adjust politics within limited possibilities to change anything (radically), it is still an important event. The above-mentioned right-wing shift has the consequence that the typical summit-situation is changed. The crisis of politics and representation is on its rise not only discoursively. The typical summit composition, where all the states-men and –women shared more or less the same market-orientated common points, is this year more heterogeneous. Presidents taking part in the summit themselves openly deny globalized capitalism and demand stepping back onto national models from the past. This makes this summit, where not everything is purely symbolic and performance, something not to neglect. For this reason, the focus on logistics is not meant to be against the mass-mobilization to the red zone – which, under circumstances described below and elaborated on during the input, is justified.

For the sake of making of anti-capitalist analysis and practice more visible and expressive on that day, though, …ums Ganze! proposes to target not the red zone, but the harbour as one of the most important materializations of capitalist logistics in Europe and beyond. Logistics – next to imperialist extraction, for example – is considered an arguably central moment of the current accumulation model to guarantee capitalist production and reproduction. While it is not the level where value is genuinely produced, it is the level where distribution is secured and becomes even more important in times of sensitive, international globalisation networks and on-the-minute-deliveries. Most importantly, though, it is very good to disturb because of that high sensitive sequences it consists of. While the classical model of the shut-down of “the factory” as the value producer has not only become hard because of the fragmentation and suppression of the working class, it is way easier and more effective to disturb certain logistical nods and hubs to at least cause massive delay of a long, world-wide production chain, which is not to be located in one place like the Fordist factory. Furthermore, logistics is an issue concerning all kinds of political approaches. Be it anti-militaristic or climate struggles or anti-racist struggles. The latter have gained much attention during recent years with the numerous refugees’ bodies in the Mediterranean. This is the face of capitalist logistics: while commodities, services and labour-power can move fast and freely over borders and regions, people suffering this logic and wanting to lead a better life elsewhere get murdered.

After this part, the co-organising group GROW from Hamburg gave an overview of the current situation in Hamburg. G20, especially the included visit by Trump, is a huge issue in Hamburg. Still, the police strategy is to spread anxiety of “violent protests” among the citizens. The police response is expected to be very aggressive, as the OSCE-summit (considered as a little warmup) in December showed. They will probably have around 30.000 police officers in the city for the G20-summit and improve their facilities where they can. All sides expect between 80.000-100.000 protestors from all over the world for the weekend of the 7th/8th July. Some NGOs seem to bite the panicking from police and plan to demonstrate a week earlier. On 6th July there will be a big anticapitalist demonstration by Autonomous Movement under the slogan “G20 – Welcome to hell”. On Friday, several groups and organizations organize a day of direct actions – amongst others at the red zone and at the harbour. On Saturday finally, there will be a big demonstration through the city. Several local assemblies took place in order to demonstrate against the state of exception created for the G20 and initiatives within pub-owners (Mexican against G20) is filling the news. Further, already militant actions took place against police cars and the trade-fair in the “red zone”. The next important date for the big protest coordination is the “action conference” on 7th9th April in Hamburg.

Finally, in a first round of exchange, comrades and delegates from different countries presented their organisations, the situation in their countries and why they are interested in mobilizing for the G20-protests with the focal point of logistics. Comrades from Greece underlined their criticism to purely event-orientated politics but also described those events as a chance to connect across Europe. This point is shared by people from Sweden and Finland; they used G20 in order to overcome the lack of international connections in Scandinavia and have organized for the summit, but want to go beyond that. Not only have they direct contact to the striking dock workers in Gothenborg (Sweden), but they already are organizing busses to bring several hundred comrades to Hamburg in summer. Comrades from Brussels announced that there is already a “No G20” collective in their city and that they are using the NATO-summit and Trump’s first visit to Brussels in April as a mobilization point towards Hamburg. Delegates from Bern and Geneva bring certain experiences in summit-protests since they organize actions regularly against the Davos-summit there. Italian comrades elaborated on the point that focussing logistics does not only mean to focus the transport of commodities, but rather focussing a social and economical regime, which concerns migration amongst others. A comrade from the UK picked up that point and underlined the necessity to criticize nationalism and the nation in general in the context of this mobilization. A similar point was made by people from Cyprus, where the “Cyprus issue” torns apart Greek and Turkish Cypriots and mobilizes several nationalisms.

