Sudanese Refugees Stage Incendiary Revolt at UN Camp in Agadez, Niger

Published January 10, 2020

Sudanese refugees set a UN camp in Agadez, Niger ablaze.

What follows is a translation of a report from Sans Attendre regarding the recent revolt carried out by Sudanese refugees at a UN camp in Agadez, Niger:

A revolt broke out in a UN camp in Agadez, Niger, on Saturday, January 4th, 2020. Almost 90% of the camp has been reduced to ashes. Refugees being held there have been protesting since mid-December for faster processing of their claims and transfer to Europe.

Nigerien police say they “identified 335 Sudanese asylum seekers” who participated in the fire in their shelter at a camp that lies approximately 15 km from Agadez, in central Niger. According to Seyni Saidou, the prosecutor of the Agadez district court speaking on Monday (January 6th) on local television, the group was “arrested and made available to the police” on Saturday (January 4th).

The arrests came after hundreds of Sudanese asylum seekers were removed from the premises of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by security forces, having staged a sit-in since December 16th to demand the acceleration of the processing of their applications for refugee status and their dispatch to Europe. All had fled poverty and slavery in Libya.

“When they were brought back to their site in buses, they first set fire to the camp” before attacking “with elements of the security forces” who escorted them, according to a municipal official quoted by AFP (Agence France-Presse). Of the camp’s “331 homes,” “290 homes and the hospital wing have been reduced to ashes,” local officials said. At least two people were injured by demonstrators who “broke bus windows.”

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Before the fire, some 1,400 migrants– mostly Sudanese people who had been fleeing insecurity and slavery in Libya since 2017– lived in this UNHCR camp. Since 2018, these refugees have demonstrated regularly in Niamey and Agadez to demand the acceleration of their resettlement procedure in host countries in Europe. In particular, they ask to be treated like the hundreds of Ethiopians and Eritreans who have passed through Niamey and who have been resettled in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland.

Questioned in December by the AFP, the Nigerian interior minister assured that “the files of the Sudanese of Agadez are being processed in a hurry.”