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<nettime> Fatal realities of Fortress Europe

Ander Europa lijst

The fatal realities of Fortress Europe


Since 1993 UNITED has monitored the deadly results of the policies
summarised as the building of a "Fortress Europe". These deaths can be put
down to border militarisations, asylum laws, detention policies,
deportations and carrier sanctions, to the carrying out of the Schengen
Treaty and to the consequences of the Dublin Convention. These deaths are
not singular incidents, they are the symptoms of policies that no longer
see the humanity of those fleeing their homeland, but prefers to see them
as numbers, or worse, as a natural disaster, 'a flood'.

In this Info Leaflet you will find basic information on refugees and the
policies around them. And you will find ideas and suggestions for action.

	Action: wake up the policy-makers!
UNITED for Intercultural Action protests against the building of a Fortress
Europe, which leads to the deaths of desperate people looking for safe
refuge. Europe is not capable of effectively shutting its borders, no
matter how hard it tries. But it is shutting its eyes to the realities of
the global political and socio-economical situation.
We want to wake up the policy-makers and show them the real human costs of
their decisions. Join the campaign and take action.

	16 June: International Refugee Day
16 June is the International Refugee Day. It is also a perfect day to start
a continuous action to lobby for more humane policies, to protest against
exclusion and the creation of a climate of fear.

	More than 1000 deaths since 1993
If this does not wake up politicians and policy makers, what will? We have
to publicise about these gruesome facts. The list of deaths in the middle
of this leaflet lists the deaths that we know of, case by case. We must
make sure that the deaths of these people are known and mourned!


	A few facts
The United National High Commission for Refugees says there are 22 million
people in the world who are "of concern" to them. Not all of those are
recognised as refugees. Even the traditional definitions of refugees deny
the firm link between the political situation in a country, its sources in
international policies and the need for people to flee poverty and despair.

	Where are refugees fleeing to?
Over half of the world's refugees and asylum seekers in 1996 was in the
Middle East and South Asia. Only 20% of the world's refugees and asylum
seekers is in Europe and North-America. One in seven of the world's
refugees is in Iran.

	Where do refugees come from?
Two groups, Palestinians (3.7 million) and Afghanis (2.6 million) were over
40% of the world's refugees and asylum seekers in 1996. The top five
countries from which refugees and asylum seekers came were: Palestine,
Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Liberia and Iraq.

	False and true refugees?
Traditional refugee definitions recognise only those refugees that flee war
or personal political persecution. But how about women from Afghanistan
that suddenly saw their lives robbed of any perspective other than the
precise role the regime sees fit for them. What about the people who were
rendered destitute when the colonialists first converted local agriculture
into "cash crops" such as sugar cane, then to see the prices of these "cash
crops" crumble. To make a difference between the different people that flee
their country may be valid, but the criteria are not always that clear-cut.
That becomes clear when we see the different interpretations that can
apparently be given to e.g. the Geneva Convention

	UNHCR reports: Europe does not abide by the Refugee Convention!
"Governments are increasingly slamming the door in the faces of those
seeking asylum," says UNHCR, "regarding them as policical, social or
economic threats... The five million people who requested asylum in Western
Europe, North America and Australasia over the past decade have faced an
array of different measures intended to prevent or deter people from
seeking refuge" (UNHCR, The State of the World's Refugees: A Humanitarian
Agenda, 1997 New York)
The same report criticizes governments because, following the recent
agreements on interpretation of the UN Convention, only those who can prove
persecution by governments have a chance of getting a refugee status. This
implicates that no refugee status will be granted to those fleeing
persecution by a non-government entity or general violence in country.
People fleeing the bloodshed in Algeria are a good example.


The biggest danger of these policies lies not in the official part - not
even in the official breaking down of the UN Refugee Convention through new
treaties and conventions - but in the building of a climate of fear and
despair. The political discourse of the last years has made refugees and
asylum seekers into scapegoats. Unemployment, high taxes, the decline of
culture, family and western society as a whole: all of these frightening
phenomena, real or unreal, are blamed on the new-comers. This is the basis
for  militarisation, data-linking and the export of exclusion.

