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<nettime> Living near the Border
florian schneider on Thu, 4 Mar 1999 20:24:39 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Living near the Border


[This text was written and translated by the FFM-team, Berlin. The FFM
<ffm {AT} ipn-b.comlink.apc.org> Forschungsgesellschaft Flucht und
Migration is an independent research group, investigating e.g. on human
rights violations along the borderlines of so called fortress Europe.
You can download it from 'cross the border' campsite, as well:
<http://www.contrast.org/borders/camp/index99.html> see you there! /fls]

Living near the Border

Involvement of the Borderpopulation into the
German Border-Regime at the German-Polish Border

The German Border-Regime rests on three pillars. One of them is a matter
of foreign policy, namly the functionalization of Germans Eastern
neighbours as door-keepers of the EU. The second pillar is the armament
of the German Border Police, the Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS), which is a
Federal Police, and its equipment with more and far-reaching powers. And
finally we have the growing involvement of the borderpopulation into
border- control. There is also a fourth party playing a role in this
concept, but it is handling only with those lucky peole that managed to
cross the border secretly. The foreigners administration and the German
legislation upon asylumseekers and foreigners is part of a system which
is more and more becoming a means of keeping out any refugees and
migrants or to freeze out those, who are already there. For to give an
idea what German border-policy means there will be a short description
of the first two points before coming to the main topic, the involvement
of the population into the chase of illegals and borderviolators, or
whatever you may call them.

1. Utilizing the neighbour-states as buffer states Since the
modification of the German Constitution in 1993 there is nearly no
chance left for refugees to apply for asylum in Germany. The so called
Save-Third-Country-Regulation makes it possible for the German
administration to reject nearly every application for asylum immediatly,
because the asylumseeker came transit across one of the neighbourstates.
All the trouble of handling with migration and refugee movements Germany
and the EU delegate to their Eastern neighbours which are given clear
rules of well-behaving in order to get admission to the EU one day. The
model pupil in this relation of ordering and obeying is Poland.
According to the German-Polish Agreement of May 1993 Poland got 120
Million Deutschmarks for building up her own borderfacilities such as
boats, helicopters and technical equipment, but also for raising a
BGS-like border-police and establishing an own asylum-procedure. Since
then, there spread a dense net of detention prisons for foreigners. For
example 1,5 Million DM flew into the restoration of the detention in
Leznowola, a guarded camp. Poland now has 25 detentions for deportees.
But not only the system of pulling out rejected asylumseekers or by the
BGS returned secret immigrants was copied from the German system. Also a
firm system of readmission-agreements was established with the
neighbouring countries in the East, so that there occured something that
could be called Domino- deportation. People that were rejected or pulled
back by the German BGS are transported - with or without a often very
long stay in a detention camp - to one of the Eastern neighbours as
there are Belorus or Ukraine.  in 1996 about 1500 persons, nearly a
third of the altogether near 5000 borderviolators pulled back by the
BGS, were immediately pulled out by Poland to a neighbourstate or
deported into their home-country. Most of this domino-deportations are
operated in a 48-hour-term. On the 27th of June 1997 the trip from the
German border to the Ukrainian border ended up in a heavy accident in
which two of the deportees died. The driver of the vehicle fell asleep
after 14 hours non- stop-driving. The new Polish asylum-and foreigners
laws of 1997 make it even more difficult to apply for asylum at all to
prevent a deportation. Poland is learning her lesson. The same system
works between Hungary and Austria, the keen new member of the sacred EU.
Another thing with the same purpose are the readmission- agreements
Germany signs with a growing number of states to make deportation easier
and quicker. The first readmission-agreements were established with
Poland in 1993, the Czech Republic in 1994, Romania in 1992 and Bulgaria
in 1995. Secret immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria who are arrested at
the border are immediately transported to the airport Berlin-Schönefeld
and then turned back to the named countries of origin. Germany and the
EU can put immense pressure on countries like Poland that want to join
the EU: only if they fulfill the security-demands of Western Europe they
will be admitted to that sublime assembly. This is why they obey some
even humiliating conditions of this stick-and-carrot-policy, too. If
everything is working out well, there will be spoken in favour of the
EU-aspirants.

