• Après des décennies au Pakistan, des réfugiés afghans se préparent au retour en Afghanistan

    Le Pakistan cherche à rapatrier vers l’Afghanistan des réfugiés afghans parmi 1,6 million au total qui vivent dans le pays. Le HCR a réservé des fonds pour le rapatriement de 60 000 réfugiés.

    Des familles sont installées, silencieuses. De jeunes enfants se promènent entre les chaises. Ils vont rentrer chez eux en Afghanistan, alors que certains d’entre eux vivent au Pakistan depuis plusieurs décennies. Et ils rentreront chez eux à titre définitif.

    Ce sont des réfugiés afghans et la scène se déroule au Centre de rapatriement volontaire de Peshawar, qui est géré par le HCR, l’Agence des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés.

    Payenda Bibi Shahnaz est installée dans un fauteuil roulant. Son mari Shamamud dans un autre. Cela fait 33 ans qu’ils ont trouvé refuge au Pakistan, mais ils rentrent également en Afghanistan avec leurs deux fils qui s’occuperont d’eux.

    Le HCR les aidera également une fois qu’ils seront rentrés au pays.

    « Je n’ai simplement pas les moyens de payer le coût de mon traitement médical ici », explique-t-elle. « Nous n’avons pas le choix. »

    Le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés Filippo Grandi a eu l’occasion de faire leur connaissance aujourd’hui pendant sa visite au Centre et il leur a souhaité bonne chance. Le HCR apporte également une aide de 200 dollars aux rapatriés destinée à couvrir leurs dépenses initiales de voyage et de logement.

    Le gouvernement du Pakistan met en oeuvre une politique concertée de rapatriement pour beaucoup parmi presque un million de réfugiés qui vivent dans la région de Peshawar. Le HCR a réservé des fonds pour le rapatriement de 60 000 réfugiés.

    Mais depuis le début de l’année, le nombre de réfugiés qui a passé la frontière de manière définitive dépasse tout juste 6000 personnes.

    Pour nombre d’entre eux, le moment de rendre leur carte de réfugié au Pakistan est chargé d’émotions. Les élèves sont souvent en larmes, car ils se disent qu’ils ne reverront jamais leurs amis.

    La pression économique est ce qui les pousse le plus au retour.

    Qudsia a 40 ans et elle a quatre enfants. Elle était elle-même un enfant quand elle est arrivée au Pakistan. Et aujourd’hui son mari et elle ont décidé de rentrer.

    « Nous avons décidé de rentrer, parce que c’est très cher ici. Nous avons beaucoup de problèmes. Mon mari est diabétique et on ne trouve pas de travail ici. »

    Mais ils sont bien plus nombreux à décider de rester. Au cours de la ‘shura’, la réunion de la communauté, ils ont expliqué à Filippo Grandi qu’ils restent au Pakistan à cause des opportunités que le pays offre sur le plan de l’éducation et de l’économie. Ils ont également évoqué leur crainte de la violence qui règne dans leur pays. Quelque 31 des 34 provinces que compte l’Afghanistan ont été le théâtre de conflits ces derniers mois.

    La carte PoR (Proof of Registration) de Preuve d’enregistrement au Pakistan est également cause de souci majeur. Toutes ces cartes arrivent à échéance le 30 juin. Sans ces cartes, les réfugiés sont passibles d’arrestation, voire même d’expulsion. Filippo Grandi a confirmé qu’il avait instamment demandé au Pakistan de proroger la validité des cartes. La décision sera prise par l’exécutif du Pakistan.

    Filippo Grandi a expliqué aux réfugiés qu’il comprenait leurs craintes et leurs inquiétudes par rapport au fait que 200 dollars ne suffisent pas à se réinstaller dans un pays peu sûr.

    « J’ai entendu les participants de la Shura », a-t-il déclaré. « Nous allons très bientôt augmenter l’indemnité de rapatriement. Nous allons œuvrer pour améliorer les conditions de retour des rapatriés. J’en ai parlé avec les dirigeants du gouvernement afghan. »

    Il a parlé de sa rencontre avec le Président afghan Ashraf Ghani. Le Président lui a confirmé qu’il a demandé un inventaire des terrains disponibles appartenant au gouvernement. Il s’agirait de mettre en place un programme de réinstallation des réfugiés similaire au programme pilote de Hérat en faveur des personnes déplacées à l’intérieur du pays.

    Comme pour les personnes déplacées à Hérat, il s’agirait d’attribuer aux réfugiés des terrains à bâtir. L’eau et l’électricité seraient fournies.

    Filippo Grandi a aussi abordé les préoccupations des réfugiés qui craignent de servir de boucs émissaires après des attaques ou des incidents violents le long de la frontière pakistano-afghane.

    « J’ai bien entendu ce que vous dites. Les réfugiés ne sont pas des terroristes. Je suis tout à fait d’accord. »

    Il a déclaré qu’en s’adressant aux dirigeants du gouvernement du Pakistan, il avait souligné qu’on ne pouvait mettre en cause ou pénaliser toute la population de réfugiés quand de tels événements se produisaient.


    http://www.unhcr.org/fr/news/stories/2016/6/576d401ea/apres-decennies-pakistan-refugies-afghans-preparent-retour-afghanistan.html

    #Pakistan #réfugiés_afghans #Afghanistan #réfugiés #asile #migrations #retour_au_pays

    • Amid Mass Returns, a Teacher’s Hopes for Refugee Girls in Afghanistan

      As hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees return from Pakistan, we speak to Aqeela Asifi, a prize-winning educator of refugee girls in the country’s Punjab province, about how the mass returns will impact girls’ education and thus the future of Afghanistan.

      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2017/03/09/amid-mass-returns-a-teachers-hopes-for-refugee-girls-in-afghanistan
      #filles #femmes #éducation

    • Facing problems in Pakistan, Afghans return home in droves

      For years, Afghans have fled the violence in their country, seeking asylum in Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East. But over the past year, about 600,000 Afghans have crossed the border back into Afghanistan, coming from Pakistan, Iran and Europe when they are denied asylum.

      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/facing-problems-pakistan-afghans-return-home-droves

    • Afghans Returned from Pakistan Struggle on Kabul Career Ladder

      As hundreds of thousands of Afghans return from neighboring countries, young graduates face discrimination, language barriers and a dearth of connections in a country many had never been to before, Valerie Plesch reports for Al-Fanar Media.


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/12/11/afghans-returned-from-pakistan-struggle-on-kabul-career-ladder

    • Viaggio tra i rifugiati afghani respinti dal Pakistan

      Fin dagli anni ‘70 gli afghani fuggiti dal proprio paese hanno cercato rifugio in Pakistan. Tuttavia la loro situazione negli ultimi anni è diventata critica. Utilizzati per esercitare pressioni politiche su Kabul, subiscono continue pressione per far ritorno nel loro paese. A queste poi si sono aggiunte minacce e violenze crescenti. Una strategia che ha funzionato, come ci racconta Giuliano Battiston: migliaia sono i rifugiati tornati nel loro paese dove all’assenza di casa e lavoro fa da contraltare la presenza della guerra

      «A Peshawar avevo una mia bottega. Era piccola, ma andava bene. Vendevo zucchero, sale, olio, sapone. Non potevo lamentarmi. Ora eccomi qui, vendo meloni e angurie che compro da altri. Lo faccio da pochi giorni e non so per quanto ancora. Ma non mi basta per mandare avanti la famiglia».

      Rabihullah ha 45 anni e 12 figli. Nato in Afghanistan, fuggito dalla guerra, ha trascorso gran parte della vita in Pakistan, ma pochi mesi fa è stato costretto a tornare. Lo incontriamo all’inizio di una via sterrata che si dipana verso i campi coltivati, all’incrocio con la strada principale che conduce fuori città dal centro di Jalalabad, capoluogo di Nangarhar, provincia orientale al confine con il Pakistan. Seduto sulla paglia, alle spalle decine e decine di meloni profumati, in testa uno zuccotto chiaro, Rabihullah indossa un semplice vestito bianco, rattoppato qua e là. «Sono nato nel distretto di Bati Kut, qui nel Nangarhar. Ci siamo trasferiti in Pakistan quando ero adolescente. Di preciso non saprei quando. Ricordo che il mio primo digiuno per il Ramadan l’ho fatto lì. Non stavamo male a Peshawar. Ma 3 mesi fa siamo dovuti tornare. I poliziotti pachistani prima hanno cominciato a chiederci i documenti, poi a picchiarci. Ci attaccavano perfino di notte. Entravano nelle nostre case all’una, alle due del mattino. Ci dicevano di andar via. Nel nostro quartiere, che era come un villaggio, eravamo tutti afghani. Ci attaccavano per questo».

      La storia di Rabihullah è simile a quella di decine di migliaia di connazionali, costretti a rientrare in Afghanistan a causa delle politiche repressive del governo di Islamabad. Già nel 2015, Human Rights Watch denunciava «minacce ripetute, arresti frequenti, richieste regolari di mazzette, violenze occasionali da parte della polizia pachistana nei mesi successivi all’attacco alla scuola di Peshawar», l’attentato terroristico che il 16 dicembre 2014 ha provocato la morte di 145 persone, tra cui 134 bambini.

      Anche se l’attentato è stato rivendicato dai Talebani pachistani, per le autorità i responsabili andavano cercati all’interno dell’ampia comunità di rifugiati afghani che, sin dalla fine degli anni Settanta, hanno trovato protezione dalla guerra sull’altro lato della Durand Line, in Pakistan. Quei rifugiati erano parte della più ampia diaspora che ha reso l’Afghanistan per molti anni, fino allo scoppio della guerra siriana, il primo Paese al mondo di provenienza per numero di rifugiati. Una diaspora ancora oggi numerosa.