	No more health care, education
	or housing for "illegals"
In several countries efforts are now taken to assure that no "illegals"
have access to health care, education of housing. This means that
"illegals" are even more vulnerable to exploitation. Recently cases have
been reported in which refugees have not gone to hospitals or doctors,
fearing they would be turned in to the foreigners police. As a result,
people are dying. The children of undocumented refugees can now no longer
go to school. Should health care and education be related to residency
status? Are they not basic human rights?

	Dogs, infrared cameras, 8 km of wall
In Germany sniffer dogs will soon have the help of electronic "sniffers".
New devises will measure the oxygen and CO2 emissions in transport trucks.
This should help to discover people hidden in the cargo. The authorities in
Melilla, a Spanisch enclave in Morocco rely on a simpler, more visible
method. They have been working for several years to build a wall of more
than 8 km in length around the city to prevent Africans from crossing the

	Exporting exclusion
Europe is setting an example to the rest of the world. "When the very
countries responsible for establishing the international refugee regime
begin to challenge its legal and ethical foundations," UNHCR says, "then it
is hardly surprising that other states, especially those with far more
pressing economic problems and much larger refugee populations, have
decided to follow suit."

	Safe Third Countries
The EU countries are working on closing their borders. This seems not to be
secure enough, however. European states have set up a "cordon sanitaire"
around the Union. The countries in Central and Eastern Europe receive
money, favorable contracts and diplomatic agreements in exchange for
standing guard at the borders of the Union to keep any unwanted refugee or
asylum seeker outside.
The Dublin Convention has also introduced the "Safe Third Country" rule,
which allows EU countries to deport asylum seekers to a country outside the
EU. This country is deemed to be safe. The asylum seeker has passed through
it and should have applied for asylum there. This rule does not take into
account that many of these "Safe Third Countries" have no adequate asylum
procedures. The real danger exists, as a result, that asylum seekers are
pushed back from country to country until they are deported to the country
they fled from in the first place, without having had the chance to apply
for asylum in the right way.

	A buffer zone
In the beginning of February, the first reaction of the Turkish government
to the threat of second Gulf War was to send more than 5,000 Turkish troops
into northern Iraq. The goal of their mission: to set up a buffer zone in
case Iraqi Kurdish refugees might want to flee across the Turkish - Iraqi
In 1997 German and Dutch politicians promoted the idea of spending the
money for the reception of refugees and asylum seekers on camps and
facilities in the neighbouring countries to war-zones. In that way people
would not have to come to Europe. Problem solved. The much heard word of
"burden-sharing" was transformed into "pushing the burden away".


UNITED for Intercultural Action believes that a policy that has 1000 deaths
as a result cannot possibly be good. Borders can not be shut to those
seeking refuge. We have to see people as individuals, as possible victims
of global conflicts. If we do not take care that the global political and
socio-economic situation gets better, we cannot realistically expect people
to stay in situations that we ourselves would find unbearable. If we try to
shut the borders completely, we will not only shut out people who need our
help, we will also suffocate ourselves.

	Adopt a case
The impact of the list of deaths is caused by the sheer numbers. If we want
to get our point across, we need examples too. Underneath you find two
examples. Use them or ask UNITED for others.

