[ 08. Jan 2010 ]

Burn the Borders

Vinennes detention centre burning, 22nd of June 2008.

January 25th, 26th and 27th 2010: trial of the revolt that set the detention centre of Vincennes on fire. Action Week, January 16th to 24th 2010.


The revolt, which led to the fire that destroyed the largest prison for foreigners in France, is a concrete and historical response to the existence of detention centres and to the whole of the policy of control of the migratory flows.

On January 25th, 26th and 27th, ten persons will be tried for this revolt by the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris (a court which tries misdemeanours).
Our solidarity has to be at the height of the stake: the acquittal of the accused and beyond that, freedom of movement and installation.

The largest detention centre in France burnt on June 22nd 2008. From June 2008 to June 2009, some ten former detainees have been arrested and imprisoned - most of them for nearly one year - in preventive jail. They are charged with "damage", "voluntary destruction of the buildings of the Vincennes administrative detention centre", and/or "aggression in band against a police officer, without causing an incapacity of work for more than eight days".

Movements of protest of the locked up sans-papiers have taken place ceaselessly during the six months before the fire. Hunger strikes, beginnings of fires, refusing to be counted, and individual or collective oppositions followed each other during this period. Outside, demonstrations and actions exposed the very existence of these centres and support the revolts.

On June 21st 2008, Salem Souli died in his room after he had asked in vain for medical care. The next day the detainees organized a march in his memory, which was violently repressed. A collective revolt followed and the detention centre was reduced to ashes.

A trial for the example

To prevent this type of revolt from spreading, the State must strike hard, it has to find culprits. Ten persons were arrested to serve as examples. We do not care whether they are "culprit" or "innocent". By the punishment of these persons, the State wishes to make disappear revolts, denials of submission, and acts of resistance from the part of those who are, or will be in the future, between the walls of these centres. The Vincennes revolt is not isolated. Wherever are detention centres, revolts will spring up, fires will start, flights, hunger strikes, mutinies, and destructions will take place. It has been so in France (centres were burnt in Nantes, Bordeaux, and Toulouse), and in many European countries (Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain) or in countries to which border control is outsourced such as Turkey and Libya.

The fire at the Vincennes detention centre is not only a symbol: as an immediate consequence of the disappearance of its capacity for 280 people, rounding up and deportations greatly decreased in the Paris region during the following period. Concretely, arrests were avoided by the thousands. This act of the detainees has put out of order for a while the deportation machine.

Jails for foreigners: They lock up, deport, dissuade immigration

The detention centres are a step between the arrest and the deportation. They are used to lock up the passengers for the time necessary to gather what is needed for a deportation, namely a passport or a pass issued by a consulate, and a plane or ship reservation. The more a State wants to deport, the more it builds detention centres.

Their numbers increases ceaselessly everywhere. In Europe, the trend is to make locking up longer, which not only allows deporting more people, but also dissuades immigration.

These locking up places are actually punishment places. As such, they are more and more built on a model of prison: monitoring by video, small units, isolation cells... For example, the largest detention centre in France now being built in France at Le Mesnil-Amelot (with capacity for 240 persons) that will open in a few weeks is designed according to this model. In the Netherlands, where suicides and "unexplained" deaths are frequent in the centres, detention lasts 18 months and may start again immediately after freeing, in very small individual cells, sometimes in prison-boats, with scarce access to air.

The undocumentated foreigners: Both a highly adaptable manpower ...

Detention centres are a part of the "migratory flows management" policy, which in turn is elaborated according the criteria of the "chosen immigration" which means according to the needs of manpower in the European countries. That bosses of the rich countries use migrant workers to increase their profits is nothing new. Be it within a legal framework, such as interim jobs or the former "OMI contract" (which allowed to fit the right of presence in the country to the seasonal working time), or in illegal work, the foreigners most often find jobs in the toughest sectors (the building industry, restaurants, cleaning, seasonal works...). These sectors ask for a flexible manpower, one which adapts to the immediate needs of production.

On top of the absence of rights due to their status, for instance in case of an accident, the permanent threat of arrest and deportation obviously enables the bosses to underpay them, indeed not to pay them at all (it is not infrequent). This equalizing at the lowest level of salaries and working conditions enables the bourgeoisie to enhance the exploitation of all. The repeated strikes of sans-papiers show how much the French bosses and the State need this manpower, but they also show that the sans-papiers can check them and get regularizations when they organize collectively.

... And an ideal scapegoat

The migratory policy, of which the detention centres are a gear, is also used to stigmatize the undocumented foreigners. The State makes of them the scapegoat for the hardships of the population of France. The spectacular use of deportations by the State takes its part in showing how great a "danger" the irregular immigration would be for France and Europe, and at the same time the efficiency of a State, which protects its citizens from this danger.

The State uses artefacts such as the above mentioned "threat of underground immigration", "rascals in the suburbs", "veiled women", or such as the campaign for the national identity to wake up the worst chauvinist and racist feelings, and to try and create a consent for the power and the world it produces.

Borders everywere

The detention centres are indispensable for the implementation of a European policy to control the migratory flows, which, while it claims to abolish the borders within the Schengen space, reinforces them outside, notably with Frontex.

And so the control is outsourced at the outer doors of Europe, in agreement with countries such as Libya, Mauritania, Turkey or Ukraine, to which funds are given to lock up foreigners who are deemed unwanted, even before they make it to Europe.

At the same time, within the Schengen territory, borders are scattered, become movable, and thus are everywhere: every identity check can lead to a deportation. For the border is not only a line limiting he territory, it is above all a point of checking, of pressure and, of sorting out. So the street, the communication lines, the administrative buildings, the banks, the interim work offices already function as borders. The detention centres are pieces of the deadly borders of the Schengen Europe, as are all camps for migrants, They are places where one waits, locked up, sometimes without limit and without trial, where one dies for lack of care, where one kills oneself rather than be deported. Borders must be abolished!

For all these reasons, and because there is no "good" management of the migratory flows, because everybody must be able to decide where he wants to live, we are in solidarity with the accused of the revolt and the arson of the Vincennes detention centre!


Collectif de solidarité avec les inculpés de Vincennes
liberte-sans-retenue (at)