geert lovink on Mon, 22 Jul 2002 20:00:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> first report from the strasbourg no border camp

Dear nettimers,

a brief hallo from the No Border camp in Strasbourg, on the left bank of the
Rhine, on French territory, looking at the German side of the river. I
arrived yesterday afternoon. There are between 2000-3000 activists here from
all over Europe, not just German or French, but also large contigents of
Italians, Spanish, Dutch and English. It is amazing to see the how the no
border camp concept has grown since the first one took place in 1998 (see my
reports on nettime, August 1998 and another one from August 1999). The idea
of the no border camp grew out of the (German) No One Is Illegal campaign,
which was launched at Documenta X in July 1997 (inspired by the French Sans
Papiers movement). There are now a multitude of border camps taking place
all over Europe and beyond, for instance Tijuana/Mexico and
Woomera/Australia ( The understanding of what borders
are and where they should be located has emerged from actual borders of
nation states to all sorts of borders such as detention centres,
international airports and now, here in Strasbourg, the SIS European central
police computer.

The camp here in Strasbourg started a few days ago. Today there is a
demonstration at the International Court for Human Rights. The big
demonstration is this Saturday and will go to the place where the central
European mainframe computer is located that registers all foreigners,
refugees, migrants etc that (try to) enter the Schengen fortress of Europe.

The presence of independent media on the camp has exploded in a spectacular
way over the last few years. I am now sitting in the radio tent which has a
50 watt transmitter and netcasts simultaneously, 24 hours a day. There is a
double DSL connection (landline), and a wireless WiFi network. The ASCII
group from Amsterdam, together with lots of other net activist groups is
offering public access terminals in a special tent. There are a great number
of video groups, for instance AKKRAAK from Berlin and Organic Chaos
( There will be a few workshops related to tactical
media, net activism, and a debate how to link the freedom of movement with
the freedom of communication (see:  The Austrian Publix
Theatre Caravan/NoBorder is here as well with their impressive doubledecker
bus ( The whole media zone
here at the camp has been coined 'Sillicon Valley', a somewhat
ironical/provocative term because there is some resistance amongst activists
against the independent media initiatives. Anti-media elements have accused
the net activists of 'sheltering' mainstream journalists. There is a fierce
debate going on at the moment about the presence of cameras and microphones.

If you would like to follow what is going on here, there are many sites to
chose from. There is also a lot of reporting done in various languages
(English, French, German, Spanish) on the sites.

General site:
Strasbourg camp:
About the camp radio:
Open publishing:

Ciao, Geert


Some background information about SIS, the Schengen Information System

Electronic instrument of migration control and deportation
When the police forces and Justice and Home Affairs ministers of the five
original Schengen states started to plan the The Schengen Information System
(SIS) at the end of the 1980's, they justified the central collection of
data with the reasoning that the abolition of internal border controls was a
security risk as drug smugglers, terroritsts and organised criminals could
wander freely over European territory. This is why Europe was in need of a
common ivrstigation area, a common system to investigate and search for
persons and objects. A close investigation of the nature of the data stored
however, reveals that far from being an instrument for security, the SIS is
forst and foremost an instrument of control and a means to detect and deport
non-EU- nationals. More recent plans point to the development that the SIS
will in future also be used to control the movement of political activists.

The SIS, which came into operation in 1995, is the first supranational
investigation system for law enforcement agencies which can be accessed from
local terminals of all participating states. It consists of a central unit
located in Strasbourg, which is linked to national systems. The central unit
ensures that all the data sets are saved both in the central unit and the
national systems. The national units are responsible for posting notices on
wanted persons or objects. In Germany for example, this is the Federal
Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BKA). The national units are also
contacted if a person is successfully traced down - hence their name: SIRENE
(Supplementary Information Request at the National Entry). Via an
independent communication network they provide information that far
surpasses the relatively short SIS data sets.

On 27 March 1995, the SIS was linked to seven states and came into
operation. These states were the five states which were the first to sign
the Schengen Implementation Agreement (SIA), that is, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany, as well as Spain and Portugal. On 1
December 1997, Italy, Austria and Greece joined. Since 25 March 2001, the
northern EU states Denmark, Sweden and Finland and the non-EU-states Norway
and Iceland also linked up with the Schengen Information System, which means
that altogether 15 national components are linked to the central terminal in
Strasbourg. Great Britain and Ireland are planning to participate at least
partially in the SIS. It is only a matter of time until the eastern and
southern European accession states will join. The SIS - a technical
deportation device By 1998, the SIS data volume had reached 8.6 million
records, out of which 7.4 million referred to property (cars, banknotes,
stolen identity cards, weapons). Because of the high percentage of so called
alias- groups (430.000) only 795.000 entries of the 1.2 million remaining
person specific data sets referred to actual people. As far as the tracing
down of people is concerned the SIS has turned out to be, first and
foremost, an instrument of a repressive migration and deportation policy.
Approximately 88% of wanted persons are third country nationals who are to
be deported or prevented from crossing the border into the EU. This refusal
of entry and deportation order, with its corresponding collection of data,
is regulated under Article 96 of the SIA.

