This here Tumblr by Hana Riaz who you should also follow on Twitter. She writes a lot about self care and love, two topics we should hear more about every day and she’s involved in some great projects about self image.
(I’ll update the list as well but didn’t want the edit to get lost for people who have already reblogged)
schrbk-deactivated20140307 asked: hi, do you have some recommended reads/books on feminism/politics/immgration specific to the situation in the EU? I'm from Belgium myself
Rather than giving you a book or a list of books (though this one here would be a good one to read), I’d do something better, create a list of Euro folks who regularly comment on books, media and intellectual production.
Since you are in Belgium but I am unsure whether you prefer English, Flemish or French, then I’ll do the next best thing, direct you to people who cover all three languages!
Again, a couple of caveats:
1. I am only including People of Color who are based in Europe in this list not because there isn’t any white person doing good work but because I want to center our voices in relating our experiences and multitude of differences as well as similarities. As I’ve said many times, I am very interested in “a choral, shared history” and I hope this list would reflect that.
2. This is not a complete list and it is certainly not meant to encompass everyone doing awesome work. These suggestions are based on interactions I have through this space, Twitter and/or people I know personally. As I said yesterday on the Latina feminist reader, I am very happy to continue expanding this list with other suggestions. I am focusing this list on feminism of color/ womanism and migrant experiences only. I insist, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other people doing great work in Europe, offering political analysis or commentary. It’d be impossible to list them all so, instead, I am only centering the specifics of the question received: gender, politics and migration/ race.
For Flemish/ Dutch language, I would recommend Tamghrabit’s blog on this here Tumblr. She is also on Twitter and again, if you use the platform, I strongly recommend you follow her. Incidentally, she is the editor of Alert Magazine which publishes in both English and Flemish/Dutch. Link here.
Another Netherlands based Tumblr I would highly recommend is Queerintersectional. I won’t reveal anything about this person’s identity because I don’t know how comfortable they are with details of their lives being on the internet (a topic we actually never discussed) but suffice to say, I consider this person a dear friend and their politics are deep cutting, sharp and smart as hell.
Mieke’s blog here, Samblabelanda is a project to document her Indonesian heritage and family history within the Dutch colonial past. And a link to Twitter. It’s mostly in English but with a strong focus on Dutch history.
Sara Salem, who is Egyptian/Dutch blogs in English about colonialism, post colonialism, race and Marxism. Here’s a link to her Twitter where she is very active sharing news and commentary.
If you can read Dutch, head over to Roet in het Eten, Quinsy Gario’s blog for the eponymous radio show (which you can also listen to online, the team regularly posts soundcloud files, - they haven’t yet uploaded the show I was a guest at a few weeks ago when they do, I’ll share a link so that you can all listen to me raging in Dutch). Also, if you are on Twitter, follow Quinsy Gario there, he regularly shares info about events, shows, conferences, etc on his stream. Roet in het Eten is also a great place to read regularly because they post links to other blogs and media in the Dutch language.
A must read, Sara Ahmed’s Feminist Killjoys blog. She is London based and one of the most prominent intellectual voices within European feminism. Her Twitter is also a must follow for those who use the platform.
This here Tumblr and The Body Narratives by Hana Riaz who you should also follow on Twitter. She writes a lot about self care and love, two topics we should hear more about every day and she’s involved in some great projects about self image.
Bonus Euro Women of Color on Twitter:
Judeinlondon, as her name suggests, London based. She shares links and commentary on current events and media and she always has sharp observations about culture and politics.
Ylva Habel, Stockholm based academic who shares her experiences and insights on issues pertaining to People of Color in Sweden.
Aniqah, a London based Queer WoC feminist Muslim journalist who regularly shares news and commentary.
Carol Roper, UK based, decoloniality, radical Black history, general awesomeness.
This post has been making the rounds on Tumblr. I’m not too sure what I think of it myself. Some points seem valid, but others make me uncomfortable (as “various levels of whiteness” and classism are rampant in the US too). What are your thoughts?
