Rex Osa, is the Co-Ordination Activist of the Network Refugees4Refugees (R4R), a grassroots network of politically active migrants who are committed to promoting and empowering migrants’ self-determination and self-organization. The organization, founded in 2010 has its office in Stuttgart, Germany.
He spoke with voiceforafricanmigrants.com about the plight of Africans seeking asylum abroad especially Germany and effects of the COVID 19 pandemic on the migrants’ community. Excerpts:
Could you tell us about yourself and your organisation, Refugee4Refugee Network?
I’m a Nigerian by birth. We are engaged in creating platforms for migrants exchange and support them in their struggle for a life in dignity and equality. The Network R4R was born out of many years of active engagement and experience with a mixed network of different anti-racist and pro-migrants’ network.
What motivated you to establish the organisation?
Based on experiences gathered from my intensive engagements with migrants’ solidarity movements, there was an urgent need to develop a grass-root platform for awareness exchange on the actual situation of asylum with Germany in focus. This was based on an understanding of the fact that most asylum seekers do not have prior political experience cannot understand that the reason for their flight is connected to a global political complex for which Germany is a beneficiary. The Network R4R was meant to promote this awareness through routine exchange activities to reach asylum seekers wherever they may be. This initiative is partly an outcome of the Break Isolation 2010 Campaign that was championed by The VOICE Refugee Forum and The Nationwide Karawane Network.
How would you describe the experiences of Africans seeking asylum in Germany?
The situation of asylum seekers in general is quite traumatic. Despite scandalous and regretful racist tradition, asylum seekers in Germany are continually confronted with a hostile so-called ‘welcome culture’. The reality of such deceptive role model democracy has led many asylum seekers into mental and physical limbo.
While the German constitution explicitly projects dignity and equal rights for everybody, the German racist status quo is institutionalized through official arbitrariness at the local administrative level.
Asylum seekers have to face challenges of isolation and control through so-called special laws that are merely obligation and sanctions. By an attitude of continued amendments of the immigration laws, German apartheid laws are reproduced as beautified repression and thus making it more complicated to understand even for lawyers themselves.
Seeking asylum means giving up your rights and forcing you to live at the mercy of the German social welfare at all costs. Asylum entrapment in Germany is the worse in Europe. It’s a life in limbo without a predictable end. People are living in this situation for up to 30 or more years.
How would you describe the experiences of Africans in various camps in Germany since the outbreak of COVID 19?
The Coronavirus Pandemic has actually exposed Germany’s discriminatory policies for asylum seekers. Despite massive criticism and experts’ advice to decongest the refugees’ camp as social distancing could not be possible, Germany was always determined with maintaining its policy of isolating asylum seekers, thus depriving them of possibilities to protect themselves from the COVID19 virus. Our experiences from the several outbreaks of the COVID19 virus in camps, the attitude of the German government confirmed an interest to only protect the society while the camps were serving as an experiment center for further handling of the Coronavirus situation.
Did African migrants get fair treatment from their host (Germany) during the period of lockdown?
Asylum seekers especially those living in the big camps were deprived of their rights in so many ways during the lockdown. People were not prepared because they were not informed in advance. Persons who were infected were left to live amongst those who were known not to be infected. Adequate information was not provided for the camps and as such promoting conspiracy theory. During such lock down in camps, the expectation for the inhabitants to eat good food so as to build their immune system was not possible as there was no provision for such necessities.
You have been assiduously working to assist African migrants facing challenges, how easy has this been?
Nothing is actually easy although there are quite enormous challenges in the area of offering care and struggling for your rights as a migrant in a country like Germany. I’m anyways used to the challenges based on my having passed through the process and experiences from the cases I accompany on a day to day basis.
You imagine engaging in severe political activities and representing migrants and refugees at different level of political exchange; spontaneous presence at locations where asylum seekers are facing state repression and abuses from time to time. Most draining is the routine counselling and accompanying of migrants and asylum seekers in different situation on a daily basis. Most of these persons are not known to me personally.
It’s really not easy going through daily experiences of terrible situations, but I feel happy and fulfilled engaging my experience and knowledge to impact on peoples’ lives. People wonder how I am able to cope with the trauma from the different cases. Even when I feel shocked at hearing some terrible circumstances, the shock is quickly absorbed by my personal experiences and other terrible situations that I had handled in the past.
Many Nigerian deportees have always alleged that they were put in hand and leg cuffs while returning to the country. How true is this and does it not amount to abuse of their rights?
The German government has also confirmed the use of force during its deportation enforcement operations. Although they would claim that it was necessary to protect the passengers onboard the charter deportation or passenger flight to the destination countries. It is scandalous and shameful to see that Germany is engaging in such magnitude of violence like the use helmet, electric shock, indiscriminate use of medication etc. Many have been killed in such operations in the past, you can imagine the consequences for some after their arrival at the deportation destination. Children are made to go through such experiences of violence with their parents and others during the deportation operation. It’s nothing short of the slavery days’ experiences being reproduced by the so-called civilized Germany.
