... in xenophobia

Internet here (fast and cheaper)

Came across this installation in front of a small internet cafe/phone shop in Psiri in the center of Athens yesterday:

When i took pictures of it a guy the indian shopkeeper of a mini market across the street came out of his shop and asked me why i was taking pictures of this ‘ugly piece of crap’. Before i could even answer him the owner of the internet cafe came out and responded to him that this was ‘creativity’ not crap, to which i agreed. During the resulting conversation with Rana (the owner) which for some reason centered on the fact that he liked Amsterdam a lot (no not because of the legal dope or any of the usual reasons people have for liking Amsterdam, but because he had perceived Amsterdam as a place without the racism he encounters in Athens, which given the xenophobic tendencies in Holland in the last couple of years i found quite remarkable) he mentioned that he was a Bengali from Kolkatta. This sparked another round of insults from the mini market shop keeper, who insisted that Rana was in fact not a Bengali but from Bangladesh adding extra flavor to the earlier complaint about racism in Greece.

Integratie vooral probleem voor autochtonen

06 Nov 2006 | 82 words | migration netherlands xenophobia

Excellent headline from last Saturday’s NRC handelsblad!! (it roughly translates to ‘integration primarily a problem of the natives’ (bablefish suggests ‘autochthons‘ as a translation for autochtonen, but i think natives fits it better).

The article goes on to point out that according to a recent survey immigrants (allochtonen) do not consider integration as an important issue, while the native population (autochtonen) does perceive it as the 4th most important issue (the top three are the health-care system, criminality and cost of living).

One Friday

01 Nov 2006 | 236 words | england islam migration xenophobia media terrorism

The Guardian is running quite an impressive piece titled ‘One Friday‘ on its website today [i know that it is wednesday today but then those brits drive on the wrong side of the road and are generally confused when it comes to just about every measurement, so this not all too shocking]:

Criticised for their beliefs, clothing and attitudes; accused of not being British enough; reviled as the enemy within – not a day passes without Muslims being attacked in the media. So how does it feel to be Muslim in Britain today? Guardian writers asked people around the country – from a rear admiral to an organic farmer, a rapper to a gay rights campaigner, an accountant to a niqab-wearing teacher – to tell us how they spent last Friday. A G2 special.

Go read it here (warning, it is really long!). My favorite sentence is ‘the other day the internet cafe opposite me was raided, allegedly as part of a transatlantic terror plot. It was ridiculous.’

Which reminds me that we still know next to nothing about that transatlantic terror plot in question. still no news on how exactly they planned to blow up those planes without passports, explosives or tickets. Also not much more information on why liquids on a plane are dangerous. We do however know that denying people to take liquids on a plane is not only stupid but actually dangerous.

Victory of the weak....

20 Oct 2006 | 394 words | migration netherlands education policy xenophobia

It is not very often that those who are supposed to be the weakest members of a social group manage to slip through policies designed to exclude them from resources. Apparently though, this seems to be what is happening in the case of the stupid language tests that the Dutch government has imposed on would-be immigrants a while back. To recap, would-be immigrants have to do a basic dutch language test in their countries of origin before they get permission to come to the Netherlands even if they do qualify for a residence permit. Now these language tests are pretty basic and fully computerized and they are clearly designed to weed-out immigrants with lower education so that only ‘desirable highly-educated’ immigrants are let into the Netherlands.

Now apparently this policy is a complete failure. i recently talked to a couple of civil servants from the city of Amsterdam and they told me that the whole system does not work at all: According to them it is the low-skilled, lower educated immigrants who pass this language test and the high-skilled, highly-educated would-be immigrants who miserably fail to do so. Of course this was not really satisfactory from the view of the sick bureaucrats who came up with this stupid idea in the first place and consequently they ordered some research into this issue:

So it appears that people with relatively low education have ‘auditive memory‘ and are good in ‘instructive learning‘ while people with higher education levels seem to have predominatly ‘visual memory‘ and engage in ‘experimental learning‘.

What this comes down to, is that people with lower education are better at remembering phrases thrown at them and repeat them to a computer than people with higher education who do seem to get lost in this simple procedure partly because they get offended by the setup. The result is, that non-western people (of course in good old apartheid-style white western people do not have to take this test) with higher education currently seem to have an extremely hard time getting into this little arrogant country. Now this is not to the liking of those who came up with this system and those civil servants i talked to (who did not come up with this system) were pretty sure that within the next 6 months this policy will get canned. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

I do not get it...