      Secondo i dati dell’ultimo rapporto dell’Alto Commissariato dell’Onu per i rifugiati (Unhcr), Global Trends. Forced Displacement in 2017, nel mondo ci sono 2,6 milioni di rifugiati afghani, il 5% in più rispetto all’anno precedente. L’Afghanistan è il secondo paese di provenienza dei rifugiati dopo la Siria (6,3 milioni). La maggior parte vive in Pakistan (poco meno di 1,4 milioni) e in Iran (poco meno di 1 milione), ma i due Paesi ospitano anche un gran numero di emigrati privi di documenti, non registrati dalle Nazioni Unite (circa 1 milione in Pakistan, 1 milione e mezzo in Iran). «Nel corso degli ultimi 40 anni, dall’inizio della guerra in Afghanistan nel 1978, l’Iran e il Pakistan hanno ospitato il più alto numero di rifugiati afghani», ricorda la ricercatrice Jelena Bjelica, che incontriamo nell’ufficio di Kabul dell’Afghanistan Analysts Network, il più accreditato centro di ricerca del Paese.

      Molti sono tornati. Dal 2001, dal Pakistan sono rientrati ben 3,9 milioni di rifugiati afghani. Quanti non lo hanno fatto sono diventati armi diplomatiche nelle mani del governo di Islamabad, il cui establishment militare è accusato di alimentare il conflitto per ragioni strategiche. «I rifugiati vengono usati per esercitare pressioni politiche su Kabul. La prassi di non estendere la validità dei documenti di registrazione è uno degli strumenti più comuni», nota Jelena Bjelica.

      «Nel 2016 e in parte nel 2017, le autorità pachistane hanno esercitato molte pressioni sugli afghani affinché tornassero indietro» conferma il ricercatore indipendente Wali Mohammad Kandiwal, autore di diverse pubblicazioni sui processi migratori, che incontriamo a Jalalabad. Alle pressioni si sono aggiunte minacce e violenze crescenti, come testimoniato nel 2017 da un altro rapporto di Human Rights Watch. La strategia ha funzionato. Lo certificano i numeri. Tra gennaio 2016 e dicembre 2017, almeno 1,2 milioni di afghani sono rientrati dall’Iran e dal Pakistan. Nel 2017, 460.000 afghani senza documenti sono rientrati o sono stati deportati dall’Iran, 100.000 dal Pakistan e 7.000 da Paesi europei, a cui vanno aggiunti almeno altri 60.000 rifugiati registrati, tornati dal Pakistan. «Il loro è stato un vero dilemma: rimanere o tornare? Entrambe le opzioni erano rischiose. Chi è tornato, spesso non è convinto di aver fatto la scelta giusta», aggiunge Kandiwal.

      Anche Rabihullah non ne è certo. «Il lavoro non c’è, la casa costa troppo, non parliamo della sicurezza: qui si combatte dovunque», spiega sconfortato mentre ci guida lungo i viottoli del quartiere in cui vive, nella periferia di Jalalabad. Dietro un cancello di metallo c’è casa sua. Un atrio di pochi metri quadrati, delimitato da alte mura. Sulla destra, un ripiano di legno con una bombola del gas e qualche stoviglia: «è la cucina». Appena sopra, un filo con dei panni stesi. Una porta blu spicca contro il marrone delle pareti di fango. «Come vedi, la casa è fatta di un’unica stanza». C’è un’unica finestra e, di fronte all’entrata, un letto di corde intrecciate con la base in legno, tipico di queste parti. Una scala in bambù raggiunge il tetto della stanza, dove sono stesi altri panni. «È tutto qui», dice guardandosi intorno e lamentando la scarsa assistenza del governo, inefficiente e corrotto. «Le risorse ci sono, ma vengono dirottate su progetti privati, sottratte, rubate», ci dice un funzionario della sede locale dell’Organizzazione internazionale per le migrazioni (Oim), che chiede l’anonimato.

      Non si tratta soltanto di denaro. La risorsa più importante, qui, è la casa. Meglio ancora, la terra. Secondo il «Policy Framework on IDPs and Returnees» del governo, «l’assegnazione della terra sarà un contributo fondamentale nel successo di soluzione durature» per i rifugiati. Ma la realtà è diversa. «Il piano governativo è molto ambizioso, e i politici non fanno mai mancare promesse elettorali su questo tema. Ma l’assegnazione delle terre è uno dei processi più corrotti che ci siano», nota Jelena Bjelica, che sull’argomento ha scritto un articolo molto informato.

      Lo conferma Wali Mohammad Kandiwal, che ci anticipa i risultati della sua ultima ricerca, promossa dal Feinstein International Center dell’Università statunitense di Tufts. Si intitola «Homeland, but no land for home. A Case Study of Refugees in Towns: Jalalabad» e l’autore la sintetizza così: «la terra è il problema principale soprattutto qui, nella provincia di Nangarhar. Il governo punta a far tornare gli emigrati, ma non riesce a soddisfarne i bisogni e le legittime richieste. La burocrazia e soprattutto la corruzione sull’assegnazione delle terre rendono l’intero sistema dell’accoglienza del tutto fallimentare».

      Alla corruzione e all’inefficienza del governo si sommano altri ostacoli. Il primo è il costo della terra, il bene più ambito. Secondo i dati riportati dallo Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), l’organo di controllo che riferisce al Congresso degli Stati Uniti sui soldi pubblici spesi nel Paese centro-asiatico, dal 2001 il costo della terra è aumentato del 1.000%. Un aumento ancora più significativo si registra nella provincia di Nangarhar, a causa delle speculazioni legate al rientro dei profughi dal Pakistan, delle mafie locali, delle dispute sui terreni e del landgrabbing.

      C’è poi il problema strutturale dell’enorme peso demografico, sociale ed economico delle migrazioni forzate. Secondo una recente ricerca coordinata dall’Oim, in 15 delle 34 province afghane con la maggiore mobilità transfrontaliera e interna, tra il 2012 e il 2017 più di 3,5 milioni di persone sono ritornate dall’estero o sono state costrette a lasciare la propria casa, per trasferirsi in altre zone del paese. Tra coloro che sono rientrati in patria, 1 milione e 355 mila provenivano dal Pakistan, 398 mila dall’Iran. Il 25% di tutti i returnees si sono stabiliti proprio nella provincia di Nangarhar, che ha registrato 499,194 nuovi arrivi – ufficiali – tra il 2012 e il 2017.

      Tra questi c’è Hejrat, 33 anni, carnagione scura, occhi celesti e un sorriso rassicurante. «Siamo tornati nel giugno 2017. Era un periodo in cui tante famiglie decidevano di tornare indietro», racconta. «Sono nato in Pakistan, ma la mia famiglia è originaria del distretto di Rodat, non distante da Jalalabad». Hejrat ha vissuto a lungo in Pakistan, a Peshawar, prima di essere costretto a tornare: «per i pachistani, gli afghani sono un fastidio. Abbiamo sopportato a lungo, poi siamo partiti». Per farlo ha dovuto chiedere un prestito: «I miei genitori erano già tornati. Ho chiesto un prestito di 10.000 rupie pachistane (circa 70 euro, ndr), ho fatto i bagagli e sono partito. Eravamo 5 persone, tutta la mia famiglia. Al confine, l’Onu ci ha dato una tenda, 100 chili di farina e 3 coperte. Ora eccoci qui». Hejrat sostiene che l’assistenza ricevuta sia insufficiente. «Abbiamo bisogno di tutto: cibo, lavoro, soldi. Con i soldi potrei cominciare un’attività e restituire quel che devo. Ho ancora debiti da pagare in Pakistan».

      Hejrat è tornato in Afghanistan nel giugno 2017, quando la morsa delle autorità pachistane cominciava ad allentarsi. «In quel periodo le autorità hanno prolungato la validità dei documenti degli afghani e il ministero afghano per i Rifugiati ha trovato un accordo con la controparte a Islamabad», ricorda Kandiwal. Nel 2018, la pressione è ulteriormente diminuita. Eppure, i rientri dal Pakistan continuano, così come gli abusi. Da gennaio a oggi, secondo l’Oim circa 23.000 afghani senza documenti sono tornati in Afghanistan dal Pakistan (mentre sono circa 510.000 quelli rientrati dall’Iran, a causa delle crescenti pressioni delle autorità iraniane e della svalutazione del rial). «Siamo tornati da 5 mesi», racconta Hakim, 25 anni. «Siamo stati costretti ad andarcene. I poliziotti ci picchiavano ogni giorno con i bastoni, ci perseguitavano, continuavano a crearci problemi. Quando hanno esagerato, abbiamo deciso di partire. Molta gente ha preso la nostra stessa decisione».

      Hakim si considera afghano, ma è nato in Pakistan. «Sono nato vicino a Peshawar, nel campo (rifugiati, ndr) di Akora. Poi siamo finiti a vivere su Charsadda road, fuori dai campi, con altre famiglie afghane. La mia famiglia si è trasferita in Pakistan 35 anni fa a causa della guerra». La guerra continua ancora oggi, ma Hakim – pur non essendoci mai vissuto – è tornato nella patria dei genitori. «Non era più possibile vivere a Peshawar: troppi problemi».

      Anche qui non mancano. «In Pakistan facevo il lavoratore a giornata, lo stesso provo a fare qui. Ma è più difficile. Ho provato ad andare a Kabul, ma non ho trovato niente. Vivo con mia madre e mio padre, con mia moglie e i miei 5 figli. In tutto, siamo 8 persone». Hakim ci mostra casa, una tenda di plastica marrone, fornita dal Norwegian Refugee Council. Il tetto è in lamiera, le pareti in plastica e tela. Sopra l’ingresso svetta una bandiera afghana. Sui lati, una stampella di fil di ferro sorregge un vassoio di metallo con qualche utensile. Un intricato giro di fili porta l’elettricità. «Ma va e viene». All’interno, diversi materassi, arrotolati per risparmiare spazio, un peluche spelacchiato e qualche pentola. La tenda si trova in un ampio parcheggio sterrato, per gran parte occupato da ferraglia e calcinacci. Dietro la tenda c’è un palazzo in costruzione, lasciato a metà. Accanto, un’altra tenda, più bassa e più piccola.

