Are you interested in the work of Seebrücke? Do you follow the events in the Mediterranean Sea and wonder what you can do personally? Or do you just want to hear and see what the current state of affairs is, who is involved with us, and what we are currently working on and planning? Then contact us and join the movement!
We meet regularly
Every two weeks on Sundays at 7 PM
in the city center of Mannheim or via video call to exchange information about current events and planed actions. You can find more info about the meeting and us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or by sending us an email. We always welcome fellow supporters! No prior experience is necessary.
"Places of Isolation" - art installations of the Seebrücke:Signpost
Nationwide installations for places of European isolation
As part of the nationally coordinated action "Places of Isolation," the Seebrücke organization is setting up public art installations in over 15 cities across Germany. Using orange signposts, locations of European isolation are marked, making visible the human rights violations associated with them in everyday life. This includes both symbolic and concrete locations that represent Europe's isolation, such as various institutions and authorities, airports, as well as camps and border facilities at the external borders of Europe.
The signposts will be permanently installed in busy locations in over 15 German city centers and serve as both a humanitarian orientation aid and a memorial against the ongoing human rights violations in Europe. In particular, they aim to show how common and close deportations can occur, how people are detained daily in deportation prisons or camps in the middle of Europe, or how asylum seekers are systematically prevented from crossing safe borders.
Currently, four signposts are visible in the Mannheim cityscape: at the Alte Feuerwache, at ALTER, in the House of the Catholic Church, and at peer23. Learn more about the "Places of Isolation" here.
The Mediterranean Sea is the deadliest border in the world. Every year, over 1,000 people who have tried to flee across the Mediterranean Sea are reported missing or dead. In 2022, the number was over 1,940, with the actual number of fatalities likely much higher. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as many people have drowned since January of this year as in the past six years combined.
There are virtually no safe routes of escape to the EU. That's why many people looking for safety and peace are forced to undertake the life-threatening journey across the Mediterranean, often in unseaworthy boats.
Although there is a legal obligation to rescue people in distress at sea, there is no European search and rescue program. Civilian search and rescue organizations attempt to compensate for these missing structures, but their work is increasingly difficult. For example, the FDP-led German Ministry of Transport is currently planning a new ship safety regulation that will severely restrict civilian search and rescue efforts. Even when it is possible to rescue refugees in distress, Mediterranean coastal states often refuse to allow ships to dock in ports and let refugees disembark, despite dramatic humanitarian emergencies on board. For example, Italy's ultra-right government systematically assigns ports in northern Italy to search and rescue NGOs so that ships need more time to return to the search and rescue (SAR) zone to save people from drowning.
People on the run in the Mediterranean Sea are repeatedly victims of so-called pushbacks. There are numerous reports of refugees who have already made it to coastal waters or even to the coast being pushed or dragged back into open water, often using brutal force. In the central Mediterranean, it is also common practice to report boats to the "Libyan coast guard," which then returns them to Libya. This contradicts Article 33 of the Geneva Refugee Convention, which prohibits the rejection of refugees to areas where their lives and freedom are threatened.
At the end of 1991, a collective accommodation center was set up in the Schönau district of Mannheim for refugees, mostly of Kurdish and Yugoslav origin. From the beginning, the mood was tense, and the residents opposed the establishment. At the end of May, racist riots erupted against the collection center, where over 200 people lived. Triggered by a false rumor, a mob of up to 150 people gathered in front of the accommodation center for several evenings at the end of May. On May 28, the situation escalated, and more and more people joined in. About 400 people threatened the residents and threw stones, bottles, and firecrackers. Although the police quickly arrived on the scene, the residents still had to stay in the accommodation center in fear. There were further threatening situations repeatedly. The local and regional press, as well as the then-mayor, played down the situation. Anti-racist counter-protests that formed after May 28 were criminalized. A large demonstration planned for June 6 was also banned and brutally broken up by the police. Until today, nothing on-site commemorates the racist incidents. The old barracks have now been demolished.