The …ums Ganze! proposal of organizing actions south of the river Elbe, in the harbour area, in order to tackle the logistics was received well. Nevertheless, a lot of questions came up and showed that any action needs a lot of planning. Practical Internationalism, however, does not mean that the local group prepares everything unitl the ultimate detail and offers it to non-local comrades in a “do or die”-style. On the contrary, it means planning and preparing the approach and the action itself together from the very beginning; this is how a real trans-national narrative about logistics, the harbour of Hamburg and its relation to the G20 protests can be achieved. Of course the local organisation has a special responsibility, but as delegates of …ums Ganze! underlined several times, they are no experts on the issue of logistics and are dependent on a collective process with comrades from other countries to succeed. So, a lot of important points and issues to work on more concretely were brought up in a common discussion. Questions like the following need to be developed in near future: Who is the subject of the action? What should be the expression? How should it be done? When is it a success? When is it to be aborted? Are there alternative plans? And so on.

nog20port-e1489144599969

For this whole package – from collectively developing the narrative about logistics, G20 and capitalism to the characteristics of the action – a European, antiauthoritarian platform will be launched online soon, which Beyond Europe will be a part of. This platform is open to all organisations who – like the participants of this weekend – intend to mobilize to the G20-protests in Hamburg, but focus the logistics of capitalism and therefore contribute to an action with the aim to shut down harbour business in Hamburg that weekend. The platform will contain:

– common points of the March-weekend in Hamburg
– arguments and discussions about logistics
– important dates on the way to Hamburg
(mobilization events, similar summits before
the G20…)
– permanent updates about the situation in Hamburg
– legal information from Germany
– mobilization material
– potential post-G20 assemblies and dates about
how to move forward

Here, already, you can find legal advice for Germany. These brochures are made by Red Aid (Rote Hilfe), which is a nation wide left radical organization in Germany helping people in trouble with the law, state and police:

French version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=97:que-faire-en-cas-de-feu-conseil-juridique-was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-franzoesisch-ausgabe-2014

English version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=100:what-to-do-when-the-going-gets-rough-legal-tips-was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-englisch-ausgabe-2013

Turkish version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=101:baskilara-karsi-ne-yapmali-adli-yardim-teknigi-was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-tuerkisch

Arabic version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=102:was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-arabisch

Russian version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=104:was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-russisch-ausgabe-2007

Spanish version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=105:que-hacer-cuando-la-cosa-se-pone-caliente-was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-spanisch-ausgabe-2006

Greek version:
https://rote-hilfe.de/downloads/category/3-rechtshilfe-a-was-tun-wenns-brennt?download=107:was-tun-wenn-s-brennt-auf-griechisch

marec 24, 2017

July 5th Until July 8th: #NoG20 in #Hamburg, #Germany

On the 7th and 8th of July 2017 the G20 summit is supposed to take place in Hamburg.
The heads of the governments of the 19 richest and most powerful states of the world, accompanied by 6.000 delegation members, surrounded and permanently photographed by 3.000 journalists and of course cordoned off and protected by an army of at least 10.000 police and secret service operatives.

nog20hamburg2017

Originally published by Autonome Aktion Europe

Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing them for people across the US and Europe so they are able to read what is going on.

Facebook event page: here.

All this is supposed to take place in the middle of Hamburg: in the exhibition halls, in the town hall, in the Elbphilharmonie. Large-scale and multilevel barriers, ID controls,
evacuated appartments – the main victims will be the people in the Karoviertel and the surrounding neighborhoods. Especially those, that are already more exposed to frequent controls and harrassments because of the color of their skin, their legal status, their precarious social situation or other reasons.

The residents are supposed to give way for an orchestration of power, a living city is turned into a dead scenery. The main performance is the illusion that the political elites of global capitalism have everything well under control, that they are somehow capable of providing security, peace, livelihood and a real future perspective to the people of the world.

But we are witnessing the exact opposite: the prevailing world order is a further escalating world disorder of brutal social inequality, structurally embedded sexism and racism,
ecological destruction and spreading wars.

Millions of people are forced to flee, billions are struggling to survive and the number of people that is affected by precarisation is continuously rising, also here in Germany. At the same time a small global upper class is getting richer and richer.

