|florian schneider on Tue, 02 Mar 1999 18:00:37 +0100|
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|Syndicate: Living near the Border|
[The following text was written and translated by the FFM-team, Berlin. The FFM <firstname.lastname@example.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-SchÃ¶nefeld 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 canÂ´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 NeiÃ?e 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 peoplesÂ´ 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 AuslÃ¤nder", 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 familiesÂ´ 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 GÃ¶rlitz 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 NeiÃ?e. 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-LÃ¶bau 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 donÂ´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 GÃ¶rlitz 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 GÃ¶rlitz 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 theyÂ´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 GermanyÂ´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 foreignersÂ´ 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 seroiusly 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.