      Qualche metro più in là, un orticello di due metri per due. Pomodori, melanzane e poco altro. Hakim vorrebbe tornare nel villaggio dei genitori, nel distretto di Bati Kut, ma non può: «lì c’è la guerra».


      http://openmigration.org/analisi/viaggio-tra-i-rifugiati-afghani-respinti-dal-pakistan

    • Coming home to conflict: Why Afghan returnees say they were better off as refugees

      Life as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan was never easy for Halima Bibi. But living in her own country has been even harder.

      Bibi, 60, is among more than 3.8 million refugee and undocumented Afghans who have returned to Afghanistan – by choice or by force – over the last five years. In 2016, after spending their entire lives as refugees, she and her three children were driven over the border on the back of a truck – one family among hundreds of thousands of Afghans pushed out of Pakistan that year in a refugee crackdown.

      Today, she lives in a small brick house in Bela, a village hosting around 1,500 returnee families outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. None of her three children have jobs, and Bibi worries about her health: she hasn’t been able to find a clinic to treat complications from her leprosy.

      “Life’s much more difficult here,” she said, sitting on the steps outside her concrete home, tears rolling down her wrinkled cheeks. “All of our extended family is in Pakistan and we struggle to survive.”

      Bibi’s troubles are common among Afghans coming home to a country at war after decades away, but data showing how returnees are faring has been scarce. Now, new research tracking Afghan returnees is painting a clearer picture of what people like Bibi are going through as authorities and aid groups prepare for more returns.

      A study released in July by the World Bank and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found that most returnees are worse off financially than those who had stayed behind in Pakistan. Researchers interviewed thousands of Afghans who returned between 2014 and 2017 – a period that saw both a sharp rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and mounting pressure on Afghan refugees living on the margins in Pakistan.

      The study found returnees face significantly higher unemployment, resorted to more precarious or unstable jobs like day labouring, and earned lower wages than they did back in Pakistan. They were also more likely to be unemployed or racking up debt compared with Afghans who never left the country.

      The research comes at a critical period for the government and aid groups in Afghanistan. UN agencies are forecasting that at least 680,000 refugees and undocumented migrants will return from Pakistan and Iran this year. But there are few jobs available and little help to reintegrate in a country in crisis.

      A record 3,800 people were killed in conflict last year, and hundreds of thousands were displaced by clashes or by disasters. Afghanistan is heading toward presidential elections in late September, yet insurgent attacks and military operations continue to kill civilians.

      The study’s proponents say the new data can be used to better understand returnees’ humanitarian needs, to shape more targeted aid and development responses – and to prepare for the next wave of returns and displacement.
      War and migration in Afghanistan

      With their country at war for the past four decades, millions of Afghans have been pushed out by both insecurity and a struggling economy. The UNHCR says the global Afghan refugee population – which includes some 2.7 million registered refugees and millions more undocumented – is the second-largest in the world.

      For decades, neighbouring Pakistan and Iran have hosted the majority of these refugees. But returns have surged over the last five years, driven by volatile public sentiment against refugees, geopolitical manoeuvring – Pakistan has previously threatened new rounds of deportation after political tussles with Afghanistan’s main backer, the United States – or economic crises.

      Some Afghans choose to come home, taking advantage of voluntary return programmes that supply cash grants to registered refugees. Other undocumented Afghans are fleeing sporadic police crackdowns in Pakistan. The majority of recent returnees are from Iran, where an economic crisis has driven Afghans out in droves.

      But there are few services for returning refugees and migrants. At Afghanistan’s four main border crossings with Pakistan and Iran, returning refugees are registered and the most vulnerable – unaccompanied children and single women – receive short-term assistance like food, clothing, and onward transport. But most of this assistance is short-lived, and migration flows are difficult to track once people have entered the country.

      Hafizullah Safi, 50, returned to Afghanistan four years ago along with his wife and 10 children. His family had never set foot in Afghanistan. His last visit was 35 years ago.

      Originally from the eastern province of Kunar, a lush rural area with one of Afghanistan’s few remaining forests, Safi decided to settle in Kabul instead – further from the war’s front lines, he said, and closer to schools and hospitals.

      But adjusting to his new life has been difficult. He rents a two-room mud home in Kabul’s city centre, but he struggles to pay the monthly rent of 5,000 afghanis, or about $60.

      “In Pakistan, I owned a small shop selling dried fruit, but here in Kabul I can barely keep my job as a taxi driver,” he said.

      Outside his house, a garbage-filled river breeds mosquitoes and smells of faeces. The roads are unpaved and electricity is scarce, if available at all. His son, a university graduate with a business degree, has been looking for a job since finishing his studies.

      Safi said there’s little to no assistance from both the government and aid groups. Four years after leaving, the family survives on money sent from relatives still in Pakistan.

      High expectations

      Rights groups say Afghanistan has failed to implement large-scale land programmes for refugees. Government policy aims to include returnees and displaced communities within the country’s development programmes, but the conflict itself makes progress difficult for all Afghans.

      “Returnees often have high expectations and it doesn’t line up with what we can provide,” said Abdul Basit Ansari, a spokesman at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, which oversees programmes for returnees and the displaced. “Both security and employment continue to be big challenges – not only for those who return, but for Afghans across the country.”

      The return to Afghanistan has been difficult for Safi and his family, but he said some aspects are better, compared with living an undocumented existence in Pakistan.

      “We were never fully integrated. We always lived in fear of being found out,” he said. “Afghanistan might be dangerous, but in some ways it is safer. This is our home. We are free here.”

      Still, in a crisis marked by precarious returns and long-lasting displacement, many Afghans are looking to leave.

      At Pakistan’s embassies and consulates across Afghanistan, more than 5,000 visa applications are made daily, according to Pakistan’s ambassador, with many people waiting in line for days.

      The Pakistan-Afghanistan border has traditionally been porous, but Safi said regulations have toughened in recent years: “We now need passports and visas to cross the border,” he said. “These are expensive and hard to come by.”

      If it wasn’t for paperwork, he admitted, his family would have returned to Pakistan long ago. Instead, he’s eyeing other migration opportunities for his university-educated but jobless son.

      “Pakistan is becoming less of an option,” he said. “My son is now trying to go to Europe instead.”

      https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2019/08/01/Afghan-conflict-returnees-better-off-refugees

      #Pakistan

    • Coming home to conflict: Why Afghan returnees say they were better off as refugees

      Life as an Afghan refugee in Pakistan was never easy for Halima Bibi. But living in her own country has been even harder.

      Bibi, 60, is among more than 3.8 million refugee and undocumented Afghans who have returned to Afghanistan – by choice or by force – over the last five years. In 2016, after spending their entire lives as refugees, she and her three children were driven over the border on the back of a truck – one family among hundreds of thousands of Afghans pushed out of Pakistan that year in a refugee crackdown.

      Today, she lives in a small brick house in Bela, a village hosting around 1,500 returnee families outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. None of her three children have jobs, and Bibi worries about her health: she hasn’t been able to find a clinic to treat complications from her leprosy.

      “Life’s much more difficult here,” she said, sitting on the steps outside her concrete home, tears rolling down her wrinkled cheeks. “All of our extended family is in Pakistan and we struggle to survive.”

      Bibi’s troubles are common among Afghans coming home to a country at war after decades away, but data showing how returnees are faring has been scarce. Now, new research tracking Afghan returnees is painting a clearer picture of what people like Bibi are going through as authorities and aid groups prepare for more returns.

      A study released in July by the World Bank and the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, found that most returnees are worse off financially than those who had stayed behind in Pakistan. Researchers interviewed thousands of Afghans who returned between 2014 and 2017 – a period that saw both a sharp rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and mounting pressure on Afghan refugees living on the margins in Pakistan.

      The study found returnees face significantly higher unemployment, resorted to more precarious or unstable jobs like day labouring, and earned lower wages than they did back in Pakistan. They were also more likely to be unemployed or racking up debt compared with Afghans who never left the country.

      The research comes at a critical period for the government and aid groups in Afghanistan. UN agencies are forecasting that at least 680,000 refugees and undocumented migrants will return from Pakistan and Iran this year. But there are few jobs available and little help to reintegrate in a country in crisis.

      A record 3,800 people were killed in conflict last year, and hundreds of thousands were displaced by clashes or by disasters. Afghanistan is heading toward presidential elections in late September, yet insurgent attacks and military operations continue to kill civilians.

      The study’s proponents say the new data can be used to better understand returnees’ humanitarian needs, to shape more targeted aid and development responses – and to prepare for the next wave of returns and displacement.
      War and migration in Afghanistan

      With their country at war for the past four decades, millions of Afghans have been pushed out by both insecurity and a struggling economy. The UNHCR says the global Afghan refugee population – which includes some 2.7 million registered refugees and millions more undocumented – is the second-largest in the world.

      For decades, neighbouring Pakistan and Iran have hosted the majority of these refugees. But returns have surged over the last five years, driven by volatile public sentiment against refugees, geopolitical manoeuvring – Pakistan has previously threatened new rounds of deportation after political tussles with Afghanistan’s main backer, the United States – or economic crises.

      Some Afghans choose to come home, taking advantage of voluntary return programmes that supply cash grants to registered refugees. Other undocumented Afghans are fleeing sporadic police crackdowns in Pakistan. The majority of recent returnees are from Iran, where an economic crisis has driven Afghans out in droves.

      But there are few services for returning refugees and migrants. At Afghanistan’s four main border crossings with Pakistan and Iran, returning refugees are registered and the most vulnerable – unaccompanied children and single women – receive short-term assistance like food, clothing, and onward transport. But most of this assistance is short-lived, and migration flows are difficult to track once people have entered the country.

      Hafizullah Safi, 50, returned to Afghanistan four years ago along with his wife and 10 children. His family had never set foot in Afghanistan. His last visit was 35 years ago.

      Originally from the eastern province of Kunar, a lush rural area with one of Afghanistan’s few remaining forests, Safi decided to settle in Kabul instead – further from the war’s front lines, he said, and closer to schools and hospitals.

      But adjusting to his new life has been difficult. He rents a two-room mud home in Kabul’s city centre, but he struggles to pay the monthly rent of 5,000 afghanis, or about $60.

