by Nyima Jadama
Gambian Refugees residing in Donauwörth in the Bayerische region (Munich) in Germany were unexpectedly raided, assaulted, arrested and detained last week.
The unfriendly police action which was described by eyewitnesses as a massive intimidation attempt to the over 300 young asylum seekers from the tiny West African nation (The Gambia), is viewed by many as a betrayal from the government of The Gambia, thus prompting such a hostile action towards its refugees.
The clash between the refugees and the German police occured from 3pm on Tuesday until late in the evening. According to eyewitnesses there were over 200 police officers (all riot police with helmets, truncheons, tear gas and dogs in the settlements of the inhabitants of two houses of the area, where almost 300 Gambians live.
Some refugees from the Gambia were locked in their rooms by the police. The police then searched rooms with dogs while identifying some asylum seekers whose cases were rejected in Germany, and most of whom had a 'duldung' (red mark) on their passports.
Almost 30 Gambians were arrested, detained but some were later released and resettled in various asylum accommodation camps. The remaining people were kept at the detention centre, whilst others were kept under police custody awaiting deportation to Italy or to The Gambia, depending on their individual cases.
One of the residents in Donauwört camp (name withheld), explained to this reporter how the whole incident happened.
"The action is an intimidation attempt, it came as a result of an attempt to deport one of our brothers to Italy last (Monday) at about 3:30am. We prevented him from being taken away because it was not the right time for him to be sent to Italy according to a letter sent to him from the Foreign Office in Augsburg," he said. He added that all the residents in the campus protested against this deportation and it was later cancelled by the police.
Despite such prevention by the refugees, this does not stop the police, they instead prepared for a massive attempt the following day with a motive to detained and deport majority of the asylum seekers.
Since the inception of the Barrow’s government, more refugees from the Gambia have a constant deportation order to the Gambia or Italy under the Dublin Regulation.
Prior to this incident, Gambian asylum seekers have tried all efforts to meet and negotiate with the authorities of Donauwört city in order to be able to live in a conducive environment as other refugees but their efforts proved futile. On February 28, they received a letter indicating that most social benefits including transportation to school etc and the monthly pocket money have been reduced.
At the beginning of this month the refugees took it upon themselves to move out of the asylum camp to an unknown destination upon receiving the said letter.
"We decided to transfer to a better place, which might be better than to live without good life and peace in Donauwört," said one of the refugees. He added that in Donauwört they lack almost all the opportunities that other refugees in Germany have or are entitled to.
He explained: "Upon their arrival at the train station, we were halted by few police officers and the road was blocked for sometime before trains were allowed to depart on a normal routine."
This reporter also received reports that the Social Welfare Office has reconsidered some refugees and have asked them to re-apply for their social benefits fews days ago.
However, this development came through the intervention of the Social Court through the Refugee Council of Bayern.
The Bavarian Refugee Council also described the police action as a massive intimidation attempt on the residents of the reception center of Donauwörth.
"The intervention of the police is a lack of real sense," Stephan Dünnwald, spokesman for the Bavarian Refugee Council stressed.
He said the protest of refugees in Donauwörth came as a result of the rigid Bavarian camp policy. He said this gives them an outlook on what they should do to improve the AnKER facilities nationwide.
Speaking to the press after a visit to the Donauwört concentration camp, a day after the incident happened, the new German Interior Minister Mr. Seehofer said his office will make sure that they increase deportations of rejected asylum-seekers.
Meanwhile, a statement released by the Bayerische state police authorities after their operation in the Donauwörth camp, stated that the arrested individuals are being investigated for breach of peace, resistance to law enforcement officers, attempted dangerous assault and insults, etc.