Bordercamp of the No One is Illegal Campaign

Report from the German-Polish Bordercamp, August 1999

Bordercamp of the No one is illegal Campaign Zittau (Germany), August 8 – 15, 1999 Some impressions, Geert Lovink

See later in the week:

The second camp against the border regime in Europe has come to a close, and can be called a success, at least to a large extend. I arrived on wednesday early so I have not been there in the first days, which must have been pretty though because the camp had to moved twice (see earlier posting on nettime). This was the second time for me so I could some comparisons to the first camp in 1998. It doubled in size, with an average of 500 people, so the total amount of visitors must have been well over 1000. The infrastructure was much better this time, with a marvellous kitchen preparing huge quantities of breakfasts and meal of goodvegetarian food. Information, security and press work were all done in an excellent, well organized German way. A big group this time worked on a web journal, coordinated from Hamburg in by A big tent facilitated the strong needs of the overwhelming majority of young and leftist Germans of whatever constituency to gather and do their ‘Plenum’ ritual. In order to increase my well-being I have not visited any of these ethnographic events. But there are still people who truely enjoydiscussing with 200 or more participants, going through a cold sauna of political rethorics, accusations of racism and sexism, near exclusions, in an atmosphere of true paranoia. So that’s all folklore. Most of the interested people in the topics of immigration and refugees are not that interested in these sectarian, pseudo radical rite de passages one has to make in order to belong to this ‘autonomous’ part of the ‘movement’. So they stayed away, like most of the East-Europeans, perhaps due to visa reasons, or because they as well could not identify themselves with this old school West-German ‘anti imperialist’ style… Who knows. The mood was allright, and so was the ‘chaos’ dress code.

This South-East part of Germany is not a particular fun place. With most factories closed, high unemployment, the stationing of thousands of new Schengen Border police and Neo-Nazis dominating the youth and street culture, life for people of other cultures is truely dangerous here. 80% of the ‘illegal’ bordercrossings fail because the local population calls the border police. Nazi’s can openly harress foreigners without policeinterferring.The most impressive moment of this camp, for me, was the demonstration through Zittau which ended in an industrial zone where the renovated buildings of the government agency dealing with refugees stood opposite of some very dirty, outworn barracks in which the asylum seekers where kept behind wire fences. You can see some pictures of it on the site. All week a group of these refugees, mostly Africans, stayed at the camp and reported about the appauling ways German authorities weretreating them, having them wait for many years, living a prison live in great uncertainty, in danger of immediate deportation.

On Friday night, many groups crossed the Polish and Czech borders. Others occupied an ancient train, which is going through the iddylic landscape. There were some games played, and like last years some new border crossings opened over the river Neise, a temporary structure of boats which the German and Polish authorities were not very happy with. For me personally the most fun was the camp radio. Last year there had been a very small attempt, and this time it all worked out fine with a brand new50 Watt (or more) transmitter, having a reach of 5-10 km, including the town of Zittau. Free, unlicenced radio is still forbidden in Germany. Three times a couple of civil servants from the broadcasting authority tried to collect evidence, but failed in the end due to mal functioning photo camera. The radio became a lively open forum for live music, discussions, announcements, alien techno mixes and even some German punk rock. On Friday night a ‘deep europe’ group of about ten members around the syndicate list gathered and spoke about the situation of borders,refugees and migration in Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria. There is a proposal to do the third camp on a futuristic site, the Polish-Ukrainian borders (near L’vov). A Polish group has done a first No one is illegal action there a few weeks ago. With the Polish police now almost in control of EU-Schengen and Berlin, this is going to be the new border of the EU–a place which is now still considered exotic and ‘wild east’. It could also be good site in order to free the campaign of its German inward looking culture, and turn it into an international affair.