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. On Immigrant Initiatives

April 2008

As May approaches, the wishes and winds of change coming from immigrants initiatives become more evident. Preparations for MayDay protests and French May celebrations are becoming a favourable omen for migrant movements. With this Newsletter, our purpose is to emphasize the active role of immigrants in their own struggles. Immigrants and refugees are not mere victims to be defended. S/he is a crucial political actor in the social and economic life of every country. And, though their actions may sometimes go unseen, they are courageously speaking out loud, simultaneously resisting and confronting migration regimes from all over the World.

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~Contents~

1. What immigrants achieve against all odds?
2. Migrant Domestic Workers
3. Protest and Repression in Harmondsworth – UK
4. San Papiers Workers Strikes – France
5. The Voice Refugee Forum – Germany
6. Workers’ Strike in Manolada – Greece
7. Euro Mayday
8. Links for related events

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1. What immigrants achieve against all odds?

There is no doubt about the intensification and increasing sophistication in immigration control measures. Accordingly, the poor immigrants' position within European countries is deteriorating by the increasing obstacles to participate legally on the national society and economy. This lack of documents accentuates the precarity of their labour conditions and inability to have access to any kind of governmental assistance. Indeed, it is difficult to perceive immigrants' effective political role and strategic articulation. Nonetheless, immigrants and refugees initiatives to create a common front against discriminatory and violent migratory policies do exist. These struggles come from different flanks. First, the tenacity and persistence of immigrants to reach a country and keep up with all the responsibilities of any other citizen (mainly, working to keep up with daily living costs) challenges the often arbitrary schemes of national population control. This kind of resistance is not radically open against the system, but these practices are radical when it is considered the constant creative thinking needed for an everyday survivable coming from social and territorial segregation. Second, the European migration regime, and its selective inclusion, has simultaneously provoked the coalition of immigrants from different backgrounds in one or multiple countries. Third, in positions of absolute segregation, as it is in detention centres and refugee camps, immigrants still fight and develop strategies to denounce human right's violations, with the help of activists from outside.

More info check: Frassanito Network

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2. Migrant Domestic Workers

Most of the poor immigrants in search for a better future in Europe find instead marginalization. This way, many immigrants end up working in the privacy of a home as domestic workers or au pairs, allowing the adult members of the household be part of the so-called productive economy. As many citizens go outside for an extra income for the household, the non-citizens find a niche as domestic workers. Accordingly, the number of undocumented immigrants in private households is increasing all over Europe. And the work of international networks such as RESPECT Migrants has become crucial for denouncing the systematic violation of human rights. This network, in particular, is committed to migrant empowerment through self-organizations, and is also composed by migrants' self-organizations. With this objective, Theater of the Oppressed (TO) has proved to be quite effective in empowering domestic workers, which provides them with the capacity to represent themselves and to be the main actors in campaigns for their rights.

One consequence of this struggle is the standard-setting “Decent work for Domestic Workers” that was approved on March 18 this year by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body, with the full support of the workers' group, the employers group, the Latin American and Caribbean Group, and 19 countries (including 5 European countries). This standard setting in the ILO agenda will help to establish better working conditions for thousands of migrant domestic workers - who are mainly women and young immigrants.

More links to TO initiatives: Theater Of The Oppressed

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3. Protest and Repression in Harmondsworth, UK

On April 1st about 300 detainees began a peaceful demonstration in Kalyx-run Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre against their administrative detention and poor conditions in the centre. They also wrote and signed a petition and sent it to the European Court of Human Rights. The protest continued with over 100 detainees refusing food. The detainees complaint is that they are being deported without having their cases properly heard, due to time restrictions and bad legal representation. Meanwhile, they are held in deplorable conditions, and without any criminal charges. A detainee told No Borders London: "The food is disgusting. The medical facilities are appalling...It is mental torture, people are going mad". The detainees' peaceful protest started with mass food refusal by almost all of the detainees, and later on 120 of them went to the courtyard remained there all night.

This is only an example of incidents, disruptions and protests that happen in Harmondsworth. According to one refugee, “Every day someone is pushed to madness and suicide. People resist every day, every day someone is on hunger strike.”

Other Links:

http://noborderslondon.blogspot.com/
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/04/395932.html
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/04/395251.html

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4. San Papiers Workers Strikes, France

While France is approaching the fortieth anniversary of May ’68, Paris’ streets are being flowed by hundreds of undocumented immigrants from restaurants, department stores, cleaning companies and gardening demanding working papers. Since the beginning of April, the undocumented workers from the popular Restaurant Café La Jatte and the chain restaurant ‘Charlie Birdy’ are on strike, and are organizing other immigrant workers to demand their rights and calling other immigrants to join their protests. Now around 500 strikers are claiming their rights since under French law after one year of contract they are entitled to receive their papers.

Many undocumented migrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America have payed for retirement, unemployment and national health care which they will never receive due to their illegality in the country. For more than a week, there have been strikes and occupations, supported by CGT Union, Droits Devant, SYNHORCAT, Rights First, employers and others. Although Sarkozy promised not to legalize massive numbers of immigrants, the pressure on France’s economy will make him rethink his strong anti-immigrant political stance.

