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Asylum: Strategies to Prevent the Closing of Borders

Facilitation: Doro Bruch and Tikiri

Migration is in many cases the consequence of an on-going conflict, oppression or human and resource exploitation, which in turn is maintained by military force. There is no difference between war refugees and economic refugees; they are all refugees.

Increasingly, the military is involved in sealing off borders and in dealing with displaced populations in conflict areas. However, the closure of borders of rich countries, in particular, is an unacceptable form of discrimination and social injustice. Moreover, these rich, 'democratic' countries often use the 'refugee issue' to arouse racist feelings among their populations in order to get full support for their policies. All these issues should urge WRI and WRI sections to build strategies in order to protect and maintain the freedom of movement for all people.

Campaigns

There exist already plentiful campaigns that deal with various issues. WRI sections or individuals from these sections are more than welcome to join.

The 'No Border Campaign,' the 'Freedom of Movement Campaign' and similar campaigns support the right of each person to travel and settle down freely.

Many campaigns and local groups work for the legalisation of asylum seekers. It can be either social and legal support for individuals or campaigns demanding the right of each person 'to be legal' wherever s/he lives ("No one is illegal"). Many of these campaigns are linked to refugee collectives, as the direct support of such collectives is usually necessary.

The policies of rich states towards migrants have also made anti-deportation campaigns necessary. Two different forms of campaigning have emerged: emergency support for a certain person or family in order to prevent their deportation or more general campaigns such as the 'Deportation Class Campaign,' which has targeted airlines in order to persuade them not to help deport migrants.

Finally, campaigns exist to analyse the aims of governments and of the institutions they use to hide their dirty work: No action can be done without data to convince the general public, which is very often blinded by government propaganda.

WRI-Specific Input

WRI and WRI sections have the duty as antimilitarist and anti-war organisations to show and denounce the involvement of armies in sealing off borders. They are the best-placed organisations to do research on the relations between state violence and armies and their links with racism and the closure of borders. Denouncing how the 'war on terrorism' is used to target migrants is also a task any peace organisation that cares about justice has to fulfil. This task can be linked with various campaigns against laws restricting civil liberties, especially because these laws also target activists, e.g. the Terrorism Act in England, LSQ in France or the anti-terror pastete in Germany.

Fortress Europe -- An Example

The Seville summit of the European Union (EU) in June 2002 finalised the common European policy to prevent immigration. A wide spectrum of measures to prevent illegal immigration is in place now, including collaboration on defence matters, policing, legal affairs and data collection. Furthermore, each European state restricts legal migration and the right to asylum. The EU also decided to collaborate with the United Nations, NATO and IOM on refugee issues outside the EU and its neighbouring countries. This puts further pressure on countries outside the EU to sign repatriation agreements.

Armies can be used to deal with migrants internally, to organise repatriation and to prevent migrants to enter the EU. For instance, 12,000 soldiers of EUROMARFOR have been deployed along the Spanish and Italian borders.

Solidarity

Collaboration with displaced peace workers and support for COs and deserters who ask for asylum can be effective ways to prevent a Fortress Europe. CONCODOC and other resources can be used as helpful tools in this effort. Connection e.V./DFG-VK has recently shown how it can work: After a successful campaign to support deserters of the South African army and police during apartheid, the group found out which wars are recognised as justifications for deserters to be granted asylum by institutions such as the UN. Since then, they have organised seminars to inform COs and deserters seeking asylum about their rights. In order to influence the German government, they have tried to gain support from towns to agree to officially host deserters and to grant asylum. Finally, they have collaborated with groups and lawyers in Turkey in order to protect peace workers, COs and deserters from Turkey.

Our solidarity must also be shown when delegates cannot come to a conference or a seminar due to the usual visa restrictions. Any refusal to issue a visa -- for whatever reason -- needs to be publicly denounced, if not with an action, at least with a press release directed at the local media of the conference/seminar.

Sharing Experiences

Many tasks have to be fulfilled. Therefore, WRI sections should share their experiences in order to learn from the different activities in this field. Sharing experiences can be a great resource for any peace and antimilitarist activist concerned with the issue of asylum and migration but also for groups supporting migrants.