Monthly Archives: November 2012

Victim See Victim Do

Radovan Krejcir: Czech political asylum seeker. Accused Mobster. Self-Defined Victim aka “the banana skin man.”

Radovan, aka banana skin man, sees himself as a classic scapegoat, the victim of other’s misplaced blame. He is currently in a Pretoria holding cell hamming it up for the media when it serves him and shunning them when it doesn’t. He left the Czech Republic to escape accusations of fraud and tax evasion. He has since been convicted in absentia for tax evasion and charged with six and a half years in prison. While Radovan claims to have been the victim of a political conspiracy, Czech authorities assert that he was part of a vicious Czech crime ring. Radovan retorted that it was the Czech authorities who psychologically and physically tortured him and abducted his father. Perhaps I should mention that Radovan is very wealthy. Oh and that he is being accused of faking cancer in order to secure a pardon. Somewhere, there are allegations that he robbed Pakistani businesses. So, who is Radovan Krejcir? Mobster in sheep’s clothing? A victim impostor? Or innocent business man framed for political gain? The trope of asylum seeker falsely accused or framed is a common one, one that could certainly be capitalized on and employed for ill-gotten gains.

The case of Radovan could be read as a fairy tale example of asylum corruption, where a criminal plays the part of the victim in order to get away with murder so to speak (Radovan is actually also accused of conspiracy to murder by the by). My contention however, is that the co-opting of the victim trope is necessitated by the political asylum system, systematically enforced you could say, and I would. Like most bureaucratic institutions, the political asylum system is both narrowly prescriptive, where cultural contexts like FGM set important precedents that determine what kind of persecution is deemed qualifying and ambiguously contingent on the whims of the judiciaries, in true Kafkan fashion. Often, personal narratives of persecution are collapsed and translated into a language that the courts have been known to recognize. I would argue that one would be hard-pressed to to demonize or criminalize a young girl who experienced life-threatening gender persecution (not necessarily FGM) but who uses the language of FGM in order to make her case legible to the asylum system judiciaries. Furthermore, there is something tautologically confusing about the current asylum system that encourages the victim narrative for political asylum seekers. While it is sensible to expect someone seeking asylum to be the victim of persecution, the work of thinkers like Miriam Ticktin in  Casualties of Care demonstrate how helpless victims are privileged in an asylum system predicated on humanitarian tropes. The helpless, young, innocent female body is the archetype of an asylum seeker whereas the dark young revolutionary Tunisian male fighter is criminalized. His virility is thought to not only foreclose him for the need of aid or assistance but further, that this agentic figure must have ill parasitic intentions to seek help when it is not needed.

Persecuting Asylum Seekers – Life upturned on Nauru

On the lovely island of Nauru is a makeshift detention center, constructed in a state of emergency in order to divert the “hoards” of political asylum seekers, primarily from South East Asia and Sri Lanka, seeking asylum in Australia and New Zealand. Apart from the absurd politicization of the concept of hoards (which usually tends to be an exaggeration in order to push through policy decisions) there is something to be said about the convergences this act of outsourcing asylum claims has with offshoring manufacturing and extraordinary rendition practices (however, we’ll save this for a future post).

The foiled attempts made by a number of asylum seekers, to reach the shores of a country with enough infrastructure to provide some modicum of economic stability and physical security, have left them wasting away in the Nauru detention center. Recently,  15 iranian asylum seekers have been charged by the Nauruan police for causing $24,000 worth of damage to kitchens, tents, and lights at the islands processing center. In my opinion, this certainly seems to be a sensible way of reacting to the bureaucratically organized treatment of asylum seekers as disposable. Perhaps we could call it a demand to be reckoned with, acknowledged. It certainly casts light on the inexcusable paradox that “There is no law to process asylum seekers, but plenty of laws it seems to persecute them” in the words of Mr. Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition in Australia.

Pacific-Nauru-10-08

The Real Criminals are those with Parliamentary Immunity

Racist politicians are certainly nothing new. Trying to prosecute politicians for being racist? Now that is a contemporary phenomena. In recent news the rightwing Swiss People’s Party have been making headlines for their evasion of discrimination prosecution. In September, the Zurich public prosecutor’s office opened a racial discrimination case against People’s Party parliamentarian Alfred Heer after he claimed on regional television show “Tele Züri” that Tunisian asylum seekers are all coming to Switzerland with”the aim of becoming criminals.”

Alfred Heer

As it currently stands, the Swiss Parliament is examining the case after Heer claimed parliamentary immunity. What is ironic is that Heer committed a crime by calling the Tunisians criminals. What I find hypocritical is that apart from his defamatory crime, Heer is committing a further crime by evading arrest, or rather, prosecution. Perhaps we can rest somewhat assured knowing the track record of the parliamentary office enforcing this double standard… err I mean… investigating the accusations. In fact it is the same office that investigated the allegations against Alexander Müller who tweeted in June “Maybe we need a new Kristallnacht… this time against the mosques.” Apparently Müller was fired from his committee membership position, publicly apologized and resigned from the right wing party. The Swiss will certainly not tolerate any invocation of Holocaust references, which is wise considering their problematic M.O. during WWII.

While there is certainly something to be said about the discriminatory associations being made between brown Tunisians and criminality, it is important to note the lineage between political asylum seekers and criminals, of criminals seeking political asylum. While this certainly does not excuse Alfred Heer’s remarks especially since his understanding is that Tunisians are planning on coming to Switzerland to commit crimes, whereas the above points to the fact that asylum seekers were historically criminals, or accused of crimes. Asylum hosts reconciled their fear that those granted asylum would engage in criminal activity by making asylum contingent on the asylee abiding by the rules else be thrown to the wolves, and hence the motivation for not engaging in criminal activity. Considering the ease with which infractions can be committed in contemporary society (think traffic violations or possession of drug charges which are seen as federal crimes  it would be absurd to expect this nowadays.

What tends to be the reality of political asylum seekers and other undocumented individuals is that they become the targets for criminals to take advantage of THEM. As a result from their necessitated low profile, they cannot rely on the law enforcement system to police those who harm them because as non-citizens they theoretically do not have any rights and could be face deportation as a consequence.

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