Overview of NoBorder Camp Thessaloniki 2016

No Border Camp

You can't call me a regular participant of No Border camps. So far in my whole life i've only been in two. Already after the first one in 2009 in Greece i had a bad impression of the whole concept. It took me almost 7 years to decide to try it again. This is a short description of my own perception of the camp. I won't try to bring the ultimate truth about the event but still would like to share opinion on the event as a participant.


The camp organized by the different groups

When i've heard about no border camp in Thessaloniki it didn't raise a lot of enthusiasm - from the first look i thought it is just another german camp organized outside of the country. Something that happened last year already. On top of that UmsGanze was one of the active forces behind mobilization to Greece - the same player as in 2015. However i got convinced when a bunch of different people from Greece and Germany told me that this time the story is different - at first allies of UmsGanze in Greece were trying to organize the camp, however the local groups have insisted on participation - bringing different anarchist and antiauthoritarian groups into the organizing team. This situation have interested me - i was eager to see what will be the camp organized by the locals, rather than by germans.


As far as i'm aware, apart from BeyondEurope Alpha Kappa in Greece the camp was organized by activists from the other leftist, antiauthoritarian and anarchist groups. It is interesting that one of the anarchist groups had a conflict with the rest of the organizing team just few days before the start of the camp concerning the program. At the end they didn't drop out of organizing committee but had their own squatted building where there were a couple of presentations. In fact for the first days of the camp i thought that their building was just another occupation of university that was not connected with no border camp.

Day one in the camp

Among some people there is a belief that the first impression of people is the best to judge them on. Later on your impression can be blurred, but the exact moment of first meeting is the one that will tell a lot about the person. I can't say that i'm a big fan of the whole theory, but it can be applied to our experience in the camp: we arrived around 3 o'clock in the night to the squatted campus. Semi constructed infopoint was in front of us with several drunk germans sitting next to it. They were not a part of the infopoint, but were just hanging around and eager to explain us that we can camp wherever we want. We were not able to get more information that night, but at the same time we were so tired, that it was not required.

In the morning the infopoint was still quite empty, with several signs hanging there with announcements about meetings of different working groups. Nobody was able to tell where those groups are meeting. Somebody just told us that here everything is DIY, so i took one sign about meeting of media group and a friend of mine went together with another person organizing the translation group. All in all that morning there were several working groups formed in the camp. The most important one to mention was transportation so far. Though participation in meetings of different groups was not so small, but it was a drop comparing to the amount of people who were in the camp already.

Transportation group was formed as an idea from people to bring refugees from the camps to the city to take part in No Border camp. The group itself was initiated by the people from outside of Greece and consisted of different nationalities. It is worth mentioning that the group did manage to bring refugees to the camp almost everyday with a rented bus. In that sense they did a great job! The result of that work as well as result of work of the media group i will describe a little bit later.

The rest of the day went quite good. Everybody was doing something full of energy. The working groups started functioning. At some point around 11am the local organizers started showing up at the infopoint. There were not so many of them at the camp at that point, and only a few more came later. That was one of the first problems of the camp - the lack of the organization group on site made it harder for the people that came from the other places to get in touch with what was going on. No surprise that people were taking initiative themselves.

At the end of the day the question about the camp's security shifts was left without reply just to figure out the very next day that some of the belongings of the people were stolen at night...

Gotta bring them all

On the third day there was a plan to go to the refugee camp next to Thessaloniki with info materials - start communicating with people there. As the local greeks explained their plan was to bring only women and children that day to the camp - the kids were supposed to be taken care of by child care group and the women could have time and space to get together and talk about their problems. Unfortunately the plan was brought to attention of everybody in the camp only afterwards.

There was a car demonstration to the camp with over 20 cars participating. Each car was full of people eager to help refugees. When we came to the place it took around 20 second for people to break the first gates, and then open the second and... we got inside of the camp. At that point people went like crazy tourists next to Eiffel Tower - a lot of them got their phones or cameras and started making pictures of everything happening around. Some of the people gave local syrian kids black and red flags with banners and started making pictures of that. The pictures were awesome. But as it was later on mentioned by one of the greek comrades nobody gave a shit about the fact that those kids were standing on the edge of the roof of a building while posing for the pictures.

I don't know what kind of perception everybody else have about those camps, but these tents are people's houses, and this fucking camp is their home for now. Going around and making nice pictures for your blog/site/collective is at least disrespectful.

Eventually the visit itself left a really bad feeling - i still have an impression that people wanna consume this crisis, they want to get the suffering of others for a moment and then go back to their comfortable houses in their countries, showing their friends pictures of those poor creatures that have escaped the war. Eventually this feeling was one of the few things that i brought back with me from Thessaloniki.

