... in border

Random reading

10 Jun 2008 | 616 words | border paraguay business copyright culture piracy

The Piratbyrån’sRasmus Fleischer has a an extremely interesting essay titled ‘the future of copyright‘ in the current issue of CATO unbound (a monthly web-journal by the ‘we love limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace’ CATO institute). In ‘the future of copyright’ he argues that ‘neither the stabilization nor the abolition of the copyright system seems within reach’ and that instead ‘we will have to live in this landscape of gray zones for quite a while, for good and bad.’ Personally i have always found the fact that artistic and cultural practices have to deal with the realities of these grey zones is at least partially responsible for many of the qualities embodied in current cultural and artistic practices. This is something Rasmus seems to agree with:

Creative practices, with some exceptions, thrive in economies where digital abundance is connected to scarce qualities in space and time. But there can never be a question of finding one universal business model for a world without copyright. The more urgent question regards what price we will have to pay for upholding the phantasm of universal copyright.

And while we are on the topic of grey zones you might want to add the Essay ‘Blacker-than-black Market‘ in the current issue of GOOD magazine to your reading list. In ‘Blacker-than-black Market’ offers a glimpse on into the functioning of the black markets in Ciudad del Este. The markets of Ciudad del Este, conveniently located close to the borders with both Argentina and Brazil contribute an estimated 30 percent of Paraguay’s $9 billion gross domestic product:

The downtown market is dense and compact, a maze of concrete spanning a five-block-by-five-block square. Despite its size, the market is extraordinary for its diversity. There’s the upscale Monalisa shopping mall, where the nouveau riche stock up on authentic Montblanc pens and Bulgari jewelry, alongside sidewalk kiosks offering pirated copies of Die Hard 4.0 in bulk and where San Francisco 49ers fans can buy shoddily sewn “Startar” jackets. Thanks to the fact that Paraguay has lower import tariffs than either of its neighbors, Ciudad del Este essentially functions as a massive outdoor duty-free shop - a destination for anyone looking for a bargain.

Seems like i have to add Ciudad del Este to the list of places i need to visit. Also the reference to ‘pirated copies of Die Hard 4.0 in bulk’ remided me of this hilarious piece of recording insdustry propaganda that Lawrence had unearthed a couple of days ago and in which the European Commission’s tax and customs authorities are quoted to state that

From a profit point of view, the trade in fake CDs and DVDs is giving drug trafficking a run for its money. “One kilo of cannabis sold in Europe will bring in less than €2,000, a kilo of pirate or counterfeit CDs will bring in €3,000,” the report said. The average value of a disc for a games console on the European market will vary between 255 and €60. The selling price for a counterfeited version of the same disc is around half a euro each, the report continued.

which reveals some very fuzzy math: 1KG is 1000 gram and one CD with inlay and cellophane wrapper (that is how they are sold on the streets) weights about 26 gram. that is roughly 40 CDs to a kilogram which multiplied by the stated half a euro selling price results in a total revenue of €20 per kilo of pirated CDs or DVDs (even if you use €4 – the real going rate for a pirated movie – you end up with a revenue of €160 which is somehow €2840 short of the profit claimed in the piece).

Exceptional display of compassion...

27 May 2008 | 197 words | migration europe africa dead people border

… in todays Guardian: the last two paragraphs of an article which describes the death of two Tunisian men who stowed away on a german cargo ship traveling from sfax in tunesia to ayr in scotland actually treat the two deceased as human beings (plus the entire article does not label them as ‘illegal immigrants’ even once):

Scott [the Conservative(!) MSP for Ayr] said: “This is tragic news, that these two men who appear to have stowed away, lost their lives in such desperate, lonely and sad circumstances. These are people who, for whatever reason, felt they had to leave northern Africa and in desperation boarded this ship. They took a huge gamble with their lives, which didn’t pay off.

“As I understand it, it is an occasional occurrence that economic migrants stow away on these boats. They leave that port to go all over Europe and indeed the world. Perhaps they were gambling on this being a shorter sea voyage than it turned out to be. Very sadly for them and their families, it has resulted in their deaths.”

Guess that is because very few of the victims of fortress europe wash up on scottish shores…

If lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not....

