We’ve migrated!

On the occasion of International Migrants Day, we’ve relaunched Le monde n’est pas rond as an artistic webzine. Come on over, update your bookmarks, and subscribe to www.mondepasrond.net !

In the same spirit of the printed newspaper, we’ll be publishing alternative journalism, art and illustration, photography, prose and poetry, exploring the contemporary realities of migration, borders, and human rights from different artistic angles. The webzine will also give us the opportunity to feature galleries, music, short films and other multimedia content.

New posts will be published on a regular basis, two to three times a week. The first batch is already up! After a year, we plan to collect the most read and most insightful posts in a printed anthology, together with a selection of fresh material.

An initiative by Passaport Project, in collaboration with Personne n’est illégal – Luxembourg.

Happy reading, listening, watching, and surfing!

Antoine Cassar
Editor, Le monde n’est pas rond

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MANO DE DIOS, film screening & interview with Adolf El Assal

lsdSaturday 31st August, 17h30
Last Summer Dance festival, Open space tent
Parc communal de Mersch, Luxembourg

Short film screening & interview with director Adolf El Assal

As part of the first edition of the Last Summer Dance music and arts festival in Mersch, Nobody is illegal – Luxembourg will be screening the short film Mano de Dios, followed by an interview with director Adolf El Assal.

manodediosBased on a true story, Mano de Dios (2010, 15 min.) follows the day-to-day struggle of an Argentinian immigrant who has lived almost half of his life in Luxembourg ‘illegally’. Inspired partly by a quote from the late American author Orson Welles, the film depicts a loner who must fight his way out of the illusion that no one else exists around him. Click here to watch the trailer.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1981, Adolf El Assal grew up in Dubai, London and Luxembourg, eventually settling down in the latter city, where he set up Independent Spirit Productions. After directing and editing over 120 music videos and mini-documentaries, El Assal produced two “no-budget” features (Divizionz, official selection Berlinale 2008, and Reste Bien, Mec!), followed by the short films Mano de Dios and La Fameuse Route, which are still touring festivals around the world today. His first full feature film, Les Fameux Gars, will be released worldwide in December 2013. El Assal is currently working on the feature film version of Mano de Dios.

Adolf El Assal. Photo © Paulo Lobo

Adolf El Assal. Photo © Paulo Lobo

Nobody is illegal – Luxembourg (Keen ass illegal)
is an independent grassroots group that campaigns for migrants’ rights, humane alternatives to detention and deportation, and paths towards universal freedom of movement.

The event will be presented by activist Sandie Richard, member of Keen ass illegal.

Adolf El Assal will be interviewed in English by Antoine Cassar, editor of Le monde n’est pas rond, artistic newspaper on migration, borders, and human rights.

DVDs, books, anti-passports, and no-borders newspapers will be on sale before and after the event.

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Bitter Oranges

Following on from “Welcome to Europe!“, a highly informative article by Carole Reckinger & Gilles Reckinger on the plight of sub-Saharan migrant workers in the orange plantations of Rosarno (published in Issue 1 of Le monde n’est pas rond), the two researchers, together with anthropologist Diana Reiners, have just returned from a second field trip in southern Italy. Carole Reckinger wrote in from Foggia, where the tomatoes are picked:

“The situation is just crazy. I mean we know how bad the situation is, but each day we learn something new and it is just heartbreaking. It is really a new form of slavery. We talked about it a bit today, and actually it is a step further than slavery. In classical slavery, the slaves were the property of the landowners. You make sure your property stays in a more or less good shape, even if you exploit them. In this new situation, people don’t belong to anyone, and are completely interchangeable. The exploiters don’t even need to make the slightest effort.

Rosarno during the summer was hard. 40 plus degrees, no shade, no work. Depression, and no medical and mental health care.”

Carole, Diana and Gilles have just launched Bitter Oranges, a website documenting their research project. It contains new photographs showing how the orange pickers live, and a three-minute video including an interview with one of the workers.

Visit Carole Reckinger’s website to see more photographs of the migrants’ summer days in Rosarno.

This first field trip to Rosarno was financially supported by the Luxembourg Ministère de la Culture, helping to kick-start the project. In order to carry out an in-depth research and follow individual people over a longer period of time, Carole, Diana and Gilles are returning to Rosarno at least twice a year:

“Journalists usually only report about the living conditions in Rosarno during the busy winter months. However, we would like to contribute to extend existing knowledge with testimonials of people, but especially with a long-term observation of the conditions for individual people. The long, hot, summer months, when no work is available to the migrants, are of particular interest to us.

We are working on an exhibition as well as a manuscript for a non-fictional book including photographs, testimonials and personal observations in both German and English.

We are currently looking for partnerships, collaborations and financial support in order to continue this project. If you would like to support us, or would like to have more information, please contact us @ bitter_oranges at yahoo dot com.”

A crowd-funding campaign will soon be launched. Stay tuned.

Detail from "Welcome to Europe!", by Carole Reckinger & Gilles Reckinger, Issue 1

Detail from “Welcome to Europe!”, by Carole Reckinger & Gilles Reckinger, Issue 1

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Mhux f’Isimna / Not in Our Name

The Le monde n’est pas rond blog has been silent for a while. Partly because we’re sifting through submissions – many of excellent quality – that we’ve received for the next issue of our newspaper. Partly because we’re applying for cultural funds to offset the printing and design costs of our future issues. But there’s another reason, closer to home. Le monde n’est pas rond is based in Luxembourg, but ‘home’ means the island of Malta, which is where the editor (myself, Antoine Cassar) and the designer (Marco Scerri), both currently living as expats further north (or emigrants, or immigrants, what’s the difference?), hail from.

It all began on Tuesday 9th July, a dark day for Malta. In a speech given at the Malta Chamber of Commerce regarding the creation of a Citizenship and Visa Agency to alleviate bureaucracy for “potential investors”, Joseph Muscat, the new Prime Minister, exclaimed:

“Once they know what Malta has to offer, we are in a great position, because we have a killer proposition.”

Unfortunately, this was not the only “killer proposition” that our PM had made that same day: a few hours earlier, Muscat ordered Air Malta to prepare a plane to deport a group of 45 young Somali men to the military airport of Mitiga, 8 km outside of Tripoli, Libya. The deportees had arrived in Malta by boat that very morning, and were due to be forcibly ‘pushed back’ to Libya at midnight.

photo: MaltaToday

photo: MaltaToday

Thankfully, the swift action of a handful of lawyers and grassroots NGOs caught the attention of the European Court of Human Rights, which immediately issued an interim order blocking the mass deportation. The Maltese government obeyed, but assured that it had not been bluffing and remained ready to “consider all options”, including not only the failure to offer protection to beleaguered, vulnerable individuals, but also the forced transportation of the same people back into the jaws of danger. The last time Malta enacted a ‘pushback’, in 2002 at the hands of the Nationalist government now in opposition, a group of Eritreans were tortured upon arrival in their country. That decision was subsequently condemned in a report by Amnesty International.

Notwithstanding Malta’s agreement to comply with its international legal obligations, the ‘heroic’ threat of deportation had given rise to an intense wave of racist expression in the streets and on the internet, including various insults of a sexual nature, the waving of flags where the Maltese Cross took the place of the swastika, and a public list of “traitors” compiled “one by one”. Two days later, on Thursday 11th July, the Prime Minister publicly condemned, in unequivocal terms, the xenophobic language that had smothered the island over the past three days, and adamantly discouraged the demonstration that the extreme right had been planning for the following Sunday in Valletta. Luckily, the Maltese-style Nuremberg Rally did not materialise. Muscat’s official disapprobation of xenophobia is to be appreciated (and I should admit, it took me by surprise), but it came a little too late – the racist violence had already begun, with physical attacks on two African bus drivers in the north of the island.

Members of the Maltese artistic community had also been quick to react. Karl Schembri, a journalist and writer currently based in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan with Oxfam International, wrote a hard-hitting letter to the Prime Minister, condemning his populist rhetoric, exhorting him to make his political points with fellow politicians rather than with the lives of vulnerable people, and declaring that the blood of innocent victims that would stain the hands of the Maltese government would not be in Schembri’s name. Immanuel Mifsud and four other Maltese authors followed suit; based on their letters, a common statement was drawn up, and signed by around 30 writers. Maltese academics and graphic artists brought out their own analogous statements.

"There is no enemy beyond your shores. Look for your enemy, instead, at the bottom of yourself." - Annalise Falzon. Meme by Wayne Flask

“There is no enemy beyond your shores. Look for your enemy, instead, at the bottom of yourself.” – Annalise Falzon. Meme by Wayne Flask

Meanwhile, Maltese xenophobic forums (including, irony of ironies, a number of Maltese emigrants) were supporting their ‘arguments’ with quotations from Maltese Romantic poets, the national anthem, and even words of the Dalai Lama. After discussion with fellow writers, on Friday 12th July, I decided to create a website bringing together the wide variety of Maltese artistic expression on the theme of migration. Loosely based on the model of Solidarity Park, which publishes rolling poems in support of the peaceful çapullers of Gezi Park, the blog Mhux F’Isimna (Not in Our Name) features art, film, photography, music, poetry (including translations from other languages), short stories and articles in Maltese and English. Against the policy of deportation and xenophobia, in favour of fundamental human rights (particularly Articles 13 and 14 of the UDHR) and human dignity, the contributions received are published in solidarity with those who were forced to abandon their countries, and found themselves migrating from one cage to the next.

Among the contributors are a number of members of the grassroots NGO Konnect Kulturi – Integra, who were among those at the forefront of the protests on 9th July in front of the Police Headquarters (where the Somali men, women and babies who had arrived that morning were kept, sleeping on the floor, whilst the deportation plane was being prepared), and were among those targeted with sexual insults by prominent members of the extreme right. Jean Paul Borg, who teaches Maltese to Africans in Malta on a voluntary basis on behalf of Konnect Kulturi, sent in a short story detailing his experience of that dark day of Tuesday 9th, and the relief of himself and his students when the news came in of the blocked deportation. “Din id-darba kelli naqsam il-messaġġ magħhom. It-tbissim kien universali. / Ħassejt dehxa. Ikkonfermajt li għandi xi ħaġa fuq ix-xellug ta’ sidri li taħdem.” (“This time I had to share the message with them. The smile was universal. / I felt a shudder. And I confirmed that there is something on the left side of my chest that works.”)

As of 27th July, twenty-nine artistic contributions have been featured on Mhux F’Isimna, including a few works published in Issue 1 of Le monde n’est pas rond or due to appear in Issue 2. The door remains open to artists in or linked to Malta. The variety of angles, rhythms and styles exploring the realities of migration and borders is highly interesting, profoundly human, and may eventually be a good basis for the publication of a printed anthology, or perhaps for a Maltese edition of the newspaper (Id-Dinja Mhix Tonda). Deep down, however, I wish that these projects were ephemeral, and unnecessary. For as long as borders and nation-state fantasies continue to impose their racist heirarchy upon the peoples of the world, and for as long as freedom of movement remains proportional to the GDP of one’s birthland or the melanin content in one’s skin, our work will continue.

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«Manifestival» in front of the Findel detention centre, 29 June 2013

Faites de la musique, pas des centres fermés! - Illustration by Nina K.

Faites de la musique, pas des centres fermés! – Illustration by Nina K.

Imagine a world where human freedom of movement is not proportional to the GDP of one’s nation state, to the geographical coordinates of one’s birthplace, or to the melanin content in one’s skin. Where people are not punished for the heinous ‘crime’ of crossing a national border. Where people are not treated as commodities, forced into the trap of trafficking and exploitation, by a system that “illegalises” people according to the whims and prejudices of national governments. Imagine a world that can call itself round, as opposed to a complex polyhedron whose shape and size differ according to one’s origins or papers. — Personne n’est illégal / Campagne contre le centre fermé au Findel

«Manca l’aria» – There’s not enough air. This is how Pietro Lombardini of Caritas Luxembourg, interviewed by Paola Cairo on Radio Ara the morning before the Manifestival, described the atmosphere inside the migrant detention centres he has visited in Lebanon, Greece and Luxembourg. Pietro visits the people locked inside the Luxembourg Findel «centre fermé» (a euphemism for “prison”) once a week. Most of them are young men, between 20-30 years of age. Their frustration is more than palpable. Two weeks ago, one of the imprisoned exclaimed to Pietro: “When we were sleeping out in the street, without a roof over our head, nobody came to help us; now that we are inside, you come to assist us?”

Pietro says that he has made friends inside the centre over the past couple of years. A small number of them – from Somalia, Afghanistan – were awarded asylum in Luxembourg and in England. But not all stories have a happy ending; many others have been deported, in some cases one day before the expiry of the six-month period set by law, after which they would have been allowed free. This was the case of Karim Naciri, 33 years of age, deported to Morocco a few days ago and banned from entering Europe for three years, despite being the father of a small Luxembourgish daughter.

These outright institutional violations of articles 13 and 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, leading to humiliation, psychological damage, and the separation of families, are the reasons why Personne n’est illégal – Luxembourg organised a Manifestival on the afternoon of Saturday 29th June. A sizeable crowd got together to express their protest, and their solidarity, through the universal language of music. We are yet to find out if the musical waves reached the little air inside the centre, in the hope that those breathing it will have understood that they are not completely alone, and that not all of society on the other side of the fence is against them or ignores their plight.

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Personne n’est illégal would like to heartfully thank all musicians, singers and performers from Luxembourg and beyond for their active participation in the Manifestival, as well as the journalists and photographers, the documentary makers, and all those who came along to show their support and partake in the festive, cordial atmosphere. Thanks also to the dark heavy clouds that sailed by the airport without leaving a single drop, despite the predicted 85% chance of rain!

