01. Juli 2018 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Will Europe’s new border policy add to pain of Africa’s migrant children? · Kategorien: Afrika, Europa, Libyen, Niger · Tags: ,

The Guardian | 01.07.2018

Thousands of people are stranded in African processing camps because no other country will take them

Owen Jones

Stop people in Africa, before they get anywhere near the Mediterranean, and sort them into refugees and migrants there, only allowing the refugees to continue to Europe. This was the big idea that came out of last week’s EU migration summit.

But campaigners say the predicament of 260 children stuck in limbo in Niger demonstrates that there is no guarantee EU countries would eventually take the refugees, even if African countries agreed to this arrangement. In November, amid horrific tales of Africans being enslaved, imprisoned and tortured in Libya, Niger agreed to act as a halfway house for refugees that UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, had identified and could get out.

Evacuated from detention camps in Libya, the unaccompanied minors are among 1,200 people waiting in Niger for resettlement. Mainly aged 14 to 17, they were all in detention, and most are deeply traumatised by the violence they experienced and witnessed there. But so far no country has agreed to take them.

“In Europe we have been talking a lot about legal pathways,” said UNHCR’s representative in Niger, Alessandra Morelli. “If we want to combat trafficking, if people in need of international protection, who fit the profile of asylum seekers, get out of that flow, I have to offer an alternative. Otherwise, what are we talking about here? But when I take them out I have no alternative. You see? This is our fight.”

About 54,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been identified in Libya, but no more can leave until the 1,200 in Niger have been processed.

As Europe argues about how to stop people arriving on its shores, migrants continue to die at sea: at least three babies perished and 100 people were missing after the latest shipwreck off the coast of Libya on Friday. The inflatable boat sank after an explosion on board, and only 16 people were rescued by the Libyan coastguard, which had to abandon most of the bodies at sea “for lack of resources”, according to a coastguard captain who spoke to AFP.

The other African countries that Europe is looking at as possible hosts for screening centres are in no better a position. Niger is dealing with crises on multiple fronts and has hundreds of thousands of its own refugees and internally displaced people, who fled violence on the fragile Malian border and in Nigeria, where Boko Haram continues its bloody campaign.

Rumours that people are being considered for resettlement in France in the Nigerien city of Agadez is one of the reasons 2,000 mostly Sudanese people have arrived in the past few months, hoping to be put on a flight to Europe. Many of them sleep on the sand, with a thin piece of cloth as a roof between them and heavy rains that have just begun, and the constant threat of snakes and scorpions. Some come from Libya, others from long-term refugee camps in Chad.

“Libyans came and took our money and said they would kill us,” said 17-year-old Ayat Abdallah, who used to dream of being a doctor. In Agadez, she spent her days teaching younger children to write, using her finger and the sand.With tension building between the Sudanese and the local population, Niger rounded up more than 100 of the refugees, including some minors, and dumped them on the Libyan border. “Libya is not safe; here is not safe,” said Tom Ahmed, who was caught by unknown men in Libya and imprisoned for six months while they tried to extract money from him with regular beatings. Three of his friends were among those dropped off in the desert.Morelli said that the idea that the Sudanese had been attracted to Agadez by the hope that they would be chosen to go to France was a simplistic narrative that didn’t take into account, for instance, the chaos in southern Libya. “To say that UNHCR has modified the migration route is a bit too much,” she said.

One aspect of the migration deal reached on Friday looked to fall apart before it had even begun: four European countries – Austria, France, Germany and Italy – said they would not open “controlled centres” to assess asylum claims of people who had been rescued from the Mediterranean. At the same time they are asking some of the world’s poorest and least secure countries to do what Europe will not.

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