Thursday, April 30, 2009

EU squatters

Two thousand illegal migrants from Afghanistan are camped out in an shantytown in the port city of Patras, Greece, trying to stow away on a truck or boat heading to other European countries. The Christian Science Monitor has the story.

Calais, in northern France, also has an immigrant squatter community of people hoping to jump a boat across the English Channel (aka La Manche) to the U.K.

Both Greece and France have vowed to demolish the squatter encampment. So where will the migrants go?


M. Herzberg said...

Hoi Robert,

On your blog and in your book for that matter, you tend to limit yourself to the shantytown dwellers worldwide, ppl that squat emty land and alikes out of necessity, with no further political aspiration.

When you reach the shores fortress Europe, it is worthwhile considering that squatting is more that an 'roof for a night on the fringes', but can be a powerfull means of selforganization, aiming much higher than satisfying primary needs for shelter only.

France, the Netherlands Italy,Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden , poland and other European countries have large and well organized mostly anarchist (but not only!) squatters MOVEMENTS, that aim much higher than to stay dry for a while.

The squatters of Patras are undoubtly worth a blogentry, but the greek squatters movement, that uses occupations (rather than slumlike dwellings) as a method of struggle merrit more attention in this context.

Equally americans organizations, like Acorn or take back the land and of course Homes not jails, have taken stances going beyond sheltering the needie, and have chosen to confront capitalism millitantly and openly.

What about them?
Or is it easier to write about the wrethed types?

rn said...

Great question, M.

As you acknowledge, squatting in the developing world is different than squatting in developed countries. I found what was going on in the developing world hugely compelling and misunderstood (indeed, if you've read my book, you know that I don't view those squatters as wretched) and decided to focus my work there. To mix the two strands in one book, I felt, would misrepresent both.

I agree that creating a squatter movement is key. I was an organizer before I became a writer and I know that organized action is imperative. I am keenly interested in seeing activist squatter movements grow throughout the developing world.

To be frank, I'm not sure how truly political the squatter groups you mention are. And I certainly don't think all squatter groups have to be militant and confront capitalism in order to be legit.

ACORN, to take one example in the U.S., engaged in a tactical squat in Brooklyn in order to get the city to agree to a housing program. That was in the 80s, and it hasn't squatted here since. Also, it utterly failed in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina (to be fair, lots of blame to go around there.) Regarding Take Back the Land, I have blogged about the shantytown in Miami (now sadly destroyed) and its efforts to work with families to squat foreclosed homes. I have also blogged about squatter groups in Switzerland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and other places and will continue to do so.

I'd ask your help here, though. If you have links to articles, websites, organizations, etc. that you think I or people who read this blog should know about, please post them in a comment. That way, we can all learn and participate in an informed discussion.

Anonymous said...

hi Robert,

A friend of mine showed me your website, ant make me discover the TED's one.
I found them really interesting because i'm engaged in squatting communitie in Paris and we try to improve our network because we understand that sharing abilities and experiences is what we need to develop each other and ourselves.
The biggest problem that we have rigth now is that it's really difficult to make people working together preserving their identities as individual or collective.
So there are many network and link between peoples who's squatting in Europe but we try to strengthen those links and we organise the october 16,17 and 18th a meeting in ROMA between all the people we manage to gather which is very difficult.
We think your experiences would be very important and intersting for the exchange and openminding event we try to organise.
Your presence's would be really appreciate.
Thanks a lot.*

you can contact us through this link :
And you can see our activities on those website: