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(Eng., Deutsch) Cornelius' Years of fighting for the right of free movement ends with imprisonment

Info in DEUTSCH
Hintergrund - Ein jahrelanger Kampf um das Recht auf Bewegungsfreiheit endet im Gefängnis
http://www.thevoiceforum.org/node/303
(eng,dt,french,turkish) - Open letter: Residential Obligation law “Residenzpflichtgesetz” Before the European Human Rights. http://www.thevoiceforum.org/dossier15erfurt_socialforum

Demonstration for the rights to freemovement!
Saturday, 12.11.2005, 12.00 Uhr, Gänseliesel in GÖTTINGEN

Cornelius Yufanyi, a refugee from Cameroon and member of the human rights organisation The Voice Refugee Forum is threatened with imprisonment for having violated the travel restriction regulation imposed on asylum seekers in Germany - this threat is becoming reality 5 ½ years after his participation in the refugee congress in Jena, eastern Germany, which is when proceedings were first initiated against him. By now, Cornelius has a young daughter, who is a German citizen. He has almost completed his degree in forestry. He is still politically active and continues to fight against the racist refugee politics prevailing in Germany.

Background

Because his life was under threat in Cameroon, Yufanyi fled to Germany in December 1998 and applied for asylum in January 1999. Refugees cannot determine their place of residence so he had to live in an asylum seekers home located in the middle of a forest in Weilrode in Eichsfeld, which has since been closed down as a result of protests against the bad living conditions. Despite the authorities' intention to isolate refugees by forcing them to live a non-cash existence in remote areas, Yufanyi became an active member of the refugee organisation The Voice as well as the Caravan for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants.

In 1999, together with other refugees, he organised the refugee congress "Together against deportation and social exclusion", which took place from 20 April to 1 May 2000 in Jena. Many refugees were stopped from attending the conference because the local foreigners authorities refused to issue travel permits. Refugees are subject to the so-called Residenzpflicht (literally: "obligation of residency") which lays down that they can only leave their designated regional district with permission from the foreigners authority. Cornelius Yufanyi was also not in possession of such a permit.

On 28 April, eight days after the start of the conferences, an interview with Yufanyi was published in the regional newspaper Thüringer Allgemeine. This article was read by Mr Schäfer, representative of the foreigners authority of Heiligenstadt, who copied it and sent it to regional police force, which ordered Cornelius Yufanyi to appear at the station for an interrogation. Yufanyi refused to attend upon which the regional administrative court imposed a fine of 600 DM without a hearing.

Cornelius Yufanyi refused to pay the fine: "I will not pay a fine for wanting to move freely. It is the right of every human being to go where ever he wants to go". This is why he had to go to court for the first time on 12 October 2000.

The first court case

On 12 October 2000, at the start of the first trial against Yufanyi, around 80 supporters came to the regional administrative court in Worbis to protest against the residency law. Only 36 supporters fitted into the court room, the others had to wait outside. Those who had been able to get an entry tickets had to undergo body searches, including metal detectors. The whole charade (and following demonstration) was accompanied by an excessive police presence. The authorities obviously wanted to give the impression that the incident discussed in court was a dangerous matter.

However, during the trial, it was not Cornelius Yufanyi but the residency regulation itself that was put in the dock as a racist exceptional law. The lawyers as well as Yufanyi "addressed the racist practice of implementing the law as a central theme and thereby gave insight into the depths of institutional racism in Germany. It is an exemplary piece for showing the remits for control, spying and denunciation that exceptional laws for foreigners create for law enforcement officers and civil servants", an observer later described the trial.

The civil servant who had passed on the article to the police was invited as a witness. During his interrogation by the defence, the arbitrariness of the granting of travel permits was revealed: "one has to find a balance in issuing travel permits, also with regard to other refugees". He gave the following criteria for granting a permit: "family and friends' visits if an address is given, visits to expositions, religious activities, if they give support to the refugee". Frequency and aim of requests were also important: "I also check return movement, and we should not be naïve: shop-lifting also exists". In that case, he asserted, he would not give an applicant another permission to travel to the place in question.

Schäfer, on his own accord, zealously passed on his knowledge on Cornelius Yufanyi to the Federal Office for the Acceptance of Asylum Seekers and the regional administrative court. He strongly suspected, he said in his letter to the authorities, that Mr Yufanyi was using his residency in Germany to be politically active. Also, Schäfer claimed he was only present at the asylum seekers home on the days the pocket money was being paid out. Finally, Schäfer thought it was worth mentioning that Yufanyi was often accompanied by a German student from Lower Saxony. According to the Thuringian data protection officer, almost all of these information transfers were "impermissible communications", for the lawyers, they are an aggregation of racist thought and practice.

After the interrogation, the proceedings were postponed. Yufanyi refused a closing of proceedings. He said that his aim is the abolition of the residency law, not a stop in proceedings on grounds of negligibility.

