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How Refugees Resist and Why They Don't Need Your Help

Self-organisation first!
We call for campaign on political Self organizational process of the oppressed communities like the refugees. Our struggle of resistance against the injustice of the oppressors without a vision has no mission - My mission is for a movement of our life time conviction and solution. My remark, Osaren Igbinoba

How Refugees Resist and Why They Don't Need Your Help
Photo from the 20. years anniversary of The VOICE Refugee Forum in Jena (2014)

Telesur Tv. net: Opinion > Interviews with Osaren Igbinoba​

Igbinoba mocked more high-profile European groups like Welcome Refugees, which have “no resistance, no struggle” and for whom “humanitarianism is selective” in the face of continuing deportations.

He added that he won’t wait for “so-called leftists,” “so-called democracy” or the media—which “doesn’t have anything for us” and “mak(es) a joke out of refugees”—to catch up.

How Refugees Resist and Why They Don't Need Your Help
By: Naomi Cohen,

"If you've come to help me, you're wasting your time," reads the cover photo of a refugee-only Facebook group, quoting the Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson. (See Full quote below the article)

Osaren Igbinoba came alone to Germany in 1994 to escape the military dictatorship in Nigeria. He was politically vocal there, and even participated in anti-apartheid solidarity protests, but much of his political disillusionment—and radicalization—came in Germany, he told teleSUR.

While held at the Muhlhausen refugee camp with more than 500 others in Thuringia, Igbinoba connected with other Nigerian, Congolese and Liberian political prisoners to spread the word in their new country about the repression they had faced in their home countries. The more time they spent in Germany and away from their home countries, their target began to shift.

Heavy organizing, he said, helped secure their quick transfer to camps that, in most cases, had better conditions. Others went straight to deportation camps.

After spending a night in deportation prison for a year in 1995, Igbinoba said that he went underground and was refused asylum three times. After the third appeal, three years after his arrival, he was granted asylum and left the camps behind for good.

By then, Igbinoba’s African network had been organizing for three years as the VOICE Africa Forum. Soon enough, refugees and migrants from other nationalities joined in, and they rebranded in 2004 as the VOICE Refugee Forum, which created a Facebook community in February.

Now, Igbinoba is at the center of two of Germany’s most dynamic networks for and by refugees, with the stated goals of only serving the community’s self-empowerment, self-determination and autonomy. His second group, the Refugee-Migrants Political Community Movement Activism, verifies that each Facebook member is a refugee or migrant and explicitly states in its manifesto that: “ Self-organization goes beyond telling our stories and our problems to the others.”

Photo: The VOICE Refugee Forum

Neither group touches funds or organizes its own events, but operates to advertise protests and initiatives, practical information and motivational or theoretical material. Igbinoba remains one of the most active contributors, always posting with a clear anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-colonial perspective.

“It’s not just a mobilization, it’s a movement,” he said, stressing that those involved are committed for the long term because they have their own lives on the line. Since they shed the institutional and political baggage of self-styled pro-refugee groups, Igbinoba said, they have not been slowed down by resulting obstacles and disillusion.

Many arrived in Germany optimistic about speaking to politicians or teaming up with nonprofits, but Igbinoba said their hopes quickly dissolved as they realized the serial cooption of their voices and amnesia after specific, often empty wins.

Leftists may have “good intentions, but they compliment themselves in keeping the repression of refugees,” said Igbinoba, adding that the paternalistic image of refugees that has been created is then used to justify war. “You are not born to be a refugee,” he said, before pointing out that refugees are united by state criminalization.

Differences of opinion are unavoidable, especially with Syrians joining from mixed political allegiances, but the group’s main purposes—to fight isolation camps, freedom of movement, police brutality and deportation and to connect exile to German foreign policy—is explicit. Those who don’t agree can leave.

By focusing on policies that most affect them, the refugees have secured tangible changes. Germany had a law that confined refugees to the the town where they stayed, no matter how long they had lived there or how close the neighboring town. The VOICE Refugee Forum launched a campaign in 2000 to abolish the law, teaming up with t he Caravan for the Rights of Refugees, a refugee group that tours camps to organize against the criminalization of refugees. The policy now only applies to refugees housed for the short term but is sometimes enforced on others arbitrarily.

Refugees in the network also worked to close over a dozen isolation camps around Germany since 2012 and stop hundreds of deportations directly and indirectly, said Igbinoba.

As the conversation around refugees evolves, so does their activism. Groups have grown where needs sprouted, employing whatever tools are available at the time. While Igbinoba’s decentralized networks have largely not been visible to the public, many of their events held within refugee-only spaces, others opt for media-grabbing tactics, from hunger strikes to the occupations of public plazas.

Internal debates on exclusion based on legal status, gender and nationality have created splinter groups with their own priorities. Women in Exile campaign around issues affecting women and LGBT refugees, the Sans Papier movement in France and Belgium campaign for fair employment for the undocumented, No Border challenges border control while Lampedusa in Hamburg highlights how restrictions on movement are transnational.

Spontaneous campaigns have also come out of various labor disputes, where the battleground is often the courts and specific instances of repression, such as convictions of protesters for "human smuggling" in Vienna and the burning alive of Oury Jalloh, a Sierra Leonean asylum seeker, in his detention cell — whose case has drawn attention from renowned activists like political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal. Every once in awhile, refugees organize pan-European events like the International Refugee Conference or the “A Day Without U.S.” protests inspired by the undocumented immigrant movement in the United States.

Despite attempts to connect campaigns across the continent, activism tends to orbit around Germany and be localized, running on few funds. France, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece and the United Kingdom have smaller caravans and movements.

Igbinoba mocked more high-profile European groups like Welcome Refugees, which have “no resistance, no struggle” and for whom “humanitarianism is selective” in the face of continuing deportations.

He added that he won’t wait for “so-called leftists,” “so-called democracy” or the media—which “doesn’t have anything for us” and “mak(es) a joke out of refugees”—to catch up.

“Self organization is the only way to keep up the movement,” he said. With conflicts in 2015 creating 65 million new refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced, according to a UNHCR report released Monday, Igbinoba will certainly have more wood to fuel the fire.

"If you've come to help me, you've wasting your time.
But if you've come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." by Lila Watson, Aboriginal educator and activist, Australia (full Quote)


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