Interview: The Situation in the Pastrogor Transit Center and Strategies in the Bulgarian Asylum System

In this Interview, Mathias Fiedler1 is talking about his research, which was conducted in Bulgaria in the last summer. The study is mainly devoted to the situation of migrants in the transit center of Pastrogor in southern Bulgaria.

Mathias, you wrote your Bachelor’s thesis at the University of Augsburg on the Bulgarian asylum system. How is the Bulgarian asylum system changing with the Europeanisation of migration policies?

When it comes to the external borders of the EU, the Bulgarian government adopted the so-called “National Strategy on Migration, Asylum and Integration 2011-2020” in 20112. This program aims at fortifying the “struggle against illegal migration and the smuggling of goods or human beings” which in turn resulted in strong cooperation with FRONTEX3 over the past few years4. In April of 2013, a workshop on ‘Automated Border Control’ took place in Sofia, which was jointly organized by FRONTEX and the Bulgarian authorities5. Through different EU programs (for example PHARE – ‘Poland and Hungary: Aid for Restructuring of the Economies’), the Bulgarian asylum system is directly influenced. For instance, the transit center in Pastrogor – a small village in the border region – was built in this context6.

You conducted your research in the transit center in Pastrogor in southern Bulgaria. What role does Pastrogor play in the Bulgarian, but also in and the European asylum system?

The transit center plays a role in the so-called ‘distribution process’ of migrants within the Bulgarian asylum system. Continue reading

Daily Struggles, Common Fights – ‘Contre le racisme’

‘Contre le racisme’ was the title of the anti-racist festival that took place from the 8th to the 12th of May in the small Bavarian city Passau. Just a week after the closing of the autonomous center ZAKK a critical space was opened in the university on the topics of colonialism and national-socialist history, daily racism, right wing terrorism and homophobia. Among guided tours to the close-by concentration camp, workshops and concerts, a part of the (Re-)Positions collective had the possibility to talk about ‘Resistance on the European Borders. About Migration, EU-Border Regimes, Activism in Bulgaria, Resistance in the Refugee Camps and Graffiti from the Urban Outskirts’.

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Event: (Re-)Positions @ festival contre le racisme, Passau, 08.05.-12.05.2013

Wir haben im letzten Jahr mit der Idee begonnen, Themen an die Universität Passau zu  bringen, die kontrovers diskutiert werden. Themen, die in unseren Augen mehr Raum in einer öffentlichen Diskussion haben sollten und vor allem an einer Universität präsent sein sollten. Daraus ist im letzten Jahr (2012) die „Kulturwoche zur europäischen Asyl- und Grenzpolitik“ entstanden.

Für dieses Jahr haben wir das Format verändert und veranstalten ein Wochenende mit Vorträgen und Rahmenprogramm.

Inhaltlich möchten wir die Vergangenheitsbewältigung mit der Gegenwart verbinden. Gerade in Niederbayern stößt man im Alltag in den Köpfen der Bevölkerung wie in den institutionellen Strukturen immer wieder auf wenig bekannte und verschwiegene Verbindungen bis ins dritte Reich. Um einen Diskurs anzustoßen, der unserer Meinung nach in den letzten Jahren in Passau viel zu kurz gekommen ist, wollen wir sowohl Studierende als auch Passauer*innen ansprechen.

Den Fokus unseres Festivals liegt auf einer akademische Behandlung mehrerer Themen, die in unseren Augen alle unter das Oberthema Rassismus und die Verbindung von Vergangenheitsbewältigung mit der Gegenwart passen. Die Vorträge am 11. und 12.05. werden zum Teil parallel stattfinden. Die Themenbereiche die wir dabei behandelt werden sind: Neue Rechte, Alltagsrassismus, Kolonialgeschichte, die extreme Rechte in Bayern und Niederbayern und Geschichtsaufarbeitung mit lokalem Bezug, Philosophiegeschichte, Islamophobie.

Programm

Website: http://festival2013.stuve-unipassau.de

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Event: (Re-)Positions @ Events – Routes – Transitions – Barriers, Sofia, 24.04-10.05.2013

Events – Routes – Transitions – Barriers

The Red House, ulitsa Lyuben Karavelov 15, Sofia

24 April (Wednesday) 2013, 6.30 p.m. – opening
25 April–10 May , every day between 3.00 and 7.00 p.m., except Saturday and Sunday and official holidays

Practices dealing with the complexity of global border and migration regimes. Various media exhibition by Arun Bahttarai, Manuel F. Contreras, Claudia Harich, RefugeeCamp Vienna, (Re-) Positions Collective, Simon Rummel, Svitlana Shymko, Dorottya Zurbo and others;

Concept/Organization: Johanna Glösl; Assistance: Anastasia Sendrea
The exhibition is accompanied by discussion/Skype talk with activists from Bulgaria and the RefugeeCamp Vienna on 24 April (Wednesday) at 7.30 p.m. in the Red hall.
Routes – Transitions – Barriers is realized with the support of National Culture Fund (BG), BMUKK – Bundesministerium für Kunst und Kultur (AT).
In Bulgarian and in English.The discussion is in English with interpretation to Bulgarian.
Free entrance for both events