How well would you say African envoys have been protecting the interest of African migrants in Germany?
It’s actually sad to see how our country’s government continues to play the stooge to the colonial masters. While we dwell on respecting the so called Vienna Consular agreements even beyond reasonable doubts, a country like Germany will never betray its citizens in the name of the so called agreements. Country diplomats are expected to likewise play that game of priority for its citizens against the European order.
We have seen situation where country delegations are invited to identify persons through akzent, facial or physical appearance in an effort to obtain deportation documents. Such situations have led to the deportation of persons to wrong country of origin. There are also situations where people are deported without valid documents and are received at the deportation destination country.
Our envoys cannot guarantee the reality that the embassy’s premises remain a territory of the country hence any citizen that runs in there for safety can be protected.
We saw Germany deporting migrants in the face of the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic, was this a good decision?
Deporting people at the peak of the Coronavirus outbreak was a clear show of the German arrogance and re-enforcement of their colonial power. Imagine Germany being one of the major Coronavirus hotspots enforcing deportation to countries with very low infection rates and lacking adequate health care alongside struggling to survive the terrible consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. The claim to help develop African countries means exporting coronavirus to Africa.
Africans are often seen as needless pests by many host countries. Does this mean Africans add no value to their host countries?
It must be clearly understood that most of those persons propagated as economic migrants are in actual sense migrant labour force. Migrants are actually doing much to developing both transit and destination countries by different means.
In the past, asylum seekers were prohibited from working as part of the government’s efforts to deprive them from integrating themselves in the society. The plan was meant to keep them isolated in isolated communities so as to cover up the face of German State abuses on migrants. With minimum wage raging from more than 7 euros/hour, asylum seekers were compelled to work for 1 euros/hour and not more than 100 hours monthly.
Through years of struggles and scandals, many asylum seekers are taking up paid jobs and paying taxes as well as contributing into pension scheme for which quite a huge number may not benefit from.
People are continuously deported with no opportunity to demand for their tax refunds and at least their own contribution to the pension scheme.
What can African government do to address the menace of irregular migration?
In the first place, do we even have our own defined migration policy outside the drafted policy of the imperialist countries?
It is really pathetic to realise that our position in global migration policy making is nothing to write home about. We play the stooge game with our position compromised for development help as bait for more cooperation with policies of the exploiting countries.
What would migration look like post COVID 19?
The Coronavirus pandemic has been really challenging. The impact has enormously affected the world’s economy. No doubt, the migration trend will be really explosive as the unbearable situation would cause people to see no perspective in their home countries.
What is your advice to African itching to leave the continent for greener pastures abroad?
Migration is also a unique experience and an entitlement for every human. All human has the right to have a dignified life and the choice depends on a personal decision. The number of Europeans who are migrating are enormous if not more than that of Africans. No one intends to leave his country of birth forever. People are migrating either because of protection needs or to gain experiences etc.
Our network is committed to disseminating up to date information on migration and situation of migrants at different levels.
Edo goes after assets, properties of traffickers
The Edo State Government plans to go after the assets and properties of persons behind the wanton trafficking of indigenes of the state.
Governor Godwin Obaseki told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday that proceeds from such properties would be ploughed into the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees.
Convicting the perpetrators and liquidating their assets, according to the governor, will serve as a deterrent to others who are still scouting for vulnerable Nigerians to traffic.
The governor, who was among guests at an event held at the British High Commission in Abuja on Thursday, however, said that the state had been hindered by delays in prosecution.
He said whereas government had recruited competent prosecutors, judicial processes, long adjournments and handling of victims’ testimonies were delaying government’s move to get convictions.
He said: “We have been able to intensify investigation and prosecution. But unfortunately, we have not been able to get any conviction.
“Not because the prosecutors are not doing their utmost best, but because of the very nature of our legal system.
“We are working very hard with the high courts and NAPTIP to ensure that we get convictions.
“This can serve as a deterrent and punishment to the perpetrators, ensuring that they lose property and they lose assets with which we will now use in supporting the rehabilitation of victims.
“We will work with the judiciary to try and reduce the long adjournments and also the way they treat evidences from victims.
“Many of these victims are afraid of revealing information on their traffickers because of threats, but we are taking measures to provide safe houses for them and to provide cover for them until we are able to get prosecutions.”
The governor said that in the last four years under his watch, the number of persons trafficked from the state had reduced with rehabilitation and reintegration of over 6,500 returnees.
He said that the focus for the government, working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is to re-humanise the victims and restore their dignity.
He added that the government also, in the process of rehabilitation, extracts information from the victims in a bid to understand the scope and nature of the network.
“We have rehabilitated over 6,500 victims of trafficking and irregular migration working with partners like the IOM.
