EUs new refugee policy under fire as children stuck in limbo in Niger | Ruth Maclean
Thousands of people are stranded in African processing camps because no other country will take them
Stop people in Africa, before they get anywhere near the Mediterranean, and sort them into refugees and migrants there, merely letting the refugees to continue their efforts to Europe. This was the big idea that came out of last weeks EU migration peak.
But campaigners say the quandary of 260 children stuck in limbo in Niger demonstrates that there is no insure EU countries would eventually take the refugees, even if African countries agreed to this arrangement. In November, amid horrific tales of Africans being enslaved, incarcerated and tortured in Libya, Niger agreed to act as a halfway house for refugees that UNHCR, the UNs 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. Chiefly aged 14 to 17, they were all in detention, and most are profoundly 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 great deal about legal pathways, said UNHCRs 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 flowing, I have to offer an alternative. Otherwise, what are we talking about here? But when I take them out I have no alternative. You assure? 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 coasts, migrants continue to die at sea: at least three newborns died and 100 people were missing after the most recent shipwreck off the shores of the Libya on Friday. The inflatable boat sink after an detonation on board, and only 16 people were rescued by the Libyan coastguard, which had to abandon the majority of members 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 crisis on multiple fronts and has hundreds of thousands of its own refugees and internally displaced people, who fled violence on the fragile Malian margin 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 mainly 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 individuals 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, mentioned 17 -year-old Ayat Abdallah, who used to dream of being a doctor. In Agadez, she spent her days teaching younger infants to write, utilizing her finger and the sand.With tension house 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 margin.
Libya is not safe; here is not safe, told Tom Ahmed, who was caught by unknown humankinds in Libya and imprisoned for six months while they tried to extract fund from him with regular beats. Three of his pals were among those fell 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 didnt take into account, for instance, the chaos in southern Libya. To say that UNHCR has modified the migration road is a bit too much, she said.
One aspect of the migration bargainreached 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 worlds poorest and less secure countries to do what Europe will not.