24 Feb 2008 | 535 words | border israel migration dead people

Since about a year i have been coming across reports of sub-saharan migrants getting shot by Egyptian border police when attempting to enter Israel from egypt. So far i have refrained from listing them as part of the noborder.org dead count because Israel is not really Europe (although they participate in the UEFA cup and the Eurovision song contest). Since the beginning of 2008 these incidents seem to have increased in frequency as noted by Amnesty International (UK):

On 19 February Egyptian security forces shot dead a Sudanese man trying to cross into Israel bringing the total to five. Security officials said 50-year-old Ermeniry Khasheef was shot in the back after he ignored orders to stop as he attempted to cross barbed wire near the border town of Rafah, in the north of the Sinai Peninsula.

Three days earlier, an Eritrean woman, Mervat Mer Hatover was shot dead after she ignored orders to stop as she was attempting to jump over the barbed wire in the El Kuntilla border region, in south-eastern Sinai Peninsula. […]

An Amnesty International spokesperson said: ‘We’re concerned that the Egyptian border police are disregarding their duty in opening fire on people who may have in no way presented an immediate threat to life. ‘The international standards are clear: if lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not. ‘Desperate migrants should not be at the mercy of border guards who disregard basic international standards over using their weapons.’

On 30 January two migrants from Ivory Cost were shot and killed trying to cross the border south of Rafah. According to the Egyptian security forces, a 22-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman bled to death before an ambulance could reach them. […] On 19 January, another man from Ivory Cost bled to death after he was shot in the thigh at the border with Israel.

Of course these are not the only cases where lethal force is being used against migrants trying to enter relatively wealthy countries and it is sickening to see how the border guards of Egypt, Morocco and Turkey are doing the dirty work of the governments of the EU or Israel who could never justify their own border guards opening fire on migrants trying to enter their territories. As the amnesty spokesperson said: ‘if lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not.’ Africans crossing a fence hardly can be seen as posing a danger to anyone except themselves.

And while we are talking about dangerous behavior involving Israeli borders, i was quite stunned to read a couple of days ago that there seem to be people engaging in drug smuggling across the Lebanese – Israeli border. This particular border, between to countries that are technically at war with each other and which is probably one of the most surveilled and unstable places on the entire planet does not really strike me as the best place to run a drug smuggling outfit (unless of course if the inhabitants of northern Israel decided that getting stoned is the best way to ignore the whacky predictions of Hassan Nasrallah and pay a premium for their red lebanese).

Imagination of desperation (3): cloned vehicles

27 Jan 2008 | 217 words | border migration imagination branding

Not sure if all of them are used to get persons across the US/mexican border, but ABC news has a little item (‘Fake FedEx trucks, when Drugs absolutely have to get there‘) on what they call ‘cloned vehicles’:

Savvy criminals are using some of the country’s most credible logos, including FedEx, Wal-Mart, DirecTV and the U.S. Border Patrol, to create fake trucks to smuggle drugs, money and illegal aliens across the border, according to a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Termed “cloned” vehicles, the report also warns that terrorists could use the same fake trucks to gain access to secure areas with hidden weapons.

The report says criminals have been able to easily obtain the necessary vinyl logo markings and signs for $6,000 or less. Authorities say “cosmetically cloned commercial vehicles are not illegal.”

A fake U.S. Border Patrol van was found to be carrying 31 illegal aliens in Casa Grande, Ariz. An alert agent recognized that the “H” in the van’s serial number is a letter used only on U.S. Border Patrol Jeep Wranglers. It should have been a “P.”

Unfortunately the photos provided with the article are of inferior quality so i wont display them here. Check out the fake fedex truck and the fake border patrol truck on the ABCnews website.

Obscurity and confinement for migrants in Europe

05 Jan 2008 | 243 words | border europe migration xenophobia policy

The International Herald Tribune has an excellent article by Caroline Brothers on the spread of detention camps for foreigners that have mushroomed across the European Union (and the neighboring African and Eastern European countries). The article draws from the impressive work done my migreurop (and even links to their excellent map of migrants dentetion camps in Europe).

“Detention is a very serious measure in a democratic society – governments deprive people of their liberty when they are convicted of a serious crime,” said Katrine Camilleri, a refugee lawyer in Malta with the Jesuit Refugee Service, which on Dec. 18 published a report on conditions in detention centers in the 10 newest EU states.

“These people have committed no crime, and though human rights law allows for detention in very specific cases, even then you can’t detain people forever. Even 18 months is a very long time; it destroys them,” said Camilleri, who has just been honored by the UN refugee agency for her work in the face of arson attacks on her car and home.

