Questions to discuss
What strategies are being devised for the European state of insecurity?
How do migrants (and others) resist these attacks?
How could a Europe-wide network strengthen resistance, address the needs of migrant communities being targeted, and thus promote an alternative Europe?
The main speakers made many points including the following.
1. Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), UK, www.cacc.org.uk, email Les.Levidow@btinternet.com
The ‘war on terror’ is a systematic attack on democracy, on civil liberties and on migrant communities in particular. Where did this come from? When George Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, Europe did not simply imitate the USA, because Europe was already moving in a similar direction.
Long before September 2001, several countries had their own ‘anti-terror’ measures, aimed at suppressing or even criminalising political dissent. Now these national measures are becoming elements of an ‘anti-terror’ and ‘security’ regime for the entire European Union.
What problems have motivated this regime? From their standpoint, one problem has been the experience and circulation of mass protest at EU summits, e.g. at Gothenburg and Genoa. Another problem has been solidarity between the global justice movement and migrant communities in Europe, often supporting resistance to oppressive governments in the South, where Western investment depends on state terror.
To deal with such problems for the state, special laws already existed or were being planned before the attack on the Twin Towers, which then provided the pretext to go further.
In December 2001 the EU Council enacted its framework decision on combating terrorism. Its wording blurred any distinction between organised violence and political protest. Officially, ‘terrorism’ now includes any criminal activity which is undertaken for ’unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform (or abstain from performing) any act’; likewise it includes any criminal activity aimed at ‘seriously destabilising or destroying’ the political, economic or social structures of a country - or an international organisation.
On this basis, the Council mandated member states to ban 23 organisations and to freeze their assets. It also prohibited any ‘passive or active support’ for ‘persons or entities involved in terrorist acts’. And the security services would check all asylum requests for terrorist links. Thus a wide range of people and political activities would attract suspicion of so-called ‘terrorism’.
In June 2002 the EU Council further agreed to introduce ‘a standard form for exchanging information on terrorists’. And who are they? Answer: anyone who has been convicted of a crime related to terrorism. And that category now includes ‘large international events’ which are used by terrorists for propaganda purposes. So we are all suspected terrorists now.
Those EU agreements depend upon a secret state whose anti-democratic aims are supported by our governments. In the name of investigating ‘terrorism’ or maintaining ‘security’, the police carry out surveillance or intimidation, no longer requiring judicial authority. When the courts become involved, often they legitimise political persecution. Under this regime, activists have been harassed at ports, frontiers and protests.
So far, the main target has been migrant communities. A state culture of suspicion has been directed at anyone with dark skin and at Muslims in particular. This suspicion is promoted for several aims: to create a general fear of migrants, to justify repressive measures against them, and to deter community or political activity by them.
Despite the intimidation, migrant communities attempt to maintain their support networks and normal political activity. Such persistence itself is resistance. And by linking with other groups under threat, resistance can generate new networks of solidarity. The anti-racist and anti-war movements need to learn how to support such efforts, so that solidarity becomes more than rhetorical.
We need to understand the needs of migrant communities and the barriers to their participation in the wider movement for global justice. For example, there are differences of language and of class. To overcome these barriers, we need networks of solidarity - both within countries and across Europe.
2. Sarah Bracke, NextGenderation Network, http://nextgenderation.let.uu.nl, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The state authorities talk about protecting safety on the streets — but for whom? They claim to be protecting women but impose repressive racist measures, thus giving a Right-wing twist to feminist arguments, by analogy to colonial-era measures to ‘emancipate’ women. Unfortunately, part of the women’s movement has been accepting this agenda. The slogan of ‘zero tolerance’ is not innocent because it has a repressive meaning. Some measures are functional to Right-wing discourses and actually make us insecure, yet this role is masked by a pro-woman rhetoric.
3. YiannisFeleknis, Network for Political and Social Rights, Greece, www.socialforum.gr, contact: Panayotis Yulis, email@example.com
In Greece people who were once friendly to migrants now follow a new mentality of hostility, while demanding that police stations remain in their neighbourhoods to protect them. Police on every corner stop anyone and demand their ID papers in order to control the people everyday. Border police make demands which migrants cannot fulfill. Of the 1 million migrants in Greece, most could be expelled at any time.
The state strengthens popular fears which can justify repressive measures. At the ‘November 17’ trial, the defendants’ rights were not respected. The government will soon propose new repressive laws in the name of opposing terrorism.
4. Franco Barchiesi, Tavolo Migranti dei Forum Sociali Italiani, Italy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Even in ESF discussions, Europe has been seen as defined by its borders and national citizenship. Yet migration processes may subvert that framework, not simply demand integration into it. State sovereignty is becoming more repressive and delinked from social provision. The nation-state now manages social exclusion and re-imposes wage-labour discipline: all rights become dependent upon the wage.
Criminalisation and illegality is the basic means for the state to manage migrants. It would be a contradiction in terms for migrants to demand inclusion within the current EU framework. Instead migrants should demand rights independent of wage-labour and thus de-commodify rights.
5. Samir and Olivier, Mouvement de l’Immigration et de Banlieues (MIB), www.mibmib.free.fr, contact Mogniss Abdallah, email@example.com
Many organisations in France say that migrants should be decolonised, and the government says we should be integrated, but we are kept in separate neighbourhoods. Through our experience of repression, we migrants have become anti-police.
‘Anti-terrorism’ legislation is not so new for Arab communities in France because we have always experienced severe police brutality. The Socialist-Green government enacted the Loi Sécuritaire Intérieure, which used the pretext of terrorism for new powers to harass and detain migrants, thus abolishing our rights.
Since then, the Chirac government has enacted the Loi Sécuritaire du Quartier, for controlling everyday activities in our neighborhoods. Such laws harm the weakest sectors of society, create social insecurity and attack freedom of movement: they create new Berlin walls within our society. We need a force to defend ourselves.
There were several contributions from the floor. The final discussion agreed the following text:
PROPOSAL to the Assembly of Social Movements
1. We oppose so-called ‘anti-terrorist’ and ‘security’ laws, which are designed specially to terrorise and manage migrant populations. In particular we oppose the following:
bans on organisations and attempts to criminalise association with them;
detention without trial;
freezing of bank accounts on grounds of suspicion;
large-scale stop-and-search operations, with criminal penalties for non-cooperation.
2.We support resistance against such measures, especially through a Europe-wide network.
3. We support a Day of Action to demand the immediate release of the detainees arrested (and framed) at the Salonika EU Summit last June.