The political representatives of this world disorder want to come to Hamburg: Erdogan from Turkey, Putin from Russia, the cold putschist Temer from Brasil, and if we are unlucky also Donald Trump.

There also aren’t a lot of good things to say about the governments of China or India. And the so very democratic governments of western Europe? They are the ones that build walls and fences and coldly let fleeing people drown at sea. We will show them that they are not welcome in Hamburg!

In many political groups and spectres the reflections on how to organize the necessary protests and actions against the G20 Summit have already begun. There are many different approaches: Some care about the right to the city, others about climate policy, to others flight and migration or capitalism as a whole matters. There are ideas such as a counter summit, a major demonstration, or disobedient actions around the conference venue or in the whole city.

No matter what the criticism of the G20 Summit is precisely based on, no matter what actions or forms of expression are prefered, the protest can only be a success if we are able to make the possibility of a different world, a world of justice and solidarity, appear in them. And if the protest are complementary rather than in opposition to each other.
That needs arrangements and a lot of communication between the summits opponents.

Autonome Aktion Europe

marec 23, 2017

(Videos) #Slovenia: Police Violence Against Actvists Who Tried To Stop Deportation of Syrian Family

In the early morning hours Slovenian cops deported a Syrian family to Croatia. About 50 activists tried to prevent the deportation of the father, mother and an 18 months old child that was born in Slovenia. Cops used violence to break the blockade of a van that was used to deport the family.

slovenia22m

Image: Activists tried to stop the deportation on March 22th.

Written by Riot Turtle

At about 6:45am cops came to the refugee shelter in Vič to carry out the deportation of the Syrian family. Activists chanting “No Borders! No Nations! Stop Deportations! tried to prevent the deportation but cops started to threaten, kick, push and throw activists to the ground. Some of the cops were wearing civil clothes. One person was arrested, but a few hours later released again. At least 20 people were identified and threatened with fines.

The Syrian family lived in the refugee shelter in Vič since August 2015. Their child was born in Slovenia and the family had build-up social contacts. Fortress Europe showed its ugly face once again.

marec 23, 2017

Call for Transnational Demo At Serbian/Hungarian Border

On April 15th, 2017 there will be a transnational demonstration at the Hugarian/Serbian border. In the call for the demonstration, Migszol writes: “We demonstrate against the dehumanizing state-propaganda! We demonstrate against any kind of detention of people seeking asylum and migrants! We demonstrate against the illegal practice of violence by the Hungarian authorities on the border!

demohorgos.jpg

Originally published by MigSzol Facebook event page

Note: Presence Counts  is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing them for people across the US and Europe so they are able to read what is going on.

Transnational demonstration, Saturday April15th from 03:00pm until 06:00pm at the Hungarian side of the Horgoš / Röszke Border Crossing.

Since March 15th changes in the Hungarian law were passed which mean that ALL people seeking asylum will be detained in prison-containers at the Hungarian-Serbian border. It also means that the only place to apply for asylum is in the two transit zones at the border, where only 10 people per (week) day can enter. Everybody who enters the country ‘illegally’ can be pushed back from the whole territory of Hungary to the Serbian side of the fence again.

These push-backs are already happening since the fence was built in September 2015. People report about serious violence committed by Hungarian police, including hours of beating, humiliation, attacks with dogs and theft. A special unit of the police, the border hunter unit, who gets trained in 2 months, equipped with weapons and sent to the borders, has started to work. The legal changes systematically legalize the violence and over the last years have decreased the rights of people seeking protection to the current level of dehumanization as indefinite prisoners.

We demonstrate against the dehumanizing state-propaganda!

We demonstrate against any kind of detention of people seeking asylum and migrants!

We demonstrate against the illegal practice of violence by the Hungarian authorities on the border!

Join us on the 15th of April on the Hungarian side of the border!

Further information later at the Facebook event page.

marec 22, 2017

Debate: What to do When Volunteers Become Lackeys of Authorities?

