Sign the "Arts & Culture pro Regulisation" petition
From the statement:
On Friday June 18, Sammy Mahdi, the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration again put his foot down in the Belgian Chamber Committee on the Interior, reiterating that he will not negotiate with the undocumented people who have been on a hunger strike since May 23 in the Brussels Béguinage Church and the universities VUB and ULB. On Saturday night June 19, a 43-year old activist tried to commit suicide at the ULB. The man in question has been living and working in Belgium for 23 years without being recognised as a citizen. His suicide attempt calls for an immediate political response and urges our society to face up to the unequal power relations that the state is trying to maintain at all costs.
For almost 30 years, freedom of movement, labour and residence have been hailed as the European Union’s core values. With a passport opening the doors to 134 countries, Belgian citizens have all but the greatest international ease of movement in the world. The reverse is true for many co-citizens who live and work in this country without legal residence. Even though they have lived here for decades. Even though they have children going to school here. Even though - without workers’ rights - they are employed in essential sectors. Because they were not granted the same location bonus at birth, they are illegalised in their mobility, their work and their residence. This extreme inequality inevitably leads to other forms of exclusion and violence - from racism and sexual violence to exploitation in the workplace. There is a term for this social verdict that condemns people without Belgian documents to this shadow existence: ‘paper death’.
Attempts to resist the worldwide apartheid regime that sorts
and exploits people on the basis of their country of origin, are all too
often cast aside as blackmail - as they have been by the Belgian State
Secretary for Asylum and Migration. Migration is conveniently framed as a
personal choice, rather than recognising it as a structural phenomenon
for which a country like Belgium shares responsibility. Regularisation
is claimed to be a favour, rather than a right. Meanwhile, the activists
occupying the Béguinage Church, the VUB and ULB have been hunger
striking for a month. After a hunger strike of one month, complications
arise, such as kidney failure, bronchopneumonia, jaundice,
gastrointestinal haemorrhage, severe deficits of the central nervous
system, cardiac decompensation. Whomever dares to characterise a hunger
strike - or any other suicide attempt within this context - as a choice
or some form of blackmail, has utterly failed to understand oppression
and the human despair that arises from it.
The past few weeks, many organisations, labour unions, academics and a few politicians have expressed their solidarity with the activists. As artists and art workers, we equally call upon our policy makers to no longer stand by in silence while hundreds of people find themselves obliged to starve themselves to death for rights which our policy makers and many of us were simply granted at birth. Regularise the hunger strikers at the Béguinage Church, the VUB and the ULB. Regularise all estimated 150,000 non-recognised citizens who reside in this country. Their demands are in no way unreasonable. What is unreasonable is the obstinate refusal to recognise their co-citizenship.