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Izmir-Berlin flight canceled for ‘tigers eat refugees’ art project

A Berlin art group planned to fly 100 refugees in from Turkey to protest entry restrictions for asylum-seekers.

A Berlin art group planned to fly 100 refugees in from Turkey to protest entry restrictions for asylum-seekers. They also wanted to feed refugees to live tigers. The flight has been canceled, but the tigers stand ready.
A Berlin art collective, called the Center for Political Beauty, wanted the German government to modify a law which prohibits airlines from taking on passengers to the EU who do not have a visa to enter the country.

Known for its provocative actions blending theater and political activism, the collective of activists planned on Thursday (28.06.2016) to illegally fly 100 Syrian asylum-seekers, who have family in Germany, from Izmir, Turkey, to Berlin on a specially chartered plane, called “Joachim I.”

The collective said it aimed to circumvent human traffickers, which collect high fees to transport refugees on dangerous sea routes.

The Center for Political Beauty also threatened to stage the devouring of refugees by tigers in Berlin, should the government forbid the entry of the 100 Syrian passengers.

Why the refugee plane isn’t taking off

The flight, however, has been canceled and Berlin has distanced itself from the political art spectacle.

Airline AirBerlin called off the deal Tuesday morning, refusing to fly the 100 refugees from Turkey to Berlin. According to the airline, the art collective had not disclosed the fact that the passengers did not possess legal entry documents for Germany when the contract was signed.

On its website, the Center for Political Beauty wrote early Tuesday that it was prepared to take legal action against AirBerlin.

Germany’s Ministry of the Interior also issued a statement Tuesday, saying that “it is permitted and important to criticize politics and the government.” But the ministry also called the initiative a “tasteless staging that instrumentalizes refugees.” It also pointed out that Germany has already taken in 400,000 refugees from Syria and will continue to take in more via Turkey.

According to the art collective’s website, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise the 80,000 euros ($90,000) needed for the flight of the plane. Over 78,000 euros had been raised by Thursday morning.

Tiger cages ready, so are Berlin police

Furthermore, Berlin’s district office last week revoked the group’s permission to hold the “Eating Refugees – Distress and Games” spectacle, saying that it had not been properly registered with authorities.

Nevertheless, cages containing four tigers have been set up in front of the Gorki Theater since mid-June and videos of the cages have been live streamed on YouTube. Berlin police told German news agency dpa that they would be on hand Thursday to avert any dangerous activity.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s planned events, a caretaker dressed like a Roman gladiator, his insignia referring to the European Union, stood in front of the tiger cages. In the background was a picture of Germany’s President Joachim Gauck.

A huge poster showed a little girl asking her mother: “Why don’t refugees just take a plane?” in reaction to the countless people who drown while crossing at sea or suffer trying to reach Europe on foot.

Against this setting, the group announced it was looking for refugees desperate enough to be ready to be devoured by those Libyan tigers. In a video, the activists claim that Angela Merkel and the German government, like a Roman emperor during a gladiatorial combat, have to power to stop this from happening with a simple thumbs-up gesture.

The activists demanded a reaction from the Bundestag by June 24 in order to save refugees from the tigers. If none came, they would consider that a thumbs-down, leading to a “devouring.”

In a Bundestag session on June 22, according to a video recording on the group’s website, the government stated that entry into Germany would only be allowed with the necessary legal paperwork.

Will refugees really be fed to tigers?

The group claimed to have already found at least one refugee ready to be devoured and have tried to recruit more through the campaign’s website. But will the activists truly planning on going through with their barbarian plan, despite police presence?

“Those who know us and our methods, know that we keep our promises,” artist and chief negotiator of the group Philipp Ruch told the dpa news agency.

The artists say they intend to respect the animals’ welfare during their project. They claim that the privately-owned tigers have more space in their cage than do refugees accommodated in the former Berlin airport Tempelhof. Daily public feedings were scheduled to promote their campaign.

Provocative, political art

The collective Center for Political Beauty is known for staging actions that grab the attention of the media. To draw attention to the plight of migrants, they organized a reburial in Berlin in June 2015 of the exhumed body of a Syrian woman who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean. The campaign was called “The Dead are Coming.”

For the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the collective stole crosses commemorating those who died trying to cross the former Berlin Wall and placed them on the EU’s border with Africa.

Earlier this month, the Center for Political Beauty was awarded a Bobs, DW’s prize for online activism, in the Arts and Culture category.

kbm/eg (dpa, epd)

Topics: Berlin refugees

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