An interesting article about working with refugees on the Balkan route. Working for authorities or working with refugees.. that’s an important difference.

cof

Originally published by Are You Syrious

Our friends from Shoufu collective have asked us to publish this opinion piece, hoping it could start a much needed dialogue about changes within volunteer community. As their concerns are similar to concerns of many other volunteers we’ve talked to, including some of our own staff members, we are looking forward to hearing your thoughts. AYS

It’s been over two years since an unprecedented number of international volunteers descended on Greece, the Balkans, France and the other places that have been impacted by this man-made humanitarian catastrophe. Calais, once a shelter to thousands, lies in ashes; its prisoners condemned to the forests and the streets of Paris. All over the Balkans, bigger fences and smaller cells are being built for all those that dare to cross these ‘closed’ borders. Police brutality has been consistently reported on the Serbian/Hungarian border. In Greece, the hopelessness of thousands, trapped in camps on islands and mainland, is resulting in violence and increasing suicides. International volunteers have done much to document and report from the ground these atrocities and blatant breaches of human rights committed against our fellow human beings.

Collectively, we have been on the ground since little Aylan’s body washed ashore. We can’t make Europe open its borders but we’ve made little differences to many people’s lives, and in some cases, saved them from the sea — showing humanity at its best. The solidarity movement has been a remarkable example of people power and the triumph of civil society — of you and me, ordinary citizens.

However, it was upon our recent trip to Chios that we were left with a feeling of distaste. Not just at the inhumane conditions imposed by Europe but ourselves, but our own role as volunteers.

It’s for all of us that we are writing these words.
We have often been encouraged to cooperate with authorities in order to continue providing basic aid. However, as we fill gaps left by humanitarian actors and take on the state’s responsibilities, cooperation can seamlessly slide into complicity in systematic violations of human rights. For instance, when we agreed to distribute blankets and tarps during the winter, weren’t we enabling authorities to keep holding people in flimsy summer tents without electricity or heating? When we spend on items that the INGOs are supposed to provide, are we best utilising the money entrusted to us by friends and family back home?

Instead of collectively taking a stand against the inhumane and degrading response, we let ourselves become lackeys of the INGOs and authorities.

As witnesses to repeated breaches of human rights, we believe in the responsibility to document and to speak out against the mistreatment and negligence we repeatedly witness but often refuse to expose for fear of losing our presence. To remain silent is in direct conflict with all we came here to do and only perpetuates the current climate of impunity.

Our voices are being silenced. It’s not just by authorities who have and still want to arrest us but by fellow volunteers, who are slowly emulating and sucking others into the very hierarchical structures and operational ways of INGOs they once claimed to detest. They fear speaking out, content with just delivering basic aid, celebrating their work, competing for donations, but neglecting their responsibility as witnesses.

The very same have repeatedly refused to make a collective stand and seem more interested in promoting their work than the malpractices and breaches happening daily. Who as every day witnesses have the power to document but wilfully neglected their responsibility as observers of the crisis.

What is more, we are seeing arguments rooted in the issue of speaking out culminating in professionalism being sacrificed, while the hierarchical format allows for decisions that don’t best benefit those we are here to support.

At times it seems as if we have forgotten that our permission to operate derives from the consent of the people we’ve come to help. Yet, we rarely involve refugees in the choices we make and in our interactions they are reduced to passive recipients of our “assistance”. To distance ourselves from the people removes us from understanding their will. Instead, amidst the smiling selfies with orphaned children and pats on our backs, all too often we hear volunteers celebrate their ‘amazing experience’. It is not a social badge of honour for you to wear or post on your Facebook when you go home. It is not about the amazing volunteers. This is not amazing, it will never be amazing. This is a tragedy. And we’re a part of it.

We do not claim to have the answers. But the absence of a conversation endangers the very essence of what made volunteers different to those actors who consistently fail to fulfil their humanitarian mandate. It is our flexibility, independence, creativity, and above all a sense of injustice that has allowed us to build rescue teams, schools, kitchens, women’s shelters or legal teams; to provide immediate and effective support to vulnerable persons abandoned in the squalor of the camps, and ever more importantly, establish a record of accountability. In short, it endangers the unique work of independent volunteers.

Our hands are not tied, if we don’t want them to be.

In this tragedy we are all inadvertently political actors. By already being willing to help, you have taken a political stand. We mustn’t forget many of the refugees who have become our friends, in many cases our co-volunteers, came here because they told the truth, they fought for freedom, against repression. For us not to do the same is simply a dishonour to them.

