Eritrea Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Egypt calling UNHCR office in Egypt to work according its mandate.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
We need to let the world know and open its eyes that we Eritrean Refugees and Asylum seekers have repeatedly trying to condemn the UNHCR office in Egypt for it’s not working according to its mandate. Nevertheless we have not got any positive response in improving the frustrating situation that we are passing through; rather the office still remains persistent in defending itself with meaningless justifications. To mention some from the many complaints that the Eritrean Refugees and Asylum seekers are suffering from the unjust and unfair overall Processes and Procedures followed by the office and sometimes may be by the state which we’re not sure about:-

1. Registration
A)   Delays and repetitive postponement of appointments for newly arrived asylum seekers in order for them to get registered only. No proper applications of the basic principles and approaches of the UNHCR office with regards to this issue.

B)  Instead of searching mechanisms by which the asylum seekers get served right away, unwanted delays have become a headache for the underage and unaccompanied Asylum seekers for they don’t have an identity card.

C)  UNHCR office doesn’t provide with ID card (Yellow or Blue) to most underage and unaccompanied children; thus they don’t receive any educational grants and financial assistance. And the consequence is that their lives have become very miserable beyond someone can imagine. Unwanted pregnancy, addiction to different drugs, homelessness and the likes have become very common and alarming which needs great care and attention to overcome.

D)  It’s well known that Eritrean Asylum seekers have become beneficial of the merge RSD process which merges the registration and the RSD interview only in Feb, 2018 while the asylum seekers of the other nationalities have started to benefit from the new approach a year ahead. This is one from the many acts that proves Eritrean Asylum seekers and refugees have become vulnerable to discrimination which is in opposition to Article 3 of the 1951 Refugee convention – Non-Discrimination as to race, religion or Country of Origin.

E)  The UNHCR office doesn’t regularly update its database with regards to the Eritreans who are registered and we see many Asylum seekers with their files remain active while in reality these individuals are nonexistent in Egypt in anyways. Thus this mystifying information the office is using could definitely have negative impact in the succeeding steps of the processes and may hinder from accessing to certain services.

2. RSD (Refugee Status Determination):

Eritrean Asylum seekers awaiting refugee status decision from UNHCR have stick in a limbo beyond limit which anyone can’t tolerate and has brought serious consequences for stability and well-being. (Delays to sit for RSD interview by receiving appointment extension SMS messages AND delays in receiving results when the Asylum seeker was lucky enough to sit for RSD). To mention some from the consequences:-

A) Life threatening journey through the Sahara Desert back to Sudan or Libya  where a number of people are perished becomes the inevitable last desperate option for our Eritrean young fellows.

B) Mostly underage and single mothers are becoming the targets and victims of human traffickers.

C) The status of the asylum seekers remains undetermined for a long period of time and that led to uncertainty of the future of the claimants and their dependents for those with their family.

D) Following the late start of merge RSD process for Eritreans (only in Feb, 2018), many claimants frustrated by receiving new text message with extremely long period appointment extension instead of benefiting from the new strategy.

E) Despite the newly adopted system of one way of interviewing for RSD; the appointment dates of many asylum seekers is prolonged and postponed for 3 or 4 times. Those delays are leading to unexpected psychological depressions. So unintentionally asylum seekers particularly are forcing to take risky decisions in their lives. As a result they are exposed to a miserable life, like unwanted addictions, life threatening journey through Sahara to Sudan and Libya typically in a suicidal way.

3. Protection
A) Egypt has reservations in the 1951 refugee convention with regards to Articles 20, and 22-24, which guarantees the equal rights to refugees as nationals in terms of Primary Education, Labor, Social security and public relief. And these restrictions primarily affect the livelihood of Eritrean refugees as they limit the possibilities of being employed and access to basic Education.

B) Our socio-cultural differences with the people of the host country makes integration complicated and we have become victims of multiple abuses and violence as a consequence.

