DAY 255: Criminalization

September 4th, 2018 § 0 comments

I have as usual come very late into a debate which has been running for a very long time – having been absent for so long from the groves of academe – and having missed some essential contributions to the discussion on the criminalisation of hospitality – oh well


 I knew about Lisbeth Zornig Andersen who was jailed in Denmark in 2016 for giving lifts to refugee hitchhikers, and  Cedric Herrou the troublesome olive-farmer on the French-Italian border, don’t we all –  but it was not till my FB friend (no don’t start me on that) Sarah Ezzat Mardini and two companions were jailed three weeks ago by the Greek police (see posts of mine passim, has this sentence gone too long?) for trafficking, in other words rescuing people from the Mediterranean, that I realised that the ‘criminalisation of solidarity’ was not only a popular concept – or practice –  among the police, but also among those of us who make it our practice to study the police. Partly, of course, to defeat them, partly to get grants , partly to win the battle for rights, you know for the usual mixture of motives. I didn’t even, such is my ignorance, know about the totally timely publication  of a special issue of my sister publication Race and Class back in February devoted to a round table disunion on the issue.[Migrants, borders and the criminalisation of solidarity in the EU (Liz Fekete, Race & Class Vol 59, Issue 4, pp. 65 – 83 First Published February 12, 2018,] From which (via a bit of annoying fiddling with college passwords etc) I can quote what I think is a fairly punchy account of where things have arrived so far:’And it is not just the obscene response to desperate people in the Mediterranean that should concern us. The attempt to criminalise humanitarian assistance now extends to any area where, thanks to the lack of proper state planning or assistance, bottlenecks of refugees, makeshift camps and squats (‘any place I hang my hat is home)’ emerge, such as Ventimiglia in Italy, Calais in France (where the makeshift camp, known as ‘The Jungle’ was demolished in 2016–2017) and Lesbos, in Greece. On land, then, what we see are first policies of institutional neglect, the rationale being if you just don’t do anything for people, they will move on. And, if they don’t, then what lies in store is intensive territorial policing aimed at creating a hostile environment both for would-be refugees and anyone supporting them.What has unfolded in areas where land borders are closed and displaced people stuck with absolutely nothing, is that volunteers spontaneously come, and, by providing food, shelter, water and basics like that, they make the situation visible, they make the migrants visible. And it is this that cannot be countenanced. The mayor of Calais for example said words to the effect, ‘I don’t want another Jungle, we spent all this money destroying the Jungle with the bulldozers and the riot police and everything’. She responded to the show of humanitarian solidarity by passing a law that made unauthorised distribution of food unlawful. And it is this kind of mentality, viewing displaced people and refugees as an itinerant underclass and a public order nuisance, that means laws to criminalise solidarity.’ [The situation in Calais deserves a special study,; the volunteers in well-organised kitchens the are allowed to prepare meals for twice-daily ‘distributions’ to a crowd of people with no shelter, and no access to shelter. The insanity should be clear. The volunteers are legal, the people they are serving are not.]    As I say, this recent discussion had completely escaped my attention, or I’d have shared it withScreen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.12.09

you. Even worse, an earlier debate (around 2012) about the Greek attitude to strangers, migrants, the term philoxenia (remember how much Odysseus was made welcome or unwelcome by his various hosts, Nausicaa, Polyphemus, Circe,.. It’s  probably in its turn  the continuation of a long earlier discussion of how we treat others/strangers in which I suspect I can see the names of Giorgio Agamben among other old mates surfacing. The author of the 2012 piece (no I won’t give you the doi, you’ll have to find it out for yourselves)  was already describing a Greek camp by trying to rephrase the experience in the lingo of biopower: (Where any place I hang my hat is home)

‘Among the street volunteers, however, I noticed the reversal of hospitality. During their visits to refugees, volunteers cast them as hosts and interpreted their own offerings to them as the reciprocated gifts of guests. This was a conscious political act: As hosts—though “disputable” ones—refugees were attributed the power and agency that they are typically denied in institutional aid contexts. Even the selection of the term refugee instead of the bureaucratic label asylum seeker that is adopted in the setting of the camp was a political choice made by volunteers to challenge established political hierarchies. However, in practice, volunteers on the street exercised biopolitical power over their hosts through their attempts to “educate” and “advise” them. The camp and the street are thus more than physical spaces; they also synopsize models of refugee management and overcome dualistic simplifications and binary oppositions. They speak volumes about alternative political modes of dealing with the stranger.’

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.12.09And so on (I refer you to the article and subsequent discussion.) and the biopolitical implications of such projects. The placement of the refugees–asylum seekers in the setting of filoksenia, as indicated by the figures I employ of the “worthy guest” and the “disputable host,” links the workings of biopolitical power with established cultural schemata of sociality and social relations.’

The placement of the refugees–asylum seekers in the setting of filoksenia, as indicated by the figures I employ of the “worthy guest” and the “disputable host,” links the workings of biopolitical power with established cultural schemata of sociality and social relations.’

But we, where we are, have to start somewhere, and why not start now with today’s injustice? We can be sure that it’s here to stay, and the triangle refugee rescuer cop will remain in place – along with the smuggler, who is certainly an important player, and should be brought in. But not in the way that the current EU leaders are doing.


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