Spring has returned to Europe and with it the calm waters of the Mediterranean. With calmer waters, many more desperate human beings in search of their right to life and dignity will try to make their way into an ever brutal Fortress Europe. Of them, thousands of human beings with names and lives, with families and memories, will forever sink into the depths of the ocean; like the over 300 people drowned on the Libyan coast in the last couple of weeks. Human beings whose lives have been added to the ever increasing list of victims of colonial injustice.
For those of us who have made it here to Germany we are all too familiar with what our dreams of finding human dignity and decency and a better life have meant. Like the thousands of people who Europe would rather have decaying at the bottom of the Mediterranean, the dream of a better life in Germany or Europe virtually perishes upon arrival, exterminated by the racist arrogance and inhuman abuses lashed at us merely based on our origins or the colour of our skin.
Just so because we come here and instead of comprehension for the trauma we have faced for even leaving behind our friends and loved ones, of having escaped war and the horror of poverty, we are fingerprinted, interrogated and subjected to deliberate abuse. In doing so, we are frequently laughed at, screamed at, humiliated and looked down upon and taken advantage of. We are made to bear the brunt of their annoyance and the consequences of their ill-advised and inhumane policies. We have become their ‘whipping boy’ - destined to be punished for whatever is wrong in the society-be it crime, unemployment or social spending.
They think they are better than us; they have falsely and crudely taken us for their Untermensch. We, who come from such rich cultures. We, whose wealth has been brutally vandalised and expropriated to feed the insatiable greed of Western consumers. We, who have braved their abetted dictators and their dubious, unscrupulous economic policies. We, who in spite of the increasing militarization of our countries and their own borders, have courageously confronted them and escaped their attempts to imprison us in the horror they have created for us at home. And we, who have dared to stand up for truth, justice, and our principled beliefs, while maintaining human dignity and decency all through.
Seeing that we have broken through their fortified borders, they take our fingerprints on arrival and then send us to the ‘Lager’; where they confidently and surely expect us to ‘waste’ as human beings which should serve as a lesson to others not to come to Germany. In the Lager, numbers of adults are cramped into single rooms like sardines in cans- welcome to further abuse and humiliation that is Germany, goodbye to privacy and any hope for human dignity.
Then comes how we are made to live. In some cases, what is not considered good enough for their dogs are considered the best food for us while at the same time; they make it illegal for us to cook our own food. Not to mention the food packets with the expired dates on them. In fact in many cases, the feeding system is used as a method to control our presence in the Lager and a way to separate the ‘good’ and ‘obedient’ refugees from the bad and rebellious ones who have yet to learn to accept the rule of continued colonial power. On the basis of such rebellion, we are considered ‘unfit’ to live in this society, while those considered good and obedient are told they have no right to stay here as they are not really useful.
For they believe that if we do not rot at the bottom of the ocean then we should certainly rot in their isolated and abandoned military barracks located in the forests, away from regular human beings and any urban centres. It is easier to control and slowly destroy us that way and out of sight of (any?) prying public or media.
Lager and control mentality
This Lager and control mentality that underlies the asylum system in Germany has a long, devious and brutal history with far reaching consequences. From the general to the specific, the strategy is to isolate, stigmatise and then persecute. From the various notorious Lagers under the National Socialists through the Lagers for Guest workers, the Lager and control mentality has been a consistent and perverse feature of the German system in dealing with those that are either considered not directly useful or those that are out rightly unwanted. It should be recalled that in the erstwhile DDR, many contract/guest workers were also similarly kept in Heim and even couples amongst them were separated to ensure that they did not raise families. The story is told of some women guest workers who were sent home because they were pregnant and refused to abort the pregnancy. The rule was that you were either here to work as demanded or required by the state or you are out of here to ensure that not even family issues were to obstruct that requirement. You are either useful for our economy or you’re out. Through all these phases, the Lager and control mentality is sustained. And was it not this control mentality that was also evident in the Nazi requirement of foreigners to obtain permission to even have children? Interestingly disturbing to note how deep and ingrained the control mentality is in Germany-so little attitudinal changes in the many years that have gone by.
But why is that?
Good question. It may not have been necessary beyond academic inquiry to re-visit this question now if many of us are not currently re-living the hash realities and the bitter consequences of this mentality and its attendant system. When the darkest and bloodiest history of this country was forcefully prevailed upon in the mid-forties, the so-called Allied were determined to set up a system different from the one they just defeated. But the new system was set up perfectly to accommodate and rehabilitate majority of the dramatis personae in the very regime they just defeated, blurring over all these with the Nuremberg Trials. So, the rehabilitation and continued presence of highly placed people under the National Socialists in basically all fields of endeavour also meant that there was enough room to accommodate some of the policies of the Nazi past in Germany. As the old culprits settled more comfortably into the new political system with their cohorts, the easier it became for them to re-lapse nearer into their old frame of mind. We should remember here that we are talking of the Lager and control mentality. And nowhere in the Western world is this more demonstrated than in Germany.
