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  <ffm@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:
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
the German Border Police, the Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS), which is a
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,
it is handling only with those lucky peole that managed to cross the
border secretly. The foreigners administration and the German
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
into the chase of  illegals  and borderviolators, or whatever you may

1. Utilizing the neighbour-states as buffer states
Since the modification of the German Constitution in 1993 there is
no chance left for refugees to apply for asylum in Germany. The so
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.
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,
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
system of pulling out rejected asylumseekers or by the BGS returned
immigrants was copied from the German system. Also a firm system of
readmission-agreements was established with the neighbouring countries
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
in a heavy accident in which two of the deportees died. The driver of
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
The same system works between Hungary and Austria, the keen new member
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
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
want to join the EU: only if they fulfill the security-demands of
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
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
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
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
occupy to get the EU-border  watertight . The governmental budget for
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
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.
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
without suspicion or event at any time, he can observate houses and
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
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
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
boats on Odra and Neisse, there are helicopters and more than 600
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
 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
police.They are extracted from the annual report of this institution.
Other material is nearly not available. The speaker of the the
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
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
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,
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
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
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
ought to take a closer look on the myth of racketeers and traffickers:
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
Russian or whatever mafia. Useful for this imaging the traffick in
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
and migrants about there trafficking experience - the majority of all
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
the traffickers, the refugees are welcome victims that were persuaded
false promises, deprived of all their families´ scanty money and then
forced into an extremely dangerous, illegal and exhausting trip to
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
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
ranges between 12 000 to 15 000 DM. The people who decided to leave
home country try to collect this money in their wider family which often

put together all available savings to buy a chance and a
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
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
against the law. (To give some comparison, there are sentences of the
German Supreme Court, the Bundesgerichtshof, of the 1970ies, in which
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
the voluntary and busy help of the people living near the border,
handing out rewards. In times of unemployment-rates around 20 percent,
BGS is also an interesting and popular employer. There were mentioned
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
long term of unemployment. But there are several other phenomena that
contribute to the thesis of a involvement of citizens into
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
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-
borderguards with others and controlled, because he was a person of
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
kids complaint about this incident it got evident that BGS and police
working together with these civic action groups closely and

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
such as the labour-office and the social welfare, who work together
closely in an informal manner to find illegal workers or persons without
legal status. But also non-governmental institutions as guilds and
Chambers of Commerce. The BGS in Pirna for example met with
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
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
Zittau and Görlitz are playing an important role in creating an
athmosphere of thread near the border. Since 1996 there have been
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
drivers brought anybody across the border, but because prosecuters are
only working with vague indications which are always interpreted worst
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
to really cross the border with illegal immigrants, but also to pick
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
and/or denouncing the clients to the BGS. The above mentioned meeting
between BGS and among others the taxidrivers guild included the edition
a flyer for the driving collegues with some hints what they should do.
Having picked up some suspicious strangers they should either controll
papers themselves - which is against the law, which seems to be
for border-security - or call the BGS by means of using a code-word.
taxidrivers from all over Germany protested against what this means for
the future. They are not willing or allowed to controll their guests,
are obliged by the law to transport every person regardless who it is.
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,
and the allowance to transport persons are retracted, in short: the
defendants, most of them very well-behaving heads of families without
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
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
flee the arrestation. And what happened now is unbelievable: For more
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
drowned and died. One should keep in mind what his crime was: this
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
and foreigners´ policy: 88 refugees died at all borders, alone 67 at the

Eastern borders; 54 detainees committed suicide because of their
deportation, at least 95 were seroiusly injured by trying to do so; 4
refugees died during deportation, 33 deportees were injured; 4 people
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.