Meanwhile, a bigger group of about 150 camp participants left for Uzghorod, the immigration offices from which the camps are run. Banners reading "Close down Pawshinov" and "Free the Prisoners of the EU" and ''Freedom of Movement" in Ukrainian and English were unfurled. Leaflets about the camps, the immigration offices and the case for No Borders were handed out to staff and passers-by. The Red and Black flag was flown from the building and the banners were unfurled from the roof. Round the back, demonstrators decorated the building with anarchist slogans in Ukrainian, Russian and English.
The demonstrators then moved on into the town centre, graffitying as they went. Particular attention was paid to the government buildings on the way. Here the EU flag was removed from its mast. The demonstrators walked through the town, still leafleting, still shouting, and attracting a lot of attention from passers-by. Demonstrations in Uzghorod are rare apparently.
The demonstration ended in the town's main square, where there is a small stage. The banners were again displayed and the EU flag was ceremoniously burned.
During the camp, participants have been hearing about the terrible conditions inside the camps, from both academics and ex-detainees. It has provided a direct experience of the EU's border externalisation process, whereby the EU pressures, and funds, countries on its borders (such as the Ukraine) to introduce really strict border controls, in order to try and ensure that people don't reach the EU where, under international law, states are obliged to allow them to apply for asylum. This is, of course, a clear breach of those obligations and the EU-funded detention camps are actually integral to this system. Camps are a cheap and brutal way to make the process of reaching the EU either impossible or so unbearable that many would return home.
Conditions inside were described as worse other camps in the EU. Detainees apparently fight over food and water, while prison guards take photos of them doing so. They are sold cigarettes, only to have these removed and then re-sold to them. Overcrowding is so bad that detainees are put in tents to sleep in outside, even in the winter. A story was told of three guys who waited three days to be taken to hospital, where they later died.
The immigration services are so minimal that lawyers and translators are not provided, and must be paid for by the applicants. The NGOs who work within the camp make it possible for the system to work, and the EU to renege on its international obligations to offer the opportunity to apply for asylum within its borders. This has been the recent trend in an increasingly harsh system of migration management, a system built on providing economies with cheap labour by criminalising those who get through the borders, thereby selecting the most vulnerable people.
It is hoped that the experience of the No Border camp in the Ukraine will inspire activists to focus on these EU prisons in their future work.
one of noborders