      “In Pakistan, I owned a small shop selling dried fruit, but here in Kabul I can barely keep my job as a taxi driver,” he said.

      Outside his house, a garbage-filled river breeds mosquitoes and smells of faeces. The roads are unpaved and electricity is scarce, if available at all. His son, a university graduate with a business degree, has been looking for a job since finishing his studies.

      Safi said there’s little to no assistance from both the government and aid groups. Four years after leaving, the family survives on money sent from relatives still in Pakistan.

      High expectations

      Rights groups say Afghanistan has failed to implement large-scale land programmes for refugees. Government policy aims to include returnees and displaced communities within the country’s development programmes, but the conflict itself makes progress difficult for all Afghans.

      “Returnees often have high expectations and it doesn’t line up with what we can provide,” said Abdul Basit Ansari, a spokesman at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, which oversees programmes for returnees and the displaced. “Both security and employment continue to be big challenges – not only for those who return, but for Afghans across the country.”

      The return to Afghanistan has been difficult for Safi and his family, but he said some aspects are better, compared with living an undocumented existence in Pakistan.

      “We were never fully integrated. We always lived in fear of being found out,” he said. “Afghanistan might be dangerous, but in some ways it is safer. This is our home. We are free here.”

      Still, in a crisis marked by precarious returns and long-lasting displacement, many Afghans are looking to leave.

      At Pakistan’s embassies and consulates across Afghanistan, more than 5,000 visa applications are made daily, according to Pakistan’s ambassador, with many people waiting in line for days.

      The Pakistan-Afghanistan border has traditionally been porous, but Safi said regulations have toughened in recent years: “We now need passports and visas to cross the border,” he said. “These are expensive and hard to come by.”

      If it wasn’t for paperwork, he admitted, his family would have returned to Pakistan long ago. Instead, he’s eyeing other migration opportunities for his university-educated but jobless son.

      “Pakistan is becoming less of an option,” he said. “My son is now trying to go to Europe instead.”

      https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2019/08/01/Afghan-conflict-returnees-better-off-refugees

    • Not Without Dignity: Views of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon on Displacement, Conditions of Return, and Coexistence

      Discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement. This report, based on interviews with refugees, makes it clear that the restoration of dignity will be important to creating the necessary conditions for return and peaceful coexistence — and building a stable post-war Syria one day.


      https://www.ictj.org/publication/syria-refugees-lebanon-displacement-return-coexistence
      #rapport

    • New ICTJ Study: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon See Security, Restoration of Dignity as Key Conditions for Return

      A new report from the International Center for Transitional Justice argues that discussions about a future return of refugees and coexistence among groups currently at war in Syria must begin now, even in the face of ongoing violence and displacement. The report makes it clear that the restoration of refugees’ sense of dignity will be important to creating the necessary conditions for return and peaceful coexistence — and building a stable post-war Syria one day.

      https://www.ictj.org/news/study-syrian-refugees-lebanon-conditions-return

    • We Must Start the Conversation About Return of Syrian Refugees Now

      If millions of displaced Syrians are to go home one day, we need to understand refugees’ conditions for returning, attitudes to justice and the possibility of coexistence, say the authors of an International Center for Transitional Justice study of refugees in Lebanon.

      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2017/06/21/we-must-start-the-conversation-about-return-of-syrian-refugees-now

    • Nowhere Left to Run: Refugee Evictions in Lebanon in Shadow of Return

      Lebanon wants to evict 12,000 refugees who live near an air base where foreign military assistance is delivered. The evictions, which began in spring and recently resumed after a short respite, have left refugees more vulnerable amid rising demands they return to Syria.


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/09/28/nowhere-left-to-run-refugee-evictions-in-lebanon-in-shadow-of-return
      #Liban

    • Syrian Refugees Return From Lebanon Only to Flee War Yet Again

      Refugees who returned to Syria from Lebanon under cease-fire deals this summer have been displaced again by fighting. Those who stayed behind are pressing for international guarantees of safety on return, as Lebanese officials explore ways to get more refugees to leave.


      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/10/11/syrian-refugees-return-from-lebanon-only-to-flee-war-yet-again

    • Dangerous Exit: Who Controls How Syrians in Lebanon Go Home

      AS HALIMA clambered into a truck leaving Lebanon in late June, she resolved that if the men driving the vehicle were arrested at the Syrian border, she would get out and walk back to her village on her own. The 66-year-old grandmother had not seen the son and daughter she left behind in Syria for five years. Wearing an embroidered black dress and a traditional headdress, her crinkled eyes shone with determination. “I’m coming back to my land,” she said.

      Having begged her not to leave, Halima’s two daughters staying in Lebanon wept on her shoulders. “We’re afraid she won’t come back,” 42-year-old Sherifa said, as her voice cracked. Sherifa cannot follow her mother to Syria; her eldest son, who has single-handedly kept the family afloat with odd jobs because of his father’s disability, would be sent to war.

      Huddled in groups at the checkpoint in northeast Lebanon, other families also said their goodbyes. A teenage girl knelt on the dirt road, refusing to let go of her 19-year-old brother’s legs. Their mother, Nawal, held her as he left for a truck to the border. “I don’t know how he will live on his own in Syria. Only God knows what will happen to him,” Nawal said. “I didn’t think he would actually leave. It all happened very fast.”

      A few months earlier, 3,000 Syrians in the Lebanese border town of Arsal had registered their names with Syrian and Lebanese intelligence agencies to return to their villages just over the mountains in Syria’s Qalamoun region. When the first group of several hundred people was approved to leave on June 28, many families were separated, as some members either decided not to register or were not approved by Syrian authorities.

      “We need a political solution for these people to go back, but the politics doesn’t start here in Lebanon,” a Lebanese intelligence agent said, as a scuffle broke out that scorching June morning. A Syrian man lunged at Khaled Abdel Aziz, a real estate businessman who had been put in charge of signing up fellow refugees to return. Abdel Aziz sweated in his suit as he dashed between television interviews, repeating that Syrians had a country of their own to go back to. “You’re protecting the army, not protecting yourself,” the man yelled, before being pulled away.

      The TV cameras rolled as dozens of trucks and tractors piled high with timber, water tanks and chicken coops were checked off a list by Lebanese intelligence agents and headed with an army escort to the Syrian border. A line of TV reporters announced to their Lebanese viewers that these refugees were going home.

      The next day, on the other side of Arsal, a small group of refugees held a sit-in, to much less fanfare. “We’re asking for return with dignity,” one banner read, “with guarantees from the international community and the U.N.”

      “We’re not against the return, but we want conditions, guarantees,” said Khaled Raad, one of the organizers. His refugee committee has been petitioning the U.N. and sympathetic Lebanese politicians for international protection for returning Syrians for a year. “I mean, this is not like taking a cup of tea or coffee to say, after seven years, go ahead and return to your houses. It’s not an easy thing.”

      “WE NEED A POLITICAL SOLUTION FOR THESE PEOPLE TO GO BACK, BUT THE POLITICS DOESN’T START HERE IN LEBANON.”

      By then, Halima had arrived back in Syria. Apart from some tractors breaking down en route, they had no problem crossing the border. Halima went to stay with her son while she waited to hear about the situation in her hometown, the mountaintop village of Fleeta. Her granddaughters had grown up quickly while she was in Lebanon, and she loved spending time with them in the neighboring town.

      But as more of their friends and relatives returned to Fleeta, with subsequent groups departing Arsal in July, word came to the family of empty homes and little power, water or work in the Syrian village. Sherifa received messages from relatives who had returned to Fleeta but now wanted to escape again. With no easy way to come back to Lebanon legally, they planned to smuggle themselves back across the border.

      Without her mother, and with bad news from Fleeta making it less likely she would ever return to Syria, Sherifa became increasingly desperate. Her husband, who is unable to work for health reasons, sunk into depression. “By God, dying is better than living,” Sherifa said. “I seek refuge in God from this return.”

      LONGING FOR HOME, AFRAID TO RETURN
      RETURNING TO SYRIA during this eighth year of conflict is both an excruciating personal decision and a political calculation: by refugees, the government in Syria, and other nations with a stake in the war. As the government recaptures more territory from opposition groups, and fighting quells in certain areas, some refugees are considering returning, while others are terrified of the increasing pressure to go back. After Lebanon began organizing small group returns this year, including from Arsal, these dilemmas became more urgent.

      To return is to take a political gamble: Refugees must weigh the risks of staying against the risks of going. They try to figure out who can be trusted to tell them the truth. They gather snippets of information from their cities, towns and villages about what happens to people who return. They struggle to decipher the intentions of the mercurial and multi-layered Syrian authorities and their foreign allies.

      Some of the broader dangers are well-known: an estimated half a million people killed in Syria’s war, including thousands dead this year; some one million people forced to leave their homes this year alone; a third of all houses and half of all schools and hospitals damaged or destroyed; in government-controlled areas, mandatory conscription into battle for men under 43, fear of arrest and torture, and the difficulties of reintegrating into a society and economy fractured by war.

      Until now, few refugees have considered this a risk worth taking. In 2017, the U.N. said 77,300 refugees went back independently to Syria, out of 5.6 million who had fled the country. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have consistently told U.N. and independent surveys they hoped to return home one day, but do not yet feel safe to do so.

      There are also risks to staying. More than 80 percent of Syrian refugees remain in three neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. There, they face soaring poverty, years out of work or school, lack of official documents, risk of arrest and, above all, an increasing public clamoring for Syrians to be sent back.

      In Lebanon, where at least 1.5 million Syrians have sought refuge – increasing the country’s population by a quarter – the pressure to leave is the most intense. Few Syrians have legal status, even fewer can work. Many towns have imposed curfews or carried out mass evictions. At the U.N. General Assembly last year, Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun insisted Syrians must return, voluntarily or not. “The claim that they will not be safe should they return to their country is an unacceptable pretext,” he told world leaders.

      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2018/08/08/dangerous-exit-who-controls-how-syrians-in-lebanon-go-home
      #Liban

    • Turkish minister: 255,300 Syrian refugees have returned home

      Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday that 255,300 Syrian refugees have returned home over the past two years, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

      “Some 160,000 of them returned to the Euphrates Shield region after Turkey brought peace there,” added Soylu, speaking to reporters in the southern province of Hatay bordering Syria.

      Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield between August 2016 and March 2017 to eliminate the terrorist threat along the border in the northern Syrian regions of Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Al-Bab and Azaz with the help of the Free Syrian Army.

      Expressing concern about a possible operation in the Idlib region of Syria by regime forces, the minister underlined that Turkey would not be responsible for a wave of migration in the event of an offensive.

      Soylu also noted that an average of 6,800 irregular migrants a day used to enter Greece from western Turkey in 2015 and that now it has been reduced to 79.

      https://www.turkishminute.com/2018/09/09/turkish-minister-255300-syrian-refugees-have-returned-home

    • The fate of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Between forced displacement and forced return

      Recent news reports have surfaced on a possible United States-Russia deal to arrange for the return of refugees to Syria—reports that coincided both with the announcement that thousands of Syrians have died in regime prisons, and with one of the worst massacres in the conflict, perpetrated by ISIS in the city of Swaida. The US-Russia deal has been welcomed by Lebanese politicians, particularly those who have been scheming to repatriate Syrians for years now. But, unsurprisingly, the absence of a clear and coherent strategy for repatriation by the Lebanese government puts Syrian refugees at grave risk.

      In June, UNHCR interviewed Syrian refugees in Arsal who had expressed their willingness to go back to Syria in order to verify that they had the documentation needed for return and to ensure they were fully aware of the conditions in their home country. In response, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused the agency of impeding refugees’ free return and ordered a freeze on the renewal of agency staff residency permits.

      This tug of war raises two main questions: What are the conditions in Lebanon that are pushing refugees toward returning to Syria while the conflict is ongoing and dangers persist? And what are the obstacles preventing some Syrians from returning freely to their homes?

      Conditions for Syrians in Lebanon

      Syrians began fleeing to Lebanon as early as 2011, but the Lebanese government failed to produce a single policy response until 2014, leading to ad-hoc practices by donors and host communities.

      By the end of 2014, the government began introducing policies to “reduce the number of displaced Syrians,” including closing the borders and requiring Syrians to either register with UNHCR and pledge not to work, or to secure a Lebanese sponsor to remain legally in the country and pay a $200 residency permit fee every six months. In May 2015, the government directed UNHCR to stop registering refugees. These conditions put many Syrians in a precarious position: without documentation, vulnerable to arrest and detention, and with limited mobility. Municipalities have been impeding freedom of movement as well, by imposing curfews on Syrians and even expelling them from their towns.

      In addition to the difficulties imposed by the state, Syrians face discrimination and violence on a day-to-day basis. Refugee settlements have been set on fire, Syrians have been beaten in the streets, and camps are regularly raided by the Lebanese army. All the while, Lebanese politicians foster and fuel the hatred of Syrians, blaming them for the country’s miseries and painting them as existential and security threats.

      Despite the polarization among Lebanese politicians regarding the situation in Syria, there is a consensus that the Syrian refugees are a burden that Lebanon cannot bear. Politicians across the board have been advocating for the immediate repatriation of refugees, and state officials are beginning to take action. President Michel Aoun made a statement in May declaring that Lebanon would seek a solution regarding the refugee crisis without taking into account the preferences of the UN or the European Union. This was followed by Bassil’s move, to freeze the residency permits of UNHCR staff, the leading agency (despite its many shortcomings) providing services for, and protecting the interests of, Syrian refugees. While UNHCR maintains that there are no safe zones in Syria as of yet, Lebanon’s General Security has begun facilitating the return of hundreds of refugees from Arsal and nearby towns. This process has been monitored by UNHCR to ensure that the returns are voluntary. Hezbollah has also established centers to organize the return of Syrians to their homes in collaboration with the Syrian regime.

      Syrian regime obstructing refugees’ free return

      As the situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon becomes more and more unbearable, conditions for them back home remain troubling. Since 2012, the Syrian regime has been taking deliberate measures that would effectively make the situation for returning Syrians extremely difficult and dangerous.

      Conscription

      Syrian males aged 18 to 42 must serve in the Syrian Armed Forces. While exemptions were allowed in the past, a decree issued in 2017 bans exemptions from military service. Refusing to serve in the Syrian army results in imprisonment or an $8,000 fine, which most Syrians are unable to pay, thus risking having their assets seized by the regime.

      Property as a weapon of war

      Law No. 66 (2012) allowed for the creation of development zones in specified areas across the country. Under the pretense of redeveloping areas currently hosting informal settlements or unauthorized housing, the law is actually being used to expropriate land from residents in areas identified in the decree, which are mostly former opposition strongholds such as Daraya and Ghouta.

      Law No. 10 (2018), passed in April, speeds up the above process. This law stipulates the designation of development or reconstruction zones, requiring local authorities to request a list of property owners from public real estate authorities. Those whose have property within these zones but are not registered on the list are notified by local authorities and must present proof of property within 30 days. If they are successful in providing proof, they get shares of the redevelopment project; otherwise, ownership reverts to the local authority in the province, town, or city where the property is located. Human Rights Watch has published a detailed Q&A that explains the law and its implications.

      These laws, coupled with systematic destruction of land registries by local authorities, fully equip the regime to dispossess hundreds of thousands of Syrian families. Reports indicate that the regime has already begun reconstruction in areas south of Damascus.

      Statements by Syrian officials

      Syrian officials have made several public statements that reveal their hostility toward refugees. On August 20, 2017, at the opening ceremony of a conference held by Syria’s foreign ministry, President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in which he said: “It’s true that we lost the best of our young men as well as our infrastructure, but in return we gained a healthier, more homogeneous society.” On another occasion, Assad stated his belief that some refugees are terrorists.

      In September 2017, a video of Issam Zahreddine, a commander in the Syrian Armed Forces, went viral. In the video, Zahreddine threatens refugees against returning, saying: “To everyone who fled Syria to other countries, please do not return. If the government forgives you, we will not. I advise you not to come back.” Zahreddine later clarified that his remarks were meant for rebels and ISIS followers, but that clarification should be taken with a grain of salt given his bloody track record in the war up until his death in October 2017. Along similar lines, leaked information from a meeting of top-ranking army officers just last month reported the following statement by the head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence administration, General Jamil Al-Hassan: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals.”

      Unknown fate

      Considering the unwelcoming policies in Lebanon and the treacherous conditions in Syria, what is the fate of Syrian refugees, specifically those who oppose the Assad regime? Until now, the return championed by Lebanese politicians implies return to a fascist regime that has caused the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War and unapologetically committed countless war crimes. While Lebanese politicians continue to focus on repatriation, they are failing to acknowledge the major barriers preventing Syrians from returning home: the Assad regime and ongoing mass violence.

      We cannot speak of safe, dignified, and sustainable returns without demanding justice and accountability. Regime change and trials for those who committed war crimes over the span of the last seven years are a long way off, and all evidence currently points toward the Assad regime retaining power. Any strategy must therefore prioritize the safety of Syrians who are likely to be detained, tortured, and killed for their political views upon return, or simply denied entry to Syria altogether. Lebanese policy makers must take into account that Syrians residing in Lebanon are not a homogenous entity, and some may never be able to return to their homes. Those Syrians should not be forced to choose between a brutal regime that will persecute them and a country that strips away their rights and dignity. It is time for Lebanon to adopt clear policies on asylum, resettlement, and return that ensure the right of all Syrians to lead a safe and dignified life.

      http://www.executive-magazine.com/economics-policy/the-fate-of-syrian-refugees-in-lebanon

    • Le retour des réfugiés en Syrie commence à préoccuper la communauté internationale

      Lors d’une conférence sur la Syrie à Bruxelles, le retour des réfugiés syriens dans leur pays a été évoqué. Démarrée en 2011, la guerre en Syrie touche à sa fin

      La situation en Syrie est loin d’être stabilisée. Les besoins de financement, de nourriture de matériel sont même en constante augmentation. Selon un haut fonctionnaire de l’ONU, un éventuel assaut contre la dernière enclave rebelle pourrait entraîner une « catastrophe humanitaire ». Pourtant, alors que 12 millions de Syriens, soit près de la moitié de la population syrienne avant la guerre, a fui le pays ou a été déplacée à l’intérieur, la question du retour, étape indispensable à la reconstruction, commence à se poser.

      C’est le principal message ressorti de la conférence « Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region » , qui vient de se tenir à Bruxelles. Les diplomates européens ont mis l’accent sur les difficultés de l’Europe à isoler le Président Bashar al-Assad, vainqueur de la guerre, soutenu par la Russie et l’Iran, pendant que les États-Unis retirent leurs troupes.

      L’UE a rappelé qu’un soutien à la reconstruction à long terme dépendrait du processus de paix de l’ONU pour mettre fin à une guerre responsable de la mort de centaines de milliers de personnes.

      Les Européens sont toutefois divisés sur la question de la reconstruction du pays, dans la mesure où le processus de paix de l’ONU est bloqué, que l’intervention militaire russe de 2015 s’avère décisive et que les pays arabes voisins envisagent de rétablir des liens diplomatiques.

      « Les États-Unis se retirent et les Russes n’ont pas l’argent. Voilà le contexte », a expliqué un haut fonctionnaire de l’UE, cité par Reuters. L’Allemagne, la France et les Pays-Bas défendent ouvertement l’idée de libérer les fonds de reconstruction uniquement quand le pays aura démarré sa transition politique et que Bashar-al-Assad ne sera plus au pouvoir. Aucun représentant officiel de la Syrie n’a été invité à la conférence. L’Italie, l’Autriche et la Hongrie, grands détracteurs de la politique migratoire européenne, plaident en revanche pour une négociation avec les autorités syriennes pour que les millions de réfugiés puissent rentrer chez eux.

