Open Letter: Blocked by the Border

80 researchers, cultural workers, journalists, and activists from 25 countries call on event organizers throughout “Europe” and beyond: Stand together against the EU border regime and publicize the occasions when borders sabotage our efforts to build spaces of transnational conversation and cooperation!

Dear organizers of conferences, exhibitions, festivals, hackathons and cultural, educational and activist spaces and institutions,

We want your help to draw attention to the fact that, again and again, our colleagues are being blocked by the EU border regime (and other related border regimes) and thus prevented from attending conferences, exhibitions, panels, workshops, seminars, and other events.

This scandal is rarely publicized or denounced by universities, conferences, art spaces, galleries, and other hosts. Rather, it is often treated like a ‘normal’ inconvenience in event logistics, similar to overbooked rooms, lost luggage, tech malfunctions, and the vegan cookies running out on the last day.

But we must not allow this normalization. We must speak out, loudly, and demand change.

Our open letter is intended to fulfill three functions:

1) it is a collective statement that makes ostensibly individual problems visible as a matter of public concern;
2) it is a call for a decentralized and potentially viral initiative/campaign;
3) it is a kit of ideas and text for event organizers to remix and appropriate for their specific contexts and struggles.

The dis/order of the EU border regime

In criticizing the fact that our colleagues are blocked by the EU border regime, we do not want this to conjure up the specter of “Fortress Europe.” This concept is associated with the mythical image of a monolith: an organized whole that acts as a single unified, unchanging force. Such a mythical image – the complementary counterpart of “Europe, the epitome of the free world”? – glosses over intra-EU and intra-European rivalries, differences, inconsistencies, and contradictions. In so doing, it tends to distract from the operations of a border regime, which is anything but monolithic and uniform.

In this framework, “European values” remain ambiguous and underdefined, strategically upheld or strategically neglected; national and supra-national border policies are being flexibly adapted accordingly, depending on traditional or situational geo-economic and geo-political interests and alliances; and those who are not to be part of Europe are continuously molded and blocked in ever new ways.

Who is blocked?

Statistics on the number of people blocked from entering Europe are difficult to secure, and it is almost impossible to find data on the number of artists, intellectuals and other cultural workers. For this reason, and also for reasons of the privacy and safety of individuals, it is difficult to name exemplary or representative cases. The following should suffice to give an idea of the extent and nature of the problem: The spectrum of those affected by borders in this way ranges from non-EU nationals who are accused of “sneaking in,” to colleagues who are stigmatized as “political enemies,” which is to say on the basis of specific legal decrees related to “extremism” or in the context of sanctions and outright economic warfare.

Denial of visas as a key bordering method

It is equally difficult to name exemplary or representative restrictions. The border functions in a multitude of punitive and restrictive ways. However, the denial of visas is one key bordering method with which artists, intellectuals, and others are denied the right to free movement and free exchange.

How the denial of visas also impacts on “Us”

Visa denials are attacks on freedom of speech, artistic freedom, and academic freedom, undermining the universal values of connection, exchange, and innovation and jeopardizing the practices of inter-cultural openness and transnational cooperation that arise through gatherings in the fields of art, culture, activism, and research. In this way, these visa denials strengthen exclusive forms of nationalism and the racialized power structures of segregation and coloniality that characterize the world system. Ultimately, they reinforce the dominance of Eurocentric thought and practice.

This said, the EU border regime affects not only those blocked at the border, but also their collaborators who await them “inside” the border.

Impact on organizers

On a practical level, there are serious economic consequences to this situation, which, though they pale in comparison to the human, social, and political impacts, are nonetheless significant. During times of high inflation and rising prices, the visa delays and denials make it impossible to plan ahead effectively and to ensure participants a decent stay. This results in the undue waste of precious resources, including travel and accommodation expenses and the labor of organizing and making arrangements. Ultimately, international networks of cooperation are damaged and their cultural, social, and academic benefits are undermined.

From a “small country” perspective, say Croatia, the problem is also that people invited from, e.g., Ghana are supposed to travel in person to Egypt or South Africa to get a Croatian visa (while Germany has its consular offices all over the place). For organizers in “small countries” this imposes an additional burden and doubles the cost of inviting non-EU nationals.

Discouraged by the potential complications or the dangers one may face, many of us – in “small” or “big” countries in Europe – are reluctant to invite our colleagues from the Global South or countries against which sanctions are imposed. Moreover, many of us are considering (and some of us already practicing) refusing to organize events in Europe, choosing instead countries where there are fewer visa problems.

Adding voices to international calls to dismantle border regimes

Our effort is in no way intended to diminish or distract from both the lived experience of those forced by war or circumstance to move across borders and the important work of solidarity with them. In fact, we are attempting to add more voices to the urgent call to dismantle racist and unjust border regimes, not only in the interest of the free exchange of ideas, but also in the name of the fundamental human right to movement.

Pathways to change

There are many pathways to change. But they all share the need for these injustices to be made  matters of public concern. To do this, we are asking organizers to publicize when their guests or attendees are denied their rights. Without jeopardizing the privacy and safety of those who have been blocked (there is no need to publish their names), we want to publicly ask one another the following questions each and every time it happens:

How many of your participants have been blocked? Where and when have they been held by immigration authorities and for how long? How much funding has been lost due to visa delays, in terms of late bookings, and hotel reservations? How many people have been denied a visa? How many events have had to be canceled due to guests being blocked by the EU border regime? How many people (e.g., students, audiences) have had to postpone their visit to your cultural, artistic or educational program because of ‘visa problems’? Can we discern a pattern of racism or discrimination against people from certain countries or continents? How many times have you chosen to organize an event outside the EU due to visa issues? What were the personal, professional and financial consequences for the blocked speakers? In addition to visa denials, there is also the issue of individuals from the Global South being invasively forced to show bank accounts and other personal information. How many people have not been able to consider a visa application due to being unable to prove sufficient financial resources?

We are asking organizers in academia, activism, culture, arts, journalism, and beyond to collect and document information on the answers to the questions above and make it public in their networks and via social media under the proposed hashtag (which could also serve as a makeshift/impromptu archive).

Share information about the questions above with your networks!
Make a public statement! Use or remixing this letter!
Spread the word on social media!
Hashtag: #BlockedByTheBorder


Dr. Katrin M. Kämpf, Assistant Professor, Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Dr. Magdalena Taube, Co-Publisher,

Krystian Woznicki, Co-Publisher,

Zoran Pantelic, Artist, Producer, and Curator,, Novi Sad

Dr. Max Haiven, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Radical Imagination, Lakehead University

Harsha Walia, Activst and Author of “Border & Rule” and “Border Imperialism”

Dr. Kasia Narkowicz, Senior Lecturer, Middlesex University London

Jean Peters, Artist and Activist, Peng Collective, Berlin

Dr. Nishat Awan, UCL Urban Lab, London

Hito Steyerl, UdK Berlin

Kalina Drenska, Activist, LevFem and E.A.S.T., Sofia

Prof. Anselm Franke, ZHdK Zürich

Stefan Tiron, Co-Founder Art Leaks, Writer, Curator, Berlin/Bucharest

Dr. Mark Terkessidis, Freelance Author, Migration and Racism Researcher

Dr. Sujatha Byravan, Centre for Development Finance, Chennai

Dr. Chella Rajan, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Dr. Geert Lovink, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam

hvale vale, Feminist Internet Activist and CTE Strategy Facilitator, Association for Progressive
Communicaitons, Sarajevo

Dr. Sven Lütticken, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/Universiteit Leiden

Prof. Dr. Manuela Bojadzijev, Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Christian Höller, Editor, springerin – Hefte für Gegenwartskunst

Christine Braunersreuther, Dissertantin am Labor für kritische Migrations- und Grenzregimeforschung Göttingen und Klubobfrau der KPÖ Graz

Géraldine Delacroix, Journalist, Mediapart, Paris

Dr. Lela Rekhviashvili, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (ifL), Leipzig

Dr. Tomislav Medak, Multimedia Institute, Zagreb

Mathana, Automation Ethicist & Radical Technologist, Berlin

Dr. Tom Holert, Harun Farocki Institut, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Pelin Tan, Fine Arts Academy, Batman University, Turkey

Sabina – Alexandra Ștefănescu, Developer and Activist, Romania

Ela Kagel, SUPERMARKT Berlin & Platform Cooperatives Germany

Cristina Pombo, Online Coordinator, Expresso Newspaper, Portugal

Sotiris Sideris, Data Editor, CCIJ, Reporters United, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

Adriana Homolova, Data Journalist, The Netherlands

Prof. Dr. Stefano Harney, Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Dr. Manuela Zechner, University of Jena, Germany

Dr. Ștefan Cândea, Co-Founder, European Investigative Collaborations

Dr. Konstantin Butz, Assistant Professor, Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Andrea Vetter, Haus des Wandels, Steinhöfel, Germany

Prof. Dr. Lilian Haberer, Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Dr. Hannah Fitsch, Klara Marie Faßbinder Professur, Hochschule Mainz

Dr. Katarina Kušić, University of Bremen

Prof. Diedrich Diederichsen, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

Dr. Emilia Roig, Founder & Executive Director, Center for Intersectional Justice (CIJ)

Juan Francisco Donoso, Journalist, Chile

Dr. Ronald Rose-Antoinette, Assistant Professor, Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Cassie Thornton, Artist, Berlin

Aslı Dinç, Artist, Berlin

Inha Lindarenka, Belarusian human rights activist

Prof. Dr. Isabell Lorey, eipcp and Academy of Media Arts Cologne

Dr. Rossen Djagalov, Associate Professor, New York Univeristy

Adrienne Goehler, Curator, Author, former Senator for Science, Research and Culture, Berlin

Dr. Thomas Oberender, FFO Management, Munich

Dr. Tatiana Bazzichelli, Director and Founder, Disruption Network Lab, Berlin

Robert Misik, Author, Journalist, Curator, Vienna, Austria

Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen, Co-Founders, Artists at Risk (AR), Ecologists at Risk (ER)

Mihajlo Vujasin, Journalist, Serbia

Frauke Boggasch, Zoë Claire Miller, Spokeswomen bbk – berufsverband bildende künstler*innen berlin (professional association of visual artists berlin)

Khaled Barakeh, Conceptual Artist, Creative Facilitator, Founder and Director of coculture e.V., Berlin

Prof. Dr. Sandro Mezzadra, University of Bologna, Italy; Co-Author of “Border As Method”

AGF/Antye Greie-Ripatti, Sound Artist & Curator, East-German based in Finland

Yiannis Colakides, Director and Co-Founder of NeMe, Cyprus

Prof. Dr. Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University, New York; Author of “Europe And Its Shadows”

Marcela Okretič, Director and Co-Founder of Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana

Janez Fakin Janša, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana

Prof. Dr. Nicholas De Genova, University of Houston; Editor of “The Borders of ‘Europe’”

Fran Ilich, Artist and Writer, New York City

Milica Tomic, Artist and Head of IZ -Contemporary Art Institute, TU Graz, Austria
Lesia Prokopenko, Researcher

Christina Rogers, Academics in Solidarity, Freie Universität Berlin

Dr. Mattia Frapporti, researcher, University of Bologna, Italy

Prof. Madina Tlostanova, Linköping University, Sweden

Laura Horelli, Artist and Filmmaker, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Vassilis S. Tsianos, Chairman of the Rat für Migration, University of Applied Sciences Kiel (FH Kiel)

Dr. Rutvica Andrijasevic, Associate Professor, University of Bristol Business School, UK

Dr. Özlem Canyürek, Cultural Policy Researcher, Berlin

Joanna Mytkowska, Director, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Dr. Nora O’ Murchú, Lecturer & Researcher at Interaction Design Centre, University of Limerick; Artistic Director, transmediale, Berlin

Dirk Dresselhaus (Schneider TM), Musician, Composer, Producer, Publisher,, Berlin

Dr. Bernd Kasparek, Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM), Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Dr. Veda Popovici, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Inhabiting Radical Housing, Beyond Inhabitation Lab, Turin

Noëlle Pujol, Artist and Filmmaker, France

Prof. Dr. Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of Ethnicity, Race & Migration and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Yale University

Dr. Damir Arsenijević, University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Marisa Pérez Colina, Fundación de los Comunes, Madrid

Raúl Sánchez Cedillo, Fundación de los Comunes, Madrid

Fiona Dove, Executive Director, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam

diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery

Dr. Neda Genova, University of Warwick and, UK/Bulgaria

18 comments on “Open Letter: Blocked by the Border

  1. The proliferation of Border practices in universities and institutions across the EU and UK is an affront to knowledge production, distribution and academic freedom. This impacts on working collaborations every single day. It is a form of intellectual cultural violence that needs to cease.

  2. This is an important initiative. We need to protest and organise against bordering and its consequences – felt by all of us who learn and teach

  3. The general public does not even know how broken the visa process is. For instance when a travel Visum gets rejected by the embassy with the notion that there were “begründete Zweifel” (justified doubts) of your intention to leave after the end of the visa period, but actually no such reasoned justification is provided, they just checked “begründete Zweifel”. You can then sue the AA and this takes around one year in Berlin Court.

    Very important initiative.

  4. Prof. Dr. Heidrun Friese, Professor of Intercultural Communication, Chemnitz University of Technology

  5. Artist, researcher and curator. Organiser of an emergency program of AIR InSILo (Austria) for artists and cultural workers at risk.

  6. Important initiative: will actively support and share this.

  7. Well known and unbearable! I feel ashamed of the country I was born and live in, and the whole rest of the EU.

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