Donnerstag, 10. September 2009

Communiqué from Mytilini/Lesvos, August 2009

Communiqué from Mytilini/Lesvos, August 2009 

“From Lesvos to an unknown land”: this was the response given by Mr X. at the 

NoBorder Camp in Mytilini, when asked where he planned to go after his arrival in 

Athens. Mr X. was acting as a spokesperson for a Somalian group, who, along with 

migrants from Afghanistan and Eritrea, were released from the “Pagani Welcome Centre” 

shortly before the official start of the NoBorder Camp. Pagani, the “reception centre” of 

Lesvos; the detention centre with a capacity of 250 people was filled with around 1,000 

occupants – men, women and children – in August, when the Camp took place. Needless 

to say, Pagani was totally over-booked. A video made with a camera smuggled into the 

centre by one of the transit migrants clearly documents the unbearable conditions in 

which they were being detained. 

In Mytilini a farewell party was thrown for migrants released from the centre. NoBorder 

activists, other transit migrants and locals from Mytilini accompanied those leaving on 

their way to the ferry for Athens. A moment in which hope and uncertainty, confidence 

and lack of prospects, comfort and anxiety was compressed and condensed. A moment in 

which the strategy of European border politics to render transit migrants invisible was 

broken through by the migrants themselves, with solidarity from activists. 

Along with the border control agency Frontex, Pagani attracted much anger and 

frustration. Around 500 migrants were released from the centre with papers following 

considerable pressure from NoBorder activists. These papers, however, only grant 

recipients 30 days habitation in Greece. In this time migrants are expected to organize 

their return to their native country. It goes without saying that many use this time to 

recover, to contact relatives and friends, maybe to earn some money, and to further plot 

out the route to their goal destinations in Europe or elsewhere. This time is used to figure 

out what opportunities can be found in the coming journey –  or to figure out if it is better 

to stay put. It is used to realize the potentiality of “life plans”. Each step is a step into an 

“unknown land”. 

Tarifa, a small town previously known only to fans of kite surfing and tuna fishing. Ceuta 

and Melilla, footnotes to the Spanish history of colonisation. The Canaries, Europe’s 

biggest tanning salon. Lampedusa: an unknown. Lesvos, a small tourist island, an 

exemplary observation point for the playing out of European population policies; one of 

the many archipelagos of migration and the hope for a better life. 

“The right to hope. To many, the borders seem like the gateways to paradise. Before the 

borders, lies a flaming moat, which needs to be conquered; Europe is the castle 

surrounded by the castle moat. The first contact with those that have managed to get 

there always reveals the same story: they tell us that this is paradise. We all want to see 

this paradise. We insist on our right to be allowed to see this, on our right to have a 

chance” (Tarek, transit migrant). 

Today each of these places produces breaking news in the European media. The hotspots 

for the detention of Europe’s arriving migrants. Places where the bodies of those who 

have died crossing the seas wash up on the shore. Places of detention and places of 

transit. Small towns with 10 – 20,000 residents, towns that are militarized by camps and 

border police. Small towns onto which the social problems and implications of European 

migration politics get pushed. The externalisation of the camp, of deportation, finds its 

continuation here. On the negotiation tables of Europe’s metropolitan cities agreements 

such as the Dublin II are consolidated, which legalise these barbarities. The abjection of 

Pagani is the displacement of these politics onto the edges of Europe. 

Shut down Pagani. No ifs, no buts. Disarm the ships and helicopters of Frontex. No ifs, 

no buts. Issue the release papers; release the children, the women and the men. No ifs, no 


“Our whole continent is searching for hope. The hope to escape from misery through 

migration, this hope is the air that we breathe, a music that is always there, a whole 

culture. The idea of migration was born in us while we were still young. All over the 

world children dream. When you ask a child here ‘what would you like to be when you 

grow up – doctor, professor or pilot’, then the child answers: ‘I will become a migrant’. 

Someone who has left the country is worth more than everyone else” (Tarek, transit 


We belong to the first generation to witness the disappearence of boomgates in the 

European Union. The first generation for whom it has become everyday – everything but 

normal or self evident – to grow up in multinational, postcolonial, ghettoised, 

multilinguistic milieus. We have seen that the desire for free movement can tear down 

iron curtains. We have grown up with globalisation, with the internet and computers, with 

mobile phones, with interrail, with journeys home over the Autoput and human 

compassion that spans across borders. We have come of age with the wars in the Balkans, 

with the wars in Somalia, Rwanda and in the Sudan, in Afgahnistan and in Iraq. We have 

also grown up with those wars that we repress in our everyday lives. We have come up 

against new borders that run through our cities and countries. The presence of terror as 

justification for control, for the retraction of civil rights, for detention, internment and 

intervention is the mantra of our times. Our life is the change and the transformation: the 

death of the old social order, the uprising of Precarity, and the enormous question mark 

hanging over the future. 