      Mogherini craint le « ni guerre ni paix »

      La cheffe de la diplomatie européenne, Federica Mogherini, a déclaré qu’il y avait un risque que le pays se retrouve coincé dans une situation de « ni guerre ni paix ». Le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, Filippo Grandi, a déclaré qu’il était prévisible que 2019 soit la première année depuis le début de la guerre « où il y aura plus de Syriens (réfugiés et déplacés internes) qui rentreront chez eux que de nouveaux déplacés. S’étant rendu en Syrie la semaine dernière, le Haut Commissaire a déclaré avoir été « marqué et touché » par la résilience du peuple syrien.

      « C’est dans un contexte de grandes destructions, avec des zones encore dangereuses et un manque de produits de première nécessité (nourriture, médicaments, eau) et d’emplois que de nombreux Syriens rentrent chez eux. Les agences humanitaires font ce qu’elles peuvent, mais un très grand nombre de déplacés internes et quelques réfugiés prennent la décision difficile de rentrer chez eux, et les besoins en produits de première nécessité ne font qu’augmenter », a-t-il expliqué, ajoutant que la plupart des réfugiés voyaient leur avenir dans leur pays natal et que « nous savons que 56 000 Syriens sont rentrés chez eux via des mouvements organisés l’année dernière, mais ce chiffre est certainement plus élevé ».

      Engagements financiers

      « Je suis heureux de vous annoncer que nous collaborons notamment avec le gouvernement syrien. Et j’aimerais particulièrement remercier la Fédération de Russie pour sa coopération face aux problèmes que le retour des réfugiés syriens implique pour eux », a ajouté Filippo Grandi. Dans le cadre de l’appel de l’ONU, 3,3 milliards de dollars seraient nécessaires pour venir en aide aux déplacés internes et 5,5 milliards de dollars pour les réfugiés et les communautés d’accueil dans les pays voisins.

      Le Secrétaire général adjoint aux affaires humanitaires, Marc Lowcock, a déclaré à la presse que les engagements financiers s’élevaient « au moins à 6,5 milliards de dollars » et peut-être même à près de 7 milliards de dollars. « C’est un très bon résultat, et si nous y parvenons vraiment en fin de compte, nous serons très heureux », a-t-il déclaré. Federica Mogherini a déclaré que l’UE contribuerait à hauteur de 560 millions d’euros pour venir en aide au peuple syrien durant l’année 2019 et que le même montant serait libéré les années suivantes.

      Filippo Grandi a également exprimé son inquiétude quant à la situation en déclin de la ville d’Idlib, près de la frontière turque. Près de 90 personnes y ont été tuées par des obus et des frappes aériennes, et la moitié d’entre elles étaient des enfants.

      « La pire des catastrophes humanitaires »

      « Permettez-moi de répéter ce que nous avons déjà dit à maintes reprises. Une attaque militaire d’envergure sur la ville d’Idlib occasionnerait la pire catastrophe humanitaire du 21ème siècle. Ce serait tout simplement inacceptable », a déclaré Filippo Grandi.

      Avec l’aide d’avions russes, l’armée syrienne a attaqué des villes au mains des forces rebelles dans la région d’Idlib, dernier bastion rebelle du pays. Ce bombardement a été le plus important depuis des mois. Les forces rebelles qui se sont battues depuis 8 ans pour faire tomber le Président al-Assad sont désormais confinées dans une enclave du nord est du pays, près de la frontière turque. Près de 4 millions de Syriens y vivent aujourd’hui, dont des centaines de milliers d’opposants au régime qui ont fui d’autres régions du pays.

      La Turquie, qui a commencé à patrouiller dans la zone tampon vendredi, a condamné ce qu’elle a qualifié de provocations croissantes pour mettre fin à la trêve et a averti qu’une offensive des forces russes et syriennes causerait une crise humanitaire majeure. De nombreux résidents sont exaspérés de l’incapacité des forces turques à répondre aux bombardements. L’armée syrienne a appelé au retrait des forces turques.

      L’enclave est protégée par une zone de « désescalade », un accord négocié l’an dernier par les pays qui soutiennent Bashar al-Assad, la Russie, l’Iran ainsi que la Turquie, qui avait auparavant soutenu les forces rebelles et envoyé des troupes pour surveiller la trêve. Le ministre turc des Affaires étrangères, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, a déclaré que 320 000 Syriens avaient pu rentrer chez eux grâce aux « opérations anti-terrorisme » menées par la Turquie et la Syrie.

      https://www.euractiv.fr/section/migrations/news/return-of-refugees-to-syria-timidly-comes-on-the-agenda

    • Assad asks Syrian refugees to come home — then locks them up and interrogates them

      Guarantees offered by the government as part of a ’reconciliation’ process are often hollow, with returnees harassed or extorted.

      Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested after returning home as the war they fled winds down — then interrogated, forced to inform on close family members and in some cases tortured, say returnees and human rights monitors.

      Many more who weathered the conflict in rebel-held territory now retaken by government forces are meeting a similar fate as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime deepens its longtime dependence on informers and surveillance.

      For Syrian refugees, going home usually requires permission from the government and a willingness to provide a full accounting of any involvement they had with the political opposition. But in many cases the guarantees offered by the government as part of this “reconciliation” process turn out to be hollow, with returnees subjected to harassment or extortion by security agencies or detention and torture to extract information about the refugees’ activities while they were away, according to the returnees and monitoring groups.

      Almost 2,000 people have been detained after returning to Syria during the past two years, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, while hundreds more in areas once controlled by the rebels have also been arrested.

      “If I knew then what I know now, I would never have gone back,” said a young man who returned to a government-controlled area outside Damascus. He said he has been harassed for months by members of security forces who repeatedly turn up at his home and stop him at checkpoints to search his phone.

      “People are still being taken by the secret police, and communities are living between suspicion and fear,” he said. “When they come to your door, you cannot say no. You just have to go with them.”

      Returnees interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity or on the understanding that their family names would be withheld, because of security threats.

      Since the war erupted in 2011, more than 5 million people have fled Syria and 6 million others have been displaced to another part of the country, according to the United Nations – together representing slightly more than half the Syrian population.

      In the past two years, as Assad’s forces have largely routed the rebels and recaptured much of the country, refugees have begun to trickle back. The United Nations says that at least 164,000 refugees have returned to the country since 2016. But citing a lack of access, the United Nations has not been able to document whether they have come back to government- or opposition-held areas.

      Assad has called for more homecomings, encouraging returnees in a televised address in February to “carry out their national duties.” He said forgiveness would be afforded to returnees “when they are honest.”

      According to our data, you are the exception if nothing happens to you

      A recent survey of Syrians who returned to government-held areas found that about 75 percent had been harassed at checkpoints, in government registry offices or in the street, conscripted into the military despite promises they would be exempted, or arrested.

      “According to our data, you are the exception if nothing happens to you,” said Nader Othman, a trustee with the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity, which said it had interviewed 350 returnees across Syria. “One of our most important takeaways is that most of those people who came back had thought that they were cleared by the regime. They thought their lack of opposition would protect them.”

      The Syrian government did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the treatment of returnees and other Syrians now back under government control.

      Outside Syria, many refugees say they were already apprehensive about going home, with fears over a lack of personal security only growing with reports that the government is reneging on its guarantees. Aid groups say there are few signs that a large-scale return will begin anytime soon.

      And in conversations with UN representatives, senior Syrian officials have made it clear that not all returnees are equally welcome. According to two European officials who recounted the conversations, individuals with links to opposition groups, media activism or humanitarian work will be least well received.

      But pressure on the refugees to return is rising across the Middle East, with Syria’s neighbours tightening restrictions on them in part to get them to leave.

      Homs

      Hassan, 30, left his home in the western province of Homs in 2013. Before returning at the end of last year, he secured what he believed were guarantees for his safety after paying a large bribe to a high-ranking security official.

      But officers from the state security directorate met him at the airport and took him for interrogation. “They knew everything – what I’d done abroad, which cafes I’d sat in, even the time I had sat with opposition supporters during football matches,” he recalled.

      A week later, he was arrested during a visit to a government registry office and taken to a nearby police station. In a dingy room, officers took turns beating and questioning him, he said, accusing him of ferrying ammunition for an armed opposition group inside Syria in 2014.

      “I kept telling them that they knew I wasn’t in the country then,” he said. “All they did was ask me for money and tell me that it was the way to my freedom.”

      At one point, he said, the guards dragged in a young woman he had never met. “They beat her with a water pipe until she screamed, (then) told me they would do the same if I didn’t cooperate,” Hassan said.

      He said he was released at the end of January after relatives paid another bribe, this time $7,000.

      Syrians returning from abroad, like Hassan, often have to gain security approval just to re-enter the country, in some cases signing loyalty pledges and providing extensive accounts of any political activities, according to documents listing questions to be asked and statements to be signed.

      https://nationalpost.com/news/world/assad-asks-syrian-refugees-to-come-home-then-locks-them-up-and-interro

    • Weighed down by economic woes, Syrian refugees head home from Jordan

      Rahaf* and Qassem lay out their plans to return to Syria as their five-year-old daughter plays with her toys in their small apartment in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

      It is early October, six years after they fled their home in Damascus, and the couple have decided it’s time to give up trying to make a life for themselves in Jordan.

      Last year, 51-year-old Qassem lost his job at a cleaning supplies factory when the facility shut down, and Rahaf’s home business as a beautician is slow.

      For months, the couple have resorted to borrowing money from friends to cover their 200 Jordanian dinar ($282) monthly rent. They are three months overdue. “There’s nobody else for us to borrow money from,” explains Rahaf.

      Weeks later, Qassem crossed the border and headed back to their old neighbourhood, joining an increasing tide of Syrian refugees who are going home, despite the dangers and a multitude of unknowns.

      According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, 34,000 registered Syrian refugees have returned from Jordan since October 2018, when a key border crossing was reopened after years of closure. It’s a fraction of the 650,000 registered Syrian refugees remaining in Jordan, but a dramatic jump from previous years, when annual returns hovered at around 7,000.

      Syrian refugees from the other main host countries – Turkey and Lebanon – are making the trip too. UNHCR has monitored more than 209,000 voluntary refugee returns to Syria since 2016, but the actual figure is likely to be significantly higher.

      Some Syrian refugees face political pressure to return and anti-refugee rhetoric, but that hasn’t taken hold in Jordan.

      Here, many refugees say they are simply fed up with years spent in a dead-end job market with a bleak economic future. The uptick appears to be driven more by the fact that Syrians who wish to go home can now – for the first time in three years – board a bus or a shared taxi from the border, which is about an hour and a half’s drive north of Amman.

      People like Rahaf and Qassem are pinning their hopes on picking up what is left of the lives they led before the war. Their Damascus house, which was damaged in the conflict, is near Qassem’s old shop, where he used to sell basic groceries and cleaning supplies.

      Qassem is staying with relatives for now. But the family had a plan: if and when he gave the green light, Rahaf and their children would join him back in Damascus.

      While she waited for his signal, Rahaf sold off what little furniture and other possessions they acquired in Jordan. “Honestly, we’ve gotten tired of this life, and we’ve lost hope,” she said.
      Money problems

      Before he lost his job, Qassem endured years of verbal abuse in the workplace, and few clients made the trip to Rahaf’s home.

      When she tried to set up a salon elsewhere, their refugee status created bureaucratic hurdles the couple couldn’t overcome. “I did go ask about paying rent for one shop, and they immediately told me no,” Qassem said. “[The owners] wanted a Jordanian renter.”

      Their story echoes those of many other refugees who say they have found peace but little opportunity in Jordan.

      Syrian refugees need a permit to work in Jordan – over 153,000 have been issued so far – but they are limited to working in a few industries in designated economic zones. Many others end up in low-paying jobs, and have long faced harsh economic conditions in Jordan.

      Thousands of urban refugees earn a meagre living either on farms or construction sites, or find informal work as day labourers.

      Abu Omran, who returned to Syria three months ago, fled Damascus with his family in 2013, and for a while was able to find occasional car mechanic jobs in Amman. Work eventually dried up, and he struggled to find ways to make money that did not require hard manual labour.

      “He spent the past three years just sitting at home, with no job,” recalled Abu Omran’s wife, Umm Omran.

      Speaking to The New Humanitarian in her Amman living room several months after her husband’s departure, she was soon joined for coffee and cigarettes by her youngest son, 19-year-old Badr. Newly married, he wore a ring on one finger.

      Times were so hard for the family that Abu Omran left Jordan before he had a chance to attend the wedding, and Badr has also been contemplating a return to Syria – the country he left as a young teenager.

      Badr works in a factory near Amman that produces cleaning products, but the pay is low. And although his older brother brings in a small salary from a pastry shop, it’s getting harder and harder for the family to pull together their rent each month.

      “I’m not returning because I think the situation in Syria is good. But you don’t enter into a difficult situation unless the one you’re currently in is even worse.”

      Entering a void

      While return may seem the best option for some, there are still more unknowns than knowns across the border in Syria.

      President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces control most of the country, but there are still airstrikes in the rebel-held northwest, and the recent Turkish invasion of the northeast has raised new questions about the country’s future.

      “I’m not returning because I think the situation in Syria is good,” said Farah, a mother of three who spoke to TNH in September – about a month before she packed up her things to leave. “But you don’t enter into a difficult situation unless the one you’re currently in is even worse.”

      In 2012, Farah and her husband left their home in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus for Jordan, where she gave birth to her three children.

      Her husband suffers from kidney stones, and the manual labour he has managed to pick up is just enough for them to pay for the rent of a shared house – crammed in with two other refugee families.

      The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan – including Farah and Abu Omran’s families – live in urban areas like Amman, rather than in the country’s three refugee camps. They are still eligible for aid, but Farah had decided by October that she was “no longer able to bear” the poverty in Amman, even though UN food vouchers had covered some of her expenses.

      She took her three young children and crossed the border into Syria to stay with her mother, who lives in a southeastern suburb of Damascus. TNH has not been able to contact her since.

      Farah’s husband stayed behind in Jordan, fearing arrest or forced military conscription by Syrian government authorities.

      This has happened to other people who have gone back to Syria from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, or other host countries. Despite promises to the contrary from the government, hundreds – and possibly thousands – of returnees have reportedly been detained.

      “There are issues with what information is made available to refugees… about what is going to happen to them on the other side, in Syria.”

      Lebanese authorities have also forcibly deported thousands of Syrian refugees, and Human Rights Watch says at least three of them were detained by Syrian authorities when they got back. It isn’t clear if any Syrians have faced the same fate returning from Jordan.

      Sara Kayyali, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Jordan, told TNH she has yet to verify reports of disappearance, conscription, and detainment of returnees from Jordan.

      “There are issues with what information is made available to refugees… about what is going to happen to them on the other side, in Syria,” said Kayyali. “Partially because people inside are too scared to talk about the conditions in government-held areas, and partially because the restrictions applied and the behaviour of the Syrian security forces is so arbitrary that it’s difficult to predict.”

      Kayyali pointed to the 30 Jordanian citizens detained in Syria since the border opened a year ago – Amman said they entered for tourism and were arrested without reason – as a sign of what could be to come for Syrians.

      “[If those threats] apply to Jordanians, then they’re most certainly going to be applied to Syrians, potentially on an even larger scale,” said Kayyali.

      There are other obstacles to return, or challenges for people who manage to get back, including destroyed homes and lost jobs. Healthcare and water provision is scattershot in certain parts of the country, while violence and war is ongoing in others.

      Francesco Bert, a UNHCR spokesperson in Jordan, said the agency “does not facilitate returns, but offers support to refugees if they voluntarily decide to go home”.

      Asked whether it is safe for refugees to go back to Syria, Bert said the agency “considers refugees’ decisions as the main guideposts”, but gives refugees considering or planning to return “information that might inform their decision-making”, to help ensure it is truly voluntary.
      The waiting game

      Despite the obstacles, more and more people are making the trip. But families often can’t travel back together.

      For Rahaf, that meant packing her things and waiting, before finally joining her husband last weekend.

      For Umm Omran, however, that means wondering if and when she will ever see her husband again.

      The family had hoped that Abu Omran could find a job repairing cars again in Damascus, and if that didn’t work out at least he could live rent-free with his sister’s family.

      But plans for his wife and sons to join him someday, once he had found his footing, now look increasingly unlikely.

      “He hasn’t said yet if he regrets going back home,” said Umm Omran, who communicates regularly via WhatsApp with her husband and other family members who never left Syria. They live in government-controlled Damascus and don’t give away much in their chats for fear of retaliation by security forces, who they worry could be monitoring their communications.

      What Umm Omran has managed to piece together isn’t promising.

      Her husband has yet to find a job in Damascus, and is beginning to feel like a burden at his sister’s home. Their own house, where he and Umm Omran raised their sons, is bombed-out and needs extensive repairs before anyone can move back in.

      For the time-being, Umm Omran has ruled out her own potential return to Syria, fearing her two sons would insist on joining her and end up being conscripted into the armed forces. So, for now, the family remains split in two.

      “When I ask him how things are going, he just says, ‘Thank God’. He says little else,” said Umm Omran, scrolling through chats on her mobile phone. “I think he’s upset about leaving us.”

      https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2019/11/19/Syrian-refugees-return-Jordan
      #Amman #Jordanie

  • #Canada : des #réfugiés plus que des #migrants arrivant des #Etats-Unis

    Les centaines de personnes arrivant au Canada depuis les Etats-Unis ces dernières semaines sont davantage « des réfugiés que des migrants », explique Jean-Nicolas Beuze, représentant au Canada du Haut-commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR).

    http://www.courrierinternational.com/depeche/canada-des-refugies-plus-que-des-migrants-arrivant-des-etats-

    #USA #terminologie #mots #vocabulaires #dichotomie #catégorisation #tri #réinstallation
    cc @sinehebdo @reka

  • #Medhanie l’Erythréen est-il un redoutable passeur ou un migrant pris dans une erreur judiciaire ?

    « Ce n’est pas juste, je ne peux pas accepter une décision qui est aussi injuste. » La voix frêle de la jeune femme se brise en sanglots. Au téléphone depuis Khartoum, Seghen refuse d’admettre ce qui arrive à son frère cadet. « La vérité est claire, Medhanie est innocent, pourquoi les procureurs s’obstinent-ils ? » Cette question plane sur le tribunal de Palerme, en Sicile, depuis quatre mois. Qui est ce Medhanie aux cheveux crépus et au regard blême, présenté pour la troisième fois devant la justice italienne, mercredi 21 septembre ? Est-il Medhanie Yehdego Mered, le chef érythréen du réseau de passeurs de migrants désigné à ce jour comme le plus important d’Afrique du Nord, ou s’agit-il de Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre, un simple migrant érythréen arrêté par erreur ?

    http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2016/09/23/medhanie-l-erythreen-est-il-un-redoutable-passeur-ou-un-migrant-pris-dans-un

    #passeurs #asile #migrations #smugglers #réfugiés

    • Kafka in Sicily: New Evidence But No End for Refugee in Smuggler Trial

      After more than a year in jail despite extensive evidence of being a victim of mistaken identity, a man extradited from Sudan appeared before Italian judges for the 22nd time this week. Eric Reidy reveals new evidence showing he is a refugee not a smuggling kingpin.

      https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/09/13/kafka-in-sicily-new-evidence-but-no-end-for-refugee-in-smuggler-trial

    • Arrestato in Sudan, processato a Palermo. Scambio di persona o vittima dei servizi ?