This is a call for all volunteers involved in the refugee crisis to recover the spirit of questioning, the one that brought us to support those Europe shut out. At times, maybe the answers will be uncomfortable, lead us to fundamentally change how we work, or even question our own existence.

The time has come to demand accountability from the authorities and support integration, psychosocial, legal or media projects that truly empower the refugee community.

Shoufu — Long term and returning volunteers since 2015

marec 16, 2017

#18M Map Global Action Day Against Racism, Fascism, Austerity & EU – Turkey Deal

On March 18th people will take the streets in more than 25 cities in Europe to protest against Racism, Fascism, Austerity and the EU – Turkey deal and for the right to come, to go and to stay: Refugees Welcome! We publish a map with all the actions we know about.

18march

On February 20th, we published the call for the Global Action Day at March 18th, 2017. In 2016, the European Union signed the socalled EU-Turkey deal on March 18th, in 2015 the European Central Bank opened its new headquarters on March 18th. On Saturday many people want to protest against those two black days. You will find a map with an overview of all actions here:

See you in the streets!

Written by Riot Turtle for Enough is Enough

marec 15, 2017

Interview: Dylan About the Work With Refugees in Belgrade

Last month we spoke with René from Cars of Hope Wuppertal about his work with refugees on the Balkanroute. René told us that he worked together with Soul Food Kitchen in Thessaloniki (Greece) and Soul Welders in Belgrade (Serbia). Today we publish an interview with the “Irish Pirate” from Dunkirk, Dylan about the work of Soul Welders with refugees in Belgrade.

dylanbelgrade

Dylan of the Soul Welders crew in Belgrade (Image by Are You Syrious)

Written by Riot Turtle for Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough (EIE): You came from Dunkirk to Belgrade, is there a big difference between France and Belgrade?

Dylan: Yes,there is a massive differance between France and Serbia. We originally went to Dunkirk from Dublin, Ireland as part of a group called Irish Benders and burners. We formed the group when we saw the horrific conditions that 3000 refugees were living in. Imagine living in a summer tent with your children with no heating surrounded by piles of rat infested waste? We built 30 wood burners and had another 10 donated and brought heavy canvas to build more suitable structures..as soon as we got there the atitude of the police and authorities was agressive and abusive towards refugees and volunteers…

Nothing was allowed into the camp apart from firewood. We had to smuggle life saving supplies into the camp underneath this firewood. We only meant to stay 10 days but ended up staying 7 months… What can you do in this situation when faced with this barbarity from both police and human smugglers? Many of us spent our savings and lost our houses doing this. The big problem with aid that came in by trucks was that smugglers would force themselves to the front of the aid line take the aid then sell it to the refugees. We decided to move into the camp and build an armoured tent so trucks could deliver aid and we could do tent to tent distribution. Many times we would threatened by guns and knives, but soon we realised that the smugglers were clever enough to realise that if they harmed us they would be found and caught. For three months we lived like this with constant harassment by police and smugglers… until the camp got evicted.

We then moved into a camp run by MSF (Doctors Without Borders, editor) that, at the beginning was very good. We formed a refugee kitchen with kurdish chefs and fed the 2000 people there. But the good period did not last long…British and French authorities did not like the positive media attetion so the French state took over and sacked the people running it and put in their own people. This new group afejy got six million to run it. We asked them how much they would give as food budget. They said nothing….no budget… the kitchen has been run on aid donations…. one night the police were chasing smugglers on the motorway and they got away. In anger 70 crs riot police came to the family area of the camp and fired teargas, 3 of us got arrested for trying to talk to them, teargassed and beaten and put in prison for a week then charged with incitement to riot… The police wanted to put us in prison for a year but we had a good solicitor and we got an 8 month suspended sentance… All for trying to talk them out of this action… I am telling this story as it outlines the atitude in France.

