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LEFT TO DEATH IN LIBYAS PRISON?

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FRAGMENT OF LIVES

This article is based on almost one year of chats, telephone calls and messages on WhatsApp and Messenger with refugees detained in Libyan prisons and detention centers.

Last summer I got to know David from Eritrea through a good friend in Athen and since then, we have had almost daily contact. David spent the last two years in different detention centers in Libya, not knowing when – if ever – he will get out again. Since autumn he has been in Zintan prison, as it seems, the worst of them all, located in the small town Zintan in the Libyan mountains, 150 km from Tripoli.

Apart from David there are 800 other refugees and migrants from Eritrea and Somalia in Zintan. Forgotten and desperate, always locked up behind thick walls without access to fresh air and sunshine and very little to eat. Within the last four month thirteen people have died in Zintan Prison, mainly because of tuberculosis. The sick are just left on their own, with no medical help. Left to die among the people still alive. TB is easily spread in the overcrowded prisons and detention center in Libya, and nobody knows, how many are infected.

Because of security all names and places have been changed

_____________________

 

One morning a message ticks in on WhatsApp. It is David, a refugee from Eritrea – the East African country, perhaps better known as Africa’s North Korea. The message is from Zintan prison, and it says:
-Today we are out in the sun. We are sitting outside. I did not get any sunshine or fresh air since 15/10 2017.

The date 15. of October 2017 David has mentioned for me a thousand times. That was the day when the dream of reaching safety in Europe forever ended. The day, when the soldiers captured him and brought him to one of the many detention centers in Libya. Centers placed in old prisons or big hangars with hundreds of refugees and migrants locked up, mainly due to EUs strict border policy. With hardly any or no access to fresh air, poor food, abuses from brutal Libyan police and guards and left with very little hope ever to get out again. The Libyan police accused David of entering the country illegally. In Eritrea he was working in the airport, until he escaped. His goal was Europe, where most Eritrean refugees obtain asylum because of the inhuman regime in Eritrea.

I got in contact with David through a good friend from Eritrea. One day I got a desperate message from Athen, where she and her three children have asylum. Her brother was trapped in a detention center in Libya. Sick and lonely. What can I do, she asked.

-All of us are ill, David writes:
-We never ever get any sunshine or fresh air and proteins. Only spaghetti cooked in salted water. Always spaghetti. We are hungry. We are freezing. We are suffering. Help us.
The messages are often and many, but today David and his inmates have been allowed to go outside. I ask him, if it means that they can go outside every day now?
-I don’t know, he replies.
After a few days I ask him again. If they are still allowed to go and enjoy the sun?
-Ha, ha, no, It was only one day. Now we are locked up in prison again, he writes, followed by a crying emoji.

A FAILED STATE

Being a citizen from Eritrea David is registered with UNHCR and officially under their protection. According to international laws he has the right to seek asylum in a safe country, but there is no such procedure in Libya. The country is a so-called failed state, lead by a weak government and different militias, among them ISIS. EU and Italy have made agreements with the Libyan government and the Libyan Coast Guard – and they pay lots of Euro — to keep refugees and migrants away from Europe.
The European countries have trained people from the Libyan Coast Guard and paid different equipment so that they will be able to stop more boats reaching Europe.

As a result of this policy David is on his second year in Libya. He is one of the few lucky ones, who still has his telephone and is able to communicate with the outside world. Normally the Libyans take peoples money and their telephone, when they arrest them. Up to now David has been able to hide the telephone, but he is terrified, if the guards discover it:
-If they find mine phone, they will arrest me, beat me and sell me for money, David tells me. He is very scared of being sold. CNN has documented, how migrants and refugees are sold on big markets for slaves in Libya.

Human Right Watch and Amnesty International have just documented in two reports, how human rights are constantly being violated in the detention centers in Libya. Centers managed by the Libyans, but financed by EU.
The 10. Juli 2018 Elijah, 26 years and from Sierra Leone tells Human Right Watch:
-This place is hell. They seem to be nice people, but they burn you with electricity. Three times they have beaten me, when they handed out food. They forced us to sit or stand up and look directly into the sun. When we protested, they beat us. They bring people to a particular room and beat them, they took me there, they tied my hands and then they beat me on the soles. A friend of mine got struck the face during beating.
Human Right Watch also writes, how the four detentions centers, they are allowed to visit are overcrowded, dirty and without sufficient medical assistance.
-We heard about bad and too little food and water in all the centers, it says in the rapport.

HELL ON EARTH

From friends on Facebook in Libya I hear desperate cry-outs.
-Help us.
-We die here.
-Libya is hell on earth.

Diseases are in the overcrowded and unhygienic centers: Scabies and tuberculosis.
-When people are going to die of TB, they are moved to another room, and we never see them again, David is writing on WhatsApp, his favorite app to write from as it is encrypted and should be secure.
-I am also afraid of getting it. People are spitting blood.

 

Noa is a trained veterinarian from Eritrea. He has been detained for nine month in a detention center in Tripoli. He is a calm guy with an overview, and he is the one, I am asking, if I need certain facts. He posts all the articles he can find on Facebook about the conditions for him and all the others in the detention centers of Libya. He just hope that one day the world and its citizens and politicians will open their eyes and release them. Six months ago he wrote on Messenger:
-Hi Madam, I am from Libya. I am living as a refugee in detention center. What we want from you is to expose the hidden and harsh life, we are passing, always we are locked up, like a prison.
Worried I ask him, if it won’t be dangerous for him to inform me about the life in the detention centers.
-Do not worry. I will send secretly. The only thing, they can do, is to jail me, and if most of the suffering people get freedom in sacrificing of me, it is a good luck for me, he responds.

Noa tells me about the many people infected with TB.
-And we all live together. The very sick and the ones who does not know, they are infected and the ones, who are not yet ill.

According to my sources only very few get treatment and medicine. And if they do get some medicine it is not followed up, when they run out of the pills.

I JUST RAN

Hassan from Somalia is a detainee in Zintan prison too:
-Everybody is sick here. I want to get away. I will escape as soon as possible, Hassan writes one night in January.
When I first got in contact with Hassan, he was hiding somewhere in Tripoli. Now and then he had a job loading cardboard on a truck. The small salary he spend on food. For a while I hear no words from him. Then one day he send me a message from Zintan prison. He has been caught by police, and he too is now in Zintan prison.

I do not know how he was caught. There are so many terribly stories. I do not get them all.

KIDNAPPED BY ISIS

During the two years David has stayed in Libya, he has been detained in several detention centers, but Zintan is the far worst. According to Noa, UNHCR or other NGO organizations rarely go to Zintan in the mountains, 150 kilometers from Tripoli. The ride is too dangerous. David is very angry with UNHCR. All the registered refugees in Libya feel that UNHCR are letting them down.
Where is the UNHCR? They are supposed to protect the refugees, he keeps asking me on Messenger.
David’s first detention center was out in the desert. One night ISIS came with a big truck and kidnapped 60 of the detainees, including David and his friends. The ISIS people ordered them on the truck, and when the local Libyan militia arrived, the ISIS people quickly drove into the desert with their load of human beings. While they were driving, three people fell off the truck and were killed.
Later a lot of tumultuous happened, and the prisoners succeeded in escaping. After walking for 150 kilometers in the desert they finally ended up in Tripoli.
In Tripoli they were arrested by the police and placed in a large hangar along with 1400 other refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. I met David first time, when he is in the hangar in Tripoli. The hangar was placed at the airport, and in autumn 2018 a fight broke out between different Libyan militias.

David tells me about the shootings round the hangar:
-This is dangerous. I am scared. We are all scared. We might die.
And he send me photos of bullet holes in the roof of the hangar. Finally they are evacuated. On big trucks they are taken the 150 kilometers from Tripoli to Zintan prison in the mountains.
-Now we are in a real prison, David tells me on WhatsApp after several days of silence.

WATER THREE TIMES A DAY

Noa sends me videos from the toilets in the detention center, where he is. I feel like vomiting. These are not toilets for human beings. There are six of them for 500 people.
-Now we tap our drinking water from a pipe at the toilet. There was another one, but it is broken, and nobody repairs it.
There is only running water three hours a day, and I figure out that the lavatories are only washed during these three hours. According to Noa FN’s migrations organization IOM and other ngo’s pay the Libyans money, so that they can fill the tanks with clean water.
-But those who receive the money, they only give us water three hours a day. There is nothing we can do. It will not be good to say anything to them. That is the way corruption is, he writes abandoned.

One day in December David tells me, how they are freezing. They have no blankets and is still wearing their summer clothes. I ask Noah if they have blankets, where he is.
-We have blankets….. Now……We did not have any, but we knew, UNHCR had been there with some. But the guards took them and locked them up in a depot for the purpose of taking them with home. When the war came in August, our guards disappeared, and we broke into the room and took the blankets. This is what happens, when UNHCR does not give the things to us, but to the Libyans. They steel it, he writes.

FAMILIES PAY
FOR FOOD

Noah produces another video showing, how they cook. I get it on WhatsApp. A young man is making bread on a pan using a gas burner. In some detention centers the detainees are served one or two spartan meals a day, a piece of bread in the morning and spaghetti in the evening. In other detention centers like where Noa is, the prisoners must pay the food themselves with the help from their families at home to send money.
-We have asked, if we can get food, but until now, they say that we have to pay ourselves, he tells me.

The boss of the detention center has a small shop, where they can buy flour – to very high prices, but the shop was closed immediately the day, when UNHCR came on one of their rare visits.
-Before they arrived, our boss told us, we were just to say positive things. But we were not allowed to say anything at all. During the visit he walked closely to them, and he closed his shop immediately, when they arrived, Noah write on Messenger.

According to the report of Human Right Watch EU is paying different NGO organizations in Libya money so that they can improve conditions in the camps. But the organizations are often ineffective and there are a lot of disagreements, even within the UN, the report says.

PLENTY OF EU-MONEY

By paying huge amount of euros to Libya EU and Italy have managed to stop most of the human traffic from Libya towards Europe. People though are still fleeing cruel dictators, wars, torture, hunger and no futures, so the number of refugees and migrants in the Libyan detention centers have increased according to Human Right Watch. In July 2018 there were between 8.000 and 10.000 detainees. In April the same year the amount was 5.200. Added to these numbers are the hundreds of thousands who live illegally in Libya, many in the hands of different militias or smuggler groups.

EU policy is to send everybody back home to their own countries. From January 2017 until November 2018 IOM, the UN organization of migration assisted more than 30,000 in returning back during the program “The volunteering humanitarian program.” But people who fled their countries because of politics can not just return home, where they risk prison and torture. Noa tells me:
-I left Eritrea in 2014. If they send me back to my country, they will put me into prison because of missing. And then they will send me to the military, and I will never get out again.
In 2014 he finished as a veterinary, but the regime forced him to work as a school teacher.
– I could not accept that. The salary of a teacher in Eritrea is very low. You can not live on these money. One months salary is what a pair of trousers costs. I decided to leave the country, first to Ethiopia, then Sudan and Libya.
What do you hope for the future?
-I hope to be evacuated. If I can’t, I will have to return to Ethiopia.

STRESS AND DESPERATION

The messages from Zintan get more and more confused and desperate. I can feel how Davids nerves slowly gets more strained:
-We are not OK, Madam. We are hungry. What are we going to do? We can evacuate to Eritrea, but we cannot go back to Eritrea, he writes.

Meanwhile Hassan succeeds in fleeing from the prison in Zintan.
-When I jumped the wall, the guards discovered me. I ran. They were not able to catch up with me. Then they sent their dogs after me. But even the dogs did not catch me. I am a very fast runner. If the soldiers would catch me…..if you saw, how they beat people. It is better to die. I ran towards a nearby forest. Then I walked for six hours, until I came to a small village, where I found a taxi. And now I am in Tripoli. I am very tired now and will just take a rest.

One night in January, a message arrives on my phone from a young girl from Somalia, too young to be in a place like Libya. I know her a little. We have been chatting before, and she is a bit shy. She wants to go to Europe. Her dream is to go to school, learn more, be educated, perhaps become a journalist one day. She left Somalia with some friends, and some of them are now in Europe. But tonight her message is not about sweet dreams for the future:

 

SUICIDE

-Three young men from Sudan have set themselves on fire. Here in the detention center where I am. Did you see the video, I posted today on Facebook? Nobody helps them. May Jesus help them, sister. They really need help.
On a video posted on her Facebook and recorded after the attempted suicide a man – badly injured and in great pain says:
-I want to commit suicide. There are no human rights in Libya. I just want to go to a free country and work, but the Libyans have taken my phone and my money.
I ask the next day, if the three men got medical help:
-I don’t know. They have disappeared. Police have arrested a lot of people, she replies.

Today early in the morning, at seven o’clock a message on my WhatsApp. From David, written in capital letters: WHERE IS UNHCR? WHERE IS UN? WHERE ARE HUMAN RIGHTS? REFUGEES ARE GOING TO DIE. OPEN YOUR EYES ALL OF YOU. THANKS FOR YOUR SLEEPING.

And another post the same day from an Eritrean humans right activist, who has gained asylum in Italy:
– 800 refugees from Eritrea and Somalia in Zintan are forgotten. They now die of various diseases, most of TB. Right now there are nine dead bodies in the same room as the living people. They ask for an immediate visit from UNHCR and evacuation.
David confirms that the nine dead corpses are still there. Within the last four months thirteen people have died.
Noah tells me, it is the usual thing with the Libyans just leaving the dead people.
-One of my classmates from Eritrea has just died in the prison of Zintan. Of TB. He has been sick for a long time and did not get any medication. I am very angry.
-Here in Tripoli we have ambulances. However if you do not go to a hospital, they just leave you to die. The Libyans do not care.

In 2018, the number of migrants arriving in Europe fell to 113.482 against 172,301 in 2017.

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In a Libya detentionscenter: Are we going to die here?


Desperate messages on Messenger and WhatsApp.
-Help us. Help us. What will happen to us?
The messages are from one of Libya’s many overcrowded detention centres in Tripoli. A couple of month ago a friend of mine in Athen contacted me. She was very worried, because it had come to her knowledge that her brother was in a Libyan detentioncenter, and thet he was seriously ill. I got into contact with some of his inmates, who spoke English. Because of security I can not bring any names or pictures, but this is some of our conversation. 
1400 people stopped into a large hangar. Only light they have seen for month is the artificial from neon tube in the hangars roof. Never any sun or a bit of fresh air.
-We are all sick. We lack the sun and air, one message says on my phone.
The food is poor and very little in the detentioncentre in Libya. There are days when they get nothing. On lucky days they get a bowl of beans for sharing between six men, in the morning maybe a loaf of bread. Drinking water is dirty. According to an article in the Irish Times, families have to send money for food for the intern, otherwise they will have nothing.

TUBERKOLOSIS 

The few toilets and showers in the hangar are filthy. Toilets often stopped. Tuberculosis spreads rapidly in the overcrowded hangar, but there is no medical treatment.
-We cannot deal with that here in Libya, the doctor says according to my source. The very sick are moved to another room to die.
Pictures on my WhatsApp: A lot of people lie or sit in a big room. They have to sleep in shifts because of lack of space. Photos of such thin people that it evokes reminiscences of images from the concentration camps during the Second World War. Pictures of injured people. Large open wounds and filthy home-cooked dressings.
I am thinking of the kind of untreated inflammation that I once experienced during a journey far out in the bush in Africa. Inflammation so bad that you die.
There are pictures of stopped toilets and flooded showers. And a video of Libyan guards throwing tear gas into the hangar against the many people, who are unable to get away. I also hear the shots.
One day the fans in the ceiling do not work. Outside there are almost forty degrees.
You want to see how hot here is? On my phones video camera I see a lot of sweaty brown bodies.
Sometimes there are battles around the hangar. Libyan militias fighting against each other.
-It is fierce war here. We are afraid. Long break, then a new message.
-Constantly shooting and there are big tanks with petrol right next to our hangar. I receive pictures of bullet holes in the ceiling of the hangar.
And then they are moved. To a village far away out in the desert. The messages are fewer.
-We are in prison now, one of my sources tells me and the connection is interrupted.

FORGOTTEN IN THE DESERT

I am thinking how a lot of people just might be forgotten there out in the wilderness. It is EU policy. They can just quietly die out there in the desert of Libya. People who have fleed war and cruel dictaktors. Fleed prison and torture in their own country. They are not criminals. In Europe refugees from Eritrea get asyleum – if they manage to get to Europe. Now they can die in a prison in Libya.
Thousands has been sitting for many months in various prisons and detention centres in Libya. The hope of ever being evacuated out of the so-called failed state dies slowly. Therefore they cry for help. Do not forget us. We are human beings too. They shout out. Every day I can hear it. When the messages arrive.
It is all EU policy. To prevent refugees and migrants from setting out against Europe in rickety boats, we made an agreement with Libya. We pay lots of money to the deeply corrupt Libyan coast guard so that they hold back Africans. I think European officials have been in Libya to show them how to catch desperate Africans. Instead they are put in Libyan detention centres. Without the prospect of ever escaping. If they are not sold on a Libyan slave market as documented by the American tv station CNN, and as my sources in the detention centre fear most. They even know what the price of a slave like themselves are sold for on the slavemarket there.
Many of the financial migrants are returned to the country from which they came. But these who fled of political reasons, they can not just go back to their country. The Eritrean refugees are under protection of UNHCR. As evidence of UNHCR protection, I see images of paper patches with an UNHCR number quickly written with ballpoint pen.
Now you are a protected refugee. You are under our protection, the number says.
-But where are UNHCR? We never see them, a message says.

SUICIDE

UNHCR’s work in Libya IS difficult.
One morning the Libyan guards leaves the hangar with 140 of the interned. They are put on a truck, and driven away. In the evening they are back in the hangar, a source write in a message.
A UNHCR staff working in Copenhagen tells me that it is almost impossible to evacuate people, even the most vulnerable, women and children. At the airport, the Libyans says that the plane will not depart today. Maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
Recently a 28-year-old man from Somalia committed suicide in one of the detention centers. He had just been told by UNHCR, that he had very few chances to be evacuated to a safe country, The Irish Times newspaper writes on the 25. October.
On the 17th October the UNHCR send a Tweet saying that 135 particularly vulnerable refugees were evacuated from one of Libya detention centres to a camp in Niger. The evacuees had spent many months in Libya’s Detention centres and was on arrival in Niger malnourished and sick.
Yesterday UNHCR in Libya send a Tweet saying that the Libyan coast guard had rescued 100 refugees and migrants of different nationalities from the Mediterranean Sea.
UNHCR was in place with food, water, dry clothes and medical care, the Tweet said. And the people were brought to one of the detentionscenters in Tripoli.
When will they get out again? Will they ever get out? The political situation does not seem to change – neither in Europe nor in Libya.
On the contrary, we are working in Europe and in Denmark for more numbers of such camps.


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EN ISKOLD BABY

 

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Hun sidder næsten direkte på det kolde stengulv. Kun en madras og et tæppe adskiller hende fra gulvets isnende kulde. Det mørke hår er dækket af en sort strikhue, kroppen er hyldet i en alt for stor frakke. Foran hende et lille elektrisk varmeapparat, der tænder og slukker, alt efter om der er noget strøm. På de udstrakte ben ligger en tæppebylt, som hun hele tiden vugger frem og tilbage. Kulden sniger sig rundt og ind og allevegne. I hjørnerne. Bag ryggen. I kroppen. Og i den mælk hun ammer sin nyfødte med.

Mustafa kom til verden på et hospital her i Athen for atten dage siden, og nu må hans mor vugge ham konstant. Ellers græder han.

Hun spørger, om jeg vil have lidt varme og flytter apparatet, så det vender mod mig.

-Nej, nej, du og dit barn skal have varmen, siger jeg og vender apparatet mod hende.

FAR PÅ MOBILTELEFONEN

Vi er i et stort klasseværelse med højt til loftet og store utætte vinduer. Kvinden, jeg egentlig er kommet for at besøge ( jeg vil kalde hende Basimaa ) har boet her på den nedlagte skole, en af Athens fjorten squats, i trekvart år. Hun venter bare på at komme op til sin mand i Tyskland, men det græske asylsystem arbejder langsomt, og indimellem er hun ved helt at opgive håbet.

-Hvis vi nogensinde kommer til Tyskland, er hun begyndt at sige. Hendes søn har kun set sin far på mobiltelefonen.

På grund af lange sagsbehandlingstider for familiesammenføring i de europæiske lande og den stadigt farligere krig i Syrien drog mange kvinder med deres børn alene mod Europa, op til de mænd, som var rejst i forvejen. Mange kom for sent, og sidder nu på niende og tiende måned fast i Grækenland.

Den primære årsag er landets langsomme asylsystem og så EU-landenes manglende vilje til at modtage flere flygtninge. Med i den kontroversielle aftale med Tyrkiet, som EU indgik i marts sidste år, var, at EU skulle sende blandt andet sagsbehandlere til Grækenland, så asylbehandlingen kunne gå hurtigere. Dette er imidlertid ikke sket, eller de, som blev sendt afsted, er trukket hjem igen. Den langsommelige behandling betyder, at kun nogle få tusinde af de mange strandede flygtninge i Grækenland indtil nu er genbosat i andre europæiske lande.

 

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KULDE, REGN OG BLÆST

Basimaa var en af de godt 50.000 flygtninge og migranter, som strandede i et limbo i Grækenland, da Makedonien i marts sidste år lukkede sin grænse for strømmen af flygtninge fra Grækenland. Sammen med 10.000 andre boede hun med sin et-årige søn i flere måneder og under kummerlige forhold i en teltlejr ved Idomini, grænsen mellem Grækenland og Makedonien. Regn, kulde, blæst og sult var dagligdagen. Alle håbede hele tiden, at grænsen igen åbnede, så de kunne fortsætte nordpå.

En dag lukkede græsk politi den improvisatoriske og uhygiejniske lejr. Flygtninge og migranter blev mod deres vilje kørt væk i busser. Nogle til lejre i store nedlagte fabrikker i det nordlige Grækenland, andre til Athen. Grækenland havde dengang som nu store problemer med at skaffe indkvartering til alle de strandede. Landet har sine egne økonomiske problemer. Sine egne mange fattige. Sine egne mange hjemløse.

Så Basimaa endte på skolen her, en tom forladt bygning besat af folk fra Athens anarkist miljø. En syrisk mand fra miljøet og bosiddende i Grækenland i mange år er boss – som flygtningene kalder ham – over skolen og dens 400 mennesker. Under sig har han også andre squats. Skolens beboere er syrere og kurdere flygtet fra krig. Mange af dem har nu boet her i månedsvis, og der er rigtig mange børn – og ældre mennesker.

Squat’ en her er som Athens andre squats selvkørende. Den får ingen hjælp fra UNHCR eller den græske regering og vil heller ikke have det. De fjorten squats eksisterer på donationer, primært fra frivillige, som rejser til Athen fra hele verden for at hjælpe. Organisationer som Læger uden Grænser, UNHCR, Røde Kors vil man ikke have inden for dørene. Heller ikke selv om Grækenland i år har haft det ekstraordinært koldt med temperaturer under frysepunktet og sne.

Og trods vinteren kommer der hele tiden nye flygtninge og migranter til landet. Enten lander de med båd på de græske øer eller de kommer ind i det nordlige Grækenland via Tyrkiet. Officielt opholder der sig godt 62.000 i landet. De nyankomne ender i overfyldte lejre eller som her i en overfyldt squat, hvis de ikke må friste livet på gaden.

SKILLEVÆGGE AF LAGNER

Basimaa har lagt et tæppe ud over det kolde stengulv. I det forhenværende klasseværelse bor fire familier med børn og en bedstemor. Skillevæggene er lagner og tæpper hængt op på snore. Sidst jeg var her, havde hver familie et lille iglotelt at sove i, men de var så snavsede, at de måtte smides ud. På etagen oven over bor Basimaa’s kusine med sine to små børn, hvor en er svært handicappet. Hun venter også på at komme op til sin mand.

Det lille elektriske varmeapparat foran os er en donation. Sådan et har alle familier, men skolens forældede elektriske system kan slet ikke bære de mange elapparater.

-Det er meget værre om natten. Så tænder alle for apparatet, og så har vi slet ingen varme. Min mand har en lejlighed i Tyskland, og så sidder vi her og fryser. Jeg forstår det ikke. Jeg forstår ikke, at vi ikke kan komme op til ham. Jeg er så bange for, hvad der skal ske med os. Jeg er bange for min søn. Hvad der vil ske med ham? Hvordan vil han klare det her? Hvad hvis han bliver syg her? Jeg er bange for, at vi aldrig kommer til Tyskland, siger Basimaa, som er uddannet apoteksassistent i Syrien.

Det er ikke mere end en uge siden, at nogen smed en brandbombe ind gennem et åbent vindue i naboklasseværelset. Heldigvis skete der ikke noget, men det har gjort Basimaa meget bange:

-Jeg er flygtet fra Syrien, fordi jeg risikerede at dø. Skal jeg så dø her, spørger hun.

Det er ikke første gang en af de mange squats i Athen er udsat for et brandattentat. I sommer blev en anden hærget af brand efter et attentat. Og politiet tager sig ikke af det. De kommer nemlig slet ikke. De fleste squats ligger i byens anarkistmiljø Exarchia, og her kommer politiet kun i tilfælde af mord og lignende, får jeg at vide. Folk forventes selv at holde justits.

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LUGT AF URIN

På den anden side af lagnet, hvor vi sidder, bor kvinden med nyfødte Mustafa. Straks efter fødslen blev han sammen med sin mor sendt tilbage til skolen med de snavsede og kolde toiletter og baderum, stanken af urin overalt og de iskolde gange og klasseværelser. Mustafas mor har kun det tøj, hun har på, og det er hendes mands. Uden for tæppet, inden man træder ind i deres lille aflukke, står gamle udtrådte sko. De sorte slippers er hendes. De eneste sko hun ejer. Dem havde hun også på på hospitalet, da hun skulle føde. Mustafa mangler tøj. Moderen åbner op for alle tæpperne, så jeg kan se, hvad han har på. En bluse og et par små bukser. Da jeg går derfra, har jeg en ønskeliste på et par sko, str. 37, babytøj, en stor BH, og en vugge.

Mustafa græder hele tiden i kulden. Sover han ikke, græder han. Så får han lidt brystmælk, og han falder i søvn igen. Meget af natten holder han sig selv, sin mor og alle de andre familier vågne med sin gråd. Mustafas mor har store sorte rande under øjnene. Hun har været til læge med ham. Lægen sagde bare, at Mustafa græd, fordi han fik ondt i maven af hendes kolde brystmælk.

Selvom flere af Athens squats slet ikke er egnede som bolig i vintermånederne, er de fyldt med børnefamilier og bedsteforældre, som ikke har andre steder at tage hen. Squat’sene ligger i nedlagte skoler, i nedlagte kontorbygninger eller i gamle huse. Også mange mindreårige, børn og ganske unge, som er kommet til Europa uden følgeskab af voksne, havner i en af squat’sene. Nogle fungerer dog bedre end andre.

KAOTISK SITUATION

Situationen i Grækenland og på Balkan er her i vintermånederne kaotisk og kritisk. Billeder fra det nordlige Grækenland og de græske øer af flygtninge boende i tynde telte overdækket af sne har floreret på både de sociale medier og i de etablerede. Grækenlands integrationsministerium har fornylig lovet, at alle flygtninge og migranter i telte vil blive flyttet til hoteller og varme steder, men der bor stadigvæk mange under kummerlige forhold, også børnefamilier. Landet, der har nok i sine egne problemer, har besvær med at skaffe varme og sikre pladser til alle.

UNHCR har ellers fået EU-penge til at forbedre forholdene til vinteren. Der er godt 50 flygtningelejre i Grækenland. Nogen bliver hele tiden lukket, og nye åbner. De fleste i lejrene er flygtet fra krigen i Syrien, men der er også mange afghanere imellem. Ifølge avisen The Guardian har Europa-Kommissionens afdeling for humanitær bistand og civilbeskyttelse, ECHO siden april givet UNHCR 104 mio kr til at forberede den kommende vinter. UNHCR skulle for pengene flytte folk fra telte til opvarmede præfabrikerede containere og i det hele taget forbedre forholdene.

Begge organisationer beskyldes nu af andre hjælpeorganisationer for at have bortødslet pengene, efter at tusinder af flygtninge ikke var flyttet til sikre steder, da vinteren satte ind med snefald i det nordlige Grækenland allerede i begyndelsen af december, skriver Guardian.

Også den græske regering beskyldes for ikke at have brugt 670 mio kr ordentligt, penge givet særskilt af EU til at forbedre forholdene i lejrene. Ifølge avisen har ingen det overordnede overblik, og derfor skyder man skylden på hinanden.

Den kaotiske situation med manglende officielle og sikre steder, hvor flygtninge og migranter kan bo, har blandt andet skabt pres på de mange squats i Athen. Flygtninge i squat’en, hvor jeg er, beretter om, hvordan andre familier straks overtager deres plads, hvis de selv er væk et par timer. Den stærkeste overlever.

MADEN FORSVINDER

Mad er også en mangelvare. Små NGO organisationer og frivillige uddeler mad fra centralt hold til Athens squats. Den kommer til skolen, men den forsvinder, fortæller flygtningene.

Der bliver uddelt mad to gange om dagen. Morgenmaden er OK, men aftensmaden er uspiselig, siger en syrisk mand.

-Jeg har fundet små stykker af jern i risen.

En dag, hvor jeg er der, er frokosten en halv skål kogte kikærter til hver familie og så de traditionelle arabiske fladbrød.

Jeg ser på Mustafas mor. Hun ligner bestemt en, som bare er træt, træt og som trænger til masser af rigeligt og ordentligt mad, friske grønsager og frugt. I dag snakker Basimaa og hende om et eller andet på arabisk. Mustafas mor græder stille. Næste gang jeg kommer, smiler hun. En græsk mand har givet hende en lille plastikvugge. Hun fik så ondt i benene af hele tiden at sidde og vugge ham.

AFVIST AF POLITIET

Selv om Basimaa føler sig utryg i squat’en, tør hun heller ikke tage andre steder hen. Hun har prøvet at komme ind i en af de officielle lejre med et godt ry, men politiet afviste hende ved indgangen. Der var ikke plads, sagde de. Så nu holder hun godt fast i sit hjørne i klasseværelset på skolen. Så andre ikke tager pladsen, og hun står hjemløs på gaden med sin søn.

Til trods for den kaotiske situation i Grækenland vil Tyskland midt i marts måned igen begynde at sende afviste asylansøgere tilbage til landet. En talsmand for det tyske indenrigsministerium har sagt til det franske nyhedsbureau AFP, at Tyskland nu anser Grækenland som et sikkert land, og at man vil genindføre Dublin forordningen. Tyskland suspenderede i 2010 Grækenland som værende et sikkert land for flygtninge og har ikke siden sendt afviste asylansøgere tilbage.

Tilbage på skolen i Athen har kulden netop i disse dage taget fat igen, og efter en halv time kan jeg mærke den snige op gennem hele kroppen. Kvinderne spørger, om jeg ikke vil blive og sove. Jeg er sikker på, det er gæstfrit ment, men jeg takker høfligt nej. Havde det været sommer, var det noget andet.

Da jeg går, møder jeg ude på den iskolde gang en gammel mand i slippers, hvid kjortel og bare ben. Han går langsomt ned ad trappen til toiletterne på underste etage. Uden for i skolegården står en gruppe børn i fire-fem års alderen. De fryser, kan jeg se. På vej ud af skoleporten går en gruppe kvinder med børn og babyer i klapvogne.

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Riad og hans familie blev et par dage efter flyttet til et hotel, sponsoreret af private. Basimaa og alle de andre sidder stadig tilbage i squat’en.

 

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FACES OF WAR – refugee crisis

 

 

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This charming girl I met in the beginning of my journey, in October at the quay in Kos city. She is from Afghanistan, and one morning, when I came down to the quay with all the small tents, she was just sitting there with her whole family among all the other refugees. She had arrived the same night onboard a crowded rubber boat from Turkey.

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Her and her family had just survived a long and dangerous journey to reach Europe. With human traffickers they had been going through Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey in old cars, in buses and they had climbed steep mountains. Through the mountains her dad was carrying her old grandmother at his back, and her mother carried the baby. She herself had to walk. Now she is tired and hungry, but still able to smile.
Before she can continue her journey to the mainland of Europe, she has to get registered with the police on Kos.
Meanwhile her mother is struggling with her smallest sister. On the three weeks journey the smugglers only gave them bread and water to eat, and her mum have no more milk for the baby. The baby is starving and she only wants to be breastfeeded. She does not want the milk filled up with water in the bottle, UNHCR have given her mum. So now she is just screaming hysterically like babies do, when they don’t understand, what is going on.
Wonder where this little girl and her big family are now?

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FACES OF WAR – refugee crisis

 

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This little happy boy I met on the Greek Island of Leros in November.
Together with his grandparents and his sister he was just sitting there in the refugeecamp smiling with his two teeth. They were fleeing the war in Iraq.
First he made it all the way through Turkey. Then he survived the dangerous voyage in a small robberboat across the Aegansea together with 50 other refugees, and then he landed in the middle of the night on the military Island of Farmakonisi.
The Greek military was slow, they did not come to pick him up, and he had to stay on Farmakonisi for several days together with 500 other refugees. All the time more and more people landed on the Island and in the end it got quite crowded with refugees on the rocks, and it was freezing cold in the night. The soldiers on the Farmakonisi gave him a packet of biscuits every day to eat and some water, and he survived, though he in between was crying of hunger.

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After three days of waiting, sleeping on the rocks a big militaryship came and picked up him and his family and all the other refugees in order to bring them to Leros. His grandpa had his stiff leg, and he was a bit slow entering the ship on the steep landing, so the soldiers shouted at him, and lifted the gun, as if they wanted to hit him.
Everybody were scared. Nobody bothered to tell them, where they were going, but luckily he was too young to feel the fear of the unknown.
On Leros he arrived in the refugeecamp – an old school and here he lived on a blanket in the schoolyard together with his grandpa and his beloved teapot for five days, before they were able to continue their journey.

This was before Europe closed its borders for the refugees. I wonder where this little boy is today?


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EN JORDANSK SKRALDESPANDS-KAT FORTÆLLER

 

 

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Hej med dig fra mig. Jeg er en jordansk skraldespandskat, og nu vil jeg fortælle om mit liv her i Amman i Jordan. Sommetider er mit liv bare så dejligt, sommetider er det rigtig sådan, du ved: Øv, Øv.

Jeg er også en arvekat, og så er jeg smuk som en norsk skovkat, siger min nye madmor. Hvad det så lige er for en? En norsk skovkat. Ja, for jeg har fået ny madmor. Det ved jeg nu ikke rigtig, hvad jeg skal mene om. Først havde jeg en, som hed Camilla. Hun gik på universitetet her i Jordan og læste arabisk. Hende var der stil over. Hun gav mig mad, og fordi hun syntes, jeg havde for mange skraldespandslopper fik jeg et loppehalsbånd på. Jeg fik også lov at ligge i hendes seng og slange mig lige så meget, jeg havde lyst.

Så lige pludselig forsvandt hun. Jeg så hun pakkede sine ting, og næste dag jeg kom, var hun væk. Jeg stod, som jeg plejede og mjavede uden for hendes dør, men det var slet ikke hende, som åbnede døren. Nej, det var en anden dame. En ældre en. Hun var ikke så fin som Camilla, for hun skulle bare se på flygtninge her i Jordan. Jeg vil nu altid foretrække at have en madmor, som går på Jordan University, istedet for en, som bare skal besøge nogen fattige og frysende flygtninge, der bor i telte og skure. Bare min nye madmor ikke også en dag kommer hjem med skraldespandslopper – eller det, der er værre.

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Nåh, men jeg skal lige fortælle, at min nye madmor først boede oppe på trediesal. Her i opgangen bor også en stor familie med en mor og fire børn og så morens søster, som bor på Vestbredden i Israel, men der er ikke rart at bo, siger hun, fordi israelerne skyder med deres geværer og palæstinenserne kaster med sten, så hun besøger tit sin søster her i Amman.