First of all, let me say I agree with a lot of what he says, especially in regards to how racial categorizations operate in Europe and the European Union. Practically everything he says about Othering and xenoracism can be applied to The Netherlands.
But then, there are two flaws in his argument that I cannot get onboard with. Namely, this:
antiblackness is not the fulcrum of white supremacy in much of Europe and the rest of the world.
If Sweden was a country with absolutely no colonial history, completely removed from what the rest of the continent was up to during the 17th to 19th centuries, I’d be inclined to maybe not believe his argument per se, but at least not interrogate it further because I’d assume he speaks from sociocultural and historical knowledge. However, the most basic, basic, basic (I cannot stress BASIC enough) research, leads us to this:
During this time the small Swedish slave trade began. However, after the fall of New Sweden to the Dutch, the slave trade ended. It would later be rejuvenated in 1784, when Sweden’s monarch, Gustav III, began negotiations with France with a view to creating a new alliance between the two countries. Gustav offered Gothenburg as an entrepôt to the French, in exchange for the Caribbean colony of Saint Barthélemy, in addition to subsidies. Although Sweden was successful in acquiring the island in 1784, the population of the colony was less than 1000 people, and neither were particularly propitious trading ports—sugar and cotton only provided four shiploads a year, and many of the other resources were only produced in large enough quantities to provide subsistence for the inhabitants.
However, the islands were close to the British and French trading posts of the Leeward and Windward islands. A new town was also constructed, Gustavia (named after the King), and this facilitated trade. Within a year, the population had doubled and the King saw fit to form the Swedish West India Company. The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) benefitted trade, as did the opening of free trade with Sweden in 1806; the population had continued to increase, reaching approximately 5000 by 1800. Discounting a brief period of British occupation from 1801 to 1802, the colonies continued to thrive. In 1811, 1800 ships visited Saint Barthélemy; and from October 1813 to September 1814, 20% of the U.S.’s exports passed through the island
So this, is my number one point of contention with his argument. Antiblackness is at the root of the history of all of Imperial Europe (this includes but is not limited to The Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal). All of these countries and probably more, laid down their racist hierarchies, ideologies and discourses based on this founding moment in shared history (I am not the National Archive so I won’t be doing intensive historical research which is available to everyone with exactly the same resources I have - i.e an internet connection and the capability to read in English and/ or any other European language).
My second point of contention (and a vehement one at that) is with the implication that US based People of Color (and Black people specifically) “take too much space” on the internet. Well, if there is a lack of content produced by European PoC, that’s not the fault of those who are producing their content but of those who are not. I never had an American PoC knocking on this blog telling me I am “wrong” for the way I analyze The Netherlands and/ or European Union policies. Moreover, I have been supported and promoted by many US based folks who have valued the content I put there as an addition to the work they do. Let me very, very clear about this: this blog is about my experiences and it is not meant as a “universal reader” on PoC across all the Union. I comment extensively on policy because that affects us all regardless of our unique experiences (we are, after all, obliged to comply with laws, just like everyone else). However, it is disingenuous to push the idea that “because PoC in the US talk a lot” we are not able to talk ourselves.
In closing, a friend of mine sent me a few screenshots he took from a search under my name on several versions of European languages Google (I don’t google myself as a rule… issues, long story with anxieties, etc). Turns out my work has been either translated or commented on in at least half a dozen different European languages. So, the spaces exist, the content is being produced, people are talking to each other and reflecting. Just because someone didn’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Yesterday I posted about the Italian woman who was forced into a C Section because, according to British Child Services, she had suffered a mental breakdown. In my post, I said that I had heard similar stories about migrant women (not the forcible birth but the involvement of Child Services because their motherhood skills are questioned more often than their White counterparts). I had no data about the Italian woman in question so I did not feel comfortable speculating about her ethnicity. However, for the past 24 hours I have been monitoring a number of Italian news sites in the hopes that more info about the woman becomes available. English speaking media is behind its Italian counterpart in updating the development of this story. A moment ago I finally found what I had suspected. Via Repubblica (translation from Italian mine):
“I want my daughter back, I am suffering like an animal. I was forced into a C-Section without my consent. The day of the forced delivery I thought they were moving me from one room to another while I kept saying I wanted to return to Italy. Then I was sedated and when I woke up, she was gone. She was taken away from me.
Speaking like a wounded mother, Alessandra Panchieri, 35 years old, from Chainciano. She is the woman who suffers from bipolar disorder whose daughter was taken away in Essex, England. […]
The baby’s father, who is from Senegal, and an American relative of mine, Indra Armstrong, were both available to take care of the child but the British social services have ignored this. Why? Why did nobody help me?”
And there you have it. The baby’s father, who was willing and available to take care of the child, is from Senegal.
Her mother is A. She is an Italian national. Her father is B who is a Senegalese national, he is currently living in Italy. His situation is unclear, as I understand it he travelled there under a student visa, at least on one version, and is an over-stayer. He certainly has no status in Italy and he is unable, as I understand it, as a result of his status, either to leave Italy at all , and is certainly not able to come to the United Kingdom.
This is what happens to children of color born from an undocumented parent. Given away like the spoils of the Empire, to decide their fate and future.
Research by the national statistics office CBS and the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP, shows 7.6% of the population is now living below the poverty line. Last year’s rise is the sharpest since the economic crisis began in 2008.-
From the article:
At least 1.2 million people were living in poverty in the Netherlands last year, a rise of over 150,000 people on 2011, according to a new report.[…]
In particular, people living on welfare benefits, single mothers and migrants are likely to live in poverty, the report said. A large part of the 348,000 working poor are self-employed, the report said. Over 11% of Dutch children are now growing up in poverty, using the SCP definition.
This is the result of almost ten years of fierce neoliberal measures at the expense of the working class and poor. The most vulnerable groups of Dutch society have been taking a hit, every year without fail, in the support system that had been built as part of the 60’s and onwards welfare State.
To understand the effect of these neoliberal policies, this item from earlier this year sheds more light:
The number of Dutch households with more than $1m (€760,000) in assets rose nearly 13% last year, according to research by the Boston Consultancy Group and quoted by news agency ANP.
In 2012 there were 191,000 Dutch households worth more than $1m, compared with 170,000 in 2011. Together they control €396bn in assets, the consultancy said. The increase is largely due to rises on the stock exchange, ANP said.
Let those figures sink: while 11% of all Dutch children are growing up in households with incomes below the poverty line, in the same time period, the number of Dutch millionaires rose by 13%.
Essex social services have obtained a court order against a woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and for her child to be taken from her womb by caesarean section-
From the article:
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
And we thought eugenics were a thing of the past? It hardly ever makes news in Europe but refugee and migrant women are disproportionately affected by similar Social Services involvement regularly. I have spoken with many Women of Color (who will not speak on record for fear of retaliation) who have mentioned similar vigilantism going on in The Netherlands. It usually starts with Dutch neighbors “notifying” Social Services that there is an “unfit” mother (cultural differences can be perceived as signs of “bad motherhood” over here) and it escalates to full blown investigations that go as far as monitoring what children are fed (“ethnic” foods being subjected to special scrutiny under the guise of “nutrition value”). The women I’ve spoken to have mentioned situations like this with family members, friends, acquaintances, etc. It’s one of the reasons communities are kept tight, as usually positive outcomes depend on strong collective reactions to the injustice.
The case involving the Italian woman in the article is extremely unfortunate but I very strongly suspect it’s not as isolated as the news make it appear. The only difference is that when it happens to Women of Color it remains unreported because of victim’s fear and the normalization of violence.
An extension to Arab anti-black racism is an aspiration to all that our former - and current - colonisers possess. Individuals aspire to what is powerful and rich, and the images of that power and wealth have light skin, straight hair, small noses, ruddy cheeks and tall, skinny bodies. That image rejects melanin-rich skin, coiled hair, broad or pointy noses, short stature, broad hips and big legs. So we, too, reject these features, despising them in others and in ourselves as symbols of inferiority, laziness, and poverty. That’s why the anglicising industries of skin bleaching and hair straightening are so profitable.-
Oh look, an in depth piece about Arab anti Black racism and its colonial history. With plenty of links to follow for even more in depth coverage.