“We have also used the opportunity to extract a lot of data to understand the nature and scope of all these trafficking network and crisis.
“With that information, we now understand what drives people and what have driven people to be trafficked, the areas they come from, their social situation and economic situations.
“That has helped us to put strategies in place to combat trafficking in Edo state.
“You would see from records available that the incidence of trafficking and irregular migration in Edo state over the last three years has dropped dramatically,” he said.
JIFORM to African leaders: give youths social security to combat human trafficking
As the world marks the 2021 Day Against Trafficking In Persons on July 30, the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) has urged government in Africa to pay more attention to the social security schemes to stem the tide of human trafficking on the continent.
The global media body with over 300 journalists covering migration across the continents is hosting its 3rd global migration summit in partnership with the Altec Global Inc, Toronto Canada and others at the Niagara Falls in the country between November 29 to December 6, this year.
The President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi in a statement noted that “the major pull factor of human trafficking in Africa is poverty. The youths being trafficked need jobs, shelter, security and empowerment. Before we can ensure that the victims’ voices lead the way as the theme of the 2021 anti-human trafficking day implies, every government on the continent must not pretend on the relevance of improved socio- economic status for their citizens. Time to do needful is now by being honest and set aside undue semantics and theories.
“We salute the doggedness of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) in Nigeria. The law establishing the agency should be reviewed to mandate the leadership of the agency to be totally professional and hierarchically structured as uniformed organization.
“NAPTIP needs more funding to recruit more hands and have its presence in the 774 local governments in Nigeria. The agency should be more strategically involved in the migration process of mostly young Nigerian ladies to be sure of their mission at the airports through collaboration with the Nigeria Immigration Service.
“Youth empowerment is very key to any preventive measure. Poverty, economic hardship and ignorance are the major weapons being used by the traffickers to sway victims in Africa especially Nigeria.
“Therefore, for the theme of this year’s anti-human trafficking day to be meaningful in Nigeria and Africa, JIFORM agrees totally that listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking are very important. Survivors are key actors in the fight against human trafficking.
“But how well have we re-integrate many of them into the society? The victims play a crucial role in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation.
“We cannot agree less with the United Nations that many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings. Some have faced revictimization and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Others have been subjected to stigmatization or received inadequate support. So, we must rise to implement the preventive measures and defend the victims.
“Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centered and effective approach in combating human trafficking. The media too must play its roles to carry out more campaigns to complement what is expected from the government” Ajibola added.
IOM rushes to help refugees as deadly monsoon rains wreak havoc in Bangladesh
Cox’s Bazar – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today many of the more than 13,000 Rohingya refugees forced out of their camps by flooding in Cox’s Bazar which has killed at least six people were returning to their shelters to salvage belongings after a break in heavy rains, but the risk of more casualties remained high.
IOM said a total of more than 21,000 refugees had been affected and almost 4,000 shelters were destroyed. Food distribution centres, health facilities and water points have been damaged during three days of non-stop rain.
The six confirmed dead were killed in landslides or drowned in two IOM-managed camps and officials fear more flooding and landslides will prevent help reaching others among the total of 884,000 Rohingya refugees in the country.
Access to the camps is hazardous as constant landslides block the main roads leading to the camps, and major routes used by refugees and humanitarian actors are under water.
Up to 2,000 people have been evacuated from landslide-prone areas in Teknaf upazila (sub-district).
“Heavy rainfall is expected during the next few days, and as such, challenges are likely to increase,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.
“Over the past few months, IOM has been assessing the risk of landslides, strengthening drainage networks, installing slope protection measures and upgrading key pathways. However, despite multiple disaster risk reduction measures being implemented, the camp congestion, excessive rain and poor soil quality, make it extremely difficult to cope with the elements,” Pereira said.
One hundred Rohingya Disaster Management Unit (DMU) volunteers trained in each camp have been working around the clock and focusing on helping the most vulnerable, including the elderly and pregnant women. IOM teams are assessing the damage and working closely with the different sectors to refer those affected for relevant assistance. Mobile medical teams have been deployed and the protection emergency response unit has been activated.
Staff on the ground are clearing drainage pipes, repairing damage and distributing emergency shelter kits, core relief items, and aquatabs to prevent waterborne diseases.
IOM has sent in Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers to urgently assist host community members.
Families have taken refuge in six different multi-purpose cyclone shelters where they are currently being assisted with relief items, protection and medical support. Since 2019, IOM has been supporting the rehabilitation of MPCS so community members can take shelter in case of disasters.
The current flood emergency further exacerbates the massive humanitarian needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. After almost four years since the latest influx of Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, IOM is relying on its partners to continue to support the response.
Additional support is needed to enable teams to continue to assist those affected, as well as the rest of the refugees currently residing in the camps. As always, IOM advocates for the continuation of a comprehensive humanitarian assistance for refugees across all camps.
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