[ 27. Mar 2008 ]

Personal Experience from Calafat Deportation

no nation - no border

Anti-NATO summit Bucharest: The attempt to harass international protest - personal impressions from Calafat border crossing (Romania/ Bulgaria).


We arrived on March the 20th, 2008 at about 8 o'clock in the evening at the Romanian border in Calafat. The border police ordered us to park our two cars beside and started to search them completely for four hours, looking after drugs, weapons and explosives as they said. We had none of that with us but they took all our info material, including books, pamphlets, posters and even patches, buttons and t-shirts away to copy, photograph and document them. Furthermore they took away our laptops for about ten hours, one of them got obviously opened, some screws were missing. Two women got body searched for injection marks. It was obvious that they were looking for a reason to send us back. At three o'clock in the morning they started to interrogate us one by one. The interrogations where made by two guys (one leading interrogator probably named Mr. Zagrabu) from the secret service (SRI) and a translator for English. They where lying about certain laws (not connected to the anti-NATO summit, or political activism), we might have broken, to have a reason for the start of the interrogation and by this as well trying to spread some panic. But soon coming to the point of political activism and the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest. They where pretty obvious in their aim all along. Our refusals to answer questions, making return questions and claiming for legal support, wasn't really expected by them. After trying it over and over again, playing the nice cop and the bad one, or trying to split us up, by offering some of us that they could leave without the others immediately (without any cooperation from our side), they gave up after three interrogations.

During the whole time they didn't offer us a room so we had to wait outside without knowing what they were up to do with us next. Luckily we had our van. At 10 o'clock in the morning, after 14 hours, we were fed up with the situation and started to set them under pressure. Determinedly we claimed to get food, water and informations for the reason of our detainment. Meanwhile some of us made banners and hung them on the van and the border checkpoint. The policemen were really surprised and were not sure how to react. Just before the next ferry arrived they seemed to be stressed out and tried to make us put down the banners by announcing that we can leave within one hour, they just have to read out a list of our material to make sure we get it all back, otherwise they will charge us for illegal protest on state property. The minimal punishment would be "more than just a fine". We agreed. The head of the border police (probably named Mr. Ludareanu) suddenly wanted to make sure, that we will not claim mistreatment. Trying to organize us water and bread. Especially after reminding them that one of the detainees has diabetes and might soon suffer a struck by hypoglycaemia, they got really worried about their image. They said clearly that there where no problems with all our stuff, that they make no charges against us and that they only want to follow the correct procedure, and afterwards we would be free to move on with our planned journey into Romania.

Three hours later we were still waiting at the border, but started to call for lawyers and journalists. Some of them seemed to be pretty interested, like antena1, a private Romanian TV station. They even asked for telephone interviews and wanted to come to the border. We heard from our support groups, lawyer and the press, that the border police was already telling them since hours on the phone that there are no detainees. When they requested informations about us, they where told that 'the Germans' have left the checkpoint. After they found out from us, that we are still being held at the border, Mr. Ludareanu was no more available for them on phone any more. As it was clear for the police that the press is on the way they stopped reading the list to us (they counted and described every single button) just before it was finished and gave us all our material back. But we where ordered to sign a paper, written in Romanian. As the translator said, the paper means we will not enter Romania, especially Bucharest and that we will not take part in the protests against the NATO summit. Of course we refused to do that. We also requested, if there where no charges against us, that we want to exercise our right of free movement inside the EU. If denied, we would not move and stay at the checkpoint as long as it takes.

Totally confused they ran off to call for instructions from Bucharest again. The order came immediately - 'get them out before the journalists arrive'. We were refused entry, without any charges, and they where allowed by official side from Bucharest (in this special case) to deport us by force against our will, if we don't go on the ferry to Bulgaria.

Although passing the Romanian border these days with critical material could cause you a lot of trouble you should keep in mind that there is still the right of free speech and movement. There are different options: You can hide who you are, by pretending to be a tourist (no obvious appearance like black clothes, piercings, Mohawks...) or you can try to enter straightforward (of course depending from which country somebody comes, you are maybe allowed to free movement inside the EU and don't have to give an explanation about the purpose of your travel, your appearance, or any allowed materials you are carrying with you). This is a political decision you have to make (just keep it in mind, we don't want to give an advice). The protest is possible everywhere, even at the border checkpoints.

Thanx to all the support from around the globe. Keep it up, as it looks now, more will be needed in the upcoming weeks.

This article was published first on 24. Mar 2008 @ ::