But I am “stupid” for trying to understand the history that directly influences the reality I live in.
Last week, Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan was convicted in a Danish court for racism. In her blog, she wrote that she was “convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters”. She was convicted by the Eastern High Court for violating section 266b of the Danish criminal code, which specifies racism as a crime, and she was fined 5,000 kroner (roughly 670 Euros). From The Copenhagen Post:
According to the law, it is illegal to “spread messages that threaten, taunt or degrade a group because of their race, skin colour, national or ethnic extraction, belief or sexual orientation”.
The court argued that Bazrafkan in her blog had generalized about Muslims men being criminals, and that because her statement “derided and degraded a group simply based on their faith”, she was guilty.
Of course I find her statements gross and untrue. I don’t think I need to clarify that. My disgust of her statements, though, doesn’t mean I can overlook the obvious: she is Iranian and living in Denmark. As much as I find her statements odious, she is making observations about her own culture. These observations about one’s own culture or heritage precludes racism as one cannot be racist against one’s own. Prejudiced or ethnocentric, yes, but not racist. Racism requires a power deferential that is just not present in this case. This Iranian Danish woman simply doesn’t have the institutionalized backing to turn her prejudice into systemic discrimination or legal frameworks to exclude people based on them being Muslim.
From an interview with Firoozeh Bazrafkan also at The Copenhagen Post:
I have also been critical of Judaism and Christianity but I was born in Iran as a Muslim. I have family members in Iran who don’t have the same democratic rights and freedom to express their anger as I do. I do my best to get the point out in my artwork and installations because I want to criticise the Iranian regime my way. If I want to be angry, I should have the right to be angry and call the Islamic regime anything I want. The state shouldn’t go in and take my rights.
Her opinions might be repulsive, one might even argue that they incite hate speech but this misuse of anti racism laws has one very concrete and grave consequence: it opens the door for convictions based on “anti white racism” as well. If a person of color makes a generalization about white people, theoretically speaking, they can now be measured by the standard set by this court ruling. European anti racism laws were enacted post World War II to protect minorities from White Supremacy. Convicting an Iranian woman making misguided and prejudiced observations about a culture that is hers are contrary to the spirit of this laws. This is a White Supremacist interpretation of racism as it dilutes and erases institutional and political power from the equation. In this flawed interpretation of the law, we all stand on equal grounds: white people, people of color, ethnic minorities, immigrants, etc… all equally represented and equally liable for the systematic oppression that might afflict us. Needless to say, this is a sure way to exonerate White Supremacy from any responsibility in “the state of things”. An Iranian woman criticizing her culture, however misguided, has the same weight than a right wing politician trying to pass a law to limit the rights of Muslims. When every prejudiced action is viewed equally under the law, we lose a fundamental tool to level the playing field, the one little piece of legislation that offers some degree of leverage against centuries of racist history.
Not just anyone is sent to Tilburg. Instead, it has become the preferred destination for Belgian’s foreign national prisoners, who comprise over 40% of the prison population. This trend began almost as soon as the contract was signed, with the former Minister of Justice, Stefaan De Clerck, announcing in the Senate, on 30 November 2010, that the Walloon (French speaking) region of Belgium was almost exclusively transferring to Tilburg foreign-national prisoners with irregular immigration status. No reason was given and no further questions were raised apart from those related to the financial implications of the transfers. These days, irregular migrants make up the majority of the prison population in Tilburg, a circumstance that raises a number of questions about which we only have a few answers.-
Anyone interested in the European Union and what it means, in practical terms, for migrants (both documented and undocumented), should probably read this piece.