From Sandie Richard’s speech at the beginning of the event (click here to read in full):

Photo by Carole Reckinger

Photo by Carole Reckinger

«Le centre fermé du Findel est le symbole de l’exclusion dont sont victimes certains demandeurs d’asile. Emprisonnés pour leur seul crime d’avoir franchi une frontière, ils passent leur journée dans l’attente anxieuse d’une éventuelle expulsion. Ils sont privés du bien le plus précieux  à savoir: la liberté. Aujourd’hui je voudrais parler au nom de mes ami/es victimes d’une politique deshumanisante qui a brisé leur espoir en une vie meilleure au Luxembourg. Mes pensées se tournent vers Josélinda, mon amie brésilienne arrêtée à son domicile, placée en détention au centre fermé puis déportée à plus de 4000 kilomètres de sa ville d’origine. Je pense aussi à Naila, la sœur d’une amie tunisienne arrêtée le  6 Novembre 2012 puis placée en détention durant près de trois semaines au centre fermé du Findel (Luxembourg) avant d’être expulsée sous escorte policière vers la Tunisie. Quel souvenir gardera-t-elle du Luxembourg ? Je pense à mon ami Kamel qui a quitté son pays le Maroc il y a une trentaine d’années et a connu de nombreux mois en détention et des expulsions en France, Belgique, en Hollande avant d’arriver finalement au Luxembourg. Il avait l’espoir de pouvoir trouver du travail… Il a passé six mois au centre de rétention et vit dans la crainte constante d’y être enfermé à nouveau. Je pense enfin à notre ami Victor, membre de Keen ass illegal, militant des droits de l’Homme congolais arrivé au Luxembourg il y a huit ans. Après des années de combat administratif, il a réussi il y a quelques mois à trouver du travail et un employeur qui voulait l’embaucher pour une durée indéterminée. Il a réuni tous les documents nécessaires pour pouvoir bénéficier de la procédure de régularisation par le travail proposée par le gouvernement luxembourgeois. Il a reçu récemment une lettre de refus et risque lui aussi d’être expulsé à tout moment vers un pays dans lequel il risque la mort. Il vit chaque jour dans l’angoisse d’être arrêté et placé en détention au centre fermé. Je pense à ces amis ainsi qu’à tous ceux que je n’ai pas cités et qui n’ont pas la chance d’être ici parmi nous pour la simple raison qu’ils sont privés du droit de vivre dans la dignité, en toute liberté. L’enfermement des migrants doit cesser!! La dignité n’a pas de nationalité et la solidarité n’a pas de frontières.»

Click here to read an article on the Manifestival in the Luxemburger Wort (in Portuguese).

A few words from Serge Kollwelter:

«Samedi citoyen: au Findel une soixantaine de citoyens, jeunes pour l’essentiel manifestaient devant et contre le centre de rétention : Personne n’est illégal !
À l’ASTI des régularisés fêtaient leur régularisation obtenue ensemble avec l’ASTI.

Actes (de) citoyens (agissants), n’est-ce pas ? Loin des discours sur les citoyens demain à la Rockhal ! »

From Paca Rimbau:

«Hier, 29 juin, une rencontre entre la solidarité et la musique a eu lieu aux portes du centre de rétention du Luxembourg. Un endroit bucolique: des chevaux, de la verdure, un ruisseau caché derrière les arbres… Or, dans un bâtiment qui pourrait bien passer inaperçu, la souffrance et l’injustice y habitent. Merci aux ami-e-s qui ont organisé cette manifestation.»

The photographs below were taken by journalist Carole Reckinger. Click on the links for more information on each of the groups and musicians, and to listen to some of their songs.

Chorale des Sans Nom

Keen ass illegal-3

Keen ass illegal-4

Acoustic Message

Keen ass illegal-5


Keen ass illegal-8

Faso Kimou

Keen ass illegal-10

Keen ass illegal-11

Los Macoñeros del Sur

Keen ass illegal-13


Keen ass illegal-14

Antoine Lemaire

Keen ass illegal-15

Pieter Van de Paverd

Keen ass illegal-17

Antoine Cassar

Keen ass illegal-18

poem: No one is illegal

André Mergenthaler & Miranda Welter

Keen ass illegal-20

Keen ass illegal-21

Tanzt, tanzt, sonst sind wir verloren – Dance, dance, or we are all lost (Pina Bausch)

Paca Rimbau: «Émouvante performance de Miranda Welter et André Merghentaler contre l’enfermement des êtres humains. Un poétique cri de liberté.»

Tomás Tello & Elisabeth Flunger



Keen ass illegal-16

Keen ass illegal-12

Keen ass illegal

Keen ass illegal-9

Keen ass illegal-2

Keen ass illegal-6

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