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.
IOM, UNHCR: Latest Caribbean shipwreck tragedy underscores need for safe pathways
Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency are deeply saddened by the latest loss of at least two lives after a boat capsized off Venezuela’s shores on Thursday 22 April.
According to local authorities, at least 24 people including several children are believed to have been on board the boat heading towards the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Seven people were rescued by commercial Venezuelan vessels, and two bodies have so far been recovered, while rescue operations are ongoing to find other survivors among the 15 Venezuelans that are still unaccounted for according to authorities.
“The waters of the Caribbean Sea continue to claim the lives of Venezuelans,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. “As the conditions in the country continue to deteriorate – all worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic – people continue to undertake life-threatening journeys.”
This is the latest of several incidents involving the capsizing of boats carrying Venezuelan refugees and migrants towards Caribbean islands, the most recent reported near the Venezuelan city of Guiria in December last year.
With land and maritime borders still closed to limit COVID-19 transmission, these journeys take place mainly through irregular routes, heightening the dangers as well as health and protection risks.
“Shipwrecks, tragic deaths at border crossings and further suffering are avoidable, but only if immediate and concerted international action is mobilized to find pragmatic solutions that put saving lives and protecting human rights at the forefront of any response,” added Stein.
“The establishment of regular and safe pathways, including through humanitarian visas and family reunification, as well as the implementation of protection-sensitive entry systems and adequate reception mechanisms, can prevent the use of irregular routes, smuggling and trafficking.”
UNHCR and IOM reiterate their readiness to lend support and technical expertise in exploring practical solutions to provide regular pathways that also take into account COVID-19 prevention measures. UNHCR and IOM, as co-leaders of the Interagency Coordination Platform for refugees and migrants from Venezuela (R4V), work with at least 24 other partners and governments across the Caribbean to meet the needs of refugees and migrants in the sub-region.
There are over 5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants around the world, 200,000 of whom are estimated to be hosted in the Caribbean.
Searching for closure: New study examines challenges facing families of missing migrants in the UK
Berlin – When a person goes missing, the existing laws, procedures and inter-state cooperation enable families to make the necessary arrangements and reach closure about the loss of their loved ones.
A new report from the International Organization of Migration (IOM)’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre and Missing Migrants Project shows this is not the case for people across the United Kingdom who have missing migrant relatives.
“The families who participated in the research in the UK are some of the tens of thousands of people living worldwide with the pain of not knowing the fate of their loved ones who went missing or died during migration journeys,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin.
Over the past two years, IOM GMDAC has carried out qualitative research funded by Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs with families searching for missing migrants in several countries. The twin aims of the research are to amplify the voices of the families of missing migrants and develop a series of recommendations to drive action to support them.
This new report shows that cases of missing migrants in the UK extend far beyond the English Channel.
Nearly 300 people are known to have died since 1999 along the northern coast of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in the English Channel or shortly after crossing into the United Kingdom, according to records collected by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project and the Institute of Race Relations. But the number of missing migrants en route to the UK is likely to be much higher. Many of the families involved in the research did not know the whereabouts or fate of their relatives in the Mediterranean Sea crossing and elsewhere.
“Besides the emotional toll, we know that the lives of people related to missing migrants may be forever marked by the many psychosocial, legal and financial impacts,” said Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of IOM in the UK.
“When I came here… I would cry every morning… I was crying over my loss and also because the future was uncertain then. I did not know what was going to happen,” said Emeka, a Nigerian woman living in the UK who is looking for her husband.
“I didn’t know if I would get residence here, or if I was going to be deported. That was what I was facing then apart from the loss of family,” she continued.
With the exception of the tracing service offered by the British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the United Kingdom there are no agencies or policies specifically dedicated to help report, locate or identify cases involving migrants who went missing while in transit to the country. As a result, families primarily seek information about the missing and rely on support from informal channels and networks, members of the diaspora abroad, and community-based associations.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Dr. Samuel Okyere at the University of Bristol and IOM UK, found that families of missing migrants in the UK may be migrants themselves with fears that searching for their loved ones could lead to being prosecuted due to their uncertain immigration status.
