Fortress Europe is Taking Shape

Tampere, October 1999: The heads of state and government of the EU gather under Finnish presidency for the special summit on "Justice and Home Affairs". They celebrate the construction of a "European area of freedom, security and justice". With the implementation of the Amsterdam Treaty of May 1st 1999, central areas of home affairs that have previously been handled on a national level will be transferred to European institutions within the next five years. So far, European migration and asylum policies have been characterized by interstate coordination and informal resolutions: the so-called "soft law". A major part will now be transferred to European community law. EU technocrats are celebrating this development as a milestone: "The entire policy on foreigners will, not only in its basic premises but also in questions of detail, be included in this harmonization of European jurisdiction"1.
Singlehanded actions on a national level shall thereby be excluded in the future, e.g. a legalization law that was passed in Italy in February 1999 for the legalization of several hundred thousand illegal people would be impossible. The action programme of the Amsterdam Treaty certainly deals with harmonizing practices concerning asylum policies, mimimum standards und definitions of the term 'refugee'. Clearly dominating factors, however, are the tightening up of visa applications, an increase in border controls and agreements on re-admissions.
The efficient realization of the Dublin Convention is of special importance. It regulates jurisdiction over the so-called foreigners from third countries and aims at the prevention of inner-European flight and migration of mostly illegal refugees. With the assistance of a common fingerprinting system, EuroDac, identification can be guaranteed at all times, meaning that European deportation terror will be brought to perfection
2. EuroDac is a veritable battle programme against illegal people and was already top of the list of the catalogue of measures of the Schengen Treaty. With the implementaton of the Amsterdam Treaty, the panels of the Schengen Treaty, experienced in segregation, are to be integrated into EU structures, safeguarding the adoption of the strict standards of migration policies of the core member states - especially towards membership candidates in eastern Europe3.
From coordinated interior control points throughout Europe, the ongoing reinforcement of the external borders, the Europolled battle against escape agents to the consolidation of the Schengen Information System (SIS), which is presently saving more than 80% of the data of illegalized and deported persons: more and more, the "battle against illegal migration" turns out to be the pacemaker in the unification of migration policies.
The EU strategy paper prepared under the Austrian presidency in 1998 was of major importance in this development. It outlines with a "mixture of technocracy and vision"
4 the concept of a unified European migration area with graduated segregation tasks in concentric circles. As a practical consequence, a "high level working group" has been established to make action plans for specific countries of origin5, in order to present specific proposals on this basis for regulation and control of the flow of migration". The first results were presented at the conference in Tampere, entirely following the concept of the action plan of Iraq of 19986, which was to be continued. The focus of all practical efforts was the destruction of flight routes, the construction of new safe third states and, in connection with that, effective European agreements on re-admission. The naming of the reasons for flight, and the entirely inconsequential recital of human rights violations within the countries of origin, appears to be mere show within the reports on the individual countries. Still, many European non-governmental organizations set their hopes and their presumed influence on this aspect, and they are partially involved in cooperation in advisory functions.
Contrary to all previous experience, the European Refugees Council (Ecre)
7 also sees the Amsterdam Treaty as an opportunity; the one critical stance they take is directed against an obviously restrictionist movement towards unification.
"More control, more segregation, more deportations", that is how anti-racist action groups from several European countries have characterized these new developments in their joint declaration against the Tampere summit
8. There is a growing understanding of the necessity to gain a stronger European point of view. In this context, it is rather counterproductive to stylize the European unification process as already-perfected deportation machinery. Moreover, what has to be done (and therefore a network-building process on a European level is essential) is to use existing niches, the ever-increasing breaches in Fortress Europe as well as the contradictions between individual states, for the benefit of the refugees.
Direct information is of vital importance, such as the fact that Tamil refugees in France still have a 50% chance of recognition, whereas in Austria chances are a mere 1%
- asylum seekers from Afghanistan have their rights granted relatively quickly in Denmark and Sweden, whereas in Germany they remain for a rather long period of time in a status of toleration without any rights
- the Netherlands have issued a deportation stop for Kurdish refugees (as of September 1999)
- British courts forbade re-deportations of Tamil and Algerian refugees because Germany, where non-governmental persecution is not recognized, is not considered to be a safe third country!
- there is no fingerprinting system in Italy (at least not yet...)
Opportunities arising from these facts, here only mentioned as examples, have to be seized, even if EuroDac is introduced all over Europe, and the harmonization of restrictions against refugees and undesired migrants undoubtedly continues and increases.
