October 16, 2014
Choucha Refugee Camp, Southern Tunisia
The UNHCR Choucha Refugee Camp opened in 2011, seven kilometres away from the Ras Ajdir border crossing, to help the thousands of people fleeing the conflict in Libya. Most of the those who fled in 2011, returned home, but some 4,000 could not go back for fear of persecution. These individuals were granted refugee status by the UNHCR. Tunisia did not – and still does not – consider applicants for refugee status. According to UNHCR, most of the refugees from Choucha have already been taken by the United States (1,717) and Norway (485). The EU has been fairly strict on resettlement; Germany took the most refugees at 201, Britain took three, Italy two and France one. However, some still remain as they have nowhere else to go.
The Choucha camp was officially closed in June 2013, but approximately one hundred refugees still remain there. They insisted on remaining in the camp after it was closed despite the fact that all UNHCR food, water, and medical services were cut-off on June 30. 260 of the camp’s inhabitants, categorized as “rejected asylum seekers,” now find themselves in a dire situation. Falling outside of the UNHCR’s mandate, they are not entitled to the integration services that the organization offers to refugees and asylum seekers. The last time that the rejected asylum seekers here received food distribution aid was in October 2012. One of them is Bright O Samson, who is fighting against eviction from the camp, and is demanding resettlement to a safe third country with effective system of asylum seeker protection. Ismail is from Sudan and he fled to Libya in 2003 due to the war in his country. There, he found peace and a job as a mechanic, but the 2011 uprising forced him to leave again and cross the border into Tunisia. With no official structure supporting them, Ismail and other refugees from Chad, Ghana, Sudan, Liberia, and many other African countries, say they feel like they've been totally abandoned.
Full 30 minute video available: http://www.transterramedia.com/media/49074
- Choucha camp, near Ras Ajdir crossing point, Tunisia - 15 October 2014 1 Wide of signs detailing refugee demands 2 Camera movement from a sign to UNHCR banner on the ground 3 Wide of "Choucha Bar", the main tent near to the street where refugees stay together during the day 4-5 Interiors of tent, where refugees watch the tv 6 Close up of Usman Bangura, refugee from Sierra Leone (soundbite) 7 Head and shoulders of Kadri Salefu, refugee from Ghana (soundbite) 8 Close up of Kadri Salefu, refugee from Ghana (soundbite) 9-10 Head and shoulders of Bright O Samson, refugee from Nigeria and leader of the group 11 Camera movement from back side of the tent to tv antenna 12 Interior of tent, where refugees watch the tv. A man arrives, tells something at the ear of another and disappears 13 Wide from the inside of the tent, the door through we see the man on the street 14-15 The same man trying to approach the cars to give him some water and food 16-17 A refugee sitting on a chair, watching the man approaching cars 18 Long shot of the same man still approaching the cars 19 Mid of group of refugees 20 Mid shot of man trying to approach the cars 21 Mid of two refugees joking around 22 Wide of the man who was approaching cars that runs for a car which stop 23 The same man returning to the tent with a bottle of water to drink 24 Wide of back side of the tent 25 Close up of 4 dog puppies
Usman Bangura, Sierra Leone refugee: Last week we had an information, that on the 15th they want to evict the camp, so locally when we met you people and i want to confirm because this was the very first time I’m hearing and experiencing this. We are refugees and we are fighting for our rights in peace love and union together, at the end of the day the price to them is addiction, so we are asking if they want to beat us, or they want to kill us. This is a treat, so I began to ask myself: is this because we’re Africans or because we are black men?
Kadri Salefu, Ghanese refugee: It looks like a treat to us. We’ve been living in a hell here for 4 years now. I think at least our patience shall be paid by peace.
Bright O Samson, Nigerian refugee: Is it true that normally there was no plan, no program for those who are fleeing the word (escaping?) that they would be unable to go back to their country? If I can’t go back to my country, I cannot go to Libya, I cannot cross through the sea and I would not live in Tunis because of all the experiences during the 4 year in the Tunisian territory, the only options for me is impossible, that means there are no option.