Location: Desert; Status: Forgotten
July 6, 2014 8:38 AM   Subscribe

When international organizations declare a crisis over and refugee camps are closed, what happens to those who remain?” Close to one million people fled Libya as the violent fights of the Arab Spring began and a civil war ensued in 2011. Choucha, a refugee camp close to the Libyan border in Tunisia, housed many of them and was officially closed in June 2013. Roughly 400 refugees still live among the remains of the UN-camp. A short glimpse into their lives. [Vimeo. Partly German, English starts at 1:18]

Tens of thousands of people arrived in Choucha and were processed by UNHCR staff. Interviews for “Refugee Status Determination” (RSD) were conducted to establish whose claims had merit. Most people very denied and went back to their countries of origin, about 3170 lucky people found new homes in the western world, via the UNHCR resettlement program. Not all were so fortunate, 135 people who were approved as refugees were not processed further. Hoping for the best they, together with a few hundred others who were denied, stayed in the camp until the UN decided to close it down. Chris Grodotzki, who shot the video, writes about it in German. While Oliver Tringham recounts how the “UNHCR gradually put increasing pressure on those left at Choucha to leave" in English.
posted by travelwithcats (2 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Those who had been refused refugee status have been subject to the greatest pressure. In the Autumn of 2012, they were all sacked from their jobs in the camp, and the camp school closed down. On 24 October 2012, those who had been refused status suddenly discovered that they were being refused food, too: pregnant women, children, the disabled: no exceptions. Furthermore, UNHCR warned the refugees with status not to help those who had been refused: not to share their own meagre supplies (even if they came from the same country or community), not to give them money – not even to talk to them.
In April 2013, electricity to the tents was cut: UNHCR claimed that they couldn’t pay the bill, although ripping out the cables is an unusual reaction for an unpaid bill. Then UNHCR cut off the drinking water. The Tunisian Ministry for Social Affairs managed to get this reinstated, although the supply was intermittent at best after this. When the camp officially closed, the water supply was cut definitively.
This made me so angry. How can they stop food supplies and water when there are still people living in the camp? Forcing them to beg for food and water and pretty much washing their hands of people who have nowhere safe to go. It's appalling how we treat refugees in conflict situations at the best of times, but to literally leave them behind when it is decided that the dust has settled is beyond callous.
posted by billiebee at 3:00 PM on July 6, 2014

I am speechless with rage after watching this.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:55 PM on July 6, 2014

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