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AYS Weekend Digest 04–05/01/2020 Protests in Agadez Violently Suppressed, Camp Burned

Four People Killed in Collision with Turkish Coast Guard /// More severe weather hits Greece /// Torture in Libya /// German CSU Expands List of Safe Countries

High waves in Greece. Photographer: Jenny Zinovia Kali

Feature — Nigerien Police Break Up Protest of Sudanese People in Agadez, Camp Burns Down

Residents of the Agadez camp, mostly Sudanese people from the Darfur area, staged a sit-in in front of the UNHCR office that was broken up by the local authorities. Police beat protesters with batons and dragged them into vans that were going back to the camp. Many people were severely injured on their arms and legs.

Upon their forced return to the camp, a group of frustrated people lit a fire that destroyed 80% of the camp. The tents provided by UNHCR are highly flammable and retain heat, unfit for people living in the African desert, so the rapid destruction shows how dangerous the conditions were.

People were stripped and forced to sit in cramped conditions without their clothing, even though night in the desert can be very cold. Some fear being pushed back to Libya, which already happened in 2018 after a previous protest against conditions in the camp even though it is against international law.

Source: Selma Alrasheed

Reasons for the Protest

All of the people living in Agadez camp began protesting in front of the UNHCR office on December 16th. They were fed up with the unsanitary conditions in the camp, where many have been stuck for over two years.

There is an increase of chronic and serious diseases, there is racism, corruption, and discrimination against Sudanese refugees and other nationalities from other countries and the delay in the legal processes for asylum.

In addition to the dangerous living conditions already mentioned, people are also fed up with the lack of education for children and physical and mental health care. Most have been through severe trauma not just in their home countries but also on their journeys to asylum — a large group of Sudanese people arrived in Agadez after fleeing torture in Libya. Finally, protestors are fed up with the delay in processing their paperwork. Even after months and sometimes years of waiting, many had not received an official UNHCR refugee card and the agency actually lost some people’s paperwork.

For weeks, people staged a peaceful sit-in in front of the UNHCR’s office. There was no provocation or threat of violence that justified the violent response of Nigerien police.

UNHCR’s Response — Less Than Ideal

This tweet by Vincent Cochetel, the special envoy of the UNHCR to the Central Mediterranean, caused an uproar among local activists and people actually living in the Agadez camps. Cochetel misrepresented the nature of people’s grievances — while many do hope for resettlement in Europe, the protests that sparked this expression of anger were clearly about dangerous living conditions in the UNHCR camps and the delays in processing paperwork. Some said they would even prefer returning to Darfur over continuing to live in the camps. Additionally, Mr. Cochetel made no mention of the violent treatment people faced at the hands of Nigerien police. Instead he worded his tweet to imply that people in the camps are lazy and responsible for their own problems which in reality stem from neglect and mistreatment by local and international authorities.

The UNHCR was quick to respond to the destruction of the Agadez camp. However, it did not respond to requests for asylum paperwork, non-flammable tents, or adequate medical care for two years.


Turkish Coast Guard Kills Four People in Collision at Sea

Sunday morning near Bademli, Turkey, the Turkish Coast Guard hit a small rubber boat carrying 56 people. Four people are confirmed dead while one is missing, presumed drowned.

While it may seem like the collision was an accident, the Coast Guard boats come equipped with powerful equipment to prevent these kinds of accidents so a collision certainly could have been avoided. Using deadly force such as ramming boats is a common part of the Turkish Coast Guard’s pushbacks, part of Turkey’s agreement with the EU.

Images from the night, taken by Aegean Boat Report


People Brace For More Wild Weather in Greece

Storms with powerful winds and snowfall are scheduled to hit Chios soon, while people in the Vial camp are still unprotected. Around 6,500 are still living in tents that have not survived storms in other camps. While an armored ship was sent to provide a place for people to stay during the storm, Chios authorities refused permission for it to dock, saying it was too big for the port.

Local activists have several emergency demands for local authorities, otherwise they fear people will be severely injured or even killed.

1. to open the recycling site of bial
2. Open Sports facilities in chalkios and surrounding villages
3. to used church cells
4. to be made available for these 48 hours of school buildings
5. to build facilities in camps
6. Transfer as many people as possible to hotels and rooms to let

In the midst of the storms, at least nine boats have arrived on the Aegean Islands according to Aegean Boat Report.

On Lesvos, citizens of Mytilene organized a “love convoy” on Sunday to bring warm items to people in and around Moria camp. Most are in tents or makeshift shacks that are designed for summer conditions, not winter, and are in need of assistance.


Horrendous Images of Torture Are Published

In Bani Walid, an informal detention center, people are being beaten and suspended upside down from the ceiling in a video obtained by the Italian media (stills from the video can be found here). The center is run by Libyan militias. People, usually from African countries like Eritrea are held and tortured until someone from back home is able to pay thousands of Euros in ransom. Some have died from their injuries. This particular group of around 60 Eritreans has been held in detention for about two months.

In addition to physical torture, people in the prison receive only one meal a day, one cup of rancid water, and have no access to bathrooms. The few women imprisoned are raped by the guards.

Information about the horrendous conditions in these unofficial centers has been public for a long time, but officials have done nothing. Instead, the EU, especially Italy, continues cooperating with Libyan “authorities” on migrant pushbacks. Conditions in official UNHCR camps are not much better, as we reported on Friday. The UNHCR is withholding food from people in the camps to force them to leave and abandoning them in the middle of a warzone while evacuating its own staff.


CSU Wants to Expand Safe Countries of Origin List

The CSU, one of the major German political parties, argued for expanding the list of safe countries of origin to include countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Georgia. The party argued that asylum applications from these countries have only been approved at a rate of 5% and automatically denying applications, except where the person could prove special prosecution due to political beliefs, would speed up asylum processing. The move was blocked by the Green Party.

In addition to expanding the list of safe countries, the CSU also wants German authorities to immediately detain those who cross the border without papers or who have previously been deported and increase veil searches, which can already be carried out 30km from the border, to 50km from the border. While the CSU’s proposals are certainly inhumane, they are unfortunately nothing new.


Denmark Continues to Threaten to Deport Syrian Refugees

The Salameh family was one of the families who was refused asylum, although they successfully appealed the decision later. Officials denied their residence permit renewal because the father, Zaher, misremembered the exact date of his arrest in Syria and because Danish authorities consider Damascus a safe place to return to.

Mr. Salameh is 48 years old, still considered young enough to serve in the army reserves if he is sent back to Syria, which is why the family fled in the first place. There have been several cases where returnees who left Syria to escape military service were arrested upon their return, had their property taken from them, and were subject to other discriminatory and violent treatment. Despite this widely reported phenomenon, the Danish government rejected several asylum claims from Syrians in the past few months.

Although they now have their residency permits, the Salamehs still have to deal with the psychological trauma of the deportation process, which robbed them of any sense of security in their new home. Even when outright deportations fail, states turn to intimidation in the hopes people will leave, a practice that is also inhumane and harmful. The damage to Zaher Salameh and his family has already been done.

I’m thinking of committing suicide. I escaped from Syria because of war and now I’m in psychological war in Denmark…Even if you give me one billion Danish kronor, I will not return to Syria, I will not return to death.

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Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

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Are You Syrious?

Are You Syrious?

Daily news digests from the field, mainly for volunteers and refugees on the route, but also for journalists and other parties.

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