There is no legal way to reach Europe. If you have no visa, you have to risk your life to go to Europe. The authorities are making it every time more difficult and more dangerous to cross the borders. That´s why it is impossible to enter Europe without the help of people, whom you call ‘smugglers.’ Even the ways with the smugglers are risky. But it is necessary that someone helps you. Each refugee’s story is different. But the common problem is the border. There are different ways of supporting refugees in crossing borders. It needs knowledge, planning, and courage. (…) We would prefer not to be dependent on having a smuggler. But we see it as a service, generally paid, which will exist as long as it is illegal to cross borders.
A smuggler also often pays border guards, the police, or authorities, so we can cross without controls. It is the same authorities who are criminalizing migration and refugees, and who are violating human rights. It is also that racist part of the system rejecting asylum, creating detention centers, and making profit with deportations. (…)
Governments all around the world are violating human rights. It must not be possible for authorities to criminalize people who are fighting openly for Freedom of Movement and Freedom of Speech. It must not be possible for authorities to criminalize migrants and refugees! We won’t allow them to stop our fight for our rights!
You cannot silence us!
No border, no nation! Stop criminalization!
Together we will rise!”
Excerpt from the Solidarity Statement against the Criminalization of Migrants and Refugees, Refugee Protest Camp Vienna, March 2014.
Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You addresses the critique of the EU border regime and its migration policies. This critique was first expressed by the self-organized refugee protest movement in Vienna. Formally Fluchthilfe & Du echoes campaigns by Caritas, an organization that collects donations with an appeal to charity, while distancing itself from those it denounces as human smugglers: people whose assistance to refugees made it possible for them to come to Austria and to apply for asylum in the first place. Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You envisions escape aid as a paid service and publicly solicits support for refugees’ struggle for freedom of movement.
The work was created as an act of solidarity with those activists of the refugee protest movement who were arrested in 2013 and accused of being members of an international human smuggling organization. Even though the charges that they supposedly earned millions and endangered the lives of refugees in transit were rebutted immediately, the accused were detained for 6 and 8 months respectively, and they continue to be criminalized to date. In fall 2016, the Smugglers’ Tribunal will take place in Vienna to raise awareness of and make heard the political demands of refugees. Countering the stigmatization and criminalization of migratory knowledge networks and economies, the initiative Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You seeks to intervene in mainstream media and political discourses on human smuggling and escape aid services via campaigning, trial monitoring, social media interventions, transnational networking, community work, as well as public workshops and lectures.
Active internationally, Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You co-organized the 2nd International Conference on Human Smuggling and Trafficking in München in October 2015, also featured in this issue.
Fluchthilfe & Du / Border Crossing & You was initiated by artist and activist Katarzyna Winiecka and currently comprises people with experience and expertise in escape aid, refugees accused of smuggling, and people with migration experience. Read more at www.fluchthilfe.at
About the author
Katarzyna Winiecka is an artist, activist, educator and organizer, based in Vienna. Her work—usually participatory and collective—deals with questions of border politics, migrant resistance, its histories, visibilities and occupations of space. She is interested in transnational alliance work and strategies of resistance and cultural practices supporting and amplifying struggles for freedom of movement. Since 2013 she been involved in transdisciplinary solidarity and educational work around the trial of refugee activists from the Refugee Protest movement in Vienna, who were criminalized as alleged human smugglers, contextualizing it in broader practices of criminalization and discrimination. Among others she was a co-organizer of the 2nd International Conference on Human Smuggling and Trafficking (München, 2015) also featured in A Weird Geography.
A contribution to issue #1: A Weird Geography edited by Katalin Erdődi