Because of the cross border flow created by the EU, Belgium and The Netherlands have signed a cooperation agreement that allows Belgium to send undocumented migrants that have been sentenced to prison for a crime to serve their time across the Dutch border. This results in a number of disprivileges for the foreign prisoners in relation to those who are allowed to remain in Belgium. From the piece:
According to the Belgian prison Act of 2005 a prison sentence aims at “the rehabilitation of the offender and the preparation of his reintegration into society”. Officially, immigration status does not preclude access to reintegration and rehabilitation activities in Belgium. In practice, however, irregular migrants are often unable to participate due to language barriers and waiting lists (Hellemans, Aertsen & Goethals 2008; Snacken & Tournel 2009). Such matters are compounded in Tilburg where foreign prisoners are excluded from Dutch language courses and skills training. They also earn less money through prison labour, than they would in a Belgian prison, and, due to distance, have greater difficulties in maintaining contact with friends and family members.
There is another fact not mentioned in the piece: if the undocumented prisoner has family or friends without legal residence, they will also be reluctant to travel across the Dutch border to visit, even if, hypothetically, they have the financial means to do so. While border controls have been eliminated in the EU, train conductors and bus drivers often act like de facto security agents. If they so much as suspect anyone from being undocumented, they will notify the police immediately and cooperate with arrests. If someone mistakenly buys the wrong train or bus ticket, conductors and drivers often ask to see IDs and refusal to comply (or not having one) results in police presence. In 2011, I posted about the Dutch bus drivers who notified the police about "African women who look like illegal immigrants" resulting in the deportation of 12 women from Ghana, Uganda, Brazil and the Philippines. Collaborating with anti immigrant authorities is not only pervasive but encouraged in Dutch society.
Back in April, when the festivities for the new Dutch King Willem Alexander were arranged, the National Committee for the Inauguration (in The Netherlands, Kings and Queens are crowned in an Inauguration ceremony) opened the registry for a “Book of Dreams”. In this registry, every person living in The Netherlands could send their dreams and aspirations for the future of the Kingdom. The Committee then compiled the “best” dreams (what they picked and who got picked would be topic for another post and it’s kind of besides the point here) and then those dreams were printed in a book, The Book of Dreams (Droomboek in Dutch). This book was made available free of charge for every household in The Netherlands (there seems to be a shortage now, as they only printed one million and there seems to be more demand). In order to get a copy, people had to get a coupon that was available through several newspapers, post offices, etc. Then, they had to take that coupon to their local bookstore and redeem it free of charge.
Now, a very popular bookstore owner writes about her experience with the customers redeeming their coupons at her store. This bookstore owner, Monique Burger is a very well known media personality here in The Netherlands, where she has regular spots in one of the best known TV shows in the country talking about books and literature. And of course, the customers redeeming the coupons for the free books couldn’t be more upsetting to her. From her post (original in Dutch, translation mine):
Thursday morning when I opened the shop, there was already a long line of people outside the door. A delightful sight. This is what you really want as a bookstore owner! […]
But I am scared. Not of the greediness with which these people “claim” their free book, but of their poverty. Unshaven, unwashed, unkempt, fat, saggy, lame, with rotten teeth, smelly, with walking aids and devices that I’ve never seen before in my life, rough, rude, barely talking: sometimes just throwing the coupon at me - even if I’m dealing with other customers, totally devoid of any sense of social relationships or rules of conduct.
I do not even blame them. This is real poverty, as I’ve never actually seen it. This is outside my experience: in Bos en Lommer [ed note: where her shop is located] there are no homeless in the street, there is no overt alcoholism, there are no junkies and no whores - these are the excesses of the city, which of course is much more attractive due to the large number of tourists- that usually steal perfectly edible food that is thrown away. And the poorest people sit inside, apparently. Or they rush by Dirk van den Broek, or Lidl [ed note: two budget supermarket chains].
What I also realize is that these customers never understand our debit card only policy in the store [ed note: debit card only policy means no cash is accepted]. A few of them literally told me this (angrily). Then I suddenly remember the old shop, Omta, where I’ve certainly seen them, usually buying just a loose envelope or a Bic pen but never a book.
Understandably, this piece, which was posted in what is arguably the most read literary blog in the country, has sparked outrage in the comments section. The classism, the open disdain for the poor, the hateful language used to describe a large sector of society, all of these are meeting a strong reaction. However, because this is The Netherlands and because this is a Dutch media personality with a lot of traction, I also expect a very specific response: tonight, when she has her regular TV appearance, Monique Burger will most likely claim that this was just satire. It was meant to be taken as humor. Of course she doesn’t view the poors in such a bad light. Of course she understands and of course she was just joking. However, for satire to be satire it needs to be placed in context and, above all, it needs to be funny. If she chooses the “satire excuse”, it will only be so as to elude any sense of responsibility for her pathetically worded opinions.
In the meantime, racist populists like Geert Wilders will have yet another item in their archive so that when voting time comes, they have a reminder of what the intellectual class in The Netherlands really thinks of the working class and the poor. And to be honest, who can blame him when this is what they really think.
ETA: And she has a response in the comments section. Of course she doesn’t think badly of the poors, she merely tried to convey how terrible poverty is. And there are poors that make do with very little and she has a lot of respect for them, she intended the piece to be taken differently etc… you know, the usual, just backpedalling hard.
Almost no country in Europe as xenophobic as the Netherlands-
Mariana Câmpeanu, Romania’s Labour Minister had this to say about the fear of immigration from Eastern Europe in The Netherlands.
Also from the article:
The minister appealed to the Dutch media to “emphasise the contribution that east Europeans make to the Dutch economy,” instead of focusing on Romanian criminals in Netherlands.
"Appealing to Dutch media" would be like appealing to my cat to stop chewing on whatever she has focused her teeth on. Which is to say, it’s pointless. While I have no way of quantifying the statement made by Ms. Câmpeanu about the extent of Dutch xenophobia compared to other places (in the sense that there are no statistics or in depth studies to compare), I can, with absolute certainty, say that Dutch mainstream media is among the most racist, toothless, status quo upholding and reactionary medias of all of Europe. I cannot think of a single mainstream outlet where these traits don’t manifest in one way or another.
The BBC reports on the way that the European Union has outsourced the policing and administration of its external borders. via Morocco accused of human rights breaches over migrants
The European Union is paying the Moroccan government millions of euros to police our borders. But non-government organisations (NGOs) have reported serious violations of the migrants’ human rights in the process.
This is a deceiving title because while yes, Morocco is now directly accused of human rights violations of undocumented migrants, they are doing so on behalf of the European Union and its quasi military border police force, Frontex. From the BBC report:
But the first line of defence is here, in Morocco itself - where the EU has poured tens of millions of euros into an operation to stop the migrants reaching European soil.[…]
Amadou is from Cameroon. Unwilling to show his face on screen, he takes me nervously to the middle of a small forest.
He says: “Recently we tried to scale the border fence at Melilla. They brought a helicopter - and the helicopter landed right next to us. And then they started to throw stones at us. They beat us with batons. We could not reach the fence.”
"When I arrived at the border fence, I tried to jump over to the other side to Melilla," says Josui, who says Spanish police, the Guardia Civil, arrested him on the other side.
The other side is technically European territory. But instead of allowing the men to claim asylum, which was their intention, they handed them back to the Moroccans.
"First they beat us and they threw us out. They handed us to the Moroccans. They trapped us. And they beat us more. They injured everybody. They even shot at us. Some of my friends are in hospital in Rabat… they have broken hands, broken legs, arm injuries," he said.
In February 2012, I wrote about a document from the Dutch Advisory Committee, released in 2010, that proposed exactly this modus operandi. The Dutch Committee advised on the implementation of a policy proposed by Tony Blair exactly ten years ago. Back when Blair made his proposal to outsource the “reception” of immigrants to African nations, it was dismissed amid some minor outrage because it was claimed that it opened the door to human rights violations and it was against international law. Ten years later, not only is this policy in place, but the human rights violations are happening on behalf of the European Union exactly as predicted. The gradual and systematic change in the way immigration and human displacement have been portrayed have played a role in the implementation.