2. The armament of the German border-police BGS The number of officers
and administration personnel was increased to a high extent. There have
been 2400 BGS-officers in 1992. Today we have about 5800
Border-policemen and for the near future there is projected a number of
7500 BGS-men. This numbers are related to the German eastern borders
only, which are supposed to be the border with the highest density of
guard in Europe or even the world. There, at the Polish and Czech
borders there (without the Bavarian-Czech border), there are in average
2,4 officers per kilometer doing their service. At the US-Mexican border
there are only 0.18 officers per kilometer. With the staff occupied in
the bureaus of the BGS there are about 10 000 officers and employees in
duty for the federal border-police at the eastern borders. Additionally
there is since 1993 a border-police-support-unit of about 1200 officers
with employee-status. But there are even more officers doing service at
this border, namly the customs officers and the ordinary
state-police-forces. This figures may give you an impression which
manpower Germany is ready to occupy to get the EU-border watertight .
The governmental budget for the BGS increased from 1.3 billion DM in
1989 to over 3 billion DM in 1997. All in all the BGS has about 30 000
officers (1992: 24 500) in charge for the what is called
border-protection and inner security . We have to be aware regarding the
border that it is no longer the borderline we were accustomed to, but as
a zone extending to 30 kilometers further inland. In this security belt
the BGS (and also customs) has the same powers as the state-police and
even more. It is allowed to control papers of any person without
suspicion or event at any time, he can observate houses and listen in on
telephonlines and raid any place declared a dangerous place. The newest
changes of the BGS-law provide the same powers for it along bigger
transitroads and in railwaystations (the BGS is the railway-police, too)
and their surroundings. The technical armament of the BGS with the
latest technology adds to the high standard of border-control that is
established at the German Eastern borders. I just name some of these
hardcore apparatus: There are for example carbon dioxide detectors that
can measure if there are persons breathing inside any container; there
are the newest infrared cameras and those to see at night with the
remaining light in darkness; and there are certainly patrol- boats on
Odra and Neisse, there are helicopters and more than 600 tracker dogs.
(By the way: in Austria there is the army engaged in guarding the
border, young and unexperienced men doing there military service have to
live in tents and to handle arresting illegal immigrants; moreover
Austria is working with ground radar at the borders). And there is a
high-tech computersystem, the SIS or Schengen Information System. Alone
all over Germany there are 9000 (in part mobile) terminals of this
system. Germany fed this gigantic system with the data of about 320 000
unwelcome people of the altogether 415 000. Germany bundles up all these
computer-control-systems to a border-terminal-system, which is in use
with nearly 700 terminals at the Eastern borders. Next step in this
progress will be the finger-print-directory EURODAC, but all these
technical tools can't keep up with the help of the borderpopulation
observing the borders.