	Death before deportation
	Kurdish man burns himself to death
"On 5 January 1998 a 24 year old rejected Turkish asylum-seeker of Kurdish
origin went ot a petrol station in Wesel (Nordrhein-Westfalen), poured
petrol over himself and set himself on fire. He died shortly afterwards of
his injuries. Before setting himelf ablaze, he cried out "Death to all",
"Down with Turkey" and "Long live free Kurdistan".
His asylum application had been rejected twice but he was not faced with
imminent expulsion because his appeal before an administrative court was
still pending."
(Migration News Sheet/February 1998)
How desperate must a human being get before killing himself in this way? In
1997 at least three victims of the war in former Yugoslavia took their
lives in German prisons, one Ghanaian threatened by deportation threw
himself in front of a train. A Kurd in a French reception centre killed
himself and a Zairean asylum-seeker hanged himself in detention in
(CARF/February-March 1998)

	Drowned between two worlds
	The Adriatic Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar
Many people try to get to the "promised land" by boat over the Adriatic Sea
and the Strait of Gibraltar. Not all of them reach the shore alive. In
April a boat was found with five living and five dead refugees coming from
Albania. One of the victims of thirst, cold and the storm was a
five-year-old girl named Nadia. She was swept overboard by a wave crashing
the deck when she was dying in her mothers arms. Her mother jumped
overboard to save her and was not found. The journey cost 1100 DM per
person. (Volkskrant 20/11/97)
In June 1998 the bodies of 23 "illegal immigrants" were found near
Tangiers, Morocco. A small motor boat capsized carrying an unknown number
of people trying to reach the Spanish coast.
(IRR European Race Audit/November 1997)


The list of deaths is continually updated. A new version is available from
the secretariat. UNITED has more information on all of these cases. If you
decide to adopt a specific case, the secretariat can send you copies of the
newspaper articles in our possession. We can only provide this service for
single cases, however.
If you need general information you can contact organisations such as
UNHCR, Amnesty International and others. You can find their contact
addresses in the UNITED European Address Book Against Racism.


This leaflet gives you some information that you can use in writing your
own letter of protest to the policy-makers of your choice. You can also use
the example letter on the next page. Include a copy of the death list
(included in this info leaflet) in your protest. If you need more copies,
let us know. There is strength in numbers, send and fax the list to all
your contacts in politics.

The European Parliament
You can address your mail to:
Commission Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs
97-113 rue Belliard, B-1047 Brussels, Belgium
or directly to any member of the European Parliament
97-113 rue Belliard, B-1047 Brussels, Belgium

National Parliaments
Please find out the addresses of your national parliament and the
appropriate Members and Commissions from the public relations desk of your
parliament. Or check your library.

The Council on Justice and Home Affairs
Council of the European Union, c/o Gen Sec. Council,
rue de la Loi 70, B-1048 Brussels, Belgium


To the responsible political body in the matter of
immigration and asylum

Attn Mr X / Ms X

16 June 1998

Dear Sir, Madam,

Re: Death of 1000 refugees at the borders of "Fortress Europe"

We would like to share with you the horror we felt at the news of 1000
deaths of refugees.
Since 1993 UNITED for Intercultural Action, the European network against
racism has monitored the deadly results of the policies summarised as the
building of a "Fortress Europe". These deaths can be put down to border
militarisations, asylum laws, detention policies, deportations and carrier
sanctions. They are not singular incidents, but symptoms of policies that
no longer see the humanity of those fleeing their homeland.
We protest, together with UNITED with its more than 480 supporter
organisations, against these policies.
Borders can not be shut to those seeking refuge. We have to see people as
individuals, as possible victims of global conflicts. If we do not take
care that the global political and socio-economic situation gets better, we
cannot realistically expect people to stay in situations that we ourselves
would find unbearable.

We expect from you that you will do your utmost to make sure that policies
change and more tragic deaths are prevented.

Yours sincerely,

X. Yzed

Encl: List of documented refugee deaths

UNITED for Intercultural Action
European network against nationalism, racism, fascism
and in support of migrants and refugees
PB 413
NL-1000 AK Amsterdam
phone +31-20-6834778, fax +31-20-6834582
e-mail united@antenna.nl
website  http://www.xs4all.nl/~united
16 June: International Refugee Day
1000 refugee deaths as a result of "Fortress Europe"
Take action for more humane refugee policies!
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