The smallest centers hold a few dozen people; the biggest, more than 1,000. A network of them has quietly taken form with little scrutiny and few established norms, sometimes reusing old sites, like Rivesaltes in the south of France, which was one of the biggest French internment camps for Jews during World War II.

Go read the entire article here. [thanks to Isabelle for alerting me to this].

2007 most deadly year yet

So 2007 is coming to an end and it is time to draw up the balance. when it comes to migrants who have died trying to reach Europe, 2007 has been an exceptional bad year even though the powers that be seem to think otherwise. Back in august the IHT quoted spanish and italian officials that proudly proclaimed that the number of arrivals at their shores had been down from the numbers for the same period in 2007:

The deadly flow of flimsy boats crammed with migrants heading north across the Mediterranean has slowed substantially this summer. After years of surging arrivals, Italy and Spain, the initial destinations for thousands fleeing Africa for safety or jobs in Europe, are reporting drops of a third or more compared with last year.

Government officials in both countries trumpet success from more sea-borne patrols and better cooperation with African nations across the Mediterranean to reduce journeys that have seen often-unwanted migrants wash up in Europe and claimed thousands of lives in the past decade, experts estimate.

But even as Spain is reporting a sizable decrease in drownings, success is far from complete. With more obstacles in place, migrants appear to be taking greater risks. Fortress Europe, a migrant advocacy group, reports that the number of deaths among those seeking to reach Italy has remained stable, despite the drop this year in overall arrivals, suggesting that those who try face a more perilous journey.

Looking at my own figures i can only second this impression given by Gabriele del Grande. 2007 has been worse both in terms of incidents (55 in 2006 compared to 90 in 2007) and the number of victims of the European border regime (653 persons have died trying to reach europe in 2006. 2007 has already cost 730 lives). Of course these numbers do not represent the real tragedies that are taking place as they are derived from those incidents that are reported in the international press and as they only count those who are confirmed to have died (the numbers would quadruple if they would include all those reported to be missing).

While i have seen no year-ed figures for the number of arrivals it seems safe to say that spending money on stupid joint operations and videos aimed at scaring people away does not exactly work as intended. Neither does it keep people from coming to Europe nor does it keep them from dying while trying.

Update 26-12-2007: There is an excellent article (in German) about the same topic and specifically about the questionable role of frontex available on telepolis. Deadly incidents in the western mediterranean/atlantic in 2007Deadly incidents in the Eastern mediterranean in 2007

Re-erecting the border fences to combat piracy?

Yesterday a number of eastern european countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia & Slovenia) implemented the schengen agreement, by removing border control posts on the internal Schengen border crossings. Of course this does not mean that there will be no more border controls between these countries as there will be ‘random’ border police checks up to 30km away from the actual border.

As we have argued before the Schengen agreement is not so much about abolishing border(control)s but intended to modernize the system of selective admission to the national economies of western (and now central) Europe. From the perspective of nation states the ability to control the border-crossing public is traded-in for having a centralized database containing background information about suspected individuals (and stolen property) from all the member states.

Drawing of the bunker containing the SIS in a sleepy suburb of Strasbourg

For some reason this deal seems to make sense to most people (those inside the Schengen zone that is, as the external borders of the Schengen zone are much harder to cross for people trying to gain access) and so there have been various celebrations over the last couple of days. The only people who are not celebrating are those idiots from the GVU (the German equivalent of the RIAA/MPAA):

In an interview GVU’s director, Ronald Schäfer, warned that they were expecting more pirated CDs/DVDs in Germany now that the border with the Czech Republic would open (he comes short of suggesting that we should re-erect the iron curtain in order to keep those evil warez out of Germany). What a moron! He should shut the fuck up and go x-mas shopping! He probably also believes that region coding was a good idea and that piracy funds terrorism.

Of men and dogs

07 Oct 2007 | 199 words | europe border migration

While looking for photo material for the 4th edition of the crossing borders newsletter (which is a pretty pointless undertaking anyway as my old school anarchist friends continue to send me texts that are way to long to get any photos included in the newsletter) i came across the website of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine, which has been set up because – according to the EP – they have one of them ‘black holes in which illegal trade in arms, the trafficking in human beings and the laundering of criminal finance are carried on’ somewhere in the general area east of the EU (probably in Transnistria).