10 Oct 2006 | 427 words | netherlands xenophobia deportations

A little bit more than a year ago 11 people burned to death, locked up in a deportation prison on the premises of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. they had been locked-up there because their presence in the Netherlands had been deemed illegal by the xenophobic dutch government.

A while ago some organizations staged a poster competition that called for designs for a poster to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the blaze and today they revealed the winning design at ImagineIC (link is in dutch). while i really liked the initiative to have this poster competition i am rather puzzled by the outcome: all of the designs are extremely abstract and to be honest, i absolutely do not get the winning design:

Makes me see a Dutch flag and the words ‘sour’, ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter’. somebody better explain me what this has to do with 11 people burning to death as the closest association i have is that burned flesh does have a distinctive ‘sweet’ smell, but i am quite sure that is not what the designer had in mind.

Now one of the organizers told me that i do not get it because i am ‘a foreigner’ and apparently the the govenernement has recently described the economic situation in the Netherlands as having been ‘sour’ during the past four years and promised that from now the times would be ‘sweet’ (hint: there will be elections in about a month).

Given this the poster still does not make sense to me. my best guess is that the Dutch must see some contradiction between their national flag and the ‘bitterness’ resulting from the Schiphol blaze. Given that most Dutch people that i know seem to have chosen to ignore the transformation into a xenophobic, paranoid, racist society which their country has undergone in the last 5 years and still believe that the Netherlands (and its flag) stand for feel-good liberalism, tolerance and openness, it might very well be the case that they perceive this poster as inherently contradictory.

Now it might have to do with the fact that i was indeed raised and born in Germany (and thus ‘a foreigner’) that i see any national flag pretty much representing exactly those chauvinistic attitudes that support murderous policies carried out against foreigners all over europe. For me this poster looks like a dutch flag with some arbitrary words on it (which first made me think of the amsterdam club called bitterzoet) and i seriously wonder how many foreigners in this country will be susceptible to the presumed irony of this design.

Counting the dead

Since december 2002 I have been counting dead people. To be more specific I have been collecting news reports about migrants that have been killed while trying to get to Europe. Since i have started i have found news articles documenting a total of 1354 1356 deaths and these are only those incidents that have been mentioned in news sources indexed by google news or which I have stumbled upon while reading the newspaper (and this figure does not include the people reported to be missing after the many incidents involving ships, most of them can be safely assumed to be dead as well). In addition there are lots of incidents that never make it into these publications.

I never really questioned myself why i am doing this, I just started to do it once it became feasible without to much hassle (e.g when google news got launched). Clearly i am not expecting that someday someone stumbles across the page, realizes how fucked up the the european attitude towards migrants is and then changes the system. People generally do not care when people with a different skin color die, and i do not really think this will ever change.

Also I never really found other people engaged in the particular activity of counting dead migrants. So imagine my astonishment when i came across someone who does not only also count dead migrants but on top of it knows exactly why he is doing it:

Martin Kelly runs a ‘new occasionalseries‘ on his blog ‘the purpose of which is to record the deaths of migrant workers’. Now that sounds pretty similar to what i am doing, but our Mr. Kelly here has a real mission:

He is collecting migrant deaths in the UK to prove that mass migration is bad and because of this ‘common humanity dictates that somebody try and keep track of the casualty figures’ of the poor souls ‘who would still be alive if tighter border and labour controls were in place’. Thankfully for the rest of the ‘british victims of migrant criminals’ Mr. Kelly has come to the rescue and taken up the burden of recording these incidents so that someday someone will stumble across his blog and decides that ‘common humanity’ dictates that a wall must be built around british isles, because ‘until we are prepared to change our ways, such tragedies as happened yesterday will continue. As migration grows, there will be more of them…’

Guess you have to be pretty fucked up to come to this kind of conclusions when reading about a car incident. This guy really leaves me speechless… what a fucking idiot!

Here are some more argumentative jewels form his insane ‘Right-Wing Rants, Ramblings, Ravings and Ruminations from the West of Scotland‘:

That the process of identifying the migrants should be estimated to be ‘lengthy’ exposes the laxity and inadequacy of our migration controls. Yet consider also its inhumanity – these men died here, far away from their own homes and families, and there is no one official to whom the police can turn who will be guaranteed to know their names. […]

They join Jean Charles de Menezes, Karolina Mikolajewska [pk: a polish care worker murdered in Bristol in feb 2006], the october men [pk: no clue here] and the martyrs of Morecambe Bay in the ranks of mass migration’s victims; for they are victims, just as surely as any British victim of a migrant criminal.

