Presse Release: Leipzig: Conference on Migration / Overshadowed by Police Racism
On Sunday, the Conference “Self-Determined and in Solidarity! Conference on Migration, Development and Ecological Crisis” concluded in Leipzig.
For three days more than 700 participants from different social movements discussed at “Westbad” in what ways flight and migration are connected to the various ecological crises of our times as well as to dominant conceptions of development. Initiatives such as those working on flight and migration, freedom of movement, climate, capitalism, agriculture and degrowth took part – and many refugees and migrants were involved.
In the form of 25 workshops, many panels, two theatre play, four exhibitions and open discussion rounds the conference touched on issues such as the criminalisation of migration, the struggles of women for self-determined development, the devastating consequences of international trade agreements between Africa and Europe, and on the question of how climate change exacerbates causes of flight. The experiences of people who are fleeing and the situation of refugees in Germany were also central topics.
Racially Motivated Police Violence during the Conference
The conference was overshadowed by racially motivated police violence against two speakers. The speakers who are from Cameroon and live in Germany were accommodated in the apartment of an in-home daycare provider during the conference. They were woken up by several police who had been called by neighbours. After one of the speakers had opened the door, one of the policeman immediately approached him violently, shouting “ID, ID” and at the same time twisted his arm causing pain – and all this even though both speakers reacted and responded calmly. One of the speakers was even handcuffed immediately. Only after the organisers of the conference arrived and spoke to the police were the speakers left in peace and the police left the place.
“I wanted to call a friend, so that he would explain to the police why were accommodated here and that everything is in order”, reports the speaker Péguy Takou Ndie, “but I wasn’t even listened to. My arm was twisted backwards in such a way that I am still in pain today.”
The second speaker, Richard Djif, who had to flee from Cameroon because he made a critical documentary film on corruption and repression, added: “I was shocked that the police immediately resorted to violence, even though we were only wearing pyjamas and were obviously not dangerous. I feel very unsafe in Germany if racist prejudices of the police lead to such assaults. The police is actually there to ensure security. This reminds us how much one has to resists against racism in society.”
Organisers of the Conference Denounce Police Violence
The organising team of the conference – the initiatives Afrique-Europe-Interact, Corasol and the NoStressTeam as well as Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie in Leipzig, glokal e.V. und Entwicklungspolitisches Netzwerk Sachsen – denounce the racially motivated police violence. “We are outraged that everyday racism and police violence prevented us from discussing the connections between migration, self-determined development and ecological crises and from speaking about concrete courses for action”, said Matthias Schmelzer of Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie.
The Conference: An Example of Lived Solidarity
The conference shows what is really important. It is itself an example of lived solidarity: Participants did not have to pay a fixed participation fee, but many donated so that travel expenses for refugees could be covered. The hostel “Multitude” provided accommodation for a very low price, other conference participants were hosted in private homes through a “sleeping place exchange” or slept in gyms with borrowed sleeping bags. Food was cooked by ARKitchen – a group of self-organised refugees. Interpreters translated all events simultaneously into English, French and German for free. The venue “Westbad” accommodated the event for a significantly reduced price.
Voices on the Conference
Dora Sandrine Koungoyo Ndedi, activist with Corasol and founder of the magazine “Stimme”, Berlin, Co-organiser of the conference
“It is a huge success that were able to mobilise so many refugees to come to the conference. We spoke about many issues. Now the task is to become more concrete.”
Boniface Mabanza, Kirchliche Arbeitsstelle Südliches Afrika (KASA) in Heidelberg
“If you regard all the crises that we are dealing with at the moment in an isolated way, then you have a big perception problem. The boat that is capsizing is not the only the boat of the refugees, but that of the whole of humanity. What people need are spaces in which they can discover their diversity and where they can organise themselves. They need spaces in which they can create the changes that they see as necessary and that do not serve interests elsewhere.”
Ulrich Brand, Professor for International Politics, University of Vienna
„The destructive imperial mode of production and living has to be changed fundamentally. To this end, we need to tackle economic, social and ecological problems simultaneously. The social movements for global climate justice and for ending lignite mining in Germany are part of those struggles in the global South against the exploitation of natural resources at any price. An ecological transformation of agriculture in Europe is advantageous to small-scale farming in Africa, Asia and Latin America that would otherwise be pushed out by agro business. We should take up the discussion on de-globalisation again that was so prevalent 15 years ago. It is about giving space for self-determined development to the local and regional against the globalised power of big companies and the supporting political actors.”
Freweyni Habtemariam, Eritrean Initiative for Dialogue and Cooperation e.V.
“Eritrea is a rich country, not only in terms of natural resources. It is a scandal that big companies exploit Eritrea’s gold in cooperation with the authoritarian regime. What is even worse is that farmland and living space of farmers is destroyed irrevocably.”
Mercia Andrews, Direktorin von TCOE, Trust for Community Outreach and Education, Kapstadt, Südafrika
“If we speak about gender equality in a global context, we need a feminism that takes into account colonialism. That means that the discrimination of women on the African continent also has to do with the inequality between Europe and Africa.”
Public Relations “Self-Determined and in Solidarity!”
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Organisers of the Conference
Afrique-Europe-Interact is a small, transnationally organised network. Activists in Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Morocco, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands are involved in it – amongst others self-organised refugees, migrants and deportees. In its work, the network supports refugees and migrants in their struggle for freedom of movement and equal rights. On the other hand, it is involved in social disputes about equitable or self-determined development – for instance agains landgrabbing in Mali and Burkina Faso.
Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie
The Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie is a grass-roots and self-governing collective in Leipzig. It is an independent and notforprofit organization that stands up for a social, ecological and democratic economy and society. It is based on the conviction that economic activities should be geared towards enabling a good and equitable life for all, respecting ecological limits. The activities of the Konzeptwerk include the networking of actors, educational work and cooperation with and support for social movements, especially in the area of alternative economics, growth criticism, degrowth and climate justice.
glokal is a Berlin association for power-critical education and counselling, which has been active since 2006 in political youth and adult education. The members aim at sensibilizing about global and intra-social power relations. These are understood as being characterized by, among other things, colonial history and persistent racist structures. glokal offers, among other things, seminars and accompanies development policy organizations that want to review and change their work in postcolonial terms. glokal’s print and online resources are also available for political practice (www.mangoes-and-bullets.org.)
Corasol is a group of people with and without a residence status, with and without escape/migration experience, who are trying to fight against racism and white dominance in society through structural political work and mutual support. Corasol organized an Antirashopping in Henningsdorf, the monthly Friedel-people’s kitchen with information events on Antira-topics and made small public actions. Corasol cooperates with different antiracist groups in Berlin and Brandenburg.
Entwicklungspolitisches Netzwerk Sachsen
ENS is a network of associations, groups and initiatives that are active for sustainable development and global justice. The association was founded in 1995 and today constitutes a platform of development and intercultural initiatives in Saxony. The stakeholders of ENS want to set out towards a global society that is just, peaceful and preserves the environment, and allows everybody to lead a life worth living. These objectives are pursued through lobbying, supporting the cooperation of regional, national and international organisations, consulting as well as provision of information and education on development issues.
Stress is some kind of a basic condition for many refugees. Against this background, a group of refugees in Berlin and Brandenburg – including several activists from Afrique-Europe-Interact – carried out the NoStress Tour in four refugee camps in Berlin and Bielefeld between June and September 2016. The goal was to bring the camp residents out of their stress with low-threshold activities such as sports, music and children’s programs, but in a second step to combine this with an explicit empowerment perspective. In addition, it aimed at establishing contacts with neighbors and welcome initiatives.