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From the very beginning, we’ll like to state clearly that the views expressed here does not necessarily represent the entire Caravan Network as a we have not sought a full discussion and a decision on this. But suffice to say that this has been discussed in some groups within the network (with imputs) and therefore represents a broad line of thoughts on this issue.

Since the last couple of years, the debate on the „Autonomy of Migration“ has raged through the Left in Germany and beyond in many public discussions like a wild fire in a hot Summer. It has become „en vogue and a hot cake“ to discuss it in every sphere. Theories, suppositions and assumptions coupled with some „revelations and discoveries“ have been brought to the fore in the course of this debate. In the process, different groups have alligned with or shared understanding if not total acceptance of some lines of thoughts on the issue while others have strived to place on board what is either deliberately overlooked or ignorantly considered irrelevant in this discourse. In the midst of these varying poles stands the sometimes conflicting and or complementary positions of some refugee-migrant and anti racist groups and individuals.

Therefore, it has become imperative that we as a network with a sharp focus on refugee issues make some observations and salient points in this debate before they get completely misunderstood or blurred out. This is important given the fact that from our experience, we know that some of the groups which are engaged in ‚refugee work‘ hardly understand the position from which refugees speak. A case in point here was the Rita Sussmuth Commission report which preceeded the introduction of the yet-to-be-passed Immigration Law. Many had positively reviewed that report then and hailed it as a „paradigm shift“ in Germany. Then when the ensuing Bill was introduced, this euphoria was simply extinguished by the apparent disappointment which came with it. In practical terms, the expectations that Germany was finally becoming recognised as a land of migration which the government massive propaganda and presentation of the Bill sought to sell was just a hoax. It was in the midst of this that some refugee groups began to point out the real meaning of this proposed law to them as a „detention and deportation“ law and far from the Immigration Bill that it has been so advertised as. Today, this is no longer in doubt as the real intention of the Bill is clear to everyone while the haggling to pass it into law continues.

It is disturbing to see that this discussion and the attendant hype has been precipitated in a way by the deliberate attempt of the State without a conscious recognition of it by many of its advocates. A year or two before the attempt to introduce the immigration bill in Germany, we cannot remember this issue being discussed the way it has been done in the last two years. So what is happenning here? What is it that has generated this unprecedented interest and hype? Is it that these migrations were not taking place before or that these various groups did not or could not recognise it in this character? Or were they taking place before without it being autonomous? Are some of these groups touting the invincible strenght of migration just discovering that many migrants are forced to leave their home countries because of the precarious situations there? Or are they just realising that it has become ever more dangerous and life-risking for these people to attempt to migrate to a place like Europe? Do they just realised that many of these migrants know of the risks and humiliations involved in such attempts and nevertheless take it and that it is their conscious decisions? Why has the discussion of autonomy of migration become so central and important now at this moment when all attempts are being made by repressive governments everywhere to deny and abolish protection for those in need of international protection and even civil rights curtailed much like never before in our face in the name of fighting the enemy? A deep reflection on these questions cannot but provoke some cause for concern in our opinion.

As a basic starting point for us, we’ll like to draw your attention to our self-description paper. Here we stated that our politics develops from our daily experiences both in our home countries and here in Germany. (The paper is translated) Directly flowing from these is the meaning of our major slogan: „we are here because you destroy our countries“. And this is to put it mildly with only a veiled reference to the exterminations that occurs in the process of that destruction. We do know that many people feel very uncomfortable in hearing that let alone associating with it even though others sympathise and show solidarity with us at the sametime. But we are not a network that will shy away from our position simply because it is not popular or unfashionable. And for us, it is a matter of principle that we stick to relating the reality of our lives which is expressed in the misery that we live in our home countries and continued here as a bunch of unwanted refugees-who are confined to forests, slums and containers, abused, tortured, dehumanised and treated worse than a dog before being deported to continued torture and possible death in the hands of those we fled from. We are determined to say this on our own because, we can never be sure that anyone will or can speak on our behalf in this respect as it touches a core in the perpetrator which many consider too confrontative. Its their choice if they choose to run or hide from the truth but they cannot expect or compel us to follow suit.

