Guantanamo of the East: Ukraine Locks Up Refugees at EU’s Behest

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Maximillian Popp, Feb 17, 2015:  (Photo Gallery).

Brussels is doing all it can to prevent refugees from reaching Fortress Europe, with initiatives like funding the construction of interment centers in Ukraine. Asylum seekers who have spent time there report miserable conditions and abuse.  

Hasan Hirsi has been learning German for the last year and a half, and recently even enrolled in a class that meets for five hours a day, from 1 to 6 p.m. Nevertheless, he still has no words to describe what happened to him before his arrival in Germany.

Hirsi, a 21-year-old refugee from Somalia, is huddled on a worn sofa in an apartment in Landau, a small town in southwestern Germany, which he shares with three other Somalian asylum-seekers. He is wearing a gray hoodie and has short, black hair. A retiree from Landau who has volunteered to assist the refugees is sitting next to him. He wants to help Hirsi adjust to his new life in Europe.

But Hirsi is finding it difficult to forget the past. Indeed, he still has nightmares about Ukraine, a place where he became stranded for a lengthy stay on his way to Europe. He now refers to the country as “hell.” Staring at the floor, Hirsi says: “It is difficult.” He repeats the same word, “difficult,” in different languages.

After fleeing from Somalia in the summer of 2008, Hirsi tried several times to reach Europe through Ukraine. He was detained once each by Ukrainian and Hungarian border patrols, and twice by police in Slovakia. Ukrainian security forces robbed, beat and tortured him, he says. After being apprehended, he spent almost three years in four different Ukrainian prisons – for committing no crime other than seeking shelter and protection in Europe. Most migrants reach Europe through Italy or Greece and many of them die on the way. A broad coalition, ranging from Pope Francis to German President Joachim Gauck, is demanding better protection for refugees on Europe’s southern border and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, describes the route across the Mediterranean as the world’s deadliest. But when it comes to the eastern route, and the fate of migrants like Hasan Hirsi, interest has thus far been limited.

SPIEGEL and “Report Mainz,” a program on Germany’s ARD public television network, have now taken a closer look at the stories of refugees who were locked up in Ukrainian prisons for months during their journeys to Europe.

Internment of Undocumented Migrants: … //

… Arduous Mountain Route: … //
… Kicked Me in the Neck: … //
… Refusing to Treat the Refugees: … //

… Working as a Mechanic:

Officially, politicians in Brussels and Kiev don’t refer to camps like Zhuravychi as prisons, but as “accommodations.” Nevertheless, they are internment camps that the refugees are not permitted to leave.

The inmates in Zhuravychi live behind barbed wire and concrete walls, and men in military garb guard the premises. Some of the prisoners, like Hasan Hirsi, fled the wars in Somalia and Afghanistan. Their arrest serves “no legitimate purposes” and constitutes a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UNHCR says critically.

In 2011, the EU declared that it intended to secure humanitarian standards for refugees by providing funding for the detention facilities. The European Commission had not commented on the current accusations by the editorial deadline.

During the hunger strike, Hirsi ate almost nothing for six weeks. Ultimately, though, he was violently forced to eat, as were the other inmates. When he was released eight months later, he made his way to the border city of Uzhgorod once again. In 2013, he successfully fled to Germany through Slovakia. It was his fifth try, five years after he had left Mogadishu.

The young Somali now plans to finish his schooling in Landau and eventually find work as a mechanic. Hirsi folds his hands. Looking teary-eyed, he says that he has one other wish: That his friend Ali Jaga may one day escape from Ukraine, just as he did.

(full text).

Asylum Related Links:

  • Asylum and Migration: Related articles, background features and opinions about this topic, special page on Spiegel Online International (some in german);
  • Halten und Beschützen: Versteck dich, wenn du kannst, im, von Antonia Bauer, 6. März 2014: Riskanter Alltag: Maricella, 33, aus Honduras lebt mit ihrer Tochter ohne Papiere in Deutschland. Ihr geht es um das Kindeswoh … // … eine plötzliche Passkontrolle, ein Fahrradunfall, bei dem die Polizei gerufen wird – und die beiden würden womöglich abgeschoben. Vielleicht sind es 100′000 Menschen, die wie Maricella und ihre Tochter ohne Papiere in Deutschland leben, vielleicht aber auch eine halbe Million; so stark schwanken die Schätzungen. Wahrscheinlich sind darunter Zehntausende Kinder. Zählen kann sie niemand. Sie wollen um keinen Preis auffallen …;

Other Links:

TransPacific Partnership: Fast Track to Financial Instability, on naked capitalism, by Yves Smith, Feb 18, 2015;

Demonstrating their determination in Greece, on Socialist, by Sarah Levy, Feb 18, 2015: Sarah Levy reports from Athens as the showdown between Greece’s new left-wing government and the rulers of Europe reaches a critical new level;

Hard Talk: Syriza’s First Weeks in Power in Greece, on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 1082, by Sakis Gekas, Feb 18, 2015;
(The Bullet’s Archive);

Rape as a Weapon of War, Made in the USA? on Global, by Felicity Arbuthnot, Feb 18, 2015;

CIA Looking Into Weather Modification As A Form of Warfare, on Washington’s Blog, by blog owner, Feb 18, 2015: The U.S. – and Presumably Russia – Have Researched Weather Modification As Warfare For Many Decades;

Libyan Chaos and the Un-Islamic State, uploaded on YouTube by TheRealNews, Feb 16, 2015: Part 1/2, 6.32 min, Part 2/2, (maybe to come); Vijay Prashad says it is the NATO bombing of 2011 that destroyed the Libyan state and created the conditions for the IS to thrive (also on The Real News Network’s website);

Video: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime, 15.58 min, on TED , by Nadine Burke Harris, Feb 2015;

… and this:

uploaded on YouTube by AQUA Geo Graphic:

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