Surprisingly the atitude to refugees and volunteers is much better in Serbia, for instance the railway barracks where the 1200 afghans are squatting would not be allowed in France, the policemen are not agressive and you can talk to them about issues concerning the welfare of refugees, for instance a small group of men were going around the barracks at night and asking sex for money off the boys. We told the police about this and they acted on it immediately. As well at some point the barracks will be evicted and we told them if you give us 48 hours we,the volunteers would evict the refugees as way to prevent any unnesassary violence and media attention…they are very happy about this…in this game you have to leave your political views at the gate if you really want to help refugees… this again would never happen in France…. you have to remember there were 340000 refugees from the Balkan wars twenty years ago… money and the lack of it is the biggest problem here….

soulweldersmarch14

EIE: How was he situation in Belgrade when you arrived?

Dylan: The situation when we arrived here in January was dire… The treated railway sleepers they were burning was literally killing them with the toxic fumes in daytime you could not see a metre in front of you because of this yellow smoke you were gagging within a minute… and I fear many will, in the future be affected wirh lung deseases… this, to our group was the first thing we had to tackle… so for the last six weeks we have paid 460 euros every 2 days for two lorryloads of clean hardwood this has made a massive impact plus the 70 woodburning stoves we have installed. The other thing was that Hotfood Idomeni was the only charity serving meals…. 1 meal a day in the middle of the winter… since then a Spanish group no name kitchen turned up and have been making meals every night and now we have tea served twice a day by 2 lovely english ladies.

EIE: The camp in Subotnic (at the Serbian/Hungary border) was cleared last week. Are Europen border policies making your work more difficult?

Dylan: The refugee problems here in serbia are totally to do with EU, American, NATO and Russian policies…not Serbia…Serbia is not sending armies and extracting oil and minerals in the middle east thereby causing this situation. Especially the EU is to blame for this situation in Serbia… Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and especially Hungary are very brutal to refugees…the stories we are hearing are horrific..for example 2 weeks ago the Hungarian police caught 75 boys, lined them up in underpants in the cold poured water over their heads picked out the youngest, some 7 or 8 years old and beat them severely in front of the refugees ….. they then lined them up infront of a police van and 1 by 1 they had to go in and get beaten by clubs… 16 limbs were broken… in Subotica its a very tense situation…..Hungary is very aggressive in regards to its border relationship everytime the camp in Subotica gets too big the Hungarians flex their muscles and threaten Serbia and the Serbian police have to clear the camp..anyone found is transported to the Presevo unchr camp.

soulweldersbelgrade

EIE: Apart from welding stoves and supplying clean wood, what other things are you doing in Belgrade?

Dylan: The most recent large operation we have undertaken is with the help of a couple of other groups we have cleared 30 lorryloads of rubbish and human waste from the site using bobcats and jcbs…and many refugees helping to hand clear… with rising temperatures we were worried about anerobic decombustion, cholera and various related deseases…this cost 7000 euros. As well we have a swimming scheme and 3 refugees take groups of 6 to 8 every day to the swimming pool no only do they get clean but they get a short break from refugee life ….and a bit of fun!.also installing portable toilets sinks and showers….

EIE: How can people support the work of Soul Welders? And are there specific things you need to continue your work with refugees?

Dylan: Our latest operation is the biggest we have undertaken. The setting up of an aid distribution warehouse with kitchen capable of delivering up to 6 thousand meals a day.. it is the one thing missing here in Serbia. The aid distribution warehouse is the foundation of effective aid delivery. Local Serbian charities are very happy to see this development. We have hired a 1000 metre warehouse with 2 room apartment and are busy turning it into a distriburion centre for clothes bedding shoes medicine and food. We hope to free up the rules on aid coming into Serbia,on this front things are looking good.but on this front it is sucking our resourses dry.. We need donations small and large! The setup costs are massive. There are things like secondhand shoes that are not allowed in, that we have to buy. So please anyone who knows organisations that could help us in this way,or do fundraisers for this, or just donate (For direct Paypal donations, click here, editor) with money or volunteer and come out and help that would be great! Checkout our Facebook page SoulWelders and soon we will have a Facebook page BELGRAID for the warehouse. Thank you.

Posted on 14th of March 2017 on Enough is Enough

marec 15, 2017

Working With #Refugees on the Balkan Route “To Get Shit Done!”

Cars of Hope is a group from Wuppertal, Germany that works with refugees along the so called “Balkan route”. After more borders were closed in Europe, and the implementation of the EU/Turkey deal, a lot of things have changed. An interview with Cars of Hope activist René Schuijlenburg.

crowdfundingcoh16feb
Click at image above to support the Cars of Hope crowdfunding campaign

Written and Edited by Richard Cohen for Enough and Enough

EIE: What was the last trip that Cars of Hope took, how did you connect with the Soul Welders?