If we had had an immigration system that worked, De Menezes might have been deported; but at least he would still be alive! […]

Now i can read heartfelt sympathy for all those victims from the quotes above. Almost makes me believe that he really cares for the poor victims. In fact he seems to care so much that he has another blog purely focussed on ensuring that the family of Jean Charles de Menezes will not be compensated for his liquidation by the Metropolitan Police.

Dutch über alles!

Got reminded again that the Netherlands have turned into a society of discussing racist cowards less then 10 hours after arriving back back in amsterdam. on the front-page of todays Volkskrant there is an article titled ‘Verdonk: op straat alleen Nederlands‘ (link requires paid registration). In English this translates into ‘Verdonk: Dutch must be spoken in the streets’. Apparently the minster for ‘integration’ has completely lost her mind (not that this is any news). The local website for english speaking non-dutch speakers has the following summary the speech given by the minister last weekend:

Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk favors the introduction of a code of conduct for the public to emphasize Dutch identity, including speaking Dutch in the street

I really do not know what to say about this. What about the fact that the Netherlands have been in the front line for criticizing the turks for not allowing the kurds to speak kurdish in public for a long time? They even made this a requirement for Turkey in order to start membership talks with the EU. does that mean that the Netherlands should be kicked out of the EU?

And why would any sane individual want to have more Dutch spoken in the street anyway? It is one of the most ugly sounding languages in the whole universe (if in doubt try travelling in the bord-bistro of a sunday evening berlin amsterdam intercity train). I would rather listen to anything expressed in Arabic or Tamazight (the two languages that Verdonk really wants to ban with her stupid proposal).

What the visa?

Today i soend most of my day trying to get a schengen visa for programmer/activist from cote d’ivoire and that meant i had to make lots of phone calls to cote d’ivoire and while doing that i dialed wrong numbers a couple of times.

Now if you dial the wrong number locally people are usually pissed that you disturb them. not so in this case, each time i got connected with someone wrong, the people started me asking all kinds of questions about me or amsterdam or what i was wearing (sic!) and generally tried to keep me on the phone for as long as possible which is a pretty interesting way of wasting your time… Much better than talking to the people you really need to talk to as the staff of the belgian embassy in abidjan is extremely not-funny, inflexible, rude (they hung up on me twice) and non cooperative when it coes to getting a visa on time.

Bottom line is Yapi won’t come to what the hack, because the Dutch don’t know where their embassy is (they send him to the embassy in Ghana where he was told that instead he should have gone to the belgian embassy in abijan) and the Belgians are rude, not-funny and not felxible at all…

Mit dem zweiten sieht man besser

11 Jun 2005 | 39 words | berlin xenophobia politics migration

Kanak-Attak has started a beautiful poster campaign against the practice of expatriating immigrants with german passports when they also hold another nationality (passport). The campaign uses a slogan and the look and feel of the german television station ZDF.

Firewalling Holland

05 Feb 2005 | 424 words | migration racism xenophobia netherlands politics

Just came across an article in todays NRC [‘import-bride has to know thorbecke’] about the dutch gouvernement moves towards requiring a Dutch language and culture exam before a person is allowed to settle in the Netherlands. not that this means that by passing the exams you have the right to settle in NL, but if you have acquired the right to settle e.g because you are married to a dutch citizen or someone who has a residence permit you still neet to pass the tests or you won’t get in. (of course all of this does not applies to citizens of the eu, Switzerland, the us, canada australia and new zealand).

So you have to pass a test on dutch history and society (mainly testing stuff that dutch people have been taught in school immediately forgotten afterwards) and a language test. the language test is suposed to be completely computerized. the test will be conducted via a telephone line form special rooms in dutch embassies and consulates around the world. the computer is not only serving the questions and judging your answers (it has to asses complex things like re-narrations of short stories which as far as i can tell is quite daunting task in itself given the current state of technology). also the verdict of the computer is final there is no possibility of appealing a verdict once given. also for each attempt at the 30 minute test euro 350 has to be paid up-front by the applicant.

If i remember it correctly my last encounter with complex speech recognition technology dates back three years or so and at that point i failed to book a train ticket via the phone answering to simple questions in my mother language. that a centralized computer system can cope with 1001 accents that it is inevitably going to encounter seems to be completely unrealistic to me. so maybe we are starting to see a new form of migration management this time with ‘objective’ computer technology acting as a filter. if this becomes practice (the system does exist but its use still needs to be authorized by parliament) you can fulfill all the legal requirements for settling in the netherlands and still not be granted entry because the computer des not get your accent (or the software fails altogether or the phone line is bad or because you are chinese and cant pronunce the R and the computer wants you to pronunce ‘gras’ (speaking of dutch culture here aren’t we) but you only manage to say ‘glas’…

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: