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General Assembly of Over The Fortress
Sherwood Festival, Saturday 2nd of July 2016 02:00 PM
It’s not easy to give an overall vision of the work done with Over the Fortress over almost a year, on one side because the different phases and actions have been diverse, on the other side because the mass experience of the March to Idomeni has been the tip of the iceberg of a plan of constant work, sometimes apparent, started when we decided next to the migrants along the Balkan route.
#overthefortress, since the beginning, has been characterized as an action of active monitoring on the Balkan Route and in the Greek islands: being present along and across the European borders and the direct observation of the management of the migration flows and its resistances allowed us both to render the size and intensity of the migrants’ flow, and to analyze and read the reality in its ongoing evolution.
On one side, through this stimulating work, we had the opportunity to get the ongoing
transformations and redefine the objectives of the campaign according to the political evolutions and the limitations imposed to the migrants by the states interested by their passage. On the other side, especially thanks to the presence through relays, we could get to know stories and desires of the migrants, their different origins, relate with them, discover their perseverance and determination, their capacity of self organisation and the dignity, the extraordinary will to fight to cross the borders. The elements that most emerge in their stories and the narrations we produced are exactly these ones. The direct knowledge of their needs also allowed us to intervene with projects and humanitarian aid, looking for varied modalities of cooperation and interaction according to the swiftly changing context. After few months we passed from accompanying the migrants going through the Central European countries, to support them in the informal camps in Greece, highlighting the violent consequences caused by the closing of all the Balkan Route and by the heinous agreement between UE and Turkey. We testified and denounced, through protest in the streets of Thessaloniki, Brennero, under the Turkish Embassy in Rome, the main phases of this process, which had the effect of dramatically stop the departures from Turkey – giving Erdogan the political role of warden of Europe with licence to shoot on the migrants – and to transform Greece from a country of arrival and transit to “trap” country, it is to say an open air prison.
#Overthefortress is not only a spot on hash tag tied to a few days, but a path which has grown progressively thanks to the emotional push, the generosity and the competences of many that decided to take part to the campaign: from who supported the crow funding (more than 240 supporters), to those who decided to organize events to inform and collect funds and materials, to the many persons who participated in the relays, to the projects and to the March to Idomeni. A
path which involved varied subjectivities and little by little give itself a “light” organization, moulding its activity according to the ongoing changes.
While we are writing these lines the last informal camps in the North of Greece are being evicted and destroyed. Greece confirms itself as a laboratory, on a European level, where to experiment and normalize new approaches. The opening of the hotspots in the Greek islands has been the functional prelude to the agreement with Turkey and now those centres, initially thought to differentiate economic migrants from asylum seekers, became detention centres, similar to CIE with purposes of detention and expulsion. But the management of flows, right now, not only has the purpose to impede the mobility of migrants but also to limit their capacity to self organize, undermining their possibility to create moments of rupture of this imposed normalization. The objective is to make the migrants invisible again.
In this phase in the Greek laboratory other experimentations worth of attention have been performed: the forced deportation of thousands of persons into the military camps represents a non negligible jump forward because, on one side, totally limits the freedom of movement of the refugees, forcing them to accept the procedure of application for asylum or the failing procedure of relocation, and on the other side marginalize heavily the role of the volunteers. At the same time there is the attempt to weaken the practices of diffused solidarity, make them harmless and coopt
them to the point of in globate them into the management of this restrictive and inadequate system of reception. The message is clear: if you want to help the migrants you need to do it in the ways and times chosen in a top down system. Understanding the good will of many volunteers, we think that it’s not possible to accept this oppressing compromise because it is functional to the reduction
of rights and, as already happened in the reception centres along the Balkan Route, impose a hierarchical system over the volunteers.
The European polity, overall, has reaffirmed and enhanced its strategy of exclusion, made of control and militarization, using borders to build diktat, hierarchies and differentiated rights.
Nonetheless in Greece exist also a vision which is alternative and opposed to the one of the centres run by the army. In Thessaloniki and Athens the squatting initiatives for housing with migrants are a practice of mutualism and solidarity that is creating the conditions for a qualitative leap in the struggle because is coagulating, again, inside a place, elements of self organization between the migrants themselves and are presenting again that relationship of complicity and support between migrants and activists. The Hellenic country, taking into account the elements and the opposed perspectives, will continue to be a territory to be watched with attention, also because we can’t help to notice that some of the main characteristics of the management of the immigration flows have been proposed again in Italy. It’s not only a question tied to the number of arrivals or about the terrible tragedies in the sea, but the general program of the European policies, once tested its efficacy in Greece, is being reproduced here with comparable procedures.
The first fact to take into account is that Italy, as the Hellenic country, is becoming not only an arrival site, but also a site of forced halt. The violent repression towards the migrants passing through Ventimiglia, the reinforced police controls in Brennero, as much as in the stations in Genova, Bolzano, Milano or Verona, are a clear message and a reprimand towards all that would like to reach the European countries. The second fact is that the RenziAlfano duo, in the next European summit on the 2829 of June, want to replicate the basis of the UETurkey agreement: the objective is to reach agreements with the main countries of origin and passage of migrants (Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Gambia, etc.) to slow down the departures towards Europe and repatriate those that are considered economic migrants. For this reason even if in our country the Hotspots are not comparable to the CIE, we must expect changes and exceptional practices during the next months. Right now their function is surely more complex, they mostly are used to discern and sort out asylum seekers from economic migrants, but they are
especially used to identify the newly arrived through the fingerprint identification, sometimes with the use of force.
The Hotspot, together with the police sweep in Ventimiglia, are in this moment border zones in which the most dramatic violations of human rights, abuses and tortures against the migrants concentrate, in a context which is totally illicit and illegal.
Going over the fortress
It concerns a ever changing situation, but if we assume the fact that the general tendency will most likely follow the direction we described above, it is crucial to exchange views and understand how, where and with which type of intensity keep the campaign going.
The needle of our compass point us where the violent procedure are implemented and the border regime is applied, where Europe declared war at the migrants, but also indicates where to continue activities of solidarity and mutualism, political actions.
We want the directions, the stages and the coordinates of the journey we will start, to be built together also this time, because only in this way, keeping walking side by side with the migrants, our compass will lead us along the right path to go over the fortress.
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