Since the beginning of the year the deportation prison Bässlergut, at the Otterbach border in Basel, is being enlarged with a second building. With a discusion weekend from the 6th to the 8th of October 2017, taking place around the Bblackboxx, right next to the construction site of the new building, we wanted to share our criticism about this project with as many people as possible.
We wanted to exchange thoughts on these relations, our utopias and ways to resist. At the same time being present at this site should become part of the resistance against prisons, borders and repression. The event was organized by individuals who had been involved in these topics already an found together through it.

Diverse critics on the conditions that manifest in Bässlergut

The program started on Friday evening with a well attended NO-Lager-tour around the reception- and processing-center (Empfangs- und Verfahrenszentrum EVZ) the already present deportation-prison Bässlergut I and the construstion site of Bässlergut II. The knowledge of the day-to-day conditions behind these walls that had been collected in conversation with detainees was shared. This was followed by an input on the developments and relationships between the asylum- and justice system. This input made clear that the new building Bässlergut II is an expression of a development which will lead to a future where more migrants and destitute people will be imprisoned – who often are the same, going back and forth from deportation prison to penal prison in the new building.

With a general criticism of the prison as an institution throughout the last 200 years the Saturday session was opened. In small groups the subjective sense of security was discussed. It became apparent that a strong sense of social security in ones circle of friends or in political contexts was important. Whereas the structural security e.g. having a Swiss passport and the privileges that come with it played a less important role. Can one fear starvation when one has never starved? One of the participants described their privileges also as dependencies that can be withdrawn when one doesn‘t stick to the rules of the game (freedom of movement, various social services).

Through the initiative of a group of people who regularly visit prisoners in Bässlergut and prisoners themselves, a visit to the inmates took place to show solidarity. For a lot of the participants this was a new and important experience. And also the inmates were happy about this support. A regular visitor of Bässlergut prisoners said that he had never seen as many people in the visiting room of the prison before. This collective visit has led to organized, monthly visits (Agenda, S.70). Parallel to the prison visit, an introduction in the historical development of the idea and practice of custody was given. Under this term in Switzerland there exists a years long or lifelong imprisonment that can be ordered by psychiatrists with the help of computer programs. The discussion that followed in small groups was dedicated to the question of how a helpful practice (in solidarity) with mentally ill people should look like. A central point of the discussion was the criticism that psychiatric clinics dehumanize and try to “normalize” patients as well as the lack of knowledge and discomfort when dealing with mentally ill people in ones environment. To be able to help those affected by mental illness, one needs specialized knowledge and a social environment sensitive to their needs.

Later in the afternoon a brief story was told of how prisons in the U.S.A are currently being privatized. Prisons have become a lucrative business for private companies. Various international companies (including European ones) compete on this market, doing lobby work to establish more restrictive laws, exploiting prisoners as a cheap workforce.

The day ended with a film-screening by Kino Vagabund: Fragments of “Vol spécial” by Fernand Melgar and the short movie “Einspruch VI” by Rolando Colla. After the two movies, a controversial discussion began: Are consternation and identification with the victims of the deportation regime the right conditions for a political fight? Are the films demonstrating structural relations and taking a clear position to these? And, what use is it to watch, when one should spring into action?

On Sunday morning, a migrant without papers explained his way through the Swiss camps, prisons and psychiatries and how he ended up in a political environment, fighting for his own rights. He then described how an active resistance against the present system and the practice and exchange with like-minded people allowed him to have a long-term perspective in Switzerland.
Early in the afternoon, questions of privileges, guilt and solidarity were being defined and discussed in a workshop. One person without papers, that had been arrested for several months, said, that to him, visits in prison were a strong gesture of solidarity. At the same time he criticized that in Switzerland the equalization of the terms solidarity with the terms charity and charitable work is often being made. In some groups, there were also discussions about whether or not privileged people should use their privileges in a fight based on solidarity. This could be dangerous: It could reproduce the structures that generate these privileges. Another option would be to fully refuse structures that produce privileges, but this goes with a loss of possibilities to support others.

Food for thoughts about resistance

Our critical presence close to the new prison Bässlergut II, the deportation prison Bässlergut I and the EVZ was creating a form of resistance. There were many lively discussions, in which different topics were treated and critically examined. The presentations filled with interesting content and the broad spectrum of critique showed many structures and practices that need to be fought. It remained difficult to find ways how to translate this knowledge and exchange into a practice of resistance. In this way the weekend was raising indeed the wish to act, but didn’t really open up new perspectives of action. Instead it left some participants with a feeling of powerlessness. The question how and where shared knowledge can be transformed into a practice could have more importance in the planning of a further event like this one.
Several directly affected people insisted on the fact, that authentic and effective resistance requires a bigger willingness for actions that question also the life of one’s own and bring about risks (like money or prison sentences or the loss of privileges). Maybe it is indeed true, that people who are not yet living in a perilous situation, should take resistance more seriously and don’t let themselves stop by the risks that come along with it.

What use is it to watch, when one should spring into action?

