German police raid border camp and arrest 250 activists

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The sixth German anti-racist border camp which took place in Cologne between 31 July and 10 August 2003 was raided by around 2,500 police officers a day before the official end of the camp.

On 9 August, the police encircled the camp, which had seen around 1,000 participants in 10 days of discussions and actions. They said that camp participants would potentially disturb the demonstration held in Cologne the same day by around 50 neo-Nazis. Police spokesmen claimed that around 70% of the camp participants were criminals.

Police were initially hindered from entering camp by around 500 camp participants, despite using tear gas and batons. The alleged legal basis for the raid was the police declaration that the camp was a "demonstration", then prohibiting it and arguing that all participants were therefore violating regulations on assembly (Versammlungsrecht).

In a siege lasting the whole day, the police cut off the water supply (despite temperatures of up to at 40° C, 100+ F) and telephone lines to the camp. The water was later restored after police were warned that they could be held liable for denial of assistance. Police then gave the camp participants an ultimatum: they could leave on their own accord after each individual's identity was recorded and a photo taken, or they would be forcibly removed and identified. A group of 300 people held on until the evening when, finally, around 250 people were arrested and detained in a nearby prison. The activists have reported heavy-handedness and several injuries; a legal team has been set up to record incidents and objects that 'went missing' during the police raid. Camp press groups have announced that to their knowledge all the detained have now been released.

In a press release (10 August 2003) Gerda Heck, one of the camp organisers, said:

"From the beginning, the police operation was excessive. There was constant filming, helicopters were circling in the air. The police systematically looked for any excuse to provoke and escalate the situation. The ultimate purpose for yesterday's attack was the identification and collection of biometric data (Video recordings) of all camp participants. The intention is to control and criminalise the anti-racist movement, they want to push us into the "troublemaker" corner. Yesterday, the anti-racists confronted the police at the entrance to the camp with banners. CS gas and the use of batons by police in battle gear caused numerous injuries.

Birgit - representative of the campaign "Kein Mensch ist illegal" [No One Is Illegal] " said: "This international meeting is a role model for many border camps all over Europe. The intention is to destroy our growing network. But out political movement cannot be intimidated by police state methods."

The police action is seen by camp participants and organisers as an attempt to criminalise the anti-racist movement in Germany and discredit the political message that the camp was conveying in the city of Cologne. The Cologne city council uses two boats for asylum processing in Cologne, one for newly arrived asylum seekers and the second as so-called Departure Centre. The latter houses around 200 asylum seekers, 88 of them children and most of them Roma, in inhumane conditions. Illnesses are rampant on the boat, with children being chronically ill and pregnant women suffering from early births and infections.

Small video clips of talks, demonstration, interviews with refugees and of the raid on the camp can be found under
Call for the camp (English):

Background - Border camping 2003

This year's camps are marked by discussions around issues of migration and work as well as the growing campaign against the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and its role in global migration management. Below is a text from the noborder website, which hosts and links all websites on the different camps taking place in Romania, Italy, Germany and Poland this summer:

"During the upcoming three months another chain of noborder-camps, conferences and anti-summit mobilisations will take place all over Europe. A wide range of groups, initiatives and individuals involved in the noborder network, will participate in or even initiate these activities.

The activities around these events will be covered on the noborder website in the upcoming months. We will try to make available news, impressions and resources, links to other sources of information and provide information regarding radio and video streams from these events. On a more concrete level, two groups, the "publix-theater-caravan" (Austria) and the "temporary association everyone is an expert" (Germany), are preparing bus tours that aim to provide a means of direct connection and communication between the various projects.

The noborder network is committed to manifest itself throughout this chain of events by focusing on three common threads that are to be addressed in all projects:

* globalisation and modernisation of the border regime (including the campaign against IOM) and a new video film about this transnational agency of 'migration management';
* the relationship between migration and work;
* the relationship between freedom of movement and freedom of information."

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