During the course of the year 1998, the wanted persons list of the SIS grew
substantially. This is due to the fact that Italy, Austria and Greece joined
the system on 1 December 1997. Italy alone had entered 220.000 person
specific data sets during 1998, and therefore became the second largest
owner of data sets of all the SIS member states. Out of these 220.000, 88%
referred to Article 96 SIA. Germany however, remains the country with the
largest data base on people, with 350.000 entries - an amount which
corresponds to almost 44% of all person specific data sets (Of these, 98 %
refer to Article 96). France follows Italy with 113.000 person specific
entries (60 % of which are Article 96 related).

Most of SIS related person specific investigations are directed against
Article 96 related non-EU migrants. The majority (56%) of successes, so-
called SIS "hits", concerns refugees and migrants as well, as they are often
stopped and searched by the police only because of their outer appearances.
Although the number of data sets referring to objects is much higher that
person specific data, successes in this area equal a mere 26%. Out of these,
26% refer to stolen lorries that are successfully traced down. The SIS is
therefore most successful where control is the easiest and therefore most
often carried out on grounds of the size of the object and in relation to
people, due to easily detectable outer appearances, that is skin colour.
Racist Control Practices The deletion of redundant data sets, as it was
carried out in 1997 for example, prove the low efficiency of the (almost)
EU-wide electronic investigation system. The SIS is only efficient in so far
as it can enforce a practice of control typical for the electronic tracing
on a European level: in practise, this means that a person is stopped and
searched not due to a concrete suspicion, but because his/her outward
appearance corresponds to certain criteria and because there is a terminal
available from which the SIS can be accessed. These kind of stop and search
operations, independent from the existence of suspicion, were formerly only
allowed at the borders. But already the introduction of national
investigation systems had changed the criteria that determine what is
suspicious and what is not: in reference to the SIA, Germany first
introduced the "dragnet control", and therefore non-suspect related stop and
search operations, and later extended it from the border regions to inland

This shift can be detected from Germany's SIS statistics. Out of the 65
million SIS inquiries made by German authorities, 52 % were requested by
frontier officials and mobile patrols near the border. The remaining 47.5 %
of requests were made by police in the inland, therefore related to non-
suspect related stop and search operations that were carried out in inner
cities, on country roads and in trains, and that are first and foremost
directed against migrants.

SIS - the second generation:

When Austria, Italy and Greece joined the system in 1997, there were
indications that the capacity of the system would soon reach its limits. The
system was therefore expanded to include the "SIS 1 plus", before the
northern European states were linked up. Simultaneously, the Schengen
Executive Committee decided to build another SIS. The present documents of
the SIS working group of the European Council and Schengen Executive
Committee prove that they are not only aiming at an expansion of the
capacity of the system but are changing its content as well. This will
entail some changes in the Schengen Implementation Agreement. So far, Italy
is the only country that wants to check the necessity for this change before
approving the decision. France has some reservations against the planned
expansion of the data storage period under Article 96 SIA (Refusal and
deportation of non-EU- migrants) and Article 99 SIA (police surveillance).

More data, longer storage periods, DNA profiles Up to now person specific
data can only be stored for three years, after which it has to be reviewed.
Data related to police surveillance is stored for only for 12 months in the
data base of the SIS. The expansion of the period of time for which data can
be stored will automatically result in an rise of the number of person
specific data. That is particularly so for Article 96 related data, which,
as already said, has made up 80-90% of all person specific data over the
past years. The second generation of the SIS will not only result in an
expansion in quantity but also in a change in quality. So far, data sets
have hardly contained more than the warrant notice. Concerning persons this
included the personal details, the reason for the entry or investigation
(arrest, location of residence etc.) and details on the national authority
which posted the data into the system. Other personal details could only
amount to necessary short desciptions such as "violent" or "armed". The SIS
2 will profoundly change that. It is planned not only to record the "kind of
criminal offence" and the information "runaway prisoner" or "person in
psychological danger", but also personal "identification material", that is
photographs, fingerprints and DNA profiles.

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