The departure from the refugee camp was as chaotic as the arrival - suddenly everybody went to the cars. Some cars left first, some cars were left behind surrounded by the cops (that day cops were eager to bring the cars back to the camp), some people took inside of their cars kids without their parents. For the person i came with this was the first time when he started talking about leaving the camp. "I have nothing to do with those people" he said pointing at a car taking some youngsters inside.

That day there were lots of refugees in the NoBorder camp. And the day after that there were lots of refugees in the camp. And the day after. In fact during the whole week except one day transportation group was bringing refugees. Their goal was to bring the people. However transportation group didn't have any ideas what to do with them. The local greek organizers had something in mind, but they were not so eager to share it with everybody and in general they were quite busy with the infrastructure of the camp. So people were brought to the camp without any program. And again it went completely chaotic: kids going into the tents of people and stealing some stuff. Grown ups suggesting women in the camp to have sex with them for money. Kids drinking alcohol and playing on top of the occupied building. The lack of approach towards the common work has destroyed the idea of working together with refugees. I do not blame those who were going from the refugee camp into the buses to go to the city, those who were stealing from some petit burgeous participants of the camp their expensive electronics, those who were up to stay in the city during the night not to go back to the camp - if i would be at their place most probably i would do the same. I believe that responsibility for this chaos is laying on the participants of the camp themselves. It is us who failed to cooperate together with refugees, expecting them to self organize out of blue.

And voicing this during the general assembly brought us to the discussion of racism: there was a lot said during one of the first general assemblies about people being racist for asking why should we bring refugees to the No Border Camp and what are we going to do with them. Concerns that they are not political activists so you shouldn't expect from them the same level of activity were also considered racist. In fact from the third day onwards people started blaming each other in racism on different issues. The more problematic camp was the more people were blaming others in problems.

Deutschland ueber alles

I don't wanna be a racist, but as i'm writing this article sitting in a german train i have to mention some small parts about germans. Basically germans were the biggest group in the camp and they were present everywhere. Starting from the toilets where first writings on the walls were made in german, ending up with people asking me directions in german. You are in no border camp but you still address the person you don't know in German. But at the same time this is not something unreasonable to do - taking into account the amount of germans in the camp at certain point you might have a bigger chance to find a german rather than an english speaking person addressing a random passer by.

We've discussed with some other people that germans also have expectations Beyond Reality(tm) towards the other places - somehow people think that it will be like in Germany. For example expectations towards the way things are discussed: it went so bad that there was a german girl talking to a greek comrade and shutting him up because of his white man privileges. Angela Merkel is strong in you. And this kind of small examples were everywhere around. This broken expectations towards the rest of the world that is not so comfortable as the german left scene.

The infopoint... at the last days of the camp the infopoint was full of materials in German. In fact texts in german were around 70-80% of everything that was available. I mean i understand that you wanna share the information, but with your fellow citizens? I've seen all this stuff pilling up in infoshops in Germany for years, and now it was brought to Greece.

After a couple of days criticism actually reached some people and they formed their group on... critical deutschness (critical germanism) to discuss the role of german "left" activists in the whole camp and general global solidarity. Unfortunately the only text for outside from this group was produced on manarchism in the camp. In private conversation one person told me that they did agree inside of the group that germans should do more in germany instead of going around the world, but this was never manifested in any way.

I have a friend from east, one of those countries that started existing after collapse of the east block. So this friend was living in Germany for a bit and every time i met him he was bragging about germans. I was telling him that there is no point in such generalization. You can't say that germans are this and germanas are that. But after this camp i think my mind has moved in his direction.

At the same time another friend of mine in the camp pointed quite good that in the camp germans were doing everything to break the stereotype of being organized. There was a situation that i for quite a while will remember in favor of that statement. A group of people was searching for someone to help them to build down the stage in the camp. There was a group of people sitting on the grass, which they asked for some help. Instead of that they got response from one leasure laying around german: "I don't wanna do this and in fact the organization of the camp is horrible, so i'm not helping!"...

Hello, i come from Beyond Europe. My name is...

I have little against people who are proud members of their organizations. In fact i'm in some cases quite proud of the groups i'm coming from. But i became quite fascinated to which extent this went with the whole project Beyond Europe. People from the campaign during the meetings would present themselves clearly: first organization, than name and then comes the point. For me it felt like a formal political meeting - something on the level of all those politicians and professionals that are putting on themselves clothes of political organizers.

