By Rahim Hamid and Gill Gillespie
According to Iranian refugee network sources, a number of Iranian refugees living in Rottenberg camp have gone on hunger strike in protest of the lack of attention to their situation, in particular the need for better conditions in the camp as well as faster processing of their cases in Germany.
In addition, the refugees are protesting about ‘selective asylum law enforcement’ in the camp, which is located in the state of Hessen.
The refugees desperately want the authorities to expedite their resettlement procedures which they argue has been conducted in an arbitrary way, for example selecting almost at random other groups of refugees for permanent resettlement and housing outside the camp, while leaving others there and delaying their asylum applications.
Mehdi Ramazanadeh, a civil rights activist and journalist, who has also joined the hunger strike says according to German federal asylum law, asylum seekers must spend no more than three months into temporary, make-shift refugee camps, before being transferred to a permanent camp. Here they should have temporary residence and the chance to take part in language learning classes.
The German parliament, however, has recently passed legislation which will increase the minimum period that asylum seekers can stay in temporary camps such as Rottenburg, to up to twelve months.
Ramazanadeh adds: “We have been told that you will be dealt with according to the law however, most of those refugees who were at the same time arrived with us in the camp were transferred out in less than 10 days and this is apart from those refugees who came from Syria.”
Another refugee from the camp reports: “I went to the head office of the camp, I wanted him to pursue our case, but as in previous times I have received no clear answer. I told him to allow us to go so that we can arrange our asylum application and pursue it directly, but it was rejected. I told him that we will go on hunger strike and in response, the head office said with indifference, go and do whatever you want to do, it does not matter!”
Delays in processing cases of asylum seeking refugees has also led to the tragic suicide of an Iranian refugee by the name of Mohammad Rahspar in the refugee camp of Wurzburg, Bavaria.
The Rottenburg is generally considered to be a dangerous place for asylum seekers and there have been several allegedly xenophobic attacks on it in recent months, including a fire on 5 September 2015 which investigators reported could have been arson. German television news service Tagesschau reported that two inmates of the camp were treated for inhaling smoke, while three residents were hospitalised after they jumped out of a high-window to escape.
There were 84 refugees in the camp when the fire broke out. According to German daily FAZ, 56 refugee containers were destroyed in the inferno, with now only half now inhabitable.
The local authorities are also investigating the fire incident as an arson attack that could be fuelled by a xenophobic motive. In recent months, Germany has seen a high influx of asylum seekers, which was followed by a wave of attacks on refugees’ accommodations.
A smoke bomb was thrown into the courtyard of a house meant for housing 50 asylum seekers in Neckargemünd on 5 September, also in southwestern Germany, according to Deutsche Welle.
Iranian Refuges Action Network urges the Germany authorities to investigate, as a matter of urgency, the cases of Iranian asylum seekers at Rottenburg, and expedite their ability to move to a permanent camp for onward resettlement.