C) We do not have a clear way of approaching the legal institutions (the police and the court) when incidents happened. We’re living in a state of anxiety as many of our fellows have been severely attacked in the heart of the capital city. No perpetrator has been brought to court of justice to be tried for his criminal acts which clearly show exercising Article 16 of the 1951 refugee convention – the right to access the court practically becomes easier said than done.

D) Unavailability of fundamental assistance (financial and security issues) from the UNHCR and its partners exposes most Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees to stay and live together in large number congested in a small living room regardless of our gender differences.

E) As there is no ground where we can work legally which is against Articles 17 – 19 of the 1951 refugee convention, we are forced to engage in any kind of job as house maid, cleaner and so on to become a breadwinner. But we are unfortunate that we have become victims of different levels of violations and exploitation by our employers. There’s no way that we can bring the perpetrators to court of justice because simply the work is considered to be illegal.

F) It’s fair to say that the UNHCR hotline is not functioning at all. Especially in case of emergencies there should have a different way which we can approach the office. Usually communication fails and we remain simply wasting our time and money
without getting through.

G) Getting residence permit from the Immigration office is very complicated and our safety is compromised when we are required to lineup at night time. As these
procedures are repetitive for many times, the risk of the Asylum seekers and refugees falling in danger is inevitable.

H) No lawyer is hired by the UNHCR office to its clients for them to assist in overall livelihoods in the host society particularly with protection issues.

I) A number of Eritreans have been imprisoned and expelled when they arrive Egypt especially in the borders accusing that they have crossed the territories illegally which is contrary to Articles 31 and 32 of the 1951 refugee convention – the right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting state and the right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions.

J) Are there specified places that UNHCR in Egypt provide services assistance or not? Because under any circumstances when some emergency accidents out of Cairo happened, and refugees inform for an accurate support or follow ups from UNHCR the only feedback they receive is that the UNHCR haven’t any service/assistance coverage of the victims current presence. So how would UNHCR assign and demonstrate refugees right? As the organization stands for the behalf of refugees and asylum seekers there is no financial and supplementary feeding support service deliverance. As far as we don’t have residence permission to work, we are forced to face numerous neck constrains according to our livelihood.

4. RST (Resettlement)
A) The UNHCR, Embassies and IOM facilitate the limited cases with protection needs for resettlement to third countries. However it’s very sad to hear that the cases of some of our citizens are hijacked within the three above mentioned facilitating organizations when it reached in its final stage.

B) After RST interview is made, Eritrean refugees are forced to wait for a prolonged period time before they receive their results which is also main cause of frustration to many.

C) It is well known that education is the fundamental basis  of one community’s development  especially when the right curriculum is designed to fit the community. However, we are not only suffering from the discrepancies of the host country’s curriculum but also we don’t have enough education opportunity. As the result of this we are losing the aptitude to study and will impact negatively to our lives when we get resettled to a third country.

5. Social Welfare
A) When Asylum seekers arrive in the soil of Egypt and approaches the UNHCR for the first time, there is no fundamental assistance provided to them as simple as food and drinking water even for the first day of their arrival.

B) The financial assistance provided by the UNHCR and its partners is unfair and with lots of partiality in spite of its very limited amount.

C) Despite the fact that any refugee has no right to work, children are denied from getting any financial assistance only because they have not lost at least one of their parents; very sad.

D) In a very rare occasions when UNHCR distributes certain limited amount of money to refugees (for example weathering assistance, 2017), we have seen significant number of refugees and Asylum seekers remained inaccessible to get any. There was no way to complain how the office followed its allocation.

E) According to WFP’s unclear and conceivable procedures, those who need it are not getting sufficient assistance.

Caution: –  It’s not a mystery that most of the UNHCR office staffs are locals and it’s almost impossible for refugees or Asylum seekers to have direct access to contact and discuss their issues with the very insignificant number of the international staffs. And rejection to all our complaints is what to be expected from the National staffs may be thinking to protect the values of their society especially for cases related to protection. Therefore it’s high time to call the concerned bodies to investigate the matter as what extent these staffs had impacted all the burdens mentioned above to happen.