French: http://lille.indymedia.org/
Spanish: ‘Sin Papeles’ en Francia
Video: Uprising May 68

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5. The Voice Refugee Forum – Germany

Refugees from refugee isolation camps in Germany have been in contact with human rights activists from The Voice Refugee Forum, and have described the living conditions of such centres. "Anytime you ask the authorities about something, they make the situation worse.” “Making a request from the authorities confirms the heat of their pressures on you. It also means giving them clues on where they can hit you more. They can be very sympathetic with you but you have to know that their minds take an extra ordinarily different position. Their intention is to ruin you but yet they pretend not to be responsible for your pains. That is the ethics of their Job.”

For the violent treatment received in these camps, the refugees have designed a concrete strategy against their administrative confinement. Among the demands from the refugees and The Voice are: “decentralization of Refugees housing in standard accommodation in independent and private housing; [the solidarity and strength of] migrants and refugee communities to stand up to the challenge and to protest the state policies of forced isolation of refugees in often remote camps and barracks; the exploitation and maltreatment of refugees by imposing degrading and arbitrary systems of psychological and financial "punishment"; the abolition of intimidating controls and insist on the right to freedom of movement”, etc.

More info:

English: http://thevoiceforum.org/taxonomy/term/6
Deutsch: http://thevoiceforum.org/node/757

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6. Strike in Strawberry fields, Greece

More than 400 migrant workers working under very precarious conditions went to strike for the first time in Manolada, Greece. Strawberry pickers from South Asia and the Balkans demand an increase in their €18 per day salary, which is less than a minimum wage since they work 12 hours a day and live in tents given by their own employers – and deducted from their salaries. Their employers argued that they don’t have enough money to award this salary raise. Furthermore, farmers and hired thugs attacked the migrants, and three trade unionists have been hurt and received treatment in hospitals. The police arrested one farmer and 60 of the strikers. Finally, their salaries were raised to €26 per day.

More info

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7. Euro MayDay: Transnationalization Now!
Many activists and grassroots organizations are preparing themselves to celebrate the International Workers' Day, and protest for the rights and recognition of immigrant workers. Many immigrants are participating actively in the organization of actions, protests and discussions. The Transnational Chain of Migrationrelated Action has contributed a lot to building up the atmosphere for the 1st of May by carrying out a transnational campaign where migrant struggles could be heard for more than only one day. This is a 9 months initiative, which began during a Frassanito Network meeting, and the idea is to support and interconnect migration-related activities already planned by various groups and networks. The importance is to organize migrants struggles in an international scale to find common grounds to fight against the migration regime.

The dimension that this transnational initiative has acquired is clearly seen in Italy. In Milan, for example, “a process of communication between migrants' and precarious' movements opened the possibility of a MayDay centered on the paradigmatic character of migrant labour in the whole process of precarization.” Uniting behind the theme of 'precarity' is the main cause of this positive response. Migrants' illegal status confounds and divides workers, makes more difficult to see how migrants and non-migrants workers are subdued to the same profit-oriented enterprises, and ignores the migrants' double precarity. Accordingly, a mass demonstration under the slogan “no-borders, no precarity” aims to demand unconditional legalization and connect these claims with the ones in US demonstrations. In this scenario, Euro MayDay has opened a political and social space where everyone that experiences precarity in their working conditions is protagonist of their struggles. These demonstrations’ main objective is to radicalise the workers’ and immigrants’ movement, in doing so they aim at the 'heart of the monster': freedom of movement, the right to stay and equal benefits for workers- citizens or not.

1st of May: Milan, Porta Ticinese, h. 3 pm

Next stations of The Transnational Chain of Migrationrelated Action:

June 6th: in Warsaw/Poland (Deutsch & English)
August 17th to 24th: in Hamburg/Germany
September 18th to 21st: in Malmoe/Sweden
October 7th: near Ceuta in Marocco

**More May Day Links for other countries:
Greece: http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=449
Czech Republic: http://www.csaf.cz/akcie.php?id=1100
Spain: http://www.lainvisible.net/

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8. Other Migration-related events and links
@ Dikili, Turkey: Noborder camp from August 25 to September 2nd 2008: http://no-racism.net/rubrik/35 . The camp aims to support people coming from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan or from Africa, and who have decided to take the hard and dangerous path of migrating overland or through sea, confronting Greek and Turkish authorities.

english: http://no-racism.net/article/2510
deutsch: http://no-racism.net/article/2508
türkçe (pdf): http://no-racism.net/upload/732416843.pdf
@ European Social Forum, Malmo, from 17th to 21st of September

If you or your organization is interested to make a presentation, seminar or workshop on the topic of migration, this is the link to the ESF Migration Network open wiki workspace: http://openesf.net/projects/migration-network/project-home

ESF extended info:

English: http://www.resist.org.uk/?q=node/824
Italian: http://www.meltingpot.org/articolo3789.html
French: http://www.expulsesmaliens.org/
Spanish: http://rebelion.org/dieterich/031115dieterich.htm

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