It is therefore of the utmost urgency to continue with political mobilizations with reference to these European developments. When, within a period of six months, Semira Adamu in Belgium, Khaled Abuzarifeh in Switzerland, Marcus Omufuma in Austria and Aamir Ageeb in Germany were killed by border police during deportations, protests became increasingly more coordinated - they had to be. Yet the possibility and necessity not just to react to the deportation terror, but to voice aggressively and in European coordination the demands for the right to stay and for unrestricted movement, already exist, despite differing conditions.
Attempts in this direction are: increasing actions against the manhunt at the Schengen-European borders
10, as well as the ongoing activities directed against various airlines participating in deportations11. The quite positive experiences in connection with Tampere give reason to expect a further network of active groups that is spreading wider and wider12.
Obviously, widespread anti-racist mobilization has repeatedly led to effective blockades with regard to deportation policies within the last few years. In 1996/97, the agitation and the energetic mobilization of the Sans Papiers contributed to a deep polarization of society leading to a change of government, and in consequence brought about formerly unimaginable concessions for the illegals. In 1998, persistent initiatives of anti-racist groups and widespread protest triggered by the murder of Semira Adamu placed Belgian deportation authorities repeatedly on the defensive. In 1999 at Trieste, Italy, the first deportation camp had to be closed after strong protests.
However, even low-level initiatives, direct action and, last but not least, the manifold social support projects have directly or indirectly accompanied what constitutes the focus of the confrontation towards migration policies: the struggle of refugees and migrants against racist segregation, as well as the fight for social survival and especially for their political self-organization process against Fortress Europe.
This is what has to be pursued in the future, and more effective European networking and cooperation, which we want to contribute to by this book project, will be evaluated in theend mainly with regard to this aim. [back to top]

1 Christian Klos in "General framework and possibilities of a configuration of European migration policies", 1998
2 With the implementation of the Amsterdam Treaty the European Commission has received a right of initiative as of 1.5.1999. On May 26, the Commission promptly exercised this right with the proposal for a EuroDac-decree! According to this decree, all asylum seekers within the EU, from the age of 14, shall be fingerprinted and registered in the information system. According to a German initiative, fingerprints shall also be taken from all persons encountered at an illegal border crossing or residence. This proposal was accepted in Tampere.
3 In January 1999, under German EU and Schengen presidencies, the Minister of the Interior, Otto Schily, officially handed the Schengen regulations referring to external border controls to the ambassadors of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus. The states mentioned are considered to be future candidates for EU membership and are therefore obliged to adopt Schengen standards.
4 Cited according to a list made by Pro Asyl (see also the list of addresses)
5 The so-called "High Level Working Group", consisting of senior civil servants of the ministries of home affairs as well as the ministries of state, has the task of developing "new
concepts of an integrated refugee policy" in reference to a number of countries of origin. Besides Iraq and Turkey, this includes Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Morocco.
6 Towards the end of 1997, several ships carrying mostly Kurdish refugees from Iraq landed on the Italian coast and an "initial action plan Iraq" was launched, initiated mainly by the then Interior Minister, Kanther. The registration of flight routes, and especially the situation in Turkey, were at the centre of attention at the time, and later. On the one hand, the routes of the refugees were to be blocked, and on the other, negotiations started with Turkey as to possible deportations of refused Kurdish-Iraqi refugees through Turkey to the Kurdish-controlled zones in Northern Iraq. The action plan proposals referring to the other countries of origin are likewise dominated by segregation and deportation scenarios. Removals into neighbouring countries, a destruction of escape assistance structures, and the employment of so-called airline liaison officers (looking for falsified travel documents), are the key points in the interim reports presented in Tampere.
7 See European list of addresses.
8 With joint appeals and demands, anti-racist groups from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Germany, and naturally Finland, carried out
coordinated actions at airports, in front of border control stations, as well as deportation centres "around Tampere and all over Europe" on October 15 and 16, 1999.
9 According to information from the High-Level Working Group, Sri Lanka.
10 In 1998, action camps were set up at the German-Polish as well as at the Austrian-Hungarian borders. In the same year a "universal citizenship boat" went from Italy to Albania. In 1999, campaigns took place at the German-Danish as well as at the Polish-Ukrainian borders, at the latter for the first time ever. Another camp took place at the corner formed by the borders of Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Follow-up projects are being discussed for the year 2000.
11 In the Netherlands, the Autonomous Centre initiated successful actions against Martin Air as early as 1996, causing them to stop their involvement in deportations. Presently, initiatives are being directed against KLM. In connection with the agitation of Sans Papiers, action in France is frequently directed against Air France in order to protest against deportation policies - similarly to Belgium, where actions, protests, and mostly the resistance of the "deportees" in question led to the refusal of deportations by Sabena pilots if resistance was to be expected and violence exerted by the border police. In Germany, activities against Lufthansa have also been launched.
12 See also the network projects of Sans Papiers and grassroots groups described in the list of addresses. [back to top]