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Asylum seekers especially those living in the big camps were deprived of their rights in so many ways during the lockdown

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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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UNHCR and IOM shocked and dismayed by deaths near Belarus-Poland border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus. The organizations express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia.

In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The two agencies have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.

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Recognizing the significant challenges posed by irregular movements, the agencies have called for the situation to be managed in accordance with international legal obligations, and for States to work collaboratively to resolve the situation, prioritising human rights.

UNHCR and IOM call for immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.

While States have the sovereign right to manage their borders, this is not incompatible with the respect for human rights including the right to seek asylum. Pushbacks endanger lives and are illegal under international law.

UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection.

IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments.

READ  African leaders asked to initiate financial bonds to fight COVID-19

 

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

READ  COVID 19: 15, 300 Ethiopian migrants return home

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

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IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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