Border Crossing Services
A four-part video on borders, migration & border crossing services

Running time: 51 min.
year of production: 2001
language: German with English subtitles
format: Digital video (DV), Betacam SP copy

(excerpts from the dialogue list)

- Who’s allowed to migrate? 

THE VOICE fights the residency requirement which says that asylum seekers are only allowed to leave their administrative district with an “entitlement certificate”. 

Cottbus, Brandenburg

Jean Jacques Effson Effa (Activist of the self-organized refugee organization 

This year in that congress in Jena the decision was made to fight against this Residenzpflicht, the Landkreis, what means, you need a permission if you want to go for example to Berlin. And the fight is against that law. Because it is very difficult for us to meet because of that law. If I go to the Ausländerbehörde and I say I need a Urlaubsschein to go to Jena to a meeting of THE VOICE then it is a problem. So most of the time I have to travel without Urlaubsschein. I say ok., if they catch me maybe one day I will be in prison because I wanted to be free. That’s what is in my head. That means, I cannot live in a Landkreis in my head because Landkreis is not only physical. They want to create it even in our mind. And in my mind I was born free. And I think when I am in Germany, I am in a free country, and I have to move free. Ok., the police will control me one day, I will go to prison, even if I will be in the prison I will still be free in my mind. 

In Germany we are not allowed to go to school, to study German. We don’t have any German courses, we don’t get money to pay them. So we are excluded from the society. It is the best way to keep us outside because they want to keep us outside. They don’t want any contact. They don’t want us to have any contact with Germans. When we don’t speak the language, that is a good way to keep us outside. And is also the good way to show at us with the finger and say that those people are criminal. Because we cannot communicate with them, we cannot explain why we are here and nobody understands us. They cannot understand our culture because we don’t speak their language, it is quite difficult. A lot of Germans don’t know that I’m not allowed to work because they are saying that we are here to take their jobs and things like that. They don’t know that we are not allowed to work. They don’t know that. I’m not allowed to leave my Landkreis. They don’t know that I have only 80 Marks every month as cash-money. They don’t know that. They think we got a lot of money. And because we don’t speak German it is very difficult for us to explain them that here in Germany we are not living in a palace, we are living in a open prison. 

Vienna, Danube Canal

Grace Latigo (artist, political activist):

When I “slipped into illegality” , it wasn’t really clear to me for two years, I couldn’t believe it. But suddenly you start to feel it because you can’t get any work, because you can’t get a work permit, and so on and so forth. Then you get ideas, you want to stay current, you are progressive, full of energy; but you can’t move on because you aren’t legal. You can’t do it, you can’t do anything. And then you think, there is a political system, I want to speak up. 
I want to say something. But you have no vote, you have no say in the matter. And then at some point you ask yourself the question: what am I? You come to the pathetic conclusion: nothing. Third class human/woman. Then you think, but I want to go further, I don’t want to be stopped constantly by these stupid laws. And then complications arise. You get a bit of help here and a bit of help there. I don’t look like a victim. At one point I quite cynically called myself a “privileged illegal”. 
Inside, though, I am broken. Broken inside means that you can no longer reach your goals. You can’t carry out your work. You can’t realize your ideas and visions. In the end I found a way to do that but still, I have never received the recognition which I deserve, which would only be fair, and above all, I’ve been denied the respect. That means that you always have some kind of FALSE IDENTIFICATION. Yes, and then at some point I started to get sad and depressed. But I didn’t want to fall into it and instead got extremely angry. I am angry with you. I am extremely angry with all of you because this system, these laws are the reason that I don’t have my rights, why I can’t live my life – which wouldn’t harm anyone. My human/woman rights, I am entitled to them! 

And at some point I was invited to a discussion organized by a group called “No one is illegal” which was still at the time also run by the Evangelical diocese. Suddenly someone from this diocese said to me, “we will speak for you.” I was sitting there and I thought, “you don’t have to speak for me, I can speak for myself, but you simply don’t let me speak.” So I stood up and said, “Good evening, my name is Grace Latigo and I can speak for myself! I have been illegal for seven years.” Naturally that set off a huge chaos and I had to explain to the people why it was important that they let me speak. So first I did it for myself, but when I make my case public then I am thinking of others who are affected, as I can better relate to their position. I also don’t demand that everyone is able to understand my position. I am just asking for respect of these people’s situation, and the insight, the humanity necessary to comprehend what it means to suddenly become a third class human/woman. A few clear thinkers – above all women – understood. They also explained to me that they could understand it logically although it was difficult for them to empathize. They supported me. Then a campaign was formed and I actually got my visa within a week, my brother as well. And in a perverse way I can thank the media and the pressure; it was actually an interesting case. Has the situation for these “gray zone human/women”, – human/women, I like that expression best – changed or not? Well, I don’t think so. I have constantly addressed it politically and called for the immediate legalization of people who have lived in Austria – in some cases for twenty years – who have fallen into living without documents, this odd situation of so-called illegality. But nothing has been done about it. 

Another extremely important point is: how deeply have you really confronted racism and discrimination, you. It isn’t so simple. It is like history. Just like you have to learn the history of World War II, you have to learn the history of this murderous ideology of racism.

  - On border crossing services

Bodo Kaping (federal border patrol office, Frankfurt/Oder):

Yes. My name is Bodo Kaping, I am 42 years old and run the target area operation of the federal border patrol office, Frankfurt/Oder. 