We have heard in the course of this debate how the conscious decision and efforts of refugees and migrants (as Subjects) in „breaking Fortress Europe“ and settling down is not being acknowledged and respected. That networks exists which are so efficient in handling these things hence the description „Globalisation from Below“ since the masses are actually moving across the borders as they want. That this is on the onehand, a way to empower potential migrants who need to cross these borders anyway. That millions of dollars are being sent home yearly by those who manage to settle down and that that has actually become more than the Aids governments in poor countries get from the richer countries. In the same vein we are told that these single cases of successes are not being appreciated by those who refused to join this prevalent hype.

First, it is undeniable that since time immemorial people have been consciously active in trying to improve their lives by all possible means. These included migration as well as employing even violent means like wars and killings-even of friends, neighbours and relatives. However, the issue of being a Subject-who is capable of taking conscious decisions for him/herself has never been a question for us let alone one that needs to be discussed and thereafter acknowledge the Subjectivity of those migrating in whatever form. This is because in our opinion, it is a basic and open fact which any serious-minded person could neither miss nor question. Therefore, considering this question now in such a way that is suggestive of incognisance amounts to adding „insult to injury“. So far in this debate, it does look like some sections of these advocates have never themselves really considered these people as Subjects and are only now just arriving at this point-which is a commendable improvement/development in itself. But this ceratinly does not and could not mean that the debate has brought the issue to a new level because, it is a position that has long been established and a „new awareness/recognition“ by some analysts/theorists would not impact on this fact. Neither does this new awareness invalidate nor affect the position of those for whom the issue was never a question. If these new advocates would take some steps further to look deeply at how the decision to leave one’s own country in this manner is reached and what goes into the planning and attempts, am sure this question will also never arise for them.

The assertion that organised and efficient refugee-migrant networks exists which is capable of not only breaking through Fortress Europe at will irrespective of government barriers but also settling down those who crossed it is quite absurd. This „efficiency-in-network“ has been so hyped and upgraded to a level that one gets the impression that being connected to these networks makes the passage through these borders „a bed of roses“ with the certainty of eventual red carpet reception in Europe. Noting these as well as attempting to empower future migrants can therefore be described as „globalisation from below“ according to these theorists/advocates.

It is incomprehensible that the horror and humiliation which is characteristic of people trying to crash through the borders of Fortress Europe can be so elegantly and gloriously described by these advocates. The countless thousands who drowned in seas enroute to Europe every year, who suffocate in containers of perishable goods that is on the roads for weeks, who died and are never reckoned (and still dying) in North African deserts and forests, with Spain in view as a gateway, with the unspeakable human degradation and suffering are definitely not privy to these „efficient networks“. See the following references and please read all the reports featured.
It is difficlult in serious terms to reckon with these networks-if they qualify to be so described, as efficient when a due appraisal is taken of the intrigues that is entailed in their processes. Neither the money invested nor the life-risk involved in any such attempts guarantees a survival let alone a successful arrival at the intended destination. Families who remain eternally indebted as a result of a failed attempt by a member of such families whose life may even have been lost definitely cannot see these network and their extensions in the manner being described by these „luminaries“ of autonomy of migration. Countless thousands of people remain subjects of harassment and physical violence and in many cases leading to deaths from agents of these so called networks. The experiences of many who survive these gory ordeals remains a permanent source of mental and pyschological torture which can hardly be addressed in countries where they may eventually find themselves especially as an asylum seeker or worsestill an illegal.

However, this does not negate the fact that quite a lot of people travel from poorer countries to Germany or other West European countries for example for jobs (odd as such jobs may be) to make their lives better. Nor does it deny that hard as it may be, some people find a way to cross the borders. In the same vein, it is also true that many flee to escape the harsh realities of the system and to live a well desired life which may no longer be possible in their countries for reasons beyond their controls-which of course is their right. But without looking beyond this surface to understand and acknowledge what precipitates this and what it really means, is „to read a single page of a book and conclude about the content of the whole book.“ Thus it should therefore be reckoned with that there is more to it that meets the eye and that neither does the theory nor the circumstances always hold for all who migrate (even if its just for money). The conditions under which many Palestinians or Kurdish people flee from their home (territories) for example to Germany cannot be equated with that of a Polish student who came into Germany with the aim of a Summer job and returning to study or even remaining in Germany. Such notable and practical differences including their attendant perspectives are submerged, subjugated and swallowed in this all-encompassing debate with hardly any distinctive mention.

To then raise the stakes even higher here by describing it as „globalisation from below“ amounts to a celebration and glorification of these miseries, horrors and the endless gory tales that are the daily experiences of majority of migrants in this process. This is even when you put aside the role and meaning of „globalisation“-(which is now appropriated in this case) and its consequent devastating effect on the whole.

While a handful of success stories (depending on what success means and how it is measured) here and there is acknowledged with its transmitting impact, it cannot in anyway justify the simplification and beautification which „globalisation from below“ denotes. It is certainly a grievous mistake and infact a disservice to the struggle for anyone to assume that appropriating „globalisation“ in this manner can empower the same people it is brutally crushing beyond revival. From Latin America to Africa and Asia, lives of millions yet unborn are mortgaged to the aprons of globalisation and its operating apparatus. For most, lives have become ever more worthless thanks to globalisation. There is no amount of coloration that can conceal or take away the negative effects of globalisation and positivise it by attempting to turn it into an empowerment strategy like in this debate. (overt or covert). This is not a „derogatory word“ or a „nickname“ that could be turned around and used counter-offensively. It is a description of a brutal economic practice. It is therefore bizzare, laughable and ludicrous that it is so advocated. We cannot afford to „celebrate and jollificate“ on the back of the uncountable thousands who die in this process by qualifying their irreparable loss and the process through which it occurs in such a debonair grandeur.

Whether now or in the future, empowerment and encouragement of the migrants who needs to cross these borders will not be achieved by mere glamorous theoretic and high-sounding words. But by understanding the situations in the home countries, real and practical solidarity devoid of paternalism and support for those, who inspite of their vicissitudes here takes a principled stand against the continued destruction of their home countries and their vicious collaborators. They will be more encouraged and even motivated by visible practical results which are possible to achieve even in single cases.

May we quickly mention here that we neither take solace no resign to fate as victims of this whole episode. We may be down but certainly not out. This is why we choose to be offensive with our positions and resist the state in punishing us by deportations when among other things, our political engagement is seen as an affront to their interests and magnanimity for „hosting“ us. That we invest all that we may have at anytime in defending a single individual from being deported is an attestation to our belief that weak as we may seem to be, we are strong enough to fight and sometimes win against an all-powerful state. Since the last two years in Bremen, we have been fighting to stop the deportation of a Togolese who was forced to seek a church asylum. The Inner Senator of Bremen vowed to deport him and staked all his authority in this attempt while employing obscene tricks. With the broad support that the campaign attracted, we just delivered a strong slap on his face by frustrating all his attempts. And this connects to a point that have also been raised in this debate. That we do not appreciate the successes recorded by the single individuals in this process. Till date, we remain at the receiving end of the criticism that we are always fighting single and individual cases of asylum when countless thousands are in the same situation. But we have always maintained the necessity to defend any refugee who become endangered because he/she responded to the call to stand up and fight for their rights in Germany. It is therefore interesting now to see this turn of the table.

With specific reference to Germany, where are these networks and what are they doing with refugees spending over ten years in isolated camps in the middle of the forest and endless years in the lagers without the right to work? What are these efficient networks doing with the thousands of illegal migrants in Germany who inspite of being exploited and abused are not able to show their face for fear of being deported by the state? There is certainly an overblown estimation of the support system and its efficiency in this debate. Much as this is desirable, it is yet to exist like this. If it must be said, more often than not the various network involved in human trafficking does so from a purely business perspective without the slightest interest in the incalculable consequences that includes loss of lives and the worst of dehumanisation. So for them, there is no calculation for whether their „human goods“ will get to their destination let alone set up a mechanism to welcome and settle them.

