Marta works in several NGOs which provide assistance to refugees in Germany. Now, she is working for Solidarity Cities. Ufuk Yılmaz Sevim made an interview to learn her works and projects.

1. Can you please introduce yourself to us? What do you do?

Solidarity CitiesMy name is Marta, I am 27 years old, living in a smaller city in the western part of Germany. One year ago, I finished my studies as an occupational therapist, also did work as a therapist for a while, but recently quit the job. For at least 4 years now, I am involved in anti-racist struggles in the city where I live. With an organized political group, which is a really diverse group of people who have the status “refugee” and non-refugees, “supporters”, our focus is the prevention of deportation. 37 times deportations could be stopped successfully here until the laws changed and the fight gets more tricky and complicated.

Still, we are fighting together, organizing protests, do publicity work and a lot of networking with other groups in Germany that are working on issues of (anti-)racism. For almost 2 years now, I am also part of another group that is at the moment dealing with the movement of Solidarity Cities and the fight for the right to move, to stay and to returns. This happened after I have been 3 times at the Balkan borders within an international open anarchist network to support people on the move in different ways. Also, I was at the No Border Camp in Thessaloniki last July. At the same time, I participate in organizing the Connecting Movements Camp, which will be part of the Climate Camp in Rhineland (Germany) a protest Camp against coal mining…
As you read, the focus of my daily life is the political activism at the moment. Whereas I need to organize how to finance it personally as I am workless right now.

2. Why did you take part volunteer activities? What was your motivation?

Solidarity Cities: Somehow, I got into this issue when friends asked me years ago if I wanna take part in a meeting of this political group “No Lager”. I went there, started to go deeper into the topic, read a lot about migration and thought, discussed the right to freedom of movement. Later, I made many friendships with people who actually were and are concerned about persecution, racism, and deportation. It evoked anger in myself to see injustice in privileges and rights. I guess this anger pushed and motivated me a lot – as well as my general attitude against a system where people rule, determine and control the lives of others. As I believe in self-determination and self-organization, not in human-made border regimes, passports, and neo-liberal values! In September 2015 I first traveled to the Balkan Borders, actually with the aim to spend holidays in Croatia. Finally, I didn’t make any holidays but networked with local activists from Slovenia and we went at the borders to protest together with the many people who were on the move and got stuck at each and every border. We resisted against border police, supported the migrant’s demands and protests, hunger strikes. Made a lot of independent and border regime critical publicity work, back in Germany we organized speeches, radio interviews, wrote articles for newspapers etc. 2 weeks after I went back to Croatia, then Serbia and in December again to Greece (Idomeneo). We cooked tea and food for free, transferred information, maps, money,… also supported squatted houses in Greece where people on the move could sleep, network, gather together, plan their further journey…

3. Do you have connections with the activist groups or do you take part as an individual? If you have some connections, can you please give us further information?

Solidarity Cities: As I said above, yes, I am connected with different groups. Locally, but also internationally. This one is no group with a name, but rather a loose network of activists who have been active along the Balkan route. From time to time, people try to gather together to update each other – but everything without any hierarchies or boss-structures. I am not part of any kind of NGO, all groups are autonomously organized.
There is in general always the try to create good networking in between groups in Germany and beyond. Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece… For Turkey, unfortunately, the connection is not that good at the moment.

4. What do you think about the European as well as German migration policy?

Solidarity Cities: Puh. What a big question! Actually, I cannot say a lot more than it is complete shit. In the last years, it became much more visible how brutal this policy of European border regime is. I mean, migration is nothing new, it is an existing phenomenon for hundreds of years, that people are moving. It is really cynical that Europe and especially Germany is producing and exporting most of the weapons that are being used to massacre people in war regions while celebrating 70 years of not having war within the European Union. In the public discourse capitalistic reasons and interests behind wars, exploitation etc. are mainly ignored or at least not expressed openly. The human reaction to moving towards more safer places to save the life is not even discussed anymore, but rather only how to get rid of migrants, how to “defend” Fortress Europe, how to “protect” borders… Within the last years, the inner European borders got much more visible in a physical way (fences, physical borders, always occupied border checkpoints etc.) as well as by high militarization by stationed military, tanks, armed border guards and an internationally cooperation (Frontex, Interpol,..) to stop the migration movement. While there was a time (2015) where European borders were more or less passable for migrants, they closed them down like in a domino effect. Austria started talking about limits of numbers of migrants they could “take” (ceiling), the consequences were the step by step closing the borders until Idomeneo. Also, Orban in Hungary reflected quite well how Europe’s migration policy is working: just build a giant (double) fence, protect it by armed military, pushing violently back migrants who are looking for safety. Migration policy in Europe and Germany is based on partitioning, racism which plays in the racist and nationalists hands and pushes the right wing movement a lot.

In general, I think that both, German and European migration policy is a policy which ignores completely a human responsibility, that is watching thousands of people dying in the Mediterranean Sea and along the Balkan route, while only spending millions of Euros for partitioning and “protect” the borders of the EU. A policy that is using repression, detention and racist persecution as a mean of deterrence. Also in Germany, although Angela Merkel could hold her pseudo “We can make it” for quite a while within her coalition, t the same time the asylum laws were tightened one after the other. All Balkan states, Maghreb states and now Afghanistan were declared as “save home countries” where people can be deported. At the moment Germany is a machine of detention and deportation. It uses rhetorical agitation to criminalize refugees and their supporters and support the rising right wing.

5. Are you optimistic about the future? What are your expectations?

Solidarity Cities: I cannot really say that I am optimistic about the future by observing the development of European policies in terms of migration and also the elections: PiS in Poland, Le Pen in France, Orban in Hungary, AfD in Germany, FPÖ in Austria and so on. In the general discourse of terrorism and the so often used criminalization of migrants*refugees that are mainly the first suspicious persons. It makes me angry and also a kind of afraid to see the right-wing growing and rising – especially people who don’t reflect the situation by themselves but just follow Pegida-movements. It is the typical issue of instrumentalization to play poorly against poor – while these arguments of refugees taking working places or living space are completely wrong. The asylum policy in Germany is not that much better than elsewhere: Refugees are excluded, isolated and separated from the main part of society by being forced to live in Lagers (at least for the first months) and had chances to find work.

But: I am also a little optimistic as I also see that activists who felt powerless and helpless within the European atmosphere of increasing nationalism and racism, becoming more active again against the fascism. People start to organize again and set a counter-narrative which is based on participation, emancipation, freedom, and self-determination. One example is the rather new movement of Solidarity City which is popping up in different cities in Germany and also in Great Britain, Italy, and Spain. It is a movement in solidarity with undocumented migrants, who will become more in times of mass deportations. And it is the question of what kind of city and finally society we want to live? One answer could be in a Solidarity City where all people do have the same rights and access without fear to all services they need, independently of nationality, gender or status (asylum).
This movement gives me a little hope and motivation to continue the common struggle for freedom and a good life for everyone!


*The name of the volunteer of Solidarity Cities is changed because of her request for privacy.