The Immigrant Solidarity Network (GDA) and non-governmental organizations from Africa and Europe held the "Transborder Conference" between 15 and 18 March in Istanbul. Pursuant to the conference, the organizations went to the immigration centre in Edirne close to the Greek border. They protested the centre by chanting slogans like "No to borders" and "Freedom for everybody".
Ayşe Akalın from the GDA said in a statement made to bianet that the immigration centre in Edirne was opened under the name of a "guest house" but that it actually was more like a "prison".
Akalın drew attention to the fact that immigration traffic to Europe was mainly flowing via Turkey and Edirne in particular. Thus, this centre was of critical importance, Akalın underlined.
Several NGOs from Europe and Africa and opposition groups held various workshops at the Galatasaray and Mimar Sinan Universities in Istanbul as part of the four-day conference.
Akalın explained that European security systems regarding immigration were implemented more or less the same way in every country. In every country, opposition NGOs got organized to counteract these policies. Akalın said they were taking efforts for a joint struggle.
"We aim at bringing local organizations together to learn different methods of struggle from each other. We also take efforts to be able to move as a transnational network", she explained.
"The number of entries to Europe via France and Spain has considerably decreased due to policies implemented in Europe. For the time being Turkey is the busiest crossroad. The centre in Edirne is of critical importance. That is why activists from other countries wanted to obtain information about Turkey".
"It is not a guesthouse but a prison"
After the conference, Akalın went to the "confinement centre" in Edirne as part of a group of approximately 60 people.
Akalın said that they wanted to draw attention to the fact that the centre was not a guest house but a prison. They supported the people staying in the centre, she told bianet.
"We held our protest action right in front of the door. We started chanting slogans like 'Freedom to everybody' and 'No frontiers'. We immediately received positive reactions from the immigrants. We established mutual contact despite the walls between us".
"Recognition of the right to free movement"
Çağdaş Önder read out a press release on behalf of the GDA in Turkish, Russian, Greek, English, Arabic, Persian and French.
"Frontiers are the actual problem", Önder declared. "We are in front of a new and luxury building. But this building was not made to provide social services. To the contrary, it is a detention centre. It is a detention centre for people who did not commit any crime but were arrested just because they crossed the border. Governments and authorities criminalize immigrants more and more every day and they show them as a threat".
"In recent years, travelling without proper papers was brought to the agenda as a major problem. In our opinion, the actual problem is the restriction of the free movement of people, the obstruction of the right to live where people want and the lack of access to the most fundamental rights at the place they live".
"This centre was built only a few kilometres away from the detention centres in Meriç and the wall to be built on the Greek border. We visited several similar centres in different places of the world. All these places implement anti-immigrant policies (...)".
"We take a stance against global inequalities and racism, mechanisms of control and oppression, confinement centres, walls and deportation and we advocate for a dignified life, for the right to freedom of movement, the removal of borders and the right to settlement". (EKN/VK)