This is the manager of the detention center in Gävle, Jürgen Büttner saying “We want an open atmosphere”. Contemplate the irony of this picture: the white, abled, privileged man born within the borders of the eu talking about openness next to the wall surrounding the detention center he is governing. The wall that keeps imprisoning people for the one reason that they have moved in the world in ways others claim are illegal. This wall is a part of the border of the nation state; a border that goes everywhere for the persons not considered to belonging; that are lacking the right papers or passports. The detention centers are used to make people possible to deport in line to clean up nation states and the eu from the people that are seen as unwanted.
In sweden, there are 7 detention centers with 230 places. The detention centers are often hidden in the outskirts of cities which makes the state’s practice of detention both invisible but also works to enforce the isolation of the persons in the detention centers since they are often located in places hard to visit with public transport. Many persons (20-25% of everybody in detention) are also placed in arrests and jails – something that is critiqued by the torture commitees of EU and UN. A swedish government report from 2011 (SOU 2011:17 Förvarsutredningens betänkande förvar) suggest changes in the law that would make it easier for the police to place persons in detention centers even when they haven’t yet got their decision on deportation; to put up parts in detention centers with higher security; to educate and hire staff “with compentence to use the violence that it according to the law has authority to use” and get the authorities to use hand cuffs, they also suggest that the law should be “harmonised” so same rules goes for children as for adults when it comes to enforcement etc.
The escalation of demands for higher control and direct violence against migrants does not happen in a vacuum but are co-occurent in the rhetoric of migration politics. Ironically very often enwrapped in words like ‘openness’ and ‘security’, as when Beatrice Ask talks about the aims of the stockholm Programme “the vision for the Stockholm Programme is a more secure and open Europe where the rights of individuals are safeguarded”. This is a programme that works for enforcing the outer borders of the eu by militarize them; making them more dangerous and impossible to cross.
It is january 2012. I visit my friend in the detention center. It is a long way to go there, one and a half hour with car on slippery winter roads. It is not the first time I am here, and I feel how it is bothering me that I don’t get as angry and pissed off by seeing the place anymore. It has become normalised, to meet this way. Controlled by a camera I am calling the door telephone so someone from the staff can come and open the locked door. Then they are about to pick the wrong person to see me, since they have the same name. Finally I meet my friend, and this time it is extra hard because some days later he will be deported. To a country where he has not lived for 11 years. Where he has no one. And we both know how hard it is to get out of this country without money or contacts. It has always been hard to meet in this place, but somehow there has always been a small hope that something might change in his case. But today he doesn’t laugh or joke, he is more quiet. He tells me about that he and the others has asked if they could not cook on their own in christmas so it could be something else happening for one day in the isolation, and something they could do together. The staff said no. I try to tell him about my life, but everything feels really trivial. When I leave it is very hard, we hug, and we know that it is probably the last time we meet. He says “please don’t go”. But eventually I have to leave and it is always in the moment of leaving everything becomes so explicit. The ugly face of the system and its violent controlling of persons and bodies: I can leave, but he can’t. Surrounded by big walls, locked doors, controlling staff and watched by surveillance cameras, he stays.
The detention centers is a clear illustration of how this system with nation states, borders and migration politics legitimates the state of committing direct violence, imprison and isolate people for no reason. It is a system that is the opposite of security and openness: it is a system of isolation, repression, and violence. It is a system with made up borders that construct the nation states, with highly violent consequences everywhere within the nation states. This is a system that needs to be attacked and teared down. Borders are constantly unmade by being crossed without the right papers; the system of citizenship challenged by persons trying to exist in spaces without citizenship; walls overpowered by being climbed over and escaped from.
Come to stockholm 2012 and destroy and smash border and walls in all ways possible; let them burn, be attacked, smashed and erased.