And what was also quite important - distance that Beyond Europe and some other groups took from organizing the camp. Beyond Europe had their own meetings, Beyond Europe had their own actions, Beyond Europe had their own campaign Beyond Borders inside of the camp. Beyond Europe was everything apart from being a group in No Border Camp. The participation in the infrastructure was at minimum, though the groups were using it as a ground for their organizing. I think at the end you shouldn't be surprised that everything got so fucked up, if you just use things without participation in it.

Putting on foil hats

At some point the camp for me went nuts. And i think i was not the only one. Somehow people were dealing with that in different ways. Some would leave the camp, some would try to organize the last bits of sanity inside of it to proceed and some would go crazy together with others. The level of madness was growing each day. A shield saying "My name is Ismail i'm searching for german wife" was standing next to "Don't buy from the drug dealers, they are working together with police". I don't know if Ismail found himself a wife, but people were still buying drugs from local dealers... from those, that were stealing stuff from people from the camp.

Here and there refugees were organizing their small business in No Border Camp - there was a small group doing haircuts for 5 euro. Another guy was sitting on the boxes selling cigarettes - after all it is better to buy cigarettes from a refugee than from the local kiosk, at least you are supporting the cause... or? There was even a discussion during one of the general assemblies about another person who would like to sell Falafel.

The final point was made at the general assembly on Friday. Just at the very beginning of the meeting there was a section of announcements. Almost at the end of the round there was one person who said "In the camp there were cases when refugee kids were given drugs, and they were given by the people from the camp". And this announcement was followed by "We found a kitten in the city and it doesn't like to be touched by everybody...". Please do not touch the kitten... and don't give drugs to the kids...

We are so different

I think it is worth mentioning that a lot of problems mentioned above are the product of conflicts of different political cultures. Inside of NoBorder Camp there were people from different countries bringing their perspectives on the issues: anarchists from Greece, antiauthoritarians from Greece, anarchist groups from Balkans and Eastern Europe, critical whitness and feminist groups from Germany and many many others. Unfortunately when all of those groups came together nobody was trying to find the common language. And maybe in some cases i can agree that there is no way to find common ground, but in the other cases we do share the common struggle, but turn in conflicts with each other due to misunderstandings.

In that sense NoBorder is not the place where we can build those bridges of mutual understanding, as it is too short and as Thessaloniki experience showed, they are also too easy to escalate on the bigger scale. Not only germans shouldn't try to build up small place of german left scene in Greece, but the other groups of activists as well. We are coming together not to reproduce our struggle in the other place, but rather to unite efforts of our resistance.

We came here for sun

At the end i would like to mention the issue of holidarity. This problem made at least a bunch of people from Greece i saw in the camp quite angry. Attempt to combine vacation with activism just doesn't work. If you wanna have some moments of peace - no border camp is definitely not for you. If you wanna go to the sea, go to the sea but do not confuse everybody else around about your activity.

There were hundreds of people in the camp, at peak moment there were around 1000 people! But at the same time the level of participation in the camp was one of the lowest so far i have seen in such big groups. No participation in any activity of the camp apart from a couple of big demonstrations. Put me at the beginning of my political involvement in the anarchist movement and i would just say that there is no way to change something with those people. And that was exactly the same perception of the other persons that came with me: one of them suggested that this kind of camps shouldn't be open for everybody but rather be a cooperation of specific groups organizing together with each other.

We don't need holidarity in Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Russia, Poland. Holidarity is not going to help those who fled their countries because of war. Instead of this twisted western concept we needthe  good old Solidarity - the concept that proved to help us stand through the storms of different kinds. Solidarity that requires people to put themselves into the same position of those they are in solidarity with, and not just go to the sunny beach for a nice time. Solidarity is hard, solidarity is struggle, solidarity is empowering. Solidarity is not vacation, but a hard work and we have to understand that. Until that point No Border Camp will stay as a nice excuse for westerners to travel to south or east and have some lovely days.

Zeige Kommentare: ausgeklappt | moderiert

You are lying, Beyond Europe take part in camp infrastructur. As a network we provide like 80% of the night shift and so on. SO probabely your view is very subjectiv.

These militarizised nightshifts with uniform signs are shitty.

After this was started the people who did the nightshifts before stopped to partizipate out of this reason.

This was more an communist "Schlägertrupp" than anything else.

How can you be complaining about a lack of participation on the one hand - and then be positive about the idea of a camp being restricted for specific groups only? This difference you draw between the 'elite' of organzied acticivists and 'vistors' is exactly what makes people want to break out from the structure and be reluctant to become active (however you define being active - fr me it can include taking a day of to clear your mind, even if you might consider that holidays).
Rather change the structure if people don't want to get involved than blaming them for being passive.