Now EUBAM has a mighty impressive website (especially when compared to the miserable FRONTEX website) that contains shitloads of highly amusing pictures. Especially if you are into photographs of meetings, euro-uniform pr0n and h4wt chicks doing the passport checking thing.

They even have an online photo exhibition titled ‘crossing the borders‘ [wtf?], which manages to give a remarkably dull picture of the average border police officer. looks like most of them are fat bastards with unfashionable beards and or hats who are extremely fond of their dogs:

Hollow land

02 Sep 2007 | 300 words | occupation israel border

Just finished reading Eyal Weizman’s impressive Hollow Land – Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. In the book Weizman describes of how the Israeli occupation gradually hollows out what is left of Palestine, by means of architecture. His understanding of architecture is fairly broad and includes aspects like spacial theories of urban warfare, the separation wall, airborne occupation, the strategic locations of west-bank settlements and the system of checkpoints. The chapter on checkpoints (‘The Split Sovereign and the One-Way Mirror’), which is one of the strongest one’s in the entire one includes this fantastic quote, which perfectly illustrates the insanity of the entire occupation project:

The checkpoints do not only carve up space, but also divide up time as well. Israel changes to daylight saving time a month after the rest of the world because of coalition agreements with ultra-Orthodox parties whose constituency’s hours of prayer are governed by celestial composition and level of daylight. The Palestinian Authority shifts it’s clocks to daylight-saving time in tune with the rest of the Northern hemisphere. In spring, a one-hour time difference opens up across the two sides of the checkpoints, creating two time zones. ‘The working day ends at 6pm local time but 7pm checkpoint time. the checkpoint shuts at 7pm it’s time. Until everybody got used to move the clock backwards and finish work an hour earlier, the checkpoint was blocked with hundreds of winter time people begging the summer time soldiers to allow them back home’.

[i think either Weizman or Azmi Bishara, from whom the the quote in the quote is taken must have confused summer and winter time here. if the initial explanation is correct then the soldiers are still on winter time and the workers are on summer time].

A number of more extensive reviews are available at roundtable.kein.org.

Tunisian sailors arrested for saving illegal immigrants

29 Aug 2007 | 462 words | africa europe border mediterranean dead people

So the Italians and the Spanish are claiming that this year there are much less immigrants trying to enter Europe via their shores, islands and outposts on the african mainland than last year. while this may be true this does neither mean that less people are dying on the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean while trying to get to Europe nor is it something that these governments should be particularly proud of. Looks like the italian authorities have just managed find themselves another way of ‘protecting’ europe form the ‘influx’ of African migrants:

Project meltingpot reports (in italian) that the authorities in Lampedusa arrested seven tunisian sailors for saving immigrants from drowning at sea. In case you can’t read italian (neither can i) the Maltese independent has a shorter article available in english:

On 8 August, seven Tunisian fishermen were arrested at Lampedusa and charged with having saved the lives of 44 migrants from rough seas 40 miles south of Lampedusa. The seven have been charged with having helped illegal immigrant trafficking, the same charge that was to be made against Raymond Bugeja. The seven are the two captains of two fishing boats from Monastir and their five-man crew.

The immigrants that included 11 women and two children had launched an SOS on a satellite phone.

While the Italian agency ADN Kronos claimed the two fishing vessels were the much discussed ‘mother ships’ which are said to bring the illegal immigrants to just below the horizon of either Malta or Lampedusa and from there launch the small boats the asylum seekers come in, other Italian sources dispute this: they argue the two fishing vessels were easily identifiable as being mother ships. Besides, no trace of any small boat was found. It also seems there were some language difficulties as the Tunisian ships entered Italian waters when they had been ordered to stay out.

The end result was that the seven were arrested and kept in prison and their boats seized by the Agrigento authorities, the simple reason being that they had just helped people who were drowning.

update (30.aug.07): There is an much more detailed english article on the fortress europe blog.

Oh, and do read the IHT article linked at the beginning. it contains some of the worst rhetoric i have come across in a long time:

They are perhaps the most stark component of a quandary Europe has had much trouble solving: how to continue to meet its international obligation to protect those fleeing war and persecution while keeping out those it fears will form a permanent underclass or, in the worst cases, expose their countries to terrorism.

Guess that is why they stick ‘security checked’ stickers on cruise ship passengers disembarking in Amsterdam to head for the coffee shops…

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: