REFUGEES. REPORT. LIFE.
NEWTIMES DECEMBER 2014 > ISSUE # 92
SHOULD THE EU HELP THE BOAT REFUGEES? INTERVIEW WITH THE DANISH EU PARLIAMENTARIANS PAGE 10
DEAR MINISTER ...
AGAINST TIGHTENING OF THE DANISH ASYLUM LAW
FROM RED CROSS TO FIND YOUR LOST FAMILY
OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE
DEAR READER Are you aware that thousands of refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea in the attempt to reach security in Europe this year alone? Thousands of innocent women, children and men. Fellow human beings who are running away from war, torture or other inhumane conditions.
WE FIND IT SHOCKING.
After the terrible Lampedusa shipwreck last year with more
than 360 casualties, the Italian government beefed up its search and rescue efforts. In the last 12 months it has spent more than 10 million Euro and saved more than 150.000 people. The Italians’ effort to patrol the coast were taken over by the EU on the 1st of November. But the budget is down by 70% compared with the Italian operation. The EU only wants to spend three million Euro on
IS IT TRUE?
the effort. A priority that makes humanitarian organisations furious. If the EU does not change its inhumane course, we can expect many more deaths in the Mediterranean Sea in the new year of 2015. In this magazine you can read dramatic eyewitness reports from refugees who survived the deadly crossing. And we also bring you different viewpoints
on the challenge in our interviews with Danish politicians in the European Parliament.
Robin Ali Ahrenkiel El-Tanany Editor
Did you know New Times also produces podcasts and videos? Explore it here: www.newtimes.dk and facebook.com/teamnewtimes
“LIKE” US AND STAY UPDATED!
Some politicians have recently claimed that asylum seekers choose Denmark partly because of the new possibility to work and live outside the centers. New Times has asked the asylum seekers whether that is true
OSSMAN SAIF EL DIN HASSAN - SUDAN
No, I didn’t know that I could work or live outside the center. I had to escape from the government. I didn’t know my destination would be Denmark. The rest of my family are in a refugee camp in Chad.
JAFAR AHMAD - SYRIA
I didn’t know about the work or that you can live outside the center before being accepted as a refugee. I came from Syria through Egypt and all my family stayed there. I came in a boat to Italy, but I didn’t seek asylum there. Denmark gives better conditions than Italy and is better to help with family reunification.
JAFAR AHAMMAD - BANGLADESH
No. I only found out I can work when I came to Denmark. I did not know I can live outside the center till now.
REFUGEES. REPORT. LIFE.
NEWTIMES Published by: The Danish Red Cross Editorial Office: New Times Red Cross House HC Ørstedsvej 47, 1st floor 1879 Frederiksberg Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.newtimes.dk Tel. +45 23 34 58 87 Editor: Robin Ali Ahrenkiel El-Tanany
New Times Journalists: Abel, Ahmed, Billy Hydar, Feroz, Kazhal, Robert, Ismael, Makmoud, Yolanda and Marwan. Editorial assistants: Andrea Young, Camilla Madsen, Nana Fischer Rosenvinge. Volunteers: Patricia Brander Front page picture: Unknown - Defense Visual Information Center/CC Intern: Magraret Jadon
PAGE 2 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
Layout: Jens Burau, supergreen.dk
by post send us an email for details. You only pay the postage.
Printed by: OTM Avistryk Distributed to: Asylum centres, Ministries, Members of the Danish Parliament, public libraries, asylum and human rights organizations, NGOs, media and individuals in Denmark and abroad.
ASIG: ASIG (Asylum Seekers Information Group) answers questions about asylum and life as a refugee. Individuals, teachers, students, journalists and anyone interested in asylum matters are welcome to send an inquiry. To book the group for lectures, presentations and discussions contact email@example.com
Subscription: Subscriptions are free. If you would like to subscribe to New Times send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send it directly to your email inbox as soon as the next issue is out. If you would like to receive the magazine
Support: We are a part of the Danish Red Cross adult education and training department and are supported by the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. We cooperate with the Danish Refugee Council and Amnesty International.
Note: Some of the journalists use their real names, but some use pseudonyms because they do not want their whereabouts known by people in their home countries. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the authors and the persons interviewed and not – unless stated clearly – the opinion of the Danish Red Cross.
“THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO SPEND TIME”
The Mini and Maxi Club in Avnstrup help the children to adapt into a new environment, get together and make new friends
❚❚By: Robert Monica and Connie are sisters from Chile who have been living in Denmark for two years and six months. They have been living in Avnstrup for the past seven months and have been going to the Mini and Maxi clubs for the past five months. Monica has just joined the Maxi Club and finds it better to be with children at her own age.
“We cook food, go to the movies and get to stay up later than the children in the Mini Club,” Monica says. Her little sister Connie likes going to the Mini Club: “We get to do many different things there like arts and crafts. Sometimes we bake bread and do some knitting or other activities. It is a good way to spend my time,” she says. All the children come from
The club house (Photo: Private)
different countries and different upbringings and some of them are still pretty traumatized from the devastation that they come from. So it is the Mini and Maxi Clubs’ job to make them forget about their problems and bring them together as one.