After all, that's part of what democracy does: Blaming people who don't want to get involved and calling them not interested or lazy about politics, when it is the structure that really makes people NOT get involved in decision-making processes (don't get me wrong, of course there are apart from that loads of other reasons why democracy is no solution)

I share much of your critic, but it is always easy to blame people who have - for various reasons - no interest in become active in the camp structure. One should ask themselve whether the reason might be a structural one - that can be changed...


one other thing I need to comment on: I don't see ANY reason why actvists should not critizise others from other countries...

"it went so bad that there was a german girl talking to a greek comrade and shutting him up because of his white man privileges. Angela Merkel is strong in you. And this kind of small examples were everywhere around. This broken expectations towards the rest of the world that is not so comfortable as the german left scene."

Actvists from greece are so deeply involved with revolutionry ideas and anarchists ideal that there is every right to demand of them to also question their patriarchial manners. As someone who claims to be an anarchist you should be able to reflect your priviliges and at least be open towards discussion. And it is necessary to critizise every movement, because no movement is perfect! Don't just play that down by calling it german!

Everything is fine with hating germany and its hegemonstic role in europe/ the world. And everything fine with critizising german-speaking dominance in the camp that was not stopped nor enough critizised.
But please do not use that to talk badly about necessary critics about a movement (such as continued sexism, which we all have acted in as we've grown up in this society)!

thx a lot for your overview. i think there are some crucial points in the reflection which we should really reflect and learn about that.

Dealing with kids. Dealing with "small buisness". Dealing with Holidarity und especially how we should deal with language hegemonial shit.

And first - who we can deal with shit and critic.


"I have nothing to do with those people"

In the last months there was several camps and meetings from "radical left" in the german-speaking areas - stuff happend there which i really would suppose that it´s better that much more informal camps happening without stages and beaches for the ego and the guilty conscience.

(For example the issue about an workshop which wanna deal about "the lack of POC in the Antifa" which reproduces a lot of discrimination against some people - until "the last POC" left this workshop with a "fuck you" | Or for example the german-speaking hegemony @the A-Camp in Austria)

I think there is easily really a big difference between "radical left" and anarchist practice - even people think there are a lot similarity - NO, it´s NOT

For Example: the "BeyondEurope"-Network it´s NOT an anarchist network, even people present it as something like that because it´s sound better for some people.

It´s not about beeing anarchist or not - it´s really about having in it´s core the possibility to criticize the own practice or not. and a lot groups and organizations from "the radical left" in the german-speaking area don´t have that. because if, there would a critic formulated much earlier befor. by themselfs.

they want "the masses", they get them and put it to thessalioniki.


Maybe there is little bit an idea to reflection and change pratices - but it´s just possible if there are the will to think about stuff which happend, taking responsiblity, taking position - and share it with others. like in this text. thx.


maybe find in future - some kind of "build those bridges of mutual understanding".

but for that i think we also have to destroy the hegemonic - especially in the german-speaking areas - ideas of "leftism" and their ideas of emancipatoric pratice.


PS.: for example making a fetish out of the color of my or your skin it´s NOT emancipatoric. I don´t like the concept of POC at all - but don´t misunderstand it in the way of not daling with racism. If it´s the only practice which is happening to find new words it´s nothing - especially if there is no practice coming out of that.

Could you eloborate a bit more on the topic of the discussion PoC in Antifa. What where the problems in this discussion? Any interessting insights?

The Workshop was about "Antira and Antifa", a short (shitty) translation:


Antifa und Antira
"We need more Womyn …and more PoCs" - Critical (self)reflection about white-dominated Antifa-Networks and the reproduction of characters of differences. Until today the antifagroups dominated by white activists - without to name that, or thematic that, or reflect that. […] In the workshop we wanna reflect our (own) privileges in this society of dominance und discuss political concepts around inclusive possibilities of participation.


During that workshop it happend not only once that the two organizers of the workshop didn´t respect bounderies or needs - and that´s no joke - from pocs. and that´s really sad and stupid. And at all it´s really questionable the way to start to deal with problems...

I think that´s meant: "Zu den Vorfällen auf dem Fantifa-Kongress in HH: Spiegellabyrinthe der radikalen Linken schleifen! Für antifaschistische Orientierung!"  http://de.indymedia.org/node/9712


it´s just in german, but maybe someone want to translate (important parts of) it...

"Schütze mich vor Sturm und Wind, und Deutsche, die im Ausland sind."


Irgendwas wird da dran sein, wenn man diesen Spruch seit 200 Jahren schon nutzt.

Let's just repost the recent statement by the No Border organizers. 

It seems they are fully aware that irrelevance (to which the above published "Alexander Volsky" lyrical delirium contributes) is not the main of the movement. There are bigger problems.