History records the restriction of movement placed on Jews and other foreigners in 1938 and the consequent fine for violation of that restriction. While world outrage and condemnation have since been rightly heaped on this and the more horrible crimes of the era, since 1982, this obnoxious restriction has been replicated on all asylum seekers throughout this country in the form of the so-called Residenzpflicht. That for a refugee to leave her/his immediate District s/he needs a written permission from the Foreigner’s Office-else a fine or possible jail term awaits upon police control is a startling reminder of that 1938 restriction. Now, what does it cost Germany (culturally or economically) if refugees or asylum seekers can move freely within the country like normal human beings? NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING!!! But it is the German Lager and control mentality that is at play here. Just to clarify this with one more example. Many studies by independent investigators have shown that it is much cheaper if refugees are accommodated in private housing. And even different governmental sources have acknowledged this. But the authorities baulked at this cost effective measure and rather continue to take pride in maintaining the humiliating Lager system; that defies human dignity and denies privacy to refugees. The same is true of food coupons-the “Gutscheine”. It costs the government more than the value of the Gutscheine that is actually paid out. And with all the unwanted attention, humiliation and the problems associated with Gutscheine, one wonders why the authorities insist on using Gutscheine and not cash, which is cheaper, easier and better for all. It has to do with the Lager and control mentality-encrusted old habits!! They die hard it is said.
Duldung-the permanent asylum-life suspense!
Did you know that of all of the thousands and thousands of us who apply for asylum in Germany, less than 1% of us are actually granted asylum? And what does that leave us?
Duldung-the permanent asylum-life suspense. No work. No studies. No right to move beyond your local District. No advancement in life-only stagnation and slow but steady waste of life. Just eat and sleep, eat and sleep until the perversity of their cruelty destroys you, enters into your brain like a tumour, destroying your will to live and thus your will to fight back. Like those drugged up in mental hospitals, they attempt to put us into a vegetative state until we are either deported or, if we have enough will left in our souls, go back to our countries ‘voluntarily’.
In the meantime they give us their Gutscheine and their Residenzpflicht, racist police controls and forced isolation. They put us at the mercy of the most ignorant and vile of their kind, who feels empowered by our purported weakness and subordination. Yes, it makes them feel good. A little like someone feel good when one is able to send some money home one’s family or when you can help out a fellow human being, that's the way they feel when they realise that you are feeling bad about the treatment you get here. But it eats at their souls whether they know it or not, leaving them as living, breathing robots with no hearts and thus with absolutely no human comprehension. Frantz Fanon stated these years ago with the bloody French rule in Algeria and it is still true today in Germany with refugees.
Our Words, Our Voice - A Voice for Truth and Justice
And because words are power and because they intend to maintain us in permanent subordination, their position is that we should never be given the power of words, the power to determine the way our past and present are interpreted and spoken about. They not only want to ‘make’ our history, they also want to write and re-write it according to their taste and in their own words. And here lies the problem. Those of us who have managed to retain our sanity in the midst of their insane policies and who have remained courageous and confronted them in the midst of their intimidation, persecution and unparallel means of violence have become ‘their criminals’. They attempt to criminalise us in every step that we make hoping to silence us. And because they know they cannot win any argument of principles, truth and justice when faced with the facts, they resort to intimidation, violence and brutality against activists to prevent us from standing up for our principled beliefs. They question why we are here and ask us to leave if we don’t like how we’re treated here. But they should be reminded of the African adage which says: You don’t hit a child on the head and ask the child ‘why are you crying?’ If they still have not got it, “we are here because they destroy our countries”. How we talk about this destruction and their continued violation of our inalienable rights here is non-negotiable. We will always say it the way we feel it. There can be no compromise about this.
This was exemplified in the Oury Jalloh case. With no proof and where the facts of the case actually indicated the contrary, they spoke of suicide, that Oury Jalloh killed himself. That was it. And then we got reproached by some of our purported supporters when we said NO! NO! OURY JALLOH… DAS WAR MORD! Oury Jalloh, who was chained at his hands and feet to a fireproof mattress, yet they said we had no proof and that he set himself on fire. We refused to accept how they wanted us to speak about it and insisted that we’ll speak about it in our own terms. We imposed our words-the truth, our truth. Then they finally began to let up and though not in agreement, at least they lost the battle of imposing how we speak of Oury Jalloh's murder. And just like the thousands of our brothers and sisters whose lives have been stolen while attempting to even make it to this so-called Fortress Europe, this was a life that was snuffed out at its prime for no reason other than racism and police brutality.