During the mobilization process for the event we were often confronted with superficial questions about the deportation policy, but during the weekend the discussions were almost exclusively lead in a principal anti-capitalist mindset. The predominant discourse in this society on deportation policy in the style of “it is indeed a human tragedy, but nonetheless not all of them can come here” was not an issue during the weekend. This is on the one hand a comfortable basis for deeper discussions, on the other hand it can make us forget, how much every kind of alternative to the current migration regime requires a fundamental change of this society and can only be understood on this basis. If migration policy should change, the whole political and economical system must change, which also implicates a fundamental change of society.

Commonalities and exclusions

With around two hundred participants despite the cold and rainy weather, the event was quite well attended. People from the EVZ were present, although they were not participating much at the different activities, even tough they have been informed beforehand about the topics and possibilities of translations. The question arises if the framework of presentations with discussions is suitable for an exchange like this. Anyway, thanks to the excellent and permanent food supply the breaks were used to eat together and have more discussions in small groups.
Despite the spicy topic, the police appeared only two times openly on the spot. But still the repression had its effects on the weekend. Some interested people were on the other side of the prison walls and some others didn’t dare to attend the event because of the danger of prosecution and arrest.


On the 30th of October there was a further meeting at which the discussions focused more on perspectives and possibilities of resistance. At this meeting the necessity of a long term, open and transparent organization as well as the direct intervention in the public discourse and conditions became evident. Regular public exchange meeting are planned. And also other kinds of actions and discussions (like the collective visits in the prison Bässlergut I since the weekend) continue in a public way.
The construction of Bässlergut II continues until 2019 and probably the conditions materialised by it will persist beyond this date. An infrastructure that is being built, will be used in consequence. The joined resistance in discussions and actions against it remains a necissity!

Postcards from Italy: Ethnic raids and the state‘s military interest

“I‘m asking for more commitment in support of the military-industrial complex, in order to obtain additional funds for new armed systems and enforcement the of the European defence with the constitution of new military divisions coordinated with NATO‘s intervention force.”
Minniti in 2006

The 12th of April 2017 the Italian government approved two decrees regarding immigration and security. The laws are signed by the new ministry of the Interior, Domenico (alias Marco) Minniti. Behind them, there is the embitterment of measures driven by the logic that persist in treating migration’s phenomena with police and military instruments of governance and contention; the same logic that persecutes organisations of mutual aid and opposition movements in a warlike manner. The renewed pervasion of intervention of a boosted public force is justified in the name of a securitarianism alarm. The institutions proclaim themselves as interpreters of a “widespread perception of insecurity”.
The profile of the neo-ministry leaves no doubts about the interests linked to his mandate. The curriculum vitae of the “sub-secretary of defence for cooperation with UE, NATO and US and arm industry promotion” during the Amato‘s government (2000 – 2001), has recently been reconstructed.1 It would be enough here to recall that he is also the founder of the agency ICSA (Intelligence Culture and Strategic Analysis) together with the ex-president Cossiga (the repression‘s strategy of which are sorely well known2). A centre of study in matters of intelligence and military defence, this political foundation “boasts” to have as members of its board a high officer of NATO, commandants of specials forces, and permanent members of OSCE. This organisation works in collaboration not only with secret services, but also with the Italian industrial confederation and receives business oriented funding from the private industrial sector.3

Illegalisation and detention

It has recently been shown (by the Antigone association) that the measures of the decree on the matter of immigration will aliment the mechanism of production of illegal individuals.4
With the reinforcements of the French, Austrian and Swiss borders, the electronic taking of fingerprints (perpetuated with the use of force and without legal basis by the hotspots structures) prevent migrants from seeking asylum in other states, landing in a trap situation inside Italian territory.
Among the measures of the decree, there is the abolition of the appeal proceedings in the asylum request procedure. Furthermore, there is no obligation on the part of the judge to listen to the asylum seeker. In short, the refusal of the request by the “territorial commissions” arrives without the right to be heard and is not contestable if not in third degree.5 The government codifies by facts the existence of a juridical system with two different parameters: A distinct juridical apparatus for foreigners that dismiss the guarantees.
The decree reintroduces and potentates the disastrous coercive answer that caused the installations of dis-human structures like the C.I.E. (Centers of Identification and Expulsion). The law establishes new detention institutions (called Centers of Permanence for Repatriation), it increases their numbers and enlarges the typology of forced detentions. The time limits for the permanence are also prolonged.

“The very concrete risk is that it will increase, in dimensions and impact, a specific detention circuit for foreigners that would be deprived of even the minimum of guarantees of the penal sector.”6

The measures of the decree go hand in hand with the police agreements made between the Italian government and some military troops of the Libyan Coast Guard, with Tunisia, and Niger. The agreement with Libyan authorities – the contents of which have come partially to light last February – has as its objective the patrolling of the coasts, the financing of Libyan detention structures and the military support in the closure of the southern border that separates Libya from Nigeria. In synergy with the EU and the Frontex agency, the Italian government trains military units, supplies patrol boats and will provide radar monitoring structures.7
The text of the law also mentions that the allocation of funds aiming to send troops in protection of Italy’s commercial interests in Africa.8
The critiques raised against the immigration decree have denounced its propagandistic character; its purpose to pry the “monopoly of the narrative of the immigrant danger” out of the hands of political forces on the right, in order to cynically ensure the calculated electoral pay-off.
Juridical associations exposed the inadmissibility of the emergency legislation in those matters, they point the finger to the violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the unconstitutionality of the laws.
But on a basic level, much more is at stake: a common design is traced between the two decrees, at the heart of which there is a precise idea of social order. This normativity, strongly exclusionary, is structured in synergy with the interests of military and commercials holdings. It takes shape through a vertical management of social conflictuality and it relies on techniques of disciplinarian and capillary control of mobility.
The targets of the punitive-administrative measures are individuals or categories that are considered politically undesirable; marginalised by the economic crisis or suspects for the economical-productive apparatus as not- extractable forces.

Militarisation and mobility control

The decree in regard to security denies resources to the local administrations, preventing them from implementing social policies in support of the living conditions of the less well-off, instead, it authorises mayors and prefects to persecute the poor segments of the population with police and administrative actions.
It is illustrative, in this sense, that one entire article is about the promotion of the exacerbation of repressive police action against the “arbitrary” occupations of buildings and the legitimisation of the increment of the use of force during the evictions.
Those measures affect the subjects fighting for the right to housing and put them in even greater danger. Subjects to whom the residency (status that ensures civil rights like the access to public health) have already been deprived by previous legislation which prevents those who occupied a place from attaining residency and asking for running water and electricity. The same measures apply to the non-residential occupations, preparing the legal ground for the embitterment of the use of force in situations of organised political dissent and in the persecution of solidarity and mutual aid associations.
The legislation about the “decorum”, contained in the security decree aggravates the punishments for “whoever engages in conduct that prevents the access and the fruition of rail and public transport infrastructures (stationary and mobile) and their appliances, in violation of no-stopping zones”.
It is not hard to understand how any kind of collective demonstration could easily fit within this label. Besides the evident objective of the legitimisation of the use of force as an instrument of contention of political struggles (through the criminalisation of pickets, demonstrations, strikes and every temporary blockage of the flow of production), the mention of “internal areas” of rail stations and other public places likely to provide shelter leads to a further, bitter, reflection: even resting or making a stop can be used in different way by the securitarianism policy.9
If the state is dealing with a docile residential citizenship to reassure, sleep became the good to protect, the pretext for a widespread surveillance of the quarters10; but if it deals with who is leaving with great difficulty, who found himself marginalised, then his rest can be constantly opposed and authoritatively denied.
In the era of “integrated security”, the relief from fatigue is a good in which governance invests, that can be allowed in differentiated ways and became a right for the few. No-stopping zones, orders to leave, red zones and other sanctions are put at the discretion of police forces and local administrations. In this way, those who are subject to those measures are deprived of the guarantees of the penal sector. Those orders have a strategic character.

“The battle for decorum has to be read in strict connection with others political conflicts in which the implementation of administrative instruments is common. Oral advises or expulsion orders delivered in val Susa and in other cities with active social movements are illustrative. Besides the gap between declared aims and effective objectives, they also show the improper use of those measures.”11

The interdiction of the territories “of interest” has important precedents in the governmental measures aiming to hit oppositions movements as the No TAV fights in val Susa or the movement against the construction of the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) in Salento. In 2012, Berlusconi‘s government labelled the territories of the TAV as “areas of strategic national interest, in which access is denied in the military interest of the state”. With Renzi‘s governmental measure of 2015, the prohibition was also applied to the zones of construction of the TAP, as territory “characterised by nation priority and strategic interest”.
The synchronicity of administrative measures and territorial militarisation against a population treated as “internal enemy” is not entirely new. Those mechanics are activated in favour of multinational consortium and industries and follow a purely police logic that establishes “a singular hierarchy of importance between the safety of things and the safety of people”.12
The effects of this management of order and decorum didn’t wait long to show up. Some administrations even acted pro-actively, as in Bari where the communal administration tried to crackdown on activists and collectives before the G7 finance summit. In Bologna, the G7 on Environment has been preceded by the delivering of expulsion orders. In May 2017, under the order of the prefecture, the police (with helicopters and mounted troops) blocked the exits of Milan‘s train station and executed searches of people and controls on all the subjects of non-Caucasian racial groups. During the same month, in Rome, Niam Maguette lost his life in the attempt to escape from a police raid. His crime? He was a street vendor.

This text put together press review and personal reflection of the author. While analyzing the discriminatory assumptions and the catastrophic effects of the new Italian law regarding security and migration, this text wants to rise attention to the connections existing between economical interests and control of mobility. The author of this article grew up in Italy. Like many people of her generation, after fighting against the cuts in education and social spending following the economical crises, she left the country in search (maybe illusory) of better conditions.