“We are all victim to the lies and promises of television. We believe in these success 

stories. When thousands of people fail to migrate successfully, but one person does – we 

don’t look at the stories of the thousands, we look at the story of one. The question is 

never raised of what s/he does over there, if s/he collects garbage or sells drugs. You 

only see what s/he has, when s/he returns: a car, branded clothing, a real life. The people 

smugglers profit from this, they promise you what you want to hear. We call them the 

sellers of dreams” (Tarek, transit migrant). 

Many of us see the desiring gazes focused on the red passports of the European Union. 

We are aware of Schengen’s blessing of us and its curse on others. Do you believe that 

we are not enraged by these conditions, that we position ourselves as the profiteers of this 

system? Do you think that we don’t see how these insidious border regimes make the 

travels of transit migrants more and more dangerous with every passing day? Does 

anyone really believe that the coming citizens of Europe, in the most truthful sense of the 

word, do not use their hands to work, do not use their understanding to think, do not use 

their masses to assemble, just because migration is made illegal? Everybody knows that 

this work, this exploitation and this mobility, is the basis that allows the European 

constitution to function. 

“The cat hunts the mouse and the mouse is always faster. And so are we, always. 

Migration existed since ever, since the beginning of human existence and why should that 

end now? In Africa nothing is changing actually. So our families sent us on the journey, 

which changed us so much that we are not able to go back. I came here by accident. And 

it is the best journey ever. The track has been the best experience of my life” (Jean- 

Marie, transit migrant). 

What we want is simple. We want the right to travel in safety. The legal codification of 

these pathways. The normal state of arrival and travel instead of a constant state of 

exception. So that everyone can arrive, unpack their suitcase in peace and become a 

citizen of Europe, if they so desire. 

Citizens of Europa 2009: 

Frank John (Communist book-keeper and freelancer, Hamburg), Efthimia Panagiotidis 

(Sociologist, lecturer “Lehrkraft für besondere Aufgaben”, Uni- Hamburg, transit e.V.), 

Arndt Neumann (Historian, Hamburg), Irene Hatzidimou (Organiser ver.di, 

Hamburg/Hannover), Gerda Heck (Research centre for intercultural studies, Uni Köln), 

Lena Oswald (Political scientist, Hamburg), Meike Bergmann (Manager dock europe 

GmbH), Vassilis Tsianos (Sociologist, Associate Professor Uni Hamburg), Miriam 

Edding (Member of the Board of ‘Foundation DO’, Hamburg), Jan-Ole Arps (Political 

scientist, Berlin), Ole Bonnemeier (Doctor, Hamburg), Andreas Georgiadis (independent 

Master mechanic), Christoph Breitsprecher (Linguist, lecturer/research assistant, Uni 

Hamburg), Anja Kanngieser (Cultural Geographer/research assistant, 

Melbourne/Hamburg), Aida Ibrahim (Student, Uni Hamburg), Marion von Osten 

(Cultural producer, Professor Vienna, transit e.V. Berlin), Peter Spillmann (Cultural 

producer, Labor K3000/Zürich, transit e.V.), Marianne Pieper (Sociologist, Professor 

Hamburg), Angela Melitopoulos (Filmmaker, transit e.V.), Athansios Marvakis 

(Associate Professor Aristotele University Thessaloniki), Petra Barz (Manager dock 

europe GmbH), Daniela Lausberg (Pädagogin, Forschungsstelle für interkulturelle Studien, 

Uni Köln), Michael Koenen(Student, Uni Köln), Mark Terkessidis (Journalist, Berlin), Karin 

Cudak (Studentin, Uni Köln), Erika Schulze (Sozialwissenschaftlerin, Forschungsstelle für 

interkulturelle Studien, Uni Köln), Susanne Spindler (Sozialwissenschaftlerin, Professorin, 

Darmstadt), Ugur Tekin (Sozialwissenschaftler, Forschungsstelle für interkulturelle Studien, 

Uni Köln), Indra Röglin (Studentin, Uni Köln), Andreas Hollender (Graphiker, Köln), 

Christiane Hess (Historikerin, Hamburg/Bielefeld), Despina Altinoglou (Lehrerin, Hamburg), 

Eleni Altinoglou (Mytilini), Peter Holzwarth, Angelika Hipp (EU - project management; 

Neue Arbeit Zollern-Achalm e.V.), Valery Alzaga, Nadine Gevret, 


to be continued