Yet you can fool some people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time. And so we resist. We say no to their controls, no to their Residenzpflicht, no to their Gutschein, no to their isolation camps, no to their abuses and no to their racist police controls, brutality and MURDER!!!
And how do they react? What do these good, civilized, enlightened people of Germany do in the face of our protest against abuses which violate the spirit of both their constitution and international law (but not the letter, which they have modified in order to continue imposing their colonial relations)?
They criminalize us for daring to stand up for truth and justice. They oppress us to keep us subjugated and they try to intimidate us to undercut our support. But they will fail as they did before. None of us should ever forget the sacrifices made by Mouctar Bah in his monumental fight for truth and justice for the murder of his friend Oury Jalloh. We see also the racist oppression which had been visited upon him because of it. We see how they persecute him and levy false charges against him. They can try all they want but truth is on our side, the facts bear it out therefore history and justice will vindicate him. In this we trust!!!
And what about Katzhütte, where are we today?
We are not only here because of the isolation and the moulding walls, the psychological torture and the prolonged punishment for the "crime" of being unwelcome in Germany, but because when we protested against their inhumanity they reacted by justifying it to their people and ILLEGALLY oppressing those of us who speak out. And we still stand, still strong and proud of our collective fight for the dignity of all. This fact has permitted us to see deeply into their plans and beyond the veil of lies they try to construct through their snake-like language. Yet like we have with their borders, we have survived their attempts at oppressing our resistance. We have seen and learned a lot.
For instance, we all know that Europe and the United States are the ones that prop up the dictators in our countries, arm and train those who oppress us in our own countries and finance the wars they wage in and on our countries. We also know that it is their economic policies, which are now coming back to haunt them, which have destroyed our economies and raped us of our resources with reckless abandon. Through the IMF and the World Bank the Western countries also forbid governments in our countries to provide us with, for example, the right to education. That's right, they prefer that we remain ignorant-thinking that this is the way they can maintain control over our resources and our bodies.
Isn't that what is happening in each and every one of our countries? Isn't that exactly what we fled from? Didn't they promise us one way or another that these were the countries of wealth and human development, of human rights and basic decency, civilization and progress? Yet is that what we have seen? Is this what democracy looks like? Does it look any different than the "democracies" of Cameroon or Egypt, for example?
And in spite of everything, in spite of their over five hundred year attempt to subjugate us and impose their will, their logic and their language, they have not been successful. In fact, they are failing both because their colonial project was designed to fail from the very beginning and because their racist arrogance does not permit them to even develop solutions which could confront the serious crises facing humanity as we speak
Like they have done for so many years to the countries of the so-called Third World, Europe and the United States have dismantled their own economic systems in an all-out race for profit. As long as the rich continued to get richer, and anything could be bought on credit, it was an anything-goes environment. But like their alleged superiority, the putrid foundations of their adventure began to bring down the veil of economic soundness. What is left is a world order in decay and both Europe and the United States struggling-together-to maintain their colonial privileges which have been built on endless quantities of bloods and tears of the very same people who are not and never will be welcomed into their "paradise of fantasy."
But as their instruments of exploitation and dominance becomes more brutal so too do the pangs of capitalism clutches harder. A new world is now emerging, one whose shape and future has yet to be determined. But we should not expect any respite from this system. However, because we are and have always been historical actors of our own destiny, the world to come will be defined by us. And no matter their continued barbarity and profound ignorance of human essence, our destiny is in our hands. It is we, who will determine our future. Not their debased policies and border regimes.
We must never forget that those of us who have been converted into refugees and migrants come from regions of the world that make up the great majority of humanity. And we are not, contrary to the filth and poison injected into our minds for the last five hundred years, in any way inferior. On the contrary, human history will remember the so-called Western Civilization as the most cruel, destructive and exclusive imperial power to have ever existed. Will we ever know how many billions of human beings directly or indirectly perished because of it?
Here in Germany, we have taken steps. The fight against deportation, for truth and justice in the case of Oury Jalloh, the unconditional closing of all Lagers, respect for the right to freedom of movement and the right to life, these have all been the cornerstones in the foundations we have laid together for an end to the barbarity and a better tomorrow for us all.
And we will continue. We will continue to fight together so that we are all respected as the normal human beings that we are. We will not allow ourselves to be intimidated by those cruel and greedy lots of the world. And we will not remain silent; if for nothing, that they may never get their wish. We will remain warriors for human dignity and warriors for an end to colonial injustice. The unbearable pains and suffering they have inflicted on much of humanity will not go unquestioned and they will answer for it, sooner or later.
Together we are breaking the silence and the chains that keep us enslaved in these colonial relationships! Together we will overcome their racist ignorance and cruelty!
Long live the struggle!
Long live those who struggle against the oppressive system!
The VOICE Refugee Forum, Germany
The VOICE Online - The 'Fortress Within': Restriction of Movement and Refugee Self-Organisation