Lige nu er det hele meget sørgeligt, og jeg passer på ikke at gå i vejen, fordi moren med de fire børn, (hende som bestemmer) hendes mand er i USA. Han er meget syg og ligger på sygehuset i USA. Hans store søn, Anas er ovre hos sin far, og de kommer først hjem igen om en måned, for så skal Anas giftes med sin tandlæge. Altså, hans kæreste er tandlæge. Nåh, men det er den familie, som ejer huset her – og tror de ihvertfald – også dem, som bestemmer, om jeg må være her eller ej.

Da jeg så nu havde fået en ny madmor, var jeg dog så heldig, at hun også lod mig lige og slange mig i sin seng. Men min mad måtte hun ikke stille ude i gangen, så jeg altid kunne spise, når jeg ville. Nej, hende, som bestemmer sagde, at det lugtede, og at hun skulle flytte det ind, hvor hun bor. Så hun flyttede det ind, og jeg kunne ikke længere bare spise, når jeg ville. Æv. Det er bare ikke i orden at behandle en ægte skraldespandskat på den måde. Det er ikke i orden, når forholdene for ens liv hele tiden bliver forringet.

Nåh, men jeg hyggede mig med min nye madmor og hendes seng, men når jeg havde været der nogen timer, smed hun mig ud:

“Du skal ud og tisse,” sagde hun. Javel. Det skal jeg da ikke have andre til at bestemme, hvornår jeg skal tisse. Nej, synes du vel?

Nåh, men min nye madmor blev forkølet og hostede hele tiden, og så forsvandt hun en hel uge.

“Jeg skal ned i varmen for at blive rask,” sagde hun og lod bare mig være alene. Så måtte jeg i skraldespandene igen for at blive mæt. Sikke et katteliv. Jeg siger dig at skulle slåes med alle de beskidte katte om maden i skraldespandene. Det er altså ikke noget for en flot norsk skovkat i Jordan.

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Nåh, men hun kom da tilbage til sidst, og jeg veg ikke fra min plads i sengen, medmindre hun smed mig ud for at tisse. Hun beklagede sig hele tiden over, at det var så koldt i den lejlighed, og hun sad foran gasovnen med et tykt tæppe på og skrev noget. Altså, hvad havde hun forventet her i Jordan midt om vinteren. At hun kunne gå rundt i bikini?

Det er også, fordi de jordanere ikke har forstand på at isolere deres huse, sagde hun, og så hostede hun videre.

En aften var der en fin mand på besøg. Han læste også på Jordans Universitet. Han havde en fin hvid kjole på og et lille bitte, bitte skæg og kom fra Singapore og skulle være her i flere år, fordi han læste islamiske studier på Jordans Universitet. Der var også en dame med fra Malaysia. Hun læste også på Jordan University. Ved slet ikke, hvordan min nye plejemor, der bare skal besøge fattige flygtninge, har fået fat i så fine mennesker, men en gang imellem kan alle jo være heldige.

Nåh, men nu vil jeg slutte for ellers bliver det for langt, siger min nye madmor. Jeg ville ellers fortælle om, hvordan jeg ikke længere må ligge i hendes seng og slange mig, men det bliver næste gang. Min madmor tror også, jeg er gravid. Det ved jeg nu ikke rigtig, om jeg tror på.

Hej fra mig, den jordanske skraldespandskat. Håber du vil læse med næste gang, jeg skriver noget.

 

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Ja, sådan ser der ud her i Amman, når solen står op. Udsigten er fra min madmors vindue.


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8. oktober tager jeg afsted til øerne Kos og Lesbos, hvor syriske flygtninge og immigranter sommeren igennem dagligt er gået i land efter en farefuld færd i gummibåde fra Tyrkiet over Ægæerhavet.

I starten af december rejser jeg videre til Jordans hovedstad Amman, hvor jeg vil “overvintre”. Og ja, jeg har undersøgt sikkerhedssituationen i Jordan. Den jordanske konge, Abdullah 2. af Jordan har godt styr på landet.

Både i Grækenland og i Jordan vil jeg forsøge at sætte ansigter på den store flygtningestrøm, vi, Danmark, Europa og Syriens nærområder oplever i øjeblikket. Undervejs vil jeg her på bloggen skrive om de mennesker, jeg møder og fortælle om mine oplevelser.

Flugtens veje ind i det forjættede Europa ændrer sig hele tiden. Turen fra Tyrkiet over Ægæerhavet til de græske øer Kos og Lesbos er kort, men efterårsstormene er så småt snart sat ind i det smalle stræde. Vil det stoppe flygtningestrømmen den vej?

I Jordan lever en halv million registrerede syriske flygtninge og flere hundrede tusinder ikke- registrerede. Netop nu, hvor vinteren nærmer sig, har FN af mangel på penge været nød til at stoppe sit fødevareprogram til 250.000 flygtninge. Herhjemme og i Europa taler… og taler vi igen om at hjælpe i nærområderne, så de mange flygtninge ikke kommer til os, men hidtil er det mest blevet ved ordene.

Og mens vi taler, nærmer vinteren sig og gør tilværelsen endnu mere ulidelig for de millioner af mennesker, som lever en kummerlig tilværelse i Syrien og dets nærområder.

Håber du vil følge min vej her på bloggen.