The Evros River is the border river between Turkey and Greece, and thus marks an EU external border. Many refugees try to cross the river in search of safety and with the desire to apply for asylum in Europe. The region around the border river is the scene of brutal and violent pushbacks (i.e. illegal returns to Turkey) by Greek security forces. Pushbacks are a violation of international law, as they contradict the Geneva Refugee Convention: no asylum seeker may simply be pushed back to a country where their safety is at risk. People are also systematically mistreated, robbed, and imprisoned. Again and again, people drown when they are forced to cross the river again towards the Turkish side. The violence at the Evros border is well-documented, but in most cases, it remains without consequences.
Recently, a border wall has been gradually installed on site. Even though the EU refused to cover the costs of the isolation this time, the Greek government is sticking to its plan. In March, Prime Minister Mitsotakis announced that the fence would be extended by another 35 kilometers. This will not result in fewer refugees arriving - rather, the consequence is an increasingly risky flight and more deaths.
The Ministry of the Interior in Stuttgart reports on its website that it is sending its own officials to support Frontex at the EU's external borders: "In order to cope with the high migration flows to Europe and Germany, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) has significantly intensified its operations at the EU's external borders. A key goal of these efforts is the targeted control and simultaneous mitigation of internal migration in Europe. Currently, over 1,500 police officers from EU member states are deployed at so-called "hotspots" for the identification, registration, and fingerprinting of migrants. The police of Baden-Württemberg have been supporting the European Border and Coast Guard Agency since the beginning of the measures in December 2015." It can be read in the section on the Balkan route that Frontex not only cooperates with national border guards who are known to carry out illegal pushbacks, but activists also accuse them of participating in such pushbacks.
Currently, there is little attention given to the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border, but people are still trying to cross the border and are being forcefully pushed back. In 2021, Poland began constructing a 2.5-meter-high fence on the border with Belarus. It was decided to build a "solid barrier with surveillance systems and motion detectors." The construction of the border fence took place from January to June 2022.
The Polish parliament has decided to restrict the right to asylum. Border guards can, according to Polish law, decide for themselves whether to grant asylum seekers the chance to apply for asylum. In the winter of 2022/23, refugees became victims of pushbacks and brutal violence in freezing temperatures. According to Polish border officials, more than 50,000 pushbacks to Belarus have been carried out in the last 1.5 years.
People are repeatedly reported missing or found dead in the border area. Fleeing people are forcefully pushed back into the woods. In the border area between Lithuania and Belarus, there are also brutal pushbacks, with refugees losing toes and legs and sometimes freezing to death. Humanitarian organizations and journalists are prevented from entering the border area. In January, the Lithuanian government issued a regulation formalizing pushbacks as an official procedure. This clearly violates international law, as people on the run are denied their right to apply for asylum.
At Frankfurt Airport, only about 60 kilometers away from us as the crow flies, regular collective deportations of refugees are carried out. In March 2023, for example, a deportation flight to Pakistan was organized. And although a deportation stop to Iran was agreed upon since December 2022 due to the dramatic human rights situation in the country, two Iranian individuals were deported from Germany at Frankfurt Airport last month. The asylum fast-track procedures at airports (so-called "airport procedures") are repeatedly criticized, for example, a study commissioned by ProAsyl reports: "Legally speaking, asylum seekers who arrive by plane do not enter Germany during the airport procedure. They are held in accommodation at the airport and isolated. Their asylum procedure, including legal protection, must be completed within just 19 days. In this way, the vast majority of protection seekers are rejected behind closed doors under great time pressure." Reports from a church procedure advisor emphasize that affected persons must endure detention-like conditions at the airport and are subjected to enormous psychological pressure - which in turn makes it difficult for them to undergo their asylum hearing.
The "Balkan route" describes the escape route from Turkey to Western Europe. It has been used for centuries for trade and goods transfers, as a travel route, and also by people fleeing. The "Balkan route" as a "escape corridor" existed before the migration movements of 2015 and the associated media attention. EU policies and the establishment of strict border regimes lead to the route dynamically shifting, as people are forced to choose other ways to (Western) Europe. Violence, shots, and pushbacks are now sad normality along the so-called "Balkan route". People live under miserable conditions in camps, on the street, or in improvised self-organized camps and become victims of brutal police violence at the borders. Solidarity movements from the population are systematically suppressed, and the German government remains inactive under the pretext of waiting for a "European solution". Instead, transit countries are left alone to care for arriving refugees, and they are also encouraged to act as gatekeepers of the EU in carrying out pushbacks.