      E’ ripreso, giusto il 3 ottobre scorso, in Corte di Assise a Palermo. il processo ad un giovane eritreo #Medhanie_Tesfamariam_Berhe, arrestato il 24 maggio dello scorso anno in Sudan, estradato in Italia il 7 giugno del 2016 e rinviato a giudizio qualche mese dopo con l’accusa di traffico di persone. Secondo la Procura di Palermo si tratterebbe di Medhane Yehdego Mered, ritenuto uno dei più grandi trafficanti di esseri umani sulla cosiddetta “rotta libico-subsahariana” e al centro di indagini condotte dalla stessa procura sui trafficanti coinvolti nella strage di Lampedusa del 2013.

      http://www.a-dif.org/2017/10/08/arrestato-in-sudan-processato-a-palermo-scambio-di-persona-o-vittima-dei-serv

    • Dall’Eritrea a Palermo per difendere il figlio: «In carcere c’è un innocente»

      Batte le mani sul petto e ripete che quell’uomo in carcere è suo figlio, un falegname e non un trafficante di uomini. Meaza Zerai Weldai è una mamma che ha intrapreso un viaggio lungo e faticoso per arrivare a Palermo dall’Eritrea e sottoporsi al test del Dna. Suo figlio, Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, è stato arrestato nel 2016 ed è accusato di avere guadagnato sulle traversate della speranza dall’Africa. Per le autorità inglesi e italiane il suo nome è Medhanie Yehdego Mered. “Mio figlio non c’entra nulla con gli sbarchi, nella foto diffusa per le ricerche non lo riconosco. Quello è un altro uomo”. (di Romina Marceca e Giada Lo Porto)

      http://video.repubblica.it/edizione/palermo/dall-eritrea-a-palermo-per-difendere-il-figlio-in-carcere-c-e-un-innocente/287499/288114

    • ’Not my brother’: Italian court told defendant is not Eritrean smuggler

      Relative of human trafficker Medhanie Yehdego Mered does not recognise detainee.

      An Eritrean man says his brother, believed one of the world’s most wanted people smugglers, remains free while another has been arrested in his place. Merhawi Yehdego Mered, 38, has testified before a judge in Palermo, via videolink from the Netherlands, saying the man facing trial in Sicily is not the notorious human trafficker Medhanie Yehdego Mered.

      Merhawi suggested that the suspect, who has now been in prison for two-and-a-half-years, is a victim of mistaken identity. “This is not my brother,” he said when seeing the detainee on camera.

      In June 2016 prosecutors in Palermo announced the capture in Khartoum of a 35-year-old Eritrean whom they alleged was Medhanie Yehdego Mered, AKA “the general”. He was suspected of being one of the most sought after human traffickers in the world, and he was extradited to Italy from Sudan with the help of the UK’s National Crime Agency.

      His arrest, after an investigation that spanned two continents and five countries, was presented to the press as a brilliant coup for the new anti-trafficking strategy.

      But since news of the arrest first broke there have been serious doubts over the man’s identity. Dozens of Mered’s alleged victims claim the wrong man is on trial. The man extradited also looks markedly different to photographs of Mered released by prosecutors before the arrest.

      Close friends and relatives of the detainee have told the authorities that the man arrested is 29-year-old Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, a refugee.

      Merhawi is the latest person to insist that the authorities have apprehended the wrong man. Last week, Lidya Tesfu, reportedly the trafficker’s wife, told the judge that the man in prison was not her husband. “I know you have placed my husband under investigation,” she said. “But the man on trial is not Mered.”

      Among the many factors that point to the innocence of the arrested man, including two DNA tests (one of them carried on the smuggler’s son) is a documentary by the Swedish broadcaster SVT in collaboration with the Guardian, which said Mered was living it up in Uganda while Berhe faced up to 15 years in jail.

      In July 2017 the New Yorker published an investigation based in part on a three-hour telephone interview with Mered. He told the magazine he was still at large and that he was in prison in a different country at the time of the Berhe’s arrest.

      Last week a lawyer requested that Berhe be released on bail and placed under house arrest. The judge rejected that request, fearing that Berhe could flee the country before the verdict.

      The NCA and Italian prosecutors declined to comment “until the conclusion of the court case’’.

      The growing impression is that the prosecutors are no longer concerned whether the man in custody is Mered, but are intent on demonstrating that they have apprehended a man involved in smuggling. “It now appears obvious that Berhe is neither a trafficker nor an intermediary,” Berhe’s lawyer, Michele Calantropo, told the Guardian.

      Berhe’s sister, Seghen Tesfamariam, said: “The trial is going unfairly. No matter what evidence the lawyer presents, they don’t want to accept it. The only way to sentence my brother for being Mered would be to fabricate the evidence.”

      According to Fulvio Vassallo, an expert on migration and asylum law, from the University of Palermo, this case is more than a story of mistaken identity. “This endless trial, carried out on the basis of contradictory evidence, is the proof that the entire strategy pursued by EU governments of hunting down smugglers through criminal proceedings as a way to keep immigration numbers down is failing.”


      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/19/not-my-brother-italian-court-told-defendant-is-not-eritrean-smuggler

    • Asilo politico per Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre

      L’eritreo, rimasto in carcere per tre anni perché scambiato per il più spietato trafficante di uomini, il generale Medhanie Yedhego Mered, adesso è un rifugiato politico

      https://www.rainews.it/tgr/sicilia/articoli/2019/08/sic-asilo-politico-medhanie-tesfamariam-behre-b110d947-30bc-4657-be00-3bc9d0

      Medhanie a reçu l’asile, il est donc un homme libre et le besoin de protection de protection a été reconnu, pourquoi donc encore et toujours utiliser cette #photographie dans les nouvelles annonçant qu’il a obtenu l’asile ?


      Pourquoi encore une image d’un homme menotté et assimilé à un criminel ?
      #médias #journalisme #couverture #image #presse #criminalisation

    • À Palerme, un jury reconnaît une erreur d’identité sur le « boss » des passeurs

      Un Érythréen était accusé d’avoir dirigé un vaste réseau de trafiquants de migrants. Les enquêteurs l’ont en réalité confondu avec le véritable suspect.

      Un coup dur pour les enquêteurs. La cour d’assises de Palerme a reconnu vendredi une erreur d’identité dans l’affaire d’un Erythréen accusé d’avoir dirigé un vaste réseau de trafiquants de migrants. La cour a ordonné la libération immédiate de l’homme jugé, tout en assortissant sa décision d’une condamnation pour aide à l’immigration clandestine. Cette peine est couverte par ses plus de trois ans de détention préventive.

      Mais le jeune homme a en fait été conduit dans la soirée vers le centre de rétention de Caltanissetta, dans le centre de la Sicile, en vue d’une éventuelle expulsion, a annoncé son avocat, Me Michele Calantropo, qui a déposé une demande d’asile en son nom maintenant que son identité est établie.
      Des années d’enquête

      En juin 2016, les autorités italiennes avaient fièrement annoncé l’arrestation au Soudan et l’extradition en Italie de Medhanie Yehdego Mered, après des années d’enquête sur ces réseaux qui ont envoyé des centaines de milliers de migrants en Europe, et des milliers à la mort. Premier chef de réseau jugé en Italie, Mered est soupçonné en particulier d’avoir affrété le bateau dont le naufrage avait fait plus de 366 morts le 3 octobre 2013 devant l’île de Lampedusa.

      Mais, très vite, les témoignages ont afflué pour dire que l’homme arrêté n’était pas Mered mais Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, un réfugié érythréen échoué à Khartoum et n’ayant en commun avec l’homme recherché qu’un prénom relativement courant en Erythrée. Plusieurs enquêtes menées par des journalistes italien, américain et suédois ont établi que Behre avait été repéré au printemps 2016 par les enquêteurs parce qu’il avait flirté avec la femme de Mered sur Facebook et appelé un passeur en Libye pour avoir des nouvelles d’un cousin parti pour l’Europe.

      À cette époque, les enquêteurs avaient perdu la trace de Mered, arrêté fin 2015 à Dubaï pour détention de faux passeport. Libéré huit mois plus tard, il vit désormais en Ouganda, selon ces journalistes. Outre de multiples témoignages, la défense a fourni des photos de Mered n’ayant aucune ressemblance avec l’accusé ou encore une analyse ADN liant l’homme arrêté à la mère de Behre.
      Un réquisitoire aux airs d’aveu d’échec

      Mais l’accusation a maintenu le cap, assurant en particulier que les conversations enregistrées avec le passeur en Libye n’avaient rien d’innocent. Même si la cour n’a pas encore publié ses attendus, ce sont probablement ces conversations qui lui ont valu sa condamnation.

      Le 17 juin, le procureur Calogero Ferrara avait requis 14 ans de réclusion et 50 000 euros d’amende contre l’accusé, insistant sur le « mépris absolu » des passeurs pour la vie humaine. Mais ce réquisitoire léger était déjà un aveu d’échec : par comparaison, le Tunisien Khaled Bensalem, simple passeur ayant survécu au naufrage de Lampedusa, a pour sa part été condamné à 27 ans de prison, allégés à 18 ans parce qu’il avait accepté une procédure accélérée.

      Comme lui, les dizaines de « #scafisti » (passeurs des mers) détenus en Libye sont pour l’essentiel des petites mains. Les enquêteurs disposent pourtant d’un vaste arsenal juridique mis en place au cours des dernières décennies dans le cadre de la lutte antimafia : écoutes téléphoniques y compris à l’étranger, témoignages de repentis... Ils peuvent aussi s’appuyer sur le renseignement recueilli par les agences et polices d’Europe.

      https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/monde/europe/a-palerme-un-jury-reconnait-une-erreur-d-identite-sur-le-boss-des-passeurs_

  • Syrian Refugee Children Appeal for Education

    As the United Nations pushes for more commitments from world leaders to resettle, aid and educate refugees, Syrian children in Turkey describe their dreams of going back to school.


    https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2016/09/21/syrian-refugee-children-appeal-for-education
    #éducation #école #réfugiés_syriens #Turquie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #travail #enfants #mineurs

  • Private ships play big role in Europe’s migrant crisis

    Two years ago, a small, privately-run ship set out to lend a hand to military operations in the Mediterranean rescuing migrants on boats near capsizing off Libya.

    http://www.thelocal.it/20160806/small-aid-ships-play-big-role-in-europes-migrant-crisis
    #privatisation #asile #migrations #secours #naufrages #mer #Méditerranée #mourir_en_mer #réfugiés #sauvetages #MOAS #SOS_Méditerranée #ONG #sauvetage