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 Trailer from ‘Sans Papiers’
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Tanja Ostojić
in collaboration with David Rych
Sans Papiers
Video-documentary/ DVcam, 14 min / Video-installation



Sans Papiers[1]

One of the most problematic issues in the EU today is the “Fortress of Europe,” enforced by a body of restrictive asylum laws. EU state governments do everything they can in order to give as little asylum as possible. Refugees are deported and removed, pushed over EU borders to fend for themselves.

The video Sans Papiers portrays “illegalized” people, interned in one of the major deportation jails in Germany, Berlin-Köpenick. Interviews with prisoners give testimony to the differences in between those defined as being Sans Papiers, shedding light on their conditions and treatment while caught in circular bureaucratic structures of control.

A mere five percent of those imprisoned receive status as “political refugees.” Some 45 percent remain in Germany in limbo, without any rights accorded to them. The rest are deported – continually. Germany alone expels around 30,000 people annually, this statistic sourced from the Initiative against Deportation in Berlin and on the basis of research by students of Theory of Law at the University of Leipzig.[2]

Most rejected asylum seekers cannot be expelled, due to civil wars raging in their home countries or complicated cases of “non-confirmed” identity. They are however still imprisoned for one to six months, with a maximum of eighteen months, all while being billed for their stay – an average of €65 per day. I received this information from a number of talks with activists, as well as a number of resources received as part of the Initiative against Deportation, and press clippings and research conducted by doctoral students of Prof. Dr. Klaus Gerd Giesen, at Theory of Law, University of Leipzig.[3]

Upon release, the absolute majority of migrants are without resources or work permits, forced into the black labour market in order to pay off their debts, targeted for more stringent police tactics. Yes, they are tolerated by the German authorities for a while, but like a spring-cleaning of its own prisons prompted by fear and anger, the occasion demands a seasonal sweep. Being “illegalised,” the asylum seekers find themselves imprisoned yet again.

1) This text is an excerpt from Tanja Ostojić’s essay “Crossing Borders: Development of Different Artistic Strategies,” printed in Integration Impossible? The Politics of Migration in the Artwork of Tanja Ostojić, M. Gržinić and T. Ostojić eds., argobooks, Berlin 2009.
2) Initiative against Deportation: www.ari-berlin.org/doku/PE_english_14.pdf
3) Global Norms in the Twenty-First Century, Klaus-Gerd Giesen, Kees van der Pijl, eds., Cambridge Scholars Press, Cambridge, UK, 2006.


Since 2004 Tanja Ostojić and David Rych work occasionally together. Their collaboration includes: Art & Economics Group, Xpona – Exchange in Post-Nation Group, and projects such as Sans Papiers and Rudi-Dutschke-Straße.

Tanja Ostojić (b. 1972) is based in Berlin. Studied arts in Serbia, France and Germany. She includes herself as a character in performances and uses diverse media in her artistic researches, thereby examining social configurations, power relationships, feminist issues, economy and biopolitics. She works predominantly from the migrant woman’s perspective, while political positioning, humour and integration of the recipient define approaches in her work. Has Participated in various exhibitions, film festivals and conferences, including among others: The Athens Biennale (2013), Economy CCA Glasgow (2013), Call the Witness Roma Pavilion, Venice Biennale (2011), Global Feminisms, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2006) and Plato of Humankind, Venice Biennale (2001).

The artist has published several books including: “Integration Impossible? The Politics of Migration in the Artwork of Tanja Ostojić”, M. Gržinić & T. Ostojić (Eds), argobooks Berlin (2009) and “Strategies of Success / Curators Series”, La Box, Bourges & SKC, Belgrade (2004).

David Rych (b.1975) is based in Berlin. Studied at the University of Innsbruck, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Bezalel University Jerusalem and the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Marseille. His research and artistic practice takes the form of documentary films, installations and video archives. Has Participated in various exhibitions, film festivals and conferences, including among others: 7th Berlin Biennale; Manifesta 8 Murcia; Galerie im Taxispalais; Innsbruck, NGBK Berlin; Centro Culturtal Matucana 100; Transmediale04, Berlin.