3. The involvement of the population into border-security Most of the
statistics and figures comes directly from the German border-
police.They are extracted from the annual report of this institution.
Other material is nearly not available. The speaker of the the
BGS-center in Frankfurt/Oder in the state of Brandenburg pointed out
publicly, that 50 percent of all the arrests of secret immigrants are
due to hints out of the border-population. The BGS-speaker of Rothenburg
at the Neiße in the state of Saxony even spoke of 70 to 80 percent
arrests due to German informers living in the border region denouncing
the trespassers. The FFM- team was stunned by these figures and tried to
get some more information on the role the ordinary people there play in
border-control and which emphasis the federal border- police puts on
these volunteers, which kind of propaganda gets people to hold it right
and necessary to denounce migrants and refugees. In the media the
picture of a flood of criminals waiting in the East to slosh into the EU
to rob, steel and even murder, to destroy the social system, to take
away the jobs of the righteous inhabitants and to bring in unmeasurable
amounts of what is called  organized criminality penetrates the peoples'
minds unfiltered, because there is nearly no critical, differentiating
approach to what flight and migration are in fact. There is some special
kind of border-criminality, no doubt, the circumstances are too
inviting. But the effect of the pauseless indoctrination of people (not
only in the border region) is that for every single stolen car or
bicycle, for every burglary and every violent attack on someone the
foreigners, "die Ausländer", are blamed. Marking immigrants and refugees
who have no other legal possibility to enter the country with the word
illegal immigrants or illegals , what people keep in mind is that every
secret border-crosser is a criminal. After having this thing clear
nobody feels the need to ask for some more details about the persons,
their motivation to flee or migrate, their lifes and fates. What is
more, is identifying every secret immigrant with what was worked out to
be a capital offence, namly trafficking. This official propaganda could
be proofed with uncounted press-articles or ministerial announcements.
The Minister of the Interior, Manfred Kanther (and nowadays his
successor Otto Schily), was a hero of this kind of setting people in
fear. To make clear the effects of this propaganda one ought to take a
closer look on the myth of racketeers and traffickers: The picture that
media and official announcements draw of trafficking aliens is the
picture of especially unscrupulous and brutal criminals that exploit the
poorest of the poor, that are bringing in drugs, weapons and criminal
energy into the country and thar are likely to be a branch of the
Russian or whatever mafia. Useful for this imaging the traffick in
aliens are the incidents and accidents in which refugees and migrants
die. No doubt, there are criminals involved in this business, there are
women forced into prostitution or other people brought into a slave-like
state of indentur. But - this is the result of FFM-research and asking
refugees and migrants about there trafficking experience - the majority
of all acts of trafficking aliens is responsibly planned and has the
form of a real and regular business. As long as for this propaganda it
is useful to blame the traffickers, the refugees are welcome victims
that were persuaded with false promises, deprived of all their families'
scanty money and then forced into an extremely dangerous, illegal and
exhausting trip to Western Europe to find themselves exposed to a racist
society that does not welcome them - a misery. Fact is, however, that
the trafficking agents work like other businessmen, they have to take
care for their reputation, which could be spoilt by too much deported
former clients of them. The prize that people have to pay e.g. to be
brought to Germany from Sri Lanke ranges between 12 000 to 15 000 DM.
The people who decided to leave their home country try to collect this
money in their wider family which often put together all available
savings to buy a chance and a life-perspective of at least one
family-member. Then they get in contact with the well- known agent and
the thing is negotiated. Then the trip goes - by the way: most of the
journey is legally done - via Moscow, Kiew or Vilnius to Poland and to
the Polish-German border. Often only crossing this border is against the
law. (To give some comparison, there are sentences of the German Supreme
Court, the Bundesgerichtshof, of the 1970ies, in which the court holds
it to be rightous to help people crossing the German-German border and
to take fees up to 40 000 DM for this service. These traffickers were
called escape agents then and it was a heroic deed to help one of the
former GDR-inhabitants - by the way the classical refugee for economical
reasons - to cross the border illegally. In the German
income-declaration-forms of these years there was even a special column
for the fees for escape agent, that could be deducted from tax.) The BGS
is doing his own advertising and propaganda in the border-region. They
offer the socalled citizens-telephon for security. People can call the
BGS all over Germany on a charge free service-number all around the
clock. In every newspaper near the border, on every single police-car
and telephon-box you can find this number encouraging people to report
every suspicious move in their surroundings. And this despite the fact
that there is no significant growth of any kind of criminality near the
border. In contrary: in most of the towns and cities the FFM was doing
research the rate of criminality is sinking, often in 10-percent-steps a
year.[To give some examples of many: In 1997 the criminality rate in the
police-district of Frankfurt/Oder dropped according to the official
report about 11 percent, in the city itself it went down 16.3 percent;
in Görlitz in East-Saxony there is a decrease of 27 percent]. The BGS
not only emphasizes the importance of his presence because of the
extremly high rate of criminality for which enormous decrease he at the
same time claims to be responsible. If the decreasing rates are
presented to public the BGS prefereably talks about the  subjective
security sense of the people that requires the increase of
police-density and control.

Fact is that for nearly every criminal deed the foreigners are blamed.
People even talk of the fear of moving around at night because of
violent foreigners everywhere: this fear is especially absurd because
the only persons that are in danger of being attacked in this region are
the foreigners, the non-German looking people themselves.

The result of this politics of fear is that the BGS can really reckon
with the voluntary and busy help of the people living near the border,
without handing out rewards. In times of unemployment-rates around 20
percent, the BGS is also an interesting and popular employer. There were
mentioned the numbers above but there is another important fact that
adds to the popularity of the BGS: the BGS today is an important part of
every days life. Many of the officers of the BGS are living near the
place of their work or are even coming out of the borderpopulation
itself, often after a long term of unemployment. But there are several
other phenomena that contribute to the thesis of a involvement of
citizens into border-control by social technology. Everywhere near the
border there are popping up civic action groups that compose their own
private border guards. With self-created uniforms, torches, binoculars,
clubs and often even with gas- pistols adult persons are patroling and
standing post near the border during nighttime. The FFM got aware of
this developement after there was scandalized a racist harrasment of a
young boy on his way home at ten at night in Forst at the river Neiße.
He was stopped by these self- appointed borderguards with others and
controlled, because he was a person of color. The BGS was called, the
young people had to wait for half an hour for their arrival and were
released afterwards. After the mother of one of the kids complaint about
this incident it got evident that BGS and police are working together
with these civic action groups closely and confidentially.

The BGS denied this cooperation when the whole thing became a real
scandal. To calm the thing down, these civic border-guards are now
involved into a programme of the home-secretary of Brandenburg, which is
called security-guard and consists of private people guarding their
neighbourhoods. They have no weapons and are to call the police if there
is a suspicion or incident. Such security-guards exist in about 50
villages in Brandenburg by now. But also on an official level there are
established what can be called denouncing-coalitions between
state-offices such as the labour-office and the social welfare, who work
together closely in an informal manner to find illegal workers or
persons without a legal status. But also non-governmental institutions
as guilds and Chambers of Commerce. The BGS in Pirna for example met
with representives of the taxi-guild of Saxony, the Chamber of Industry
and Commerce in Dresden, politicians from border-communes and the
county, the public prosecuters office and the collegues from the
state-police. They came to an agreement how to work together to stop
illegal immigration. The results of this meeting were made public. The
background of this meeting in 1997 was an unheard-of wave of trials
against taxidrivers in the county of Zittau-Löbau at the border-triangle
of Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany in Eastern Saxony.

