Asylum is a Human Right
A Dishonored Promise or Why Non-Parliamentary Actions are Indispensable
By Dirk Vogelskamp
[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.transparentonline,de/Nr52/52_9.htm. Dirk Vogelskamp is on the secretariat of the Committee for Basic Rights and Democracy in Koln.]
For a long while, the human right to asylum was a mere proclamation and never had a legally binding character for nation states. The human right to asylum is the hope of millions of refugees for a secure existence. In Germany the miserable remnants of an individual asylum law were abolished in July 1993.
Remember, the so-called asylum law amendment was indissolubly connected with a demagogic refugee debate (state emergency) and with racist excesses and pogroms (Rostock-Lichenhagen). The parliamentary two-thirds majority that sounded social-democratic followed the homemade pressure of the street (asylum compromise) and cuts in on the basic right of asylum…
While freedom of capital and its commercialization interests in a globally- binding machinery (MAI) are extolled, refugees remain a nothing in international law.
Ideology of Positional Security
On November 19-20, 1998, the interior ministers met in Bonn for the first time under the “new” government. In interior minister conferences, political and administrative decisions were made about the inexorable and ruthless deportation practice even in war and crisis areas, exclusion and lockout from the income support system and the transformation of external European frontiers into militarized, deadly border areas. The interior minister conferences have been a coordinated resistance to refugees following the maxims screening, deportation, deterrence and expulsion. The post-Nazi democratic camp system is a Christian-democratic and social-democratic invention. The ideology of positional security banishes people needing protection before EU-Europe’s gates where they are abandoned to misery far from the media public.
The objectifying administrative language has always removed all traces of human misery. The utopian promise of the human right to asylum has certainly not been honored even if a few have benefited. Federal interior minister Otto Schily is a congenial, Blair-modernized social democrat who seeks a great continuity with the old cabinet in refugee and migration policy and to be more flexible but not change anything in the basic political orientation… The Green party’s approval of the self-mandated NATO aggression against the Yugoslavian war regime for the alleged protection of Kosovo Albanian refugees complements the new flexibility toward refugees. After the past coalition statements, a refugee policy oriented in human rights cannot be expected if a non-parliamentary radical refugee movement does not develop a political effect and practical solidarity.
Globalized Apartheid System
The worldwide oases of a precarious privileged prosperity can only be defended under permanent breach of human rights and acceptance of immense human misery. However the outlawry of the destitute in Europe’s fortress will lead in the long-term to the erosion of the rights of everyone. Indifference toward foreign suffering, the suffering of foreigners is supported by the legalized exclusion of refugees worldwide so that cooperative social life is undermined by a global apartheid system. The promise of the human right to asylum guaranteeing the participation of everyone in civil- and social human rights (the right to have rights) in whatever state they take refuge is indivisible and essential so that we share or accustom ourselves in political deprivation of rights.
What is at stake are citizens. The uncompromising defense of the right of the refugee is in our own human rights-democratic interest. For the sake of the many victims and human tragedies which the European refugee policy demands, denying this right is not acceptable from the humane perspective, not to mention the moral corruption implicit in indifference toward victims of fortress policy.
Inhumanity Legitimated Constitutionally
With a protest demonstration and a vigil on November 19 in Bonn, the committee for basic rights and democracy remembered the victims of European refugee policy. In bitter cold, a little group recalled the dishonored promise of the human right to asylum and called the remaining radical-democratic forces in our land to intensify their protest against the current asylum injustice and increase non-parliamentary pressure on the merely re-stylized political ruling class.
“Don’t accustom yourselves to the inhumanity legitimated constitutionally and democratically”, pastor Hubertus Janssen admonished his few listeners. After the demonstration, the committee gave a documentary on the casualties of German asylum policy to representatives of the house of history. Refugees were degraded into “burdens” to be avoided, not offered necessary protection and help, declared Elke Steven, one of the coordinators of the vigil. The civil rights activist turned to the interior minister’s statement that the limit of maximum stress was long passed striking down all expectations for a changed refugee and asylum policy with a social-democratic-green change of government.
Becoming Politically Active
“The 68-generation finally in power”, a Berlin newspaper gloated a few weeks ago. “Be state-supporting and no longer embarrassed”, recommended Sibylle Tonnies in the weekend edition, 10/31/00. State activity is seen as a possibility for improving conditions. What does improving mean? The new state-supporting political generation must judge by some minimum standards in refugee policy and human rights: abolition of deportation jails, abolition of special socio-political treatment of refugees, abolition of summary proceedings or high speed processes at airports, residence permits for illegal refugees and proper legal protection from deportation in crises and war areas. A non-parliamentary movement that urges the utopian promise of the human right to asylum and fights on the side of refugees is imperative. The protest of the illegalized Kurdish refugees in church asylum, the caravans for the rights of refugees and migrants and many smaller protests of persons seeking asylum and protection from the everyday bureaucratic harassment are incentives to political activity.