« „It is a duty of this international citizenship to always confront the eyes and ears of governments with the human suffering for which it cannot truthfully be denied that they bear responsibility. » Michel Foucault in „Rights and duties of international citizenship“, 1981.
All of us have played an important role within all the last weeks and months in keeping the “corridor” open. It was us who have been on the side of the people when they had been waiting in the rainy nights, when procedures slowed down. We come from various backgrounds, but what we all shared is the will to get active and to welcome those who are travelling. But now the empire strikes back: Since 19th of November parallel procedures of selection started at the borders to Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia.
From Welcome to Europe we have accompanied struggles for freedom of movement be it on the islands of arrivals, be it around detention camps or at the ferry ports to exit Greece, be it for those on the move against the Dublin-regulation when they escaped for example from Hungary. What we learned is that the success of every protest, every hungerstrike, every collective move depends on visibility and people who take a stand on the side of the protestors.
We are doing this kind of support since some years and we know out of this experience: Especially after the dynamics created „in the long summer of migration“ it is quite for sure, that there will be uprisings the next days. Can someone really believe, that the people will go back or „get up in smoke“? There are already the first pictures from protests at the Macedonian border.
Divide et impera!
What is now more necessary than ever, is our physical presence. From our experience we know that in all places where people are stuck and pushed back and try to move on nevertheless, there will be violence by police and/or military. This year the excessive use of violence on the balkanroute is more difficult than ever and that is mainly because of two reasons:
a) The example of Keleti, the march of hope from the trainstation in Budapest and also the example of the struggles at the fence in Hungary show very clear that it is not easy to block big groups without a visible and strong protest for freedom of movement. So also the way of division and splitting up into different groups now shows this: they let through the big groups that will most easily organise and they divide more the smaller groups not to have a critical mass who could collectively resist. It is obviously not those who have the better asylum chances finally (then it would make no sense to exclude Iranians, Somalians etc.).
b) The presence of volunteers and civil society watching them: The authorities tried in the last weeks to reduce this presence and to avoid more and more the contact along the corridor. But it will not easy to gain back the full control. The most helpful we can do now is to take our yellow vest and to stand very visible on all points where there might be violence by police and military along the route, not to go away. What we should avoid by any means is to take part in this system of division. We are not there to control or calm down the protests or even to assist in transporting back those who got separated. The presence in solidarity is what is now most needed, more than everything else. Just to give the physical signal: we are here on the side of those on the move. Police violence was and is always the worst where nobody is watching.
Watch out and report!
The yellow vests can be very useful now. They can be seen from far, even when there is no full daylight and they can be used to represent a civil society that is watching and taking a stand. They can not only easily become symbols of physical presence against police violence but a last safety precaution for those who are fleeing war and violence, hunger and prosecution. This is the moment to decide, to watch out, to stand up for our common rights! Let’s turn the yellow vests of the volunteers into a symbol against this violence and let’s take a stand to keep this corridor fluent! Let’s get together and stand on the side of those on the move. For another, a welcoming Europe.