In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning Napoleon’s quote as once said “The world suffers a lot; Not because of the violence of bad people But because of the silence of good people”. The world in general and the UNHCR in particular may not be in a position to change the mind of the bad people and you may not be able to punish the perpetrators in anyways. But as a good entity or people, you have the ability to protect the victims by approaching
different practical strategies that really brings differences in the ground. We can confidently and with tangible evidence accuse the UNHCR office for it’s not guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of Eritrean refugees and Asylum seekers.

Apart from the Articles that Egypt has made reservations in the 1951 Refugee convention which literally creates legal barriers that alienate the refugees and asylum seekers communities from getting fundamental aids and assistance, we are being exposed to multiple levels of harassment and violations regularly which violate the right of freedom of movement.
Since the dreadfulness of the lives of Eritrean refugees and Asylum seekers here in Egypt is not controversial, it’s worth reminding concerned bodies that the possibilities of evacuating these vulnerable refugees and Asylum seekers to other potential host countries where the basic human rights are respected seems inevitable and should be done shortly instead of leaving us in a regretful and meaningless life. It’s in the hand of the UNHCR to make or break the future of ours and our children.

Thank you!
The Eritrean Refugee community in Egypt, Cairo

• July 21, 2019

Advertisements

More than 80 migrants missing after boat sinks off Tunisian coast

Over 80 African migrants are missing and feared dead after their boat capsized off the Tunisian coast on 4 July, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Four migrants were rescued by Tunisian fisherman after clinging for two days to debris from the shipwrecked boat. The rescued migrants were transferred to a migrant sheltering centre but one of the four later died from hypothermia in a local hospital.

“We, four people, sat on the wood,” one of the rescued migrants told Reuters. “The waves are hitting us. We had two days of that – sitting on that piece of wood. There were a lot of dead people.”

Survivors told the Tunisian coastguard that their dinghy was carrying 86 people including four women and two children.

Saddened by the latest tragedy, Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean, said in a statement, “The status quo cannot continue. Nobody puts their lives and the lives of their families at risk on these desperate boat journeys unless they feel they have no other choice. We need to provide people with meaningful alternatives that stop them from needing to step foot on a boat in the first place.”

The incident came a day after an airstrike on a Libyan migrant detention centre killed at least 60 migrants.
The ongoing conflict in Libya is pushing thousands of migrants detained in the country to look for a safe way out of Libya. Many migrants are attempting to flee from the west coast of Libya bordering Tunisia. In June, at least 65 migrants drowned when their boat capsized off the Tunisian coast after they had left Libya hoping to reach Europe.

The Mediterranean is still the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”, according to a new report from the IOM. From January to June 2019, latest IOM data showed that at least 597 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

More Eritrean migrants arrested in Kenya

Between March and June 2019, Kenyan authorities arrested 55 Eritrean migrants for attempting to enter the country irregularly and without any valid documents.

The latest arrest took place on 4 June and involved three Eritrean women who were travelling from Ethiopia to Nairobi. The female migrants told the court that they were on their way to Uganda where their parents live.

Another 44 Eritreans, including 17 women, were  arrested within the first three weeks of May this year.  The migrants were arrested crossing the Moyale area bordering Ethiopia and Kenya. Four Kenyans suspected of being behind the smuggling network were also arrested.

The short lived border re-opening between Eritrea and Ethiopia last September brought tens of thousands of Eritreans to Ethiopia. Now many Eritreans are attempting to cross the Ethiopia-Kenya border in order to reach Uganda and migrate further south. 

The current unrest in Libya and Sudan is pushing many Eritrean migrants in Ethiopia to abandon their plans to reach Europe and instead look for other ways to reach countries like Uganda which they believe are better for refugees. However the Ethiopia-Kenya route is becoming harder to cross for many Eritreans and as a result there has been an increase in people smuggling rings.  For example, in March 2019 Kenyan authorities apprehended three suspected smugglers for illegally entering the country.

Kenya and Ethiopia have been working to strengthen their border management and deter irregular migration.  In April this year, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) opened its first field office on the Ethiopia-Kenya border to enable local governments to work together to boost cross border cooperation and address irregular migration.

There are more than 900,000 and about 235,000 registered refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

Detained migrants killed in airstrike in Libya

Nearly 60 migrants were killed and more than 100 were injured in an airstrike on a migrant detention center in Libya on 3 July.

The Tajoura detention centre near the capital Tripoli housed more than 600 refugees and migrants, most of them from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

The United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the attack and said it may constitute a war crime

The UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement condemning the attack, “Our two organizations strongly condemn this and any attack on civilian life. We also call for an immediate end to the detention of migrants and refugees.”

At least 6,000 refugees and migrants are being held in dire conditions in Libyan detention centres without proper access to healthcare, food and clean water. More than 20 detainees have died from preventable illnesses since September 2018.  Others have been caught up in the conflict and forced to fight on the front lines.

Prince Alfani, the Libya medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders called for the urgent evacuation of refugees and migrants from Libya; “What is needed now is not empty condemnation but the urgent and immediate evacuation of all refugees and migrants held in detentions centers out of Libya.”

From January to May 2019, more than 1, 000 refugees and migrants were evacuated or re-settled out of Libya by UNHCR. However, there are still some 3,300 migrants who are still being held in several detention centres across Libya which are “considered at risk”, according to the IOM.

The ongoing conflict in Libya coupled with the Libyan coast guard efforts to prevent migrants from crossing the sea for Europe, has left thousands of African migrants stranded in the country with no safe way out. Over 3,000 refugees and migrants intercepted at sea have been returned to Libya in 2019. Those migrants that manage to escape Libya on unsafe boats are at risk of capsizing and perishing at sea due to Italy’s refusal to allow migrant ships from Libya to enter Italian ports. On 29 June, the German captain of a migrant rescue ship, carrying 42 migrants from Libya, was arrested and later released after illegally entering Italian waters.

UNHCR is calling for an end to detention for migrants and refugees in Libya.

 

Eritrean migrants held in dire conditions in Libyan detention centres

More than 650 refugees and migrants, including over 430 Eritreans, are being held in dire conditions in Zintan detention centre in Libya  without adequate access to food and water, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

The conditions at Zintan Detention Centre amount to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and may also amount to torture,” OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville stated on 7 June during a press briefing in Geneva.

Many of the detainees are severely malnourished and locked in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Since last September, 22 migrants, including a large number of Eritreans, have died from tuberculosis and other preventable illnesses due to the lack of access to medical care, according to OHCHR.
Some Eritreans detained in the centre have spoken to several media outlets and aid organisations about the dire situation in Libya.

“A lot of people are dead within a short period. Even we are near death,” one Eritrean detainee told Al Jazeera. “We are the victims, we need a safe life, and we need our rights. For us, it is a black history. We are scared, we are suffering emotionally, psychologically.”

Another Eritrean told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “We have no room to move. We don’t do anything all day long and we talk less too. People simply pray, sleep and stare into space. That’s it. Some people have gone insane from doing nothing. They can’t sleep and start talking to themselves and going berserk. We need to tie their hands and feet,”

OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville also expressed concern over reports of migrants who have disappeared or been sold ‘to smugglers promising transit to Europe’. Colville said there is a huge difference between the number of migrants who have been intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libyan detention centres and the actual numbers in these centres.

‘The Libyan Coast Guard reported it had delivered hundreds to a facility in Al-Khoms, which is under the oversight of the Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM). Of this number, more than 200 were delivered there on 23 May, but the Al-Khoms facility reported that it now has only 30 migrants present, despite 203 been taken there just a couple of weeks ago,’ said OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville.

Aid has been hampered due to the ongoing clashes in Libya,  So far, UNHCR has only been able to secure the release of some 96 migrants from Zintan detention centre. However, there are still some 3,400 migrants and refugees detained in Tripoli.