IOM calls for action in the UK, and elsewhere, to support these families. Objective 8 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) specifically calls on states to identify those who have died or gone missing, and to facilitate communication with affected families. The report includes 10 recommendations for how families of missing migrants in the UK can be better supported to trace their relatives and to cope with the impacts of loss.
Find the new report “Families of Missing Migrants: Their Search for Answers, the Impacts of Loss and Recommendations for Improved Support ” here.
“Living Without Them – Stories of families left behind” is a four-part podcast series produced by IOM about the research project with families of missing migrants. Listen to the third episode about the stories of families of missing migrants in the UK here.
IOM’s Emergency Director in Mozambique: Communities uprooted by recent violence in Palma require greater support
Pemba – Nearly 30,500 people displaced by recent violence in northern Mozambique face increased hardship as the humanitarian situation intensifies across Cabo Delgado province. Funds are urgently needed to respond to the emergency, which has displaced nearly 700,000 since the onset of violence in October 2017.
IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, Jeff Labovitz, visited Mozambique this week to express condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the recent attacks in Palma, and solidarity with displaced and affected communities in Cabo Delgado.
“Cabo Delgado has seen unprecedented, rapidly increasing levels of displacement over the past year. Displaced people are vulnerable and in need of urgent and comprehensive humanitarian assistance,” said Labovitz.
“IOM is working with UN and non-governmental partners and supports the Government of Mozambique to alleviate the suffering of people who’ve been suddenly driven from their homes and communities.”
Labovitz met with humanitarian partners and government representatives, including from ministries and local authorities in the capital, Maputo, and in Cabo Delgado. He also visited resettlement sites in Metuge District and the Transit Site in Pemba, which hosts people recently displaced from Palma.
He spoke with host families and with displaced people. Many expressed their desire to move to a safer place where they could resettle.
At the Transit Centre Labovitz spoke with Rabia, a woman displaced from Palma who recounted her harrowing experience:
“My husband was killed, but my two children and I survived. We moved between locations for several days without food or money. We made our way to Afungi and from there we boarded a flight to Pemba.”
“I am going to persevere, but the situation is very difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to provide for my children without a space to live or equipment to start farming,” she added.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) continues to record, on a daily basis, increased numbers of people displaced from Palma to safer areas. Several days in the last month have seen more than 1,000 arrivals per day. Of the displaced, 75 per cent are women and children – including pregnant women and unaccompanied children – and more than 1,000 of the total have been elderly.
“Remarkably the communities of Cabo Delgado – who themselves have increasing humanitarian needs – host the vast majority of displaced individuals. Support from the international community is needed to relieve some of this pressure and focus more attention and support,” continued Labovitz.
He commended the government’s provision of land for displaced families in resettlement sites, which enable families to cultivate land and restart their lives. IOM-supported efforts to establish these sites aim to ensure more dignified living conditions for residents.
IOM is working together with humanitarian partners to carry out multi-sectoral assessments in order to guide the delivery of humanitarian supplies, including in hard-to-reach areas. The situation in Cabo Delgado remains critical, especially in areas that, due to the security situation, are inaccessible to humanitarian actors.
“Sadly, calls for greater funding for this emergency have gone largely unmet. We need to come together to ensure that people have access to water and sanitation, shelter and food and are protected from gender-based violence and other forms of abuse,” Labovitz said.
IOM continues to provide support to people displaced from Cabo Delgado through the provision of psychosocial support, protection assistance, support and referrals for health services, shelter and non-food items, camp coordination and camp management. The Organization is also tracking populations and their needs through DTM to inform the response. Most recent displacement figures are available here.
In 2021, IOM requires USD 58 million to support emergency and post crisis efforts in Mozambique under IOM Mozambique Crisis Response Plan, which includes USD 21.7 million to respond to immediate lifesaving humanitarian needs in northern Mozambique through this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.
IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond.
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