Paul Mason, the journalist that made this report for the BBC also mentions the shocking sexual violence that migrants are subjected to. It always surprises me how little we hear about the way rape culture manifests in the treatment of undocumented migrants. Considering that undocumented migrants are the most vulnerable group to be victims of crimes (which they can neither report nor escape from), it is a given that there will be horrifying sexual violence involved. After all, this is only the continuation of a more sophisticated process of dehumanization and objectification of the Other.
Now, in a case of history repeating itself, Europe can continue pretending to uphold human rights while its governing bodies outsource the atrocities to an African nation, outside its territory. However, the funds and resources necessary to maintain this structure come from no other than European taxpayers who get to sleep peacefully in the knowledge that no undocumented migrant is going to come and “invade” us.
Last month, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (locally known as AIVD or Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst in Dutch), released its annual report. As expected for a non classified document, there is nothing ground breaking here, nothing that our local media doesn’t always remind us is “threatening” or “dangerous”. The list of “threats” include, as expected, Muslim terrorists, Jihad, recruitment for Al-Qaeda, etc. Basically, all the same talking points we’ve been hearing since 9/11.
However, there is one new issue that appears listed on Page 28, under the banner “Radicalism and Extremism”, lumped together with Islamic Extremism and Left-Wing extremism. From the report (emphasis mine; link to PDF of the report in English):
Intimidating and/or violent opposition to the asylum and immigration policy
In 2012, opposition to the Dutch and European policy on asylum and immigration increased. This was mainly due to the definitive start of the so-called No Border Network, in which activists and extremists such as the Anarchist Anti-Deportation Group in Utrecht and the Stop the Deportations Working Group have joined forces while retaining their own principles and action methods to promote co-operation and coordination. The annual ‘No Border Camp’ activities, where activists discuss matters such as international campaigns, took place in Sweden and Germany this year.
Actions taken in 2012 by opponents to the asylum and immigration policy included graffiti at the residence of the then Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum, Mr Leers, and the training centre of the IND in Utrecht. In addition, Dutch people were involved in blockading detention centres for asylum seekers in Belgium (Merksem and Brugge), during which several people were arrested.
In addition to the familiar action groups (the Working Group Stop the Deportations and the Anarchist Anti-Deportation Group in Utrecht), in 2012 other to some extent new groups were active, which for instance provided direct aid to homeless refugees. Some anti-fascist groups (AFA-Fryslan, AFA The Hague) also changed the focus to the opposition to the asylum and immigration policy.
Among the groups opposed to the asylum and immigration policy there is much interest with respect to Frontex, the European Union (EU) agency that coordinates the monitoring of Europe’s borders. The left-wing activist Campaign Against Arms Dealing published a brochure on the ‘militarisation of Frontex’, containing a list of Dutch defence contractors. The AIVD sees this as a possible call to take action.
Regional groups were especially active in the organisation and maintenance of various tent camps belonging to Somali and Iraqi asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal procedures. The Anarchist Group Amsterdam (AGA) was involved at the camp on Notweg in Osdorp, and AFA-Fryslan at the tent camp and deportation centre in Ter Apel. In addition, AFA The Hague was heavily involved in the organisation of the tent camp at the Koekamp in The Hague, and played a part in preventing this camp from being cleared. The AIVD maintained contacts with the local authorities regarding the actions of these groups.
The report devotes almost 400 words to this topic whereas the next one on the list, Right Wing Extremism gets merely a quarter of that, involving claims that Right Wing Extremism is all but dead in The Netherlands. However, releasing a report on the militarization of border control and the participation of Dutch corporations in what I call “the asylum seeker industrial complex” is listed as a threat of more importance than Right Wing violence.
Two weeks ago, when I wrote about refugees replacing terrorists in Europe’s collective imagination, I mentioned that, unlike terrorists, this new threat comes with the added bonus of being an expansive category which can include more people and from a more diverse background than the limiting “terrorist”, who has to be confined and boxed within the boundaries of a certain ideology. Little did I know back then that the Dutch Intelligence Services would be proving my point so soon.
This article at Time about the ingrained racism and xenophobia in Switzerland highlights the ongoing abuses experienced by asylum seekers and refugees currently being housed by the national government in different municipalities. Here are a few highlights of the situation:
That’s because local authorities have announced last week that asylum seekers housed by the federal government in Bremgarten’s army barracks won’t be allowed to move around town freely or use the local swimming pool and other sports facilities. “For security reasons, we decided not to allow access to these areas,” the town’s mayor, Raymond Tellenbach, explained in a TV interview.
Roman Staub, the mayor of Menzingen, a town of 4,300 inhabitants that will house between 100 and 200 asylum seekers in 2015, echoed the unease expressed by his Bremgarten counterpart, telling a Swiss TV station on Aug. 6 that asylum seekers in his community would not be allowed to enter “sensitive areas” like schoolyards to prevent contact with children.
This is, of course, a policy of segregation based on racist notions of who is and isn’t allowed to become part of communities.
However, I am also becoming increasingly annoyed by the hegemonic appropriation of these semantic categories of “asylum seeker” and “refugee”. These are the two words used almost exclusively in all policy documents and media commentary about immigrants trying to reach the EU. The EU needs these migrants to be exclusively denoted as “asylum seekers” and “refugees” because it can then place the responsibility for their displacement outside its borders. These people, we are told, are escaping conditions outside the realm of our responsibility. The structural poverty, political turmoil, warfare, etc, they face back home has nothing to do with us, or so goes the dominant narrative. In this narrative, the European Union then positions itself as “saving” these migrants by allowing them to stay (as the case might be with some) or alternatively, the European Union is saving us from their scourge by detaining them in inhumane conditions and eventually deporting them (as the case is with the vast majority).
Europe needs the figure of the asylum seeker and refugee because then it can self perpetuate the centuries old tradition of Enlightenment and Universal Human Rights. In this tradition, Europe always, always places itself as a final dictum on the humanity of the Other. By creating this “human blob” of asylum seekers, there isn’t a need to offer any granular analysis of the effects of neoliberal globalization and corporate interventions/ resources depletion that created the mass displacements to begin with. Anyone following the “money trail” (which is what these mass displacements are; people following the flow of resources to the place where they are accumulated) is then presented as a single category of “asylum seeker” while denying the multiplicity of experiences and reasons that created the migration flow.
Anyone that aspires to live in the EU without the credentials to do so through a well paid corporate job has two options: become an undocumented immigrant (which is usually an individual pursuit and requires the migrant to have the resources to travel alone and enter the EU on a tourist visa) or claim asylum. Since this is the only venue left for millions, is it any surprise that the numbers would raise as poverty, political turmoil and warfare increase? Rather than offer long term solutions to the structural problems that led to the migration, the European Union creates an industry to deal with the displaced masses. The “asylum seeker industrial complex” gave us the militarization of the EU borders through Frontex; corporate contracts with G4S for the administration of detention camps and deportations; contracts for the purchase of weapons and military technology for surveillance; a legal network of experts that define the rules and regulations; think tanks that first create and then analyze the language of migration and displacement; mental healthcare professionals who have contracts to overview claims of PTSD and associated disorders created by the conditions that led to the asylum claim, etc etc.
The association of the non European Other with terrorism is losing momentum. Europe has more or less exhausted the possibilities of this rhetoric and now needs to move away from it in order to expand the military complex. The “refugee” comes with the added bonus of being an expansive category. It can include people from any region in the world without having to be confined to the “Muslim Other”. In the long term, the “asylum seeker industrial complex” is a much more profitable pursuit.
The brutal treatment of immigrants and refugees in Greece is a product of the Fortress Europe policy adopted by the European Union, aimed at deterring all those fleeing war, political persecution and poverty from settling in Europe. The EU’s agency for the protection of European borders, Frontex, has worked closely with the Greek state and the Greek police to set up centres that are overcrowded and characterized by subhuman conditions. Only a tiny percentage of those seeking refuge in Greece are eventually allowed to remain in the country.-
And then this:
The deplorable conditions at camps across Greece that are funded by the EU are triggering protests by immigrants, which in turn are being exploited by the Greek government and media to fuel racism and divert attention from the country’s social crisis following four years of austerity measures dictated by the EU in behalf of the international banks.