To some of us, the debate on the autonomy of migration is simply trendy and sadly draws a recollection of the early Armchair-European writers on Africa. Then, many outrageous postulations were made (and were applauded as historic and groundbreaking) including how Africans live on trees and so on. We see these mistakes which were made hundreds of years ago being repeated now because these „autonomy of migration luminaries“ are either deliberately avoiding the political background of migration or ignorantly overlooking it as irrelevant or unimportant in the course of this debate. It will be wise for many of these advocates to personally go and witness what people are really going through in these processes before they continue to propound such theories and hypothesis which hardly has any bearing on the reality on the ground or at best a distortion of it.

We have always said that nobody went to study law or medicine in our home countries with the hope of crashing through Fortress Europe to end up begging to be toilet or dish washers in Germany or Europe at large. It is hard to imagine somebody studying to be a Nurse or a Teacher in wherever and suddenly deciding to come to Holland and become a prostitute simply because they want to make more money. The root of what necessitate these flights must be examined beyond the „fun and wish“ of making more money and „enjoy life“ as it currently holds in this debate. It has to be seen against the background of what makes taking such enormous risks with all the indignity and humiliation the most viable and attractive option to most people who migrate in this manner. This is even beside the ill-treatment and humiliation, discrimination and racism which one gets subjected to in the said lands of „milk and honey“.(Though many know it later.)

When a simple suspicion of being a political opponent (or worsestill a real and active opponent) can result in the loss of lives and properties of not just that person but a whole family and friends, anyone fleeing from it cannot just be to make more money. When men, women and children are conscripted into the army and forced to kill fellow neighbours and children, fleeing from it to survive cannot just be a wish to make more money. When governments deliberately set one community against the other and results in bloodbath for subterranean political motives, fleeing from it cannot be just to work and make more money. When people are barely able to survive, the motive of leaving is beyond making money. It will be advisible for these proponents to acquaint themselves with the horrible tales of men and women who suffer unspeakable violations while they travelled for years from one country to the other before arriving Europe. No doubt that it will be far more revealing than it is assumed now in this debate. A deeper insight/analysis in this direction will no doubt reveal the bottomline as the destruction of the home countries which is at the core of the political angle that is so far obviously missing in this debate.

And what has become very revealing in this whole discourse is how similar the positions of some of these proponents are with that of government in terms of what constitutes political reasons for flight. In some cases, it is hardly separable. In this regard, these proponents have in like manner dismissed or deliberately refused to reckon with such situations as enumerated in the preceeding paragragh as political reasons for flight. This is really disturbing in that viewed against government classifications, one can hardly find the differences between the positions. This means that on the whole, these antiracist activists and luminaries share (partly) the view of Otto Schily that except for a very minute percentage, all who come here are economic migrants. This is ofcourse disheartening even though there is an acknowledgement of the broader picture by these advocates that there is justification for economic migrants, since the so-called developed countries are responsible for the poverty of the poor countries in the first place.

Finally, another area which has been largely overlooked to some extent in this debate is the actual percentage of those who flee and end up in Germany or Europe in general. Here cognisance is hardly taken of the millions who are internally displaced in their various countries and regions. With all due reservations, the percentage of those fleeing whatever mishap or displaced within the African continent and arrive Europe is less than 7%. We don’t need to examine here why this disproportionate distribution. But majority of the rest simply end up in either one neighbouring country or the other depending on where they eventually find peace if they ever find it. For most of these, the question is far from making money, it is a matter of life, death or survival. What will definitely be interesting to know is where these proponents places those in this and similar categories in the money-making and life-enjoying analysis and how autonomous are such migration?

Caravan-for the rights of refugees and migrants.
May 2004.