[Ravotr]/Article of Peter Storm/Refugees resisting State oppression, and solidarity activism in the Netherlands, hungerstrikes and more



Sunday 19 May, 2013

This article was written for Libcom, and can be read there already.

Protest and resistance by refugees and solidarity activists in the Netherlands is meeting serious repression. This is now getting media attention, and provoking new protest as well.

Asylum seekers in a detention centre in Rotterdam have revolted in recent days. The revolt was connected to a hunger strike of detained refugees (1) that has been going on since 1 May, first in detention centres in both Schiphol and Rotterdam, currently only in Rotterdam. The resisting refugees are intimidated, some of them put in isolation cells.

Two people on hungerstrike also refused to drink, and brought to a hospital, after one of them explicitly stated that he did NOT want to be fed, given medical tratment or indeed, brought to a hospital. Shortly after that, a judge ordered his release: his detention was deemed unlawful, the man can now await the next phase in the admittance procedure outside a detention centre. A small victory for the refugees struggling and the activists organizing solidarity. That was last week. Also, last week, a number of solidariry activists went on hungersttrike themselves for 48 hours, as a gesture of support (2). Most of them, 13 on the second day, sat near Parliament building, mostly in the puuring rain. One of them stopped drinking as well. A few participated in the hunger strike from other places, their home for instance. I was one of them.

Yesterday,l the news of a revolt inside the Rotterdam detention centre came to the outside, as activists, standing outside the detention center in a support demonstration – these are held daily during the hunger strike, an Occupy Rotterdam initiative – saw refugees gesticulating in front of the windows, pointing to their naked back to bruises and so on. Apparently, refugees revolted and were beaten, nine of them. Refugees were put in isolation. A trusted doctor who wanted to go inside, was hindered by authorities, so it is still hard to say what exactly is happening in the horror chambers of the Rotterdam detention center. National media is beginning to take note.

Recent events are part of a long chain of protests and resistance actios of, and in solidarity wioth, refugees. We’ve seen action camps by asylum seekers in Ter Apel, Den Bosch, The Hague, Amsterdam. Support often comes from remaining Occupy groups and/ or Occupy-related activists. In The Hague, a group of refugees now lives in, basically, a squatted church (now called ‘Vluchthuis’, house of refuge), in Amsterdam a similar group could stay for several months in another church, called ‘Vluchtkerk’ church of refuge’) for the occasion. There have been a number of solidarity demonstrations, one on 23 March that was sizable (about 2500 participants). And now, there are the hunger strikes, and the daily support actions outside the Rotterdam detention centre. Also there are efforts, bot juridical and activists, to stop individual deportations that are happening on an almost daily basis. Sometimes, lawyer’s efforts helped to stop such deportations on the very last moment. Sometimes not.

This week will see another demonstration, hopefully a rather big one. The specific goal is a protest against threatened government law to make illegal stay, uh… illigal, i.e. a criminal offense. There has been protest against that from refugees, but also from members and supporters of the PvdA, the Dutch labour party, who agreed to the measure as part of a deal with the openly right wing VVD liberal party, the other wing of the government. The protest did not achieve its goal of turning the party around. Coalition politics and loyalty to the state itself took precedence above the indignation of part of their support base. That indignation was bought off with nice words about ‘a more humane asylum policy’. The coming demonstration will target, not the PvdA in particular but the government measure as such. The motto: “Refugee, not criminal!” Hopefully, the anger that the repression of hungerstrikers and other refugees inside jails is provoking, will translate in extra support and militancy on the demo. The action will take place on W ednesday, 22 May, in The Hague (3).

There is more to come in the fight against oppression of migrants/ refugees/ asylum seekers/ people without papers. In August, there will be a No Border Camp in the Netherlands (4). In Rotterdam, of all places. No doubt, new state-inflicted horrors will then have provoked new actions already. The fight is ongoing, often quite desperate, but not without small and encouraging results.

(1) Luther Blisset, “Solidarity with hunger strikers in detention centres in the Netherlands”, on the website “I am un chien Andalusian”, 10 mei 2013,http://iamunchienandalusia.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/solidarity-with-hunger-strikers-in-detention-centres-in-the-netherlands/

(2) Laura Zuffi, “On-going hunger strike uin The Hague to support imprisoned asylumseekers in the Netherlands”, on the website “The Global Oyster”, 17 mei 2013,http://theglobaloyster.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/on-going-hunger-strike-in-the-hague-to-support-imprisoned-asylum-seekers-in-the-netherlands-2/

(3) “22-05-2013: Demonstratie: Vluchteling, geen-crimineel!” http://rechtopbestaan.nl/recht-op-bestaan/22-05-2013-demonstratie-vluchteling-geen-crimineel/ [/url] (scroll further down to see the English-language call-out.)

(4) website No Border Camp: http://nobordercamp.nl/

More information can be found through websites of groups and networks involved in struggle. The important ones:
No Border Network – http://no-border.nl/
Werkgroep Deportatieverzet – http://deportatieverzet.nl/ , with an English-language section for refugees themselves: http://deportatieverzet.nl/refugees/
Recht op Bestaan – http://rechtopbestaan.nl/
Prime , Participating Refugees in a Multicultural Europe –http://www.prime95.nl/MainW/

Peter Storm

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