What happend here is the reverse of the medal of involvement of the
border- population in border-control. Upon people who don't want to be
deputy sheriffs of the border-police there are played heavy sanction by
means of jurisdiction. There must be some silent agreements also between
the three powers in order to improve border-security. The courts there
in Zittau and Görlitz are playing an important role in creating an
athmosphere of thread near the border. Since 1996 there have been
several sentences against taxidrivers that where accused to have brought
illegal immigrants into the country not under one year without
suspension! The circumstances of the trials are scandalous, not only
because noone of the drivers brought anybody across the border, but
because prosecuters are only working with vague indications which are
always interpreted worst for the accused taxidrivers. By now there are
investigations against 22 of altogether 73 taxidrivers in that county.
The first defendant, sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison without
suspension and whose appeals all failed is sitting in jail since half a
year now.

The construction of the prosecuters are the following: It is not
necessary to really cross the border with illegal immigrants, but also
to pick them up near the border and to bring them out of the
30-kilometer-zone of responsibility of the BGS for example to the next
bigger city such as Bautzen, Dresden or even Berlin. It should be the
taxidrivers duty not only to recognize who is an alien without status,
but then to deny service and/or denouncing the clients to the BGS. The
above mentioned meeting between BGS and among others the taxidrivers
guild included the edition of a flyer for the driving collegues with
some hints what they should do. Having picked up some suspicious
strangers they should either controll the papers themselves - which is
against the law, which seems to be suspended for border-security - or
call the BGS by means of using a code-word. Many taxidrivers from all
over Germany protested against what this means for the future. They are
not willing or allowed to controll their guests, they are obliged by the
law to transport every person regardless who it is. Now they should for
the interests of the border police suspect every persons that does not
look like a German fellow-countryman of being an illegal alien. There
have been protests in Görlitz during the first trial. The author
witnessed one trial in early 98, where the question how a taxidriver was
supposed to regonize the illegal bordercrosser, the prosecutor shouted:
These persons were closed in a typical Eastern European manner.

This shows, how a stranger is constructed by (social) discriminatory or
even racist rules that refer only to the phenotypical appearance. These
trials were absolutely ridiculous in what could be called juridicial
fairness or regarding a high principle like in dubio pro reo . Also the
appeals are. What they are trying to do is to set a warning example
against all persons that deny to play the game of border-control. These
taxidrivers now are put to jail, their driving licences, concessions and
the allowance to transport persons are retracted, in short: the
defendants, most of them very well-behaving heads of families without
any police record are ruined forever. And for what? For having
transported illegal aliens: this act - done accidently or with purpose -
is made a capital offence, which is in regard of the actual damage
they've done unbearable. These scandalous verdicts proof that this is no
independent jurisdiction but a willing helper in favour of the needs of
inner security and border control.

The resulting athmosphere near the border makes it possiple that things
like the following can happen without anybody sounding public alarm on
this atrocity.A group of twelve people from Kosova crossed the border
secretly at the night of the 15th of May 1998 near Schwedt. Some
resident informed the BGS. The Federal border guard stopped the
trespassers at 11.30 p.m. All of them were arrested, only one young
Kosovo-Albanian could flee the arrestation. And what happened now is
unbelievable: For more than four hours a hunting company consisting of
the BGS, the state police, the customs and the local fire-brigades
equiped with cars, dogs, helicopters and lighting was chasing that poor
refugee. After hours the hunted man tried to break free by swimming
across a near-by canal, just next to the bridge were BGS-officers were
posted, and in his exhaustion he drowned and died. One should keep in
mind what his crime was: this refugee was only crossing the border
illegally. And what is schocking also, is that this incredible tragedy
was mentioned in no newspaper (but a local one). And this is
every-days-life at Germany's borders and shows an alarming state of
lacking human orientation we have reached by now. The FFM has documented
the sad list of victims due to the German border-regime and foreigners'
policy: 88 refugees died at all borders, alone 67 at the Eastern
borders; 54 detainees committed suicide because of their upcoming
deportation, at least 95 were seriously injured by trying to do so; 4
refugees died during deportation, 33 deportees were injured; 4 people
were killed in their homecountries after deportation, at least 86 were
arrested, maltreated or even tortured by military- or police-officers in
their country of origin, 11 of the deported disappeared traceless.

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