It is apparent that the regulation and the control of border-crossing greatly influence the flexibility of migration as well as the modes of travelling. Continue reading

Event: (Re-) Positions @ Movements of Migration, Göttingen, 11.03.2013

11.03., MO 20H, KUNSTVEREIN: MONTAGSSALON
RE-POSITIONS: DAS EUROPÄISCHE GRENZREGIME UND SEINE EFFEKTE

Migrationspolitik ist schon lange nicht mehr (nur) nationalstaatliche Angelegenheit. Mit der EU wurde auch eine europäische Migrationspolitik immer bestimmender mit hoch aufgerüsteten „Außengrenzen“. Gemeinsam mit Initiativen, die sowohl an den  Außengrenzen als auch in Göttingen mit den Effekten des EU-Grenzregimes zu tun  haben, wollen wir der Frage nach aktivistischen, künstlerischen und wissenschaftlichen  Interventionsmöglichkeiten nachgehen.

Es diskutieren: Julia Serdarov und Veit Schwab: (Re-Positions, München/Sofia, ein Kunstprojekt zur Situation in Sofia gestrandeter Flüchtlinge und Migrant_innen), Vertreter_innen der Medizinischen Flüchtlingshilfe (Göttingen), Claire Deery  (Anwältin für Ausländer- und Asylrecht, Göttingen).

Kunstverein im Künstlerhaus, Gotmarstraße 1, 37073 Göttingen

Infos und Programm
Website: www.movements-of-migration.org

Walls: Mirrors of society?

If one is to consider that „every artist is interested in walls because they mirror and are part of our society“, as the Turkish artist Burhan Doğançan said, we – as activists – should pay even more attention to the walls around us. The walls in Ovcha Kupel can be considered as a mirror of enabled conditions and social circumstances. One sees swastikas, Nazi slogans and graffiti of the right wing football supporters on the walls surrounding the space. Writings, from which one can imply migrants’ presence, are not readily present. One finds them only in the abandoned building that is temporary squatted by homeless refugees, asylum-seekers, and undocumented: a place that is out of public sight, surrounded by high bushes in the summer and muddy puddles in the winter. Migrants’ voices are unheard in the political discourse and ignored by the media; their written messages are hidden, yet there are traces in the public space. Continue reading

Political Context: The Situation of Refugees in Bulgaria

The refugees’ dwelling in the abandoned building across the State Agency for Refugees, where the graffiti studied in the course of this project are located, is hardly to be attributed to a “lack of material capacity” on the part of the State Agency for Refugees. A short glimpse into the broader political context of the refugees’ situation in Bulgaria should contribute to the deeper understanding of the appearance of their graffiti. Continue reading

Critical Modes of Mapping: Transborder Map / MigMap

Very fortunately, our work as researchers, activists and artists doesn’t solely consist in talking about repression and control – it’s about effective resistance, too! This is nicely reflected in the Transborder Map 2012,

“(…) a map of resistance against the European Border regime. The map documents the multitude of actions against the European Border regime and includes key-incidents of struggles from the last five years against the background of the repressive European migration regime and its continuous externalisation to the east and south. This regime is sketched on the back side of the map”.

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On Light and Shadow: Impressions from a (Re-)Positions Visitor

Carmel is a scholar from the University of South Australia. She is doing her research in Bulgaria and attended one of the events at the Red House in Sofia. She wrote a short vignette that ist definitely worth reading:

VIGNETTE #ЧЕРВЕНАТА КЪЩА-СОФИЯ THE RED HOUSE-SOFIA

Images of words, graffiti, art; POETRY were revealed on a blood red wall. They were life experiences, like scars, calls from a brokenness, from one’s soul, from a mind that was searching for meaning and a way to say “I’ve found meaning!” I felt the light and shadow of the strength/fragility between the silences, and within the silence I heard a voice emerge. The walls supported the paint of one’s experience and in that moment, like the moon, took over the darkness of the night, of my night. Two young men who have journeyed from Somalia to Bulgaria, raised their voices and re-told their lives, their lived experiences of running, hiding, leaving, arriving, remembering, caring, existing… of being in the world. I observed how the experience of being dispossessed reveals to one the dispossession of the world. I was drawn into the landscapes of their stories and I experienced and lived them in my mind, so briefly, yet with such intense lucidity. I moved outward into that night absolutely sober, in consciousness and sensibility.

(…) continue on Carmel’s Street Smart Blog.

Police Brutality in the Detention Center of Lyubimets (Bulgaria)

The detention center of Lyubimets (Любимец), a Bulgarian city close to the Turkish and Greek border, was already in our focus [1, 2, 3] in the month of August, when 25 migrants held a hunger strike to protest against their detention.

Now, local activists relayed information concerning severe acts of police brutality, which took place in the same detention center:

Police Brutality in a detention center in Bulgaria
On the 16th of October, eight Syrian asylum-seekers were brutally beaten by the police in the detention center for foreigners in the city of Lyubimets, close to the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The same day, one of the detainees attempted to talk to the guards in the prison in order to receive information about his request to be sent back to Turkey. The prison guards responded with violence.