The second court case

On 24 October 2002, the second court case started in Worbis. This time, the court was able to ascertain that Cornelius Yufanyi had actually been in Jena in April 2000. Again, it was the practice of issuing "holiday certificates" which was at the centre of the hearing. According the internal documents of the foreigners authority, asylum seekers are only allowed one "holiday certificate" per month. Other "rules" for the issuing of these permits could not be established during the interrogations. A blanket definition for issuing permits would be unlawful.

Neither the public prosecutor nor the defence were satisfied with the information given by the cross-examined civil servant. For the third trial day, it was therefore initially planned to summon the then chief of the foreigners authority of the regional district of Eichsfeld, Michael Wickman, as well as a representative of the Thuringian interior ministry as witnesses. Meanwhile, Wickman is engaged in promoting the mass deportation of stateless Lebanese refugees in his function of regional MP in Northeim and proudly declared to colleagues of Cornelius Yufanyi that he had been the "architect" of the residency regulation.

The third court case

On 4 September 2003, the third and last hearing took place in Worbis. 80 people gathered for a rally and trial observation in front of the administrative court.

The presiding judge at this hearing, however, had not invited representatives from the interior ministry or Wickman. She had not thought their interrogation necessary.

The defence started the hearing by lodging an application for a stop of proceedings and a referral to the Federal Constitutional Court. The court refused this with the justification that in an earlier ruling, the Constitutional Court had deemed the residency regulation constitutional. After Cornelius was interrogated, his lawyers demanded his acquittal. They argued that the unlawful travel to Jena had been a "case of emergency" because although he could have appealed to a travel ban, it would have taken too long to guarantee his attendance at the conference.

The trial ended with a fine of 150 Euros for Cornelius. In her reasoning for the judgement, the judge said she could not identify the claimed emergency. An emergency would only exist, she argued, if there was a danger to life, physical integrity or freedom. Freedom, she said, was the freedom given to a person by the state. Although his motivations were respectable, Cornelius would have to fight the law politically, the judge held. The lawyers announced they would appeal against the decision and declared their intentions to go the European Court of Justice if necessary.

Summary

Meanwhile, Cornelius' case, together with that of Sunny Omwenyeke, has indeed been lodged with the European Court of Justice. A decision, however, will take several years. By then, the residency regulation will continue to be implemented, with the aim of isolating and excluding refugees from social life in Germany.

An arrest warrant has been issued against Cornelius Yufanyi because he continues to refuse to pay for his right to freedom of movement. He is not the first to go to prison for this right. Sunny Omwenyeke has already been imprisoned for the same reason. Just like Yufanyi, he did not have permission to travel to the refugee conference in Jena. In December 2004, he started serving his prison sentence (instead of paying a fine). On 4 April 2005, Momodou Barrow was imprisoned in the JVA-Rottenburg for having violated the residency regulation several times.

Already during the colonial period, German tried to control and restrict the free movement of the colonised. Then, the colonies introduced a so-called "natives register" and a "passport" (in form of a tin chip). "Because each passport is only valid in one district and marked by correlating serial numbers, it was possible to ascertain at any given time if Africans had left their borough or district. If they wanted to leave legally - for a limited time period - they had to apply for a passport from the relevant police station. At the travel destination they had to get a confirmation of their time of arrival. The intention of this consistent surveillance was to deny the colonised freedom of movement". (from: Lawful injustice, p. 139*). One of the former colonies in which this law applied is Cameroon, Cornelius Yufanyi's country of origin.

It is high time that the residency regulation and any other exceptional laws discriminating against refugees are abolished!

Contact: Cornelius Yufanyi, Mobile: 0049 (0) 170 87 88 124

The campaign against the residency regulation and the support campaign for Cornelius Yufanyi are still in need of donations:

The Voice Refugee Forum
Account nr: 127 829
BLZ 260 500 01
IBAN: DE97 2605 0001 0000 1278 29
BIC: NOLADE21GOE
Bank name: Sparkasse Göttingen
Subject: Residenzpflicht Cornelius
email: the_voice_goettingen@gmx.de

for more information see:
www.umbruch-bildarchiv.de/video/portrait/corneliusyufanyi.html
www.humanrights.de/doc_de/archiv/caravan/residenzpflicht/worbis.html
www.thevoiceforum.org/search/node/residenzpflicht
or search www.google.de for "Cornelius Yufanyi"

* Jürgen Zimmerer (2005) 'Deutscher Rassenstaat in Afrika. Ordnung, Entwicklung und Segregation in "Deutsch-Südwest" (1884-1915)' [The German race state in Africa. Order, development and segregation in "German South-West" (1884-1914)] in Brumlik, Meinl & Renz (eds.) Gesetzliches Unrecht Rassistisches Recht im 20. Jahrhundert. Jahrbuch 2005 zur Geschichte und Wirkung des Holocaust. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.

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