Mads Anderson is a Red Cross social worker at the asylum
center and has worked in the Mini and Maxi Clubs for the past three and a half years. “We have the experience that many of the Club children are restless because they are living here. In the asylum center there is a lot of disturbance, so we try to make an environment that is very peaceful and predictable for the children. It’s an environment they know and feel comfortable with so they know what to
expect when they come in the club. So as soon as they enter they go and wash their hands and start their activities. We try to make the environment a child friendly space with minimal amount of adults from 1pm to 9pm,” Mads Anderson says.
FACTS ❚❚ There are currently 25 children in the Mini Club and 15 in the Maxi Club ❚❚ The Mini Club is for the children between 6-12 years and is open 1pm-5pm. ❚❚ The Maxi Club is for the 13-17 years and is open 5pm-9pm.
WHAT DO THEY DO? Play football or ride bikes. Some play PlayStation 3 and computer games or surf on the internet. Some make drawings or put beads on a string. Sometimes they cook over a bonfire. Sometimes in the Maxi Club they go out to watch a movie and sometimes they just like to hang out and be like normal children.
Mads Anderson likes to work with the children in the Mini and Maxi Clubs (Photo: Robert)
Drawing in the Mini Club (Photo: Private)
Two sisters. Two clubs. Monica (right) goes to the Maxi Club. Connie goes to the Minnie Club (Photo: Robert)
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 3
GET HELP TO FIND YOUR LOST FAMILY In a previous article of mine, I covered a story of a Syrian family who lost family members on their way to safety. They were seeking any kind of help in order to get reunited. For this reason, I contacted a department of the Red Cross called Tracing ❚❚By: Billy Hydar The Tracing agency in the Red Cross can help you trace lost family members or relations. Such an organization can make a huge step towards finding people in a time when Europe is experiencing a flood of refugees. The service is free of charge. They will try their best to help find possibilities in order to reach a contact. But there are many hurdles in this work, which can make it take a long time and just for them to find out what is the status of the relative. Amira Ajanovic coordinates the different activities in the Tracing department in the Danish Red Cross (DRC). Very important information was given by her about the work of tracing refugees’ relatives. How does the process of tracing work? When people come to us, they give us information about the relative who is lost. This information will be confidential. Then we fill out a request and send it to National Red Cross
Societies. When we receive a reply we start the reuniting process. Why do so many people miss family members who have been in Italy ? Well, the reason is very logical. It is all about getting registered on arrival. There were - and there still are - a huge number of refugees coming to Italy, either by sea or land, which makes it very difficult for the Italian authorities and Italian Red Cross to even know of the refugees’ existence passing through Italian territory. What is the most important thing to keep in mind during the tracing process ? We put much effort, care and importance in each case we are handling, but it is important for the families to expect to wait for a while before they may get answers. There are a huge number of refugees these days. And if the relatives came through Italy it can be very difficult to find them. Secondly it is important for them to know that once we get
PAGE 4 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
a reply from a national or an international authority, we will not hesitate to communicate back with them and let them know all information. Last and not least, it is very important to keep in mind that if the lost family member is not registered it will be very hard to find him or her. Sometimes we never get an answer back, but we will still keep the case open in case new information shows up.
FACTS: The Danish Red Cross Tracing Service reunited 125 persons in 2013. The Service has received 519 cases in 2014 so far.
DO YOU NEED HELP FROM TRACING?: You can contact tracing on this email: email@example.com
BOAT REFUGEES MORE THAN 3000 DEAD 150.000 SAVED JUST IN 2014 ALONE... Chaos and panic among refugees crammed into weak boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Interviews with Danish members of the European Parliament. What to do about it?
A boat carrying refugees (Photo: Unknown - Defense Visual Information Center/CC)
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 5
“WE SAW HUNDREDS THAT DID NOT MAKE IT” On my escape from Eritrea to Europe I ended up on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea with more than 300 other refugees. We made it by a miracle. But on the way we witnessed the tragic sinking of another refugee boat ❚❚By: Abel In August this year me and 317 other refugees were heading out from Libya to cross the Mediterranean Sea in a small fishing boat. Everyone who was older than 16 was obliged to pay 1800 USD for the travelling costs. The smugglers were supposed to get us a boat that suited our number. Despite that, they brought us a simple, small fishing boat. The boat was steered by a Tunisian captain and had space for only around 80 to 100 people. But at that moment we didn’t have any other alternative than to obey and blindly accept the offer. We were like hostages. Every single person including mothers and 26 children under 1 year, everyone, old and young were forced to get into the boat and sit like a sardines in a tin. The first 10 hours at sea nothing happened to us. But at night around 2 to 3 am things changed. A smaller boat came, and our captain jumped into it. He left us in the middle of nowhere with no GPS, no compass, nothing.
THE BOAT ALMOST SANK
Unexpectedly our boat began to take in water and some of the mothers cried for their children. One guy tried his best to call his brother in Italy, so that he could tell the Italian coastguards about us. Unfortunately, it did not work out. Everybody was terrified by the situation. One lady had our smuggler’s phone number with her, and she called him to update him on the situation that we had ended up in. But he seemed to have forgotten his part of the deal and said, that it was none of his concern. We were shocked.
THE ENGINE STOPPED
An idea came up in my mind. I wanted to try to take the helm of the boat, until we got in touch with a rescue team. Fortunately everyone on the boat encouraged me to try. It was my first attempt and I couldn’t sail properly, because it was a completely new world to me. After a couple of hours I learned to handle the helm pretty well, and then I sailed for almost 46 hours. But then suddenly the engine stopped because it lacked fuel, and our hopes waned again. A storm was coming and it was getting rough and the boat could not take it. Water was pouring in from both sides. Suddenly, at that crucial moment something emerged out of the blue. It was another refugee boat that had come close to us and I managed to ask them to help us with the fuel, and immediately they did.
After a couple more days we saw a devastating event from a distance of about 200 to 250 meters. A small boat, more or less the same size as ours, began to sink right in front of us. Everybody on it desperately called for help, some were screaming, and I heard a baby crying because it was about to die. It shocked me and I felt like I should have been a better captain at that moment. But then I lost my courage and I couldn’t steer the boat forward. I remember that a lady came up to me and asked me to give her the helm, and I let her have it. She tried heading towards the needy but because of the storm she could not manage it. We were floating around till they totally disappeared. their boat had sunk and the people stopped screaming.
In the middle of the sea there is no place to go if the boat sinks. (Photo: Ole Holmblad/CC)
PAGE 6 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
Me and the rest of the people on my boat felt guilty because we didn’t help them. After the tragedy the atmosphere on our boat changed, almost all the adults on our boat lost their hope and got sick with diarrhea and couldn’t stop vomiting. None of us could help each other. The situation was intense. I kept steering the boat with help from the brilliant and courageous lady. But nobody knew the nature of the sea and how to sail in the right direction.
ALMOST REACHING LAMPEDUSA
The next day we saw an island in the distance. I told every single person in my boat to empower their beliefs and pray to their gods. Soon after some coast guards showed up in a helicopter, and after a couple of minutes a big ship reached us. Me and all the other people were so happy. We thought the coastal guard would rescue us.
Instead they bombarded us with questions and I told them about all the terrible things that had happened to us, but they didn’t take it very seriously. They threw us life jackets, water and some canned food, and then they told us to keep going towards our destination by ourselves in our boat. I argued that they should take us to their big boat, which is usually used to rescue refugees, but they refused. Instead they gave us fuel and promised to guide us. Fortunately we went the long way to Sicily in our boat without more problems. Europe. The place I used to call heaven on earth. Now I will see if it is.
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 7
EDEN’S DRAMA ON THE SEA
Eden from Eritrea almost died crossing the sea (Photo:Yolanda)
Eden, an Eritrean asylum seeker, was close to dying when the Syrian guy intentionally tried to sink the boat
❚❚By:Yolanda “The sinking of our boat was the most dramatic event in my life. The water had risen up to our chests. We started to bail out the water with small plastic containers, but it was not enough.We panicked, screaming and yelling,” Eden explains. She is 28 years old, from Eritrea and seeking asylum in Denmark.
TRICKED IN TURKEY
This happened in July 2009. On the sea, in completely darkness, with no stars to bring the light. Only a dark sky and dark sea between Turkey and Greece. “Our final goal was one of the Scandinavia countries. Our contact brought us to the Turkish coast, where we waited for one day and one night for safe conditions to cross the sea to Greece. From there we should go by plane. But the last in a series of traffikers tricked us.”
THE OVERCROWDED SHIP
The group consisted of people from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Senegal, Ghana and Syria who had all traveled far from their
home countries; by public transport, in small closed vans, or by foot. They used fake travel documents and payed many different men to help them. “We were twenty five in the group and the plastic boat was large enough for a maximum ten people. When we saw what we were supposed to sail in, and because most of us did not know how to swim, we began to argue with the man who was arranging it because we could see we had been tricked. We had paid money to be transported in larger, proper, safe boat which one of the contacts was supposed to provide. The quarrel was unsuccessful. We had no choice, we couldn’t go back. We climbed into the boat and each in their own language prayed to God to help us in this sea crossing. We had been tricked again, but only noticed it once we were on the boat on the open sea. There was supposed to be a captain to navigate the boat, but instead the smuggler had made an agreement with two of us, a Syrian and a Sudanese to navigate the boat. Neither
PAGE 8 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
the Syrian nor Sudanese had any experience. The one was taking directions on his mobile phone from the contact still on the coast, and passing the information on to the other, who was steering the boat.”
Eden can not say exactly how long they had been in the boat; it seemed like an eternity. When she looked at the other passengers’ faces, she saw the fear and despair. ”Only God is able to help us,” she thought. Suddenly the sea became rough, water was poring in and they couldn’t drain it out. “Never before in my life have I directly faced death. We didn’t know how to swim; the water will take us, we were screaming. Everyone started crying and shouting in panic. You could hear curses and prayers. We four girls from Eritrea held hands and prayed crying at the same time. I felt it would be my last day. I will be one of the many immigrants drowned.”
BETWEEN THE FEAR
Suddenly they noticed a light in
the distance. In that moment it was as if time had stopped. All eyes were pointed towards the flash. In disbelief, they realized that it was approaching. Soon they recognized a coastguard’s lifeboat. “I can not exactly define my feelings. They were mixed; fear of certain death by drowning and fear of the police and prison, the consequence that awaits illegal immigrants in Greece. I can’t remember whether I was pleased at that moment and if I considered their arrival a rescue.”
THE CONFLICT ON THE SHIP
But this still was not the end of their drama at sea. “Suddenly I noticed that the Syrian guy, who had navigated the boat, was holding a knife. I was shocked. He was kneeling trying to strike the bottom of the boat with the blade. I didn’t know what was going on. Some of men started to argue with him and pushed him in an attempt to snatch the knife, but unsuccessfully. The man with the knife was frightened and yelling and occasionally look-
ing towards the oncoming ship. He spoke Arabic, which I did not understand. ”Suddenly I was very cold. I became aware that I was all wet and semi-stiff.” The coast guard’s ship was approaching very fast. A Senegalese explained to Eden what was happening. The Syrian guy’s intention had been to pierce the boat and let them all drown. He feared he would be accused of trafficking because he had been steering the boat. He preferred to die rather than be sentenced for people smuggling. “A guy from Sudan managed to convince the Syrian that we will not betray him. We would agree to say that the boat was operated by a Turk, who had jumped into the water when he saw rescuers. We kept the promise. So, half-drowned, frozen and scared we were switched to the coast guard’s ship. ”Thank God everything had gone OK in the end.”
WHO IS SAVING THE BOAT REFUGEES? ❚❚By Margaret Jadon More than 150.000 people have been saved at sea by Italian authorities in 2014. More than 3000 have died crossing the Mediterranean.
EU CUTS DOWN SEARCH AND RESCUE EFFORTS BY 66% The Italians’ search and rescue mission - called Mare Nostrum - ended on 1st of November and cost 10 million euro yearly. The new EU mission that took over charge - called Triton - has a budget of only three million euro.
MARE NOSTRUM VS TRITON
As from 1st November 2014 the new EU mission called Triton is operating in the Mediterranean. Triton replaces the earlier Mare Nostrum mission, which focused on saving lives at sea. The focus of new Triton mission is combating irregular migration, rather than rescuing refugees in distress. While Mare Nostrum also operated in international waters, Triton will only be active within 30 miles off the Italian coast, which has spread fears that more migrants and refugees will die in their attempt to reach Europe.
TRITON IS A PART OF FRONTEX
The Triton mission is a part of Frontex (from French: “Frontières extérieures for “external borders”). Frontex is the European Union agency that protects the Union’s external borders. Frontex implements and assists Member States with operational aspects of protecting the borders.
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast graveyard”, Pope Francis tells the European Parliament. During a visit to the EU Parliament at the end of November - the first visit by a Pope in more than 20 years - the Pope delivered harsh criticism of the EU’s treatment of boat refugees. The pope urged the politicians to start bringing back EU as a beacon of civilization instead of only pursuing “policies of self-interest”. Photo: The Catholic Church in England and Wales / CC
Sources: Amnesty International, The Danish Broadcasting Corporation, The IOM 2014 report, Fatal Journeys, Tracking Lives Lost during Migration.
A boat carrying North African migrants approaches the harbour of Lampedusa. Photo: Tommaso Della Longa / Italian Red Cross
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 9
SHOULD EU HELP TH
The Italian government has asked the Europ flow of refugees coming across the Mediterra on the responsibility as Italy has wished for. gees and migrants continue to attempt to rea by human ❚❚By Margaret Jadon
New Times interviewed seven Danish Members of the European Parliament about the European Union’s responsibility and accountability. We asked: 1. Has the EU a responsibility to help Italy? 2. What should the EU do to prevent an increase in the death toll?
MARGRETE AUKEN (THE SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S PARTY) It is clear that there is a lack of compassion and solidarity in the EU. The victims are our fellow human beings. Italy’s borders are also Denmark’s borders, and we diminish our lives by closing our eyes [to the problems]. We must not shut ourselves in and guard only our own borders. The EU definitely has a responsibility to help. The so-called Dublin Regulation was meant to avoid “asylum tourism” where asylum seekers shop around and States try to The EU Member Member push their responsibiliStates should ties on to others. Now, north is misusing take responsi- the the Dublin Regulation bility for the for our own protection, countries in the refugee issue while south are left alone instead of pre- with the challenges. The EU Member tending it does States should take not exist. responsibility for the refugee issue instead of pretending it does not exist. Since 1993 more than 20,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe. Even so some States, such as Italy, have legislation that forbids citizens help refugees in distress. Several Member States are pressing to restrict help to refugees in distress. This is unacceptable. Member States should instead strengthen surveillance and the sharing of information about refugees in the Mediterranean in order to save lives and live up to our proud “European values”.
PAGE 10 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
MORTEN MESSERSCHMIDT (DANISH PEOPLE’S PARTY) First and foremost, the EU has a responsibility to secure its external borders so that it becomes harder for illegal immigrants to reach Europe. Securing the external borders implies, giving help to refugees who get into trouble, meaning helping them to save their own lives. But in Africa the problem is poverty and that can only be remedied through “help for self-help” in the form of targeted development aid, which we must ensure will have a lasting effect. There should be more of an EU presence at the external borders. When refugees discover that they are most likely to get caught and returned home, then fewer will attempt to reach the EU. The problem is that successfully getting into the EU is an encouragement for others to follow; and the more people who make the attempt, the more victims there will be. The signal should be that it is not worth their while trying to reach Europe because their chances of getting in are minimal.
When refugees discover that they are most likely to get caught and returned home, then fewer will attempt to reach the EU.
RINA RONJA (THE PEOPLES’ MOVEMENT AGAINST THE EU) The EU definitely has a responsibility to help – especially because the consequences of EU policies in developing countries are, in my opinion, a major ‘push factor’ and the reason why refugees and migrants flee across the Mediterranean. For example, the EU trade, fisheries and agricultural policies keep African countries in poverty, hunger and unemployment. As a fisherman from Mauritania once said, “I am unemployed because the EU has caught all our fish – but the EU does not want me, only The EU should my fish”. As a immediately here-and-now solution the EU stop the grad- should immestop ual militari- diately the gradual zation of the militarization the border border con- of controls, which trols ... is the reason why refugees and migrants are taking ever more dangerous routes to reach Europe. Instead, all the money we use on Frontex should be spent on search and rescue operations. The best solution is for the EU to change its colonial policies in the countries people are fleeing from, for example, the Economic Partnership Agreements, which the EU has forced many of the less developed African countries to sign. The agreements will retain the continent in poverty for many years to come.
HE BOAT REFUGEES?
pean Union for help to handle the increasing anean but the European Union has not taken In the meantime, many lives are lost as refuach Europe, trafficked in un-seaworthy boats traffickers.
ULLA TØRNÆS (LIBERAL PARTY OF DENMARK)
OLE CHRISTENSEN (THE DANISH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS)
BENDT BENDTSEN (THE CONSERVATIVE PEOPLE’S PARTY)
Today, we are faced with the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War and in this exceptional situation the EU naturally has a responsibility to help. Many of the asylum seekers we receive in the EU have no right to political asylum in the EU and will be rejected. Therefore, we should to a greater extent give help in the home regions. Then those people who are eligible for asylum can get help and those who are not eligible will not spend their savings on a dangerous sea journey. The EU should do two things. First of all, the EU should strengthen its assistance in First of all, regions the the EU should migrants come from. strengthen its We, in Denassistance in mark, can help about regions the 10 times as many refumigrants come gees in their from. neighbouring areas compared to what it costs to help one refugee in Denmark. Secondly, the EU should strengthen Frontex. Unfortunately, we can see that some EU countries have difficulty maintaining credible control of their external borders. Therefore, Frontex should have the possibility of supporting these countries.
My basic position is that we in the EU are obligated to help each other to ensure that the influxes of refugees are managed in a responsible and reasonable way. We must help the people who are in this terrible situation and we must help countries in southern Europe that are under particular pressure. It requires solidarity between EU Member States. A small country such as Malta cannot cope alone. We in the EU should have a discussion about how we can manage it. This was also the message from Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament. The EU Member States must initiate a dialog about a system of justice with clear criteria and a comprehensive and human immigration policy that can handle the large number of refugees, including those who will try to come to Europe in the coming years. Likewise, as I see it, A small part of the solution coun- is to help try such refugees in their home as Malta regions, cannot cope particular in the alone. We Middle in the EU East and Africa.
The EU has a responsibility to help when it comes to the external borders. The Lampedusa accident is certainly not only an Italian affair – it affects us all of Europe. In general it is important to strength Europol and the EU’s external borders so we can respond to these situations. It is important that we priorities financial means to Frontex it is important within the existing to strength budget. FurEuropol and thermore, it is importhe EU’s extertant that we increase nal borders cooperation so we can between EU countries respond to on policing these situaand investigation. tions.
should have a discussion about how we can manage it.
MORTEN HELVEG (THE DANISH SOCIAL LIBERAL PARTY) The EU has a great responsibility and the EU has to do more in order to prevent refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. We need to help those countries which receive large numbers of refugees such as Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. I am working to ensure that the EU takes more collective responsibility in this field. My party is currently pushing for an additional one million euro to be added to EASO’s (European Asylum Support Office) operational budget, and I will do my utmost to make sure that they have adequate funds to do their job effectively. It is also crucial to ensure that the EU is able to deploy observers to oversee the situation on the ground, and to demand improvements in areas where countries fail to comply with their international obligations, especially in to My party is cur- relation human rights rently pushing issues and the of for an additional protection human lives. one million euro We must make that refuto be added to sure gees are not EASO’s (Euro- drowning in Mediterrapean Asylum the nean Sea!
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 11
“I tried to find someone who had a life-jacket so I could rest but everyone I approached pushed me away”.
PAGE 12 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
SWIMMING FROM DEATH Ammar was one of the few survivors when the over-packed boat sank. He was a good swimmer, unlike most of the other 430 passengers
❚❚By: Marwan “I didn’t expect the amount of risk involved in that trip,” Ammar said, “people who had similar experiences said that there would be some dangers, but that we would eventually find peace.” This is Ammar’s story.
VOLUNTEERING TO BE TRAFFICKED
Human trafficking comes in many forms. In cases like Ammar’s, brokers accept payment from asylum seekers, and then hand them over into the control of human traffickers. Khaled treated all his passengers like slaves. A Libyan of Amazigh ethnic decent, Khaled was an average-looking man in his thirties who exploited people of all nationalities for a living. His broker’s fee was $1300 for anyone 16 years and over and approximately $500 for those between the ages of ten and 15. Younger passengers would be smuggled for free. During the evening of 10 October 2013, Ammar met Khaled in Tripoli and was transported to Zwara – a small town on the border between Libya and Tunisia. Over the next ten days in Zwara, Ammar shared a 70 square-meter apartment with forty-five asylum seekers. They were treated inhumanely and prohibited from going outside. A guard brought food but the quantity only met the needs of 15 people. “We were in the hands of a human trafficker,” said 21-year-old Ammar. “On the day of departure, we were packed like sardines into a refrigerated container that would transport us to our next destination,” explained Ammar, “We arrived in the evening at a place about 150 meters away
from the seashore. Two inflatable boats waited for us to take us to the ship approximately two hours away.”
All 430 people, mostly over the age of 16, were packed tightly in the vessel with only 40 cm of space to themselves. “We couldn’t move,” said Ammar, “The expected travelling time was between 12-20 hours and, considering the space issues, we were forced to relieve ourselves in our clothes.” After a short awhile, a Libyan coastguard boat began to follow us calling over the loudspeaker three times for us to return to Zwara harbour. “We tried to show them the children on board and shouted, ‘we are Syrians! Please leave us in peace! You are free Libyans! Let us go in peace!’ but instead the coastguard fired warning shots into the air,” said Ammar. The passengers began to panic and the frightened captain veered back toward Zwara. When the coastguard left us a few minutes later, the captain redirected towards Italy. But the coastguard came back. This time the captain steered quickly towards our European destination. The coastguard eventually caught up with our ship and continued to fire shots. “Our ship did not stop and they fired dozens of bullets in our direction and then left after destroying the ship’s deck,” said Ammar. Four passengers were injured and three of them needed emergency care. There were two pregnant women onboard and, in the midst of all the chaos, one delivered her child in less than thirty minutes. The ship’s staff plugged the bullet holes and switched on the pumps to empty the water
from the ship. However, five hours later, the ship had filled with water. “Passengers tried to contact the Italian coastguard for help, but were told to direct their requests to the Maltese coastguard, as we were far away from Lampedusa [an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea],” said Ammar, “Malta advised to call Italy. But we didn’t give up. We were on the phone until all the credit ran out on our mobiles.”
That evening, the ship tipped over and began to sink. It only took two minutes to fully submerge. “I wasn’t scared; I was in a state of shock,” said Ammar, who was under the ship when it capsized. “Maybe because of all the bombings and murders I had witnessed in Syria by Assad’s regime, I believed it could not be the end for me.” “I swam for my life,” said Ammar, who had the good fortune of being an expert swimmer. He navigated through a maze of people trapped under the boat and, when he finally surfaced, he saw passengers trying to grab hold of the ship to keep afloat. “I was exhausted and starved. I tried to find someone who had a life-jacket so I could rest but everyone I approached pushed me away.” Finally he found a man with half a life-jacket who agreed to share so that they could take turns swimming, while the other could rest. The waves were calm and bodies were floating on the surface. “We swam for about two and a half hours when an Italian Navy helicopter arrived and threw two inflatable boats and two bags filled with lifejackets
towards us,” said Ammr. Having not eaten since their departure the day before, the survivors had no energy to swim another half an hour towards the life preservers. Rescue teams emerged and survivors were pulled onboard and transported towards the two Italian Navy vessels waiting approximately 700 meters away. The Italian and Maltese Navy recued a total of 194 people; emergency cases were taken by helicopter to Lampedusa. “I was saved!” he exclaimed. Ammar still believes that if the coastguards had responded to the first emergency call, there wouldn’t have been so many victims.
ON DRY LAND
Even after these horrific events, Ammar still remains hopeful, “Certainly, I have suffered psychologically from a bad experience; I lost my uncle and my cousin in that accident [but] I am optimistic about the future”. Now in Denmark, Ammar is taking an integration course and would like to have a chance to study in a technical school to qualify as an electrician. “I hope to be able to help my family,” he said.
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 13
DEMONSTRATION AGAINST TIGHTENING OF ASYLUM LAW Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Copenhagen the 2nd November protesting against the Government’s proposed tightening of the asylum law. New Times talked to one of the organizers ❚❚By: Yolanda and Marwan (photos) New Times managed to get hold of one of organizers behind the demonstration, Malin Kristina Westerlund, to explain the reasons for the demonstration: “We find the Government’s tightening of the asylum rules inhumane and cynical and we think they express a total lack of humanity”, she says. The speakers at the demonstration argued for an improvement of asylum seekers’ living conditions. They talked about children’s rights, the effects of long-term residence in the asylum centers and about personal experiences with refugees in desperate need for help. Some were offering to house refugees in their private homes. Apart from organizing this demonstration Malin Kristina Westerlund is also the cofounder of a local movement
offering private accommodation to refugees. “We are against the tightenings of the asylum law, and the whole rhetoric focusing on dollars and cents forgetting all about the people in need. We work for a humane Denmark that welcomes refugees as people in need who can contribute to our society in a positive way”, she says.
PAGE 14 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
THE FOUR BIGGEST TIGHTENINGS OF THE ASYLUM LAW SUGGESTED BY THE GOVERNMENT 1. New - weaker - category of refugee The law introduces a new category of refugees, who will have less protection than the present two refugee categories in Denmark. (The “Convention Refugees” who meet the criterias of the UN refugee convention and the “protection status refugees” who do not meet the UN criterias but risk death penalty, torture or other inhumane treatment if they go back). The new category is called “refugees with temporary protection status”. If you are fleeing from “a particularly serious situation in your home country with random violence and assaults on civilians” - and if you are not personally persecuted - you fall into this category. You will only be granted this temporary protection in “the most extreme cases of general violence with a real risk of assaults” 2. Shorter permissions to stay Up till today 98,5% of all permissions to stay lasted for five years. That will now be changed for refugees with temporary protection status. From now on they will only be granted a 1-year permission. After one year this permission can be extended for two years if the authorities conclude that the conditions in the home country have not improved. Higher risk of losing protection According to EU rules a country can only withdraw protection from a refugee with temporary protection if there are “significant and non-temporary improvements of security in the home country”. But the Danish bill makes it easier for the authorities to withdraw the protection of refugees with temporary protection status. Now a refugee can lose his/hers temporary protection if the “general conditions in the home country have improved” even though the conditions are still “serious, fragile and unpredictable”. 3. One year slower family reunification Refugees belonging to the new category of “refugees with temporary protection status” can only apply for family reunification after one year in Denmark. And only if their permission to stay in Denmark has been extended after the first year. Refugees belonging to the two other categories can apply for family reunification immediately. Source: The Danish Newspaper Information
MANY CRITICS OF THE TIGHTENINGS At the time of writing this, the law was still not executed in Parliament. Several human rights organisations criticized the bill. The Danish Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council, Refugees Welcome, Dignity, Grandparents for Asylum and many other organisations were arguing heavily against it. Within the parliament the bill also met heavy resistance from the two political parties who helped the government to power at the last election; The Red Green Alliance and the Socialist Peoples’ Party. But there were no indicators that the government would back down. They could easily find support for the bill among the centreright parties in Parliament.
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 15
OPEN LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE: D N O C E S A IS ” D L O H “TÅLT OP R IM E C E M A S E H T R O F E SE NTE NC
WHO IS ON TÅLT OPHOLD? Tålt ophold (tolerated stay) is a form of “asylum center residence permit” with limited rights. It is given to foreigners who have lost their right to stay in Denmark, but cannot be send back to their home countries because they are likely to be persecuted or tortured there. Almost everybody on tålt ophold have committed a crime in Denmark and served their sentences.
living old. I have been s ar ye 66 am I ael Deboub. My name is Ism to since 2012. on “tålt ophold” which I had to go r fo e nc fe of an enced for s decided Earlier I got sent ce, the authoritie en nt se y m ed sh my ad fini prison. When I h r for the rest of te en c m u yl as m e in Sandhol that I should liv giving life. ondemn someone, c ebl u do an c e ow justic It is incredible h me. for the same cri the es c en nt se o tw him have to report to I d an m ol dh an sleep in S meters with two I must stay and e ar u sq 25 is to e in a room that police daily. I liv I am not allowed e. m e lik d” ol h op e on “tålt work. I live of to other men who ar ed w lo al t no I love and I am . marry the woman by the Red Cross e m to n ve gi e in and medic ry condemned me nt the food, clothes ou c y m of t The governmen I cannot go back. future. I do not no to death in 1992. e, op h o N e. sed around m el like Everything is clo eavy penalty. I fe h is th ar be to e th anymor mazes of agony, in have enough streng h rt fo d an k c ciety. Walking ba a leper in this so I go to the grave. en h w ed ap c es ep me all my life Ke which can only be ? an m ld -o rs me, a 66-yea What to do with d”? ce of “Tålt ophol HE LAST chance T n under this senten ve gi be ld ou tålt ophold sh the I think people on e to pay back to c an h c a em th r lves. Give the past - and fo to redeem themse in ne do e av h ey istakes that th society for the m already. the price in prison id pa e av h ey th ything possible to er which ev do ld ou w I d me asylum make If Denmark grante ty. I would never ie c so h is an D e I owe to th redeem the debt e of another mistake. life-long sentenc is th g in av le of e e chanc Please give me th tålt ophold.
There are 66 people on tålt ophold in Denmark.
PAGE 16 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
EXHIBITION OF WAR Red Cross war exhibition reminds Danes of important world issues ❚❚By: Kazhal On 10 October 2014, the Danish Red Cross celebrated its 150th anniversary with an exhibition on war and its work in Copenhagen. Having experience helping children of war, I decided to volunteer for the event. I noticed how perceptive children can be from the drawings young Danes created when they visited my workshop, particularly of their ideas and visions of war. A little girl came and painted images of plates with food, demonstrating how
children of war have very little to eat. I was surprised how someone so young, with such little experience, would know that children in war had these issues.
Another impactful exhibition was the photographic depiction of hundreds of Rwandan children, who were taken from their homes and families. Because they were either too young or too traumatized to speak, these photos were taken as part of a search operation so that parents
Child’s drawing depicting plates of food made during the Red Cross exhibition (Photo: Kazhal)
might have a chance of finding their children once again.
Eventually, I discovered which part of the exhibition made the biggest impression on the visiting children: images depicting children in countries affected by war – quite a departure from growing up in quiet, peaceful Denmark. Looking at the drawings made by Syrian children of the war they witnessed allowed the visiting children at the exhibition to reflect on what they normally take for granted. Some
of the drawings were created as part of art therapy; shocking experiences are normally difficult to talk about, but transforming them into drawings can help children deal with their trauma. Through this initiative, the Red Cross provided an artistic outlet to children of different cultures in which to express themselves in a peaceful and collaborative manner about how war affects people their age. I also learned a lot.
Photography exhibition depicting missing Rwandan children (Photo: Billy Hydar) Actors dressed like Danish soldiers from the war against Germany in 1864 shot with canons in front of a big crowd (Photo: Billy Hydar)
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 17
NO WAR HERE In the kindergarten in Sandholm there are many Syrian kids at the moment. Here there is no war and the children can play around happy and safe â?šâ?šText and photos by: Makmoud
Jiny is from Syria. She is the smallest of three siblings who are also in the Kindergarten.
Judy is beautiful. She is the middle one of the three siblings from Syria.
Khaldoun is the oldest of the three siblings. I think it is one of the first times he is tasting rye bread.
Ameena is also from Syria. Here she is taking the baby for a walk.
PAGE 18 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
Khaldoun is far away with his thoughts
Nurhan from Syria. A penny for her thoughts.
Mustafa is the only one of all the kids I photographed who is not from Syria. He has been in Sandholm for many years. He is a smart kid.
Shaam from Syria, happy and safe.
Judy is doing a good job
NEW TIMES | DECEMBER 2014 | ISSUE # 92 | PAGE 19
AFTER NEGATIVE OR POSITIVE – WHAT THEN?
For an asylum seeker life is all about whether you are granted positive (asylum) or negative. New Times interviewed two people with different fates; one who got negative and one who got positive ❚❚Text and photos: Ahmed
NOW I WANT TO WORK AND STUDY
NEGATIVE FEELS LIKE A DEPRESSION
Yusuf Ali I am happy to have got residence in Denmark. This is a great chance to participate in life. I was waiting for a reply for one and a half years. When I got my positive reply I thought I would move quickly, but I stayed in the asylum centre for four months more. It really is a difference whether you have residency or not. When you have
residency you have an opportunity to really learn the language, to work and to go places outside Denmark. I was given asylum the fourth of March 2014. I want to work and to study. It would be beneficial for me and for the country because I will get a good job and pay tax. But first I must concentrate on the Danish language. It is difficult, but I have to learn it. When I was in my country I was a tailor. I want to follow that way.
Hello. After Denmark has returned you to your home country, you can [return to Denmark and] apply for asylum straight away. There is no quarantine period imposed, as long as Denmark has returned you to your home country. But if you left Denmark on your own accord, reported missing and then return, Danish authorities will treat your case as a rejected asylum claim and aim to deport you once again. Please bear in mind, that asylum in Denmark can only be applied for by a person physically in Denmark, and that the Danish authorities will decide the European country responsible for the application – the Dublin procedure – in
If I was in my country and someone asked me if they could get asylum, I would welcome them; not reject them. I am not satisfied with the decision the Danish authorities reached. I fled my country because of serious problems. I don’t want to talk about it now because I do not want to remember. I have been in Denmark for nearly three years. There
is a big difference between negative and positive. When you get negative you feel depressed. You do not know what is going on in the world. You cannot study, work or travel. It’s just eating and staying in the asylum centre. I can’t go back my country (Somalia). I do not really know what to do in the future.
We sent your questions to the lawyers at the Danish Refugee Council. Here are their replies
ASK A LAWYER I have been refused asylum and was recently deported back to Pakistan. I am not safe here. How many years must I wait before I can again seek asylum in Denmark?
a preliminary proceeding before opening the asylum inquiry. It’s also important to consider that Danish authorities have already rejected the asylum claim once. A renewed asylum claim based on the same information will likely be rejected again. As such, new substantial documentation will be necessary if the motive for the asylum claim is unchanged.
I am from Somalia and have been refused asylum both by the Immigration Service and by the Court. I have received a letter from the Immigration Service to say that I can’t leave the country for two years. If I can’t be deported home, what is my status? I live in Avnstrup Centre. Can I live outside the centre? Can I work? Can I get any education?
PAGE 20 | ISSUE # 92 | DECEMBER 2014 | NEW TIMES
The decision from the Appeals Board (the Court) contains a notice to leave Denmark voluntarily. Normally, you get 7-15 days to leave voluntarily. If you do not, the Immigration Service can launch several initiatives to compel you to leave. One of these initiatives is a so called ‘administrative expulsion’ from Denmark. This decision comes with a 2 year reentry ban and is quite common. As I understand your question, you might have been mistaken about the meaning of the letter you received from the Immigration Service. A guess would be, that the letter forbid you to enter Denmark legally for 2 years after the day you physically leave. All asylum seekers – including rejected asylum seekers – have the opportunity to live and work outside the center after 6 months, as long as they cooperate with the authorities about their case. The Immigra-
tion Service determines if the level of cooperation is enough. If a rejected asylum seeker does not wish to leave Denmark voluntarily, this is seen as being uncooperative about the case, which in turn will result in a refusal to live and work outside the center as well as the loss of educational rights.
My husband got asylum in Denmark six years ago. I have been rejected asylum by the Immigration Service and am waiting for the Court. In the meantime, we would like to go to Holland for a week’s holiday. Can I get a travel document?
A person seeking asylum in Denmark is considered an asylum seeker for the duration of the procedure, that is, until you are either granted asylum or residency of another kind in Denmark, or until you
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? WRITE TO: New Times, Red Cross House HC Ørstedsvej 47, 1st floor 1879 Frederiksberg or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Please feel free to ask your questions anonymously.
leave Denmark and return to your home country. As an asylum seeker in Denmark, you do not have the right to travel. This applies regardless of your spouse having a residency permit here. So the short answer is no, unfortunately. Regarding your marriage, I advise you to visit us for individual counselling, since there might be other options for you left to explore, such as family reunion in Denmark with your husband under specific circumstances. The Danish Refugee Council is open for visits every Wednesdays from 10-13 in Borgergade 13, 3rd floor, DK-1300 Copenhagen.
Should the EU help the Boat Refugees?