Asylum For All

Political asylum has been a major topic in Germany for decades. Because the Basic Law that has served as the Federal Republic’s de facto constitution since 1949 was intended to counter the exclusionary ideology of the Nazis, it made the nation seem more welcoming to refugees than other European states. By the 1980s, however, this “open door” policy was being sorely tested by a large number of asylum seekers.

Before the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the question of whether to make these unfortunate souls permanent members of German society loomed large. After reunification, the pressure to reintegrate inhabitants of the former Democratic Republic of Germany become the dominant political concern. But the presence of asylum seekers in the West, together with “non-German” immigrants on both sides of the old border, made this process more contentious. Progressives wondered aloud whether it was justifiable to fast-track privileges for ethnic Germans, including those who started returning from other Eastern Bloc nations like Romania and the Soviet Union, when people who had been living in the Federal Republic for years still found themselves in a state of limbo.

This pair of flyers, recently photographed in Berlin, underscores the continuity between those pre-Euro Zone debates and the ones that have been happening recently, as new waves of immigrants from troubled lands make their presence felt. Significantly, the final lines of the flyer on the right call the very idea of national borders into question by echoing a rallying cry frequently heard within the United States, in its Latino community and the progressive circles that support it: “Nadie es illegal!” In conjunction with its critique of borders, this move to connect immigration debates in Europe with those in North America aligns the anarchism of these flyers with internationalism — and, implicitly, its Marxist past — rather than the local focus commonly seen in the demonstrations of Autonomen and other German anarchists.


The text from the green flyer:

“In solidarity with the protesting asylum seekers, we support the following demands:

• the elimination of the residency requirement (this forbids asylum seekers from leaving the county selected by the authorities)
• stop all deportations
• better living conditions in dignity and humanity (such as access to health, education and work)
• the recognition of all asylum seekers as political refugees (the international right to asylum does not acknowledge economic need and natural disasters as reasons for flight)

against the stigmatization and baiting of asylum seekers and talk of misuse of asylum!

The right of everyone to remain!


The text from the red flyer:

States, with their borders, are constructed.

Who decides, where one can live? How is it a privilege of people with a European passport to be able to move freely? All people have the right to decide on their place of residence, without being stuck in the slammer or a camp!

No human being is illegal

Away with borders — everywhere!


[In English]

No Border

No Nation”


Commentary and translation by Charlie Bertsch. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.