René: We were in Thessaloniki to support refugees that are living in apartments in Thessaloniki (Greece) now. These apartments were rented by people shortly after the eviction of the Idomeni refugee camp, to get as many people out of the state military refugee camps (where conditions are really bad) as possible. After a few days we went to Belgrade (Serbia) to work with refugees there. In Belgrade we worked with Soul Welders, we connected with them because of our work with Soul Food Kitchen in Thessaloniki. In November and December 2016 we have worked with Soul Food Kitchen in Thessaloniki. We have built a new floor, and provided and installed a boiler so they have warm water now. We also renewed all electricity for the kitchen. Soul Food Kitchen continues to cook hundreds of hot meals for homeless Greeks and refugees every day. Soul Welders are providing clean wood to refugees who live in abandoned warehouses behind the main train station in downtown Belgrade. They are also welding stoves with refugees to stop the open fires in these warehouses. Before Soul Welders started their work, people were inhaling toxic smoke of railway sleepers in the warehouses. People where burning anything they could get their hands on, as it was extremely cold in Belgrade. When I was there people were coughing constantly. The conditions people were living in were appalling. We came back to Germany about 2 weeks ago.

Image gallery: Cars of Hope activists supporting Soul Food Kitchen in Thessaloniki by providing and improving the infrastructure of the kitchen.

In the 3 videos on this page you can see how the work of Soul Welders, which is supported by Cars of Hope, materially improved the situation of refugees in Belgrade. Watch them one by one.

EIE: It’s not easy to weld an entire stove, can you tell us how the Soul Welders initiative was started?

René: People heard the stories about the worsening conditions refugees were forced to live in in Belgrade. Our motto, and the motto of some other people on the Balkan route is “to get shit done”. Plans were made and we decided to move to Belgrade and start working immediately. It’s amazing what we have achieved. Soul Welders are working hard every day:

EIE: What are some of the other projects these activists involved have been in, and how long have they been politically active?

The states on the Balkan Route don’t want to see political activists along the Balkan route. The connection between activists and refugees seems to be considered as a threat by many governments. People here are focused on supporting those who are stuck because of the border closures. Providing food, sanitary products, clean wood, and welding stoves. Some of the people involved have been active for a long time in countries on the Balkan route. Others in Calais and Dunkirk. Some people who work on the Balkan route say they are not politically active, but in my opinion its very political to support refugees in a time where fascism is on the rise across Europe and beyond. I myself have been politically active for more than 30 years now, and I will keep on going.

EIE: How can others help refugees in their own countries? Where do you suggest people who want to do this work begin?

There are many ways to support refugees. This can be legal advice for the asylum procedures, providing lawyers to fight against deportations but also things like organising language courses. Also demonstrations and other actions against border closures, raids and deportations. How to start working with refugees… well… in my opinion its important to work with refugees instead of to work for them. First of all, refugees are of all people like you and me (despite any claims the far right makes). Talk with people and find out what they want and need, don’t try to tell them what to do. Discuss options and possibilities together with them. Its very important that many of the demonstrations against deportations in Germany in the past weeks were organised together with refugees. Even on the Balkan route, we always discuss things with refugees. Most projects we’ve supported have involved working together with refugees. But to start it’s also important to spend a lot of time learning about why people are seeking refuge in the first place. Our economic treaties, colonialism and the export of arms have a lot to do with it.

EIE: How can people help Cars of Hope and the Soul Welders make as many stoves as possible?

Our work wouldn’t be possible without the many donations we receive from people around the world. A lot of people have supported our crowdfunding campaign, but we also need people who travel to the Balkans with us, to support the work we do on the ground. People can send us an e-mail if they want to join us. Soul Welders need experienced volunteers in Belgrade, but they also need a lot of donations as they are providing clean wood every day. The wood is about 50 Euros a ton, so they really need each donation. It doesn’t matter if its big or small, every Euro counts to help people to keep warm in the cold winter in Serbia.

Image gallery: Belgrade February 2017

 

Posted on 22nd of February 2017 on Enough is Enough