Especially in the capitals or near important border crossings, camps and "hotspots" (informal camps) form where refugees lack the most basic necessities and are also helpless against the police and far-right extremists. The authorities try to prevent this by setting up official camps, for example in cooperation with large international NGOs such as the Red Cross or IOM. Violence and corruption are also present here, and the camps are kilometers away from city centers and have exit restrictions. Unauthorized border crossings ("games") are the only way for refugees to enter the EU, and these are (especially in winter) life-threatening. Pushbacks are documented at almost every border by organizations such as the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN). Not only does the EU remain silent about this, it even indirectly supports pushbacks by sending Frontex police officers and financially supporting national border guards. Frontex is active in Greece, Croatia, and Hungary, where allegations are mounting that Frontex officials themselves may be involved in pushbacks. In addition, Frontex cooperates with national police authorities, whose involvement in illegal deportations has been proven (e.g. in Hungary, Greece, Croatia, among others). Nevertheless, Frontex officials enjoy far-reaching immunity in their functions, which cannot be restricted even by the European Court of Human Rights.
Further information can be found at Balkanbrücke (https://balkanbruecke.org/), a group of activists who draw attention to the situation of refugees along the so-called "Balkan route".
Since 2016, the "deportation detention facility" in Pforzheim has existed to ensure the planned deportation of people who are deemed to be a "flight risk." The term "flight risk" provides the responsible authorities with a lot of leeway for interpretation. The concept of such deportation prisons is repeatedly criticized: people who have not committed any crimes are isolated and criminalized; they usually have no access to lawyers and have to endure often weeks in a state of psychological distress. Some incarcerated persons resort to drastic measures such as hunger strikes and suicide attempts out of fear of being returned to war and crisis zones. Even the imprisonment of children in deportation detention facilities or the deliberate separation of family members through deportation detention has occurred. In the facility in Pforzheim, pastoral counselors have long complained that their access to incarcerated persons who are in urgent need of psychological/ pastoral care is restricted.
It is an essential strategy of European border closure policies to hold refugees as close to the external borders as possible. One political aspect that favors this is the so-called Dublin Agreement. It states that the state where refugees are first registered is responsible for their further asylum proceedings. As a consequence, border states like Greece are responsible for a disproportionate number of refugees. Many of them are held in inhumane camps on the Aegean islands. Due to the delay of procedures and long processing times, people are sometimes stuck on Greek islands for years. Furthermore, the camps are often designed for much smaller numbers of people and for short stays.
A particularly extreme example is the Moria camp on Lesbos. It was designed for about 3,000 people, but at times up to 16,000 people lived there under catastrophic conditions. After Moria was destroyed in a major fire in 2020, the EU promised "No More Morias". However, the camp structures on the Aegean islands continue, such as in Kara Tepe. The living conditions there are characterized by inadequate food supply, very poor medical care, and catastrophic hygiene conditions. A worrying development is also that newly built camp structures (such as on the island of Samos) are high-security camps with prison-like structures.
The inhumane conditions in the camps are intentional and a conscious element of European border closure and deterrence policies. It is not a "humanitarian catastrophe", but the result of deliberate political decisions. There are now even court rulings confirming that the conditions in the camps violate human rights.
Since 2018, the rescue zone off the Libyan coast has no longer been managed by Italy, but rather by Libya itself. The EU financially and informationally supports the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. For example, it provides the "Coast Guard" with equipment, trains its personnel, or provides it with (via the EU Border Agency Frontex) geo-information to locate boats on the Mediterranean - knowing full well that the Libyan Coast Guard intercepts refugees with brutal means on the Mediterranean and carries out illegal pushbacks, i.e. pushing people back to Libya. In Libya itself, refugees are subjected to the worst human rights violations, from arbitrary detention to torture and human trafficking. According to allegations from NGOs, the "Libyan Coast Guard" is also involved in human trafficking. The massive violence against refugees on land and off the Libyan coast has been known for years. Nevertheless, the EU cooperates with the country to prevent migration to Europe. With Libya as a so-called "EU gatekeeper," the EU avoids taking legal responsibility for the human rights violations that it finances.