Krenn/Ressler: Can you explain the difference between traffickers, smugglers and “Fluchthelfer” (a positive term for people who provide border crossing services)?

Bodo Kaping: For me there isn’t much difference. They are people who capitalize on the misery of other people. They earn money by violating laws, by offering help, knowing consciously the fact that they are irresponsibly putting the lives and health of the people at stake. And the profit margin sought in the area of trafficking is comparably as high as in the drug trade; only here it is about people being brought across the border through criminal means. 
We speak of trafficking, about traffickers and those who have been trafficked. That is the way we talk. Smuggler is a term that is constantly used but it has no place in our way of talking about things. 
And in our current use of the language, we don’t speak about “Fluchthelfer”. When we look back in history, it is actually something quite different – the concept has a POSITIVE CONNOTATION. They were, namely, those who at the time of the “iron curtain” brought people from the East to the West.

K/R: There are, however, a lot of people who help their relatives make illegal border crossings. So in your language usage they are also traffickers?

Bodo Kaping: Definitely. They are committing a crime.

K/R: But they are not hostile to human beings – they are bringing over their own relatives... 

Bodo Kaping: It isn’t our job to judge that. 

K/R: But you are making judgements. For example, there is a leaflet from the BGS with the title: “Attention Traffickers!” and then it says: “your information helps to catch the perpetrators and put a stop to traffickers hostile to human beings.” 

Bodo Kaping: I already stated it previously. Whoever tries to violate the law in the Federal Republic of Germany must reckon with being punished. 
You have to understand, inhumanity has something to do with it: human lives are brought into danger. As I said, the rivers, Oder and Neisse, characterize this border. The Neisse is not a great obstacle most months of the year, just a trickling stream, often dry. But there are months in spring, in autumn, when this stream becomes a larger river, even a dangerous river! 
And those who bring people across at the dead of night act inhumanely because they bring them into a danger that they can’t assess. There is, then, for whatever motives, always an aspect somewhere that brings the life and limb of people in danger. And there is something hostile to human beings about it. 

K/R: But with this argument those who helped people escape from the former German Democratic Republic were equally hostile to human beings because they also put refugees in danger. 

Bodo Kaping: I don’t want to comment on that matter now. 

Since the beginning of 1997, in Germany, taxi drivers have been given prison sentences, some for several years, for transporting people without papers.

Berlin, Taxistas 

Hans Heim (Taxi driver, Taxistas-Activist, Berlin):

My name is Hans, I drive a taxi with a small taxi collective in Kreuzberg in Berlin. I think the collective has been around for fifteen or twenty years. I haven’t been with them that long, only for six or seven years. 
The BGS, the federal border patrol, ordered the taxi drivers to cooperate. They are supposed to inform the BGS if they pick up customers whom they suspect have crossed the border illegally. 
Then there is the request: “don’t let yourself be misused by smugglers.” Okay, sure, the federal border patrol says that it fights smugglers. It says it isn’t fighting the refugees but naturally in actual practice it does fight against the refugees since, first of all, it is the refugees who are captured. Maybe someone is there who has brought the people over the border, professionally, or for money. But even if that person is not there, the refugees are captured, they are deported and interrogated, etc.. 
This whole language thing with these “covert smuggling rings” distorts reality. And this formulation: “Do not take any person in your taxi who has obviously entered the country illegally.” There was this huge discussion after that, sure, what is a “person who has obviously entered illegally?” The taxi driver is not allowed at all to check personal data. He isn’t an official. He is not even allowed to ask for an ID. So actually, he can’t really know if someone has entered illegally or not. How can it be noticed? In court there were statements such as: “sure, by the clothing, by the wet clothes. You must notice that people have marched across the mountains or something.” Okay, fine, what if I told you about all of the different types of people that I have taken with me here in the middle of Berlin? everything that I could have imagined about where they come from, what they’ve done; whether one of them robbed a bank or if the other crawled out of the water because he had almost drowned? Once I transported someone who was bleeding like a pig, how do I know where he came from? I don’t think about it. As taxi drivers we aren’t hailed to think about why that person gets into the taxi in the condition they do. That is also an unreasonable demand on us as taxi drivers.
Sure, and then it continues: “Inform us or any other police department of any attempts to recruit you or if you observe anything else. If desired, this can also be done confidentially.” Okay, that is now a clear request for what is basically unlimited denunciation. It applies to everyone who looks different in any way, whether they have a German passport or not. They should be reported to the police and we should set the cops on their tail. Really though, that goes beyond what we can describe as decent and acceptable. But it is reality. 
Taxi drivers, for example, might be approached about transporting a customer to Zirndorf. That is the Federal Republic’s official reception office for asylum seekers. Okay, and if I transport someone to Zirndorf, that is a long stretch for a taxi driver, and I would collect about 2 Marks per kilometer and that is quite a nice wad of money. But okay, they pay in order to get there. 
But if I do that now, then suddenly I am a covert smuggler, although I simply want to help a refugee to his basic rights of asylum that German law has granted him. I am already a smuggler. That can’t really be true; but it is. 

Okay, here they write about the consequences, practically prophesizing something which back then was not even yet reality: “Assisting illegal border crossings carries the following consequences: prison sentence or fine, possible confiscation of the automobile or revocation of the taxi license.” Meanwhile, all three consequences have been consistently enforced. The paragraph that they refer to is the one on covert smuggling rings. And you are then, as a taxi driver, a member of a smuggling ring and sent up for one to ten years. That is a serious crime that you are involved in if you don’t adequately observe these atrocious laws.