Issues and Articles
Refugees at Ramadan – Muslims crossing the borders
“We break our fast at 9 at night, with the food given to us at 12 midday.”
Ramadan may be a time of reflection for most Muslims, but for refugees in a camp 200 miles outside of Frankfurt in Germany, keeping the fast means running the risk of eating cold, unhygienic and possible non-halal food.
That is the plight of over 300 Muslim refugees who fled from Calais in France and made the journey to Germany after a camp holding over 1,000 would-be refugees waiting to travel to England was violently dismantled by the French authorities.
The official reason given was that the evictions were needed to deal with an outbreak of scabies in the camp. However, aid workers claim that the provision of showers and washing facilities would have easily eradicated the problem.
A Sudanese refugee, who preferred not to be named, but we shall call him Ahmed told the Muslim Association of Britain that the conditions were ‘really awful’. He said, “the stench was almost unbearable and men, women and some children were unable to find somewhere to preform basic hygiene.” The numbers in the camps has swollen in recent months with refugees mainly from Ethiopia, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan waiting for an opportunity to illegally cross the Channel into the UK.
Ahmed told us that most of the refugees had made the hazardous journey from Libya to Italy in overcrowded boats under the cover of darkness and that he was lucky to have successfully made the crossing. “There were more than 300 people on board, the boat before us broke down and the one after us capsized, but I understand that the people managed to return to shore.”
Crossing the Mediterranean is ‘big business’ with most of the passengers paying up to US$500 to make the journey. Ahmed said he met up to 100 Sudanese refugees mostly from the war-torn West region of Sudan, Darfur. They made the journey through Europe and ended up in Calais only to be on the receiving end of the decision to close the camps. Ahmed said, “There was no way for us to stay in Calais, we made the decision to come to Germany where we have now claimed asylum.”
Ahmed went on, “I have no idea whether our application for asylum will be accepted, most people say that it can take as long time for the German authorities to process the application, but in the meantime, we live in a camp with about 300-400 people and are given effectively one tiny meal for breakfast and some food at about 12 midday.”
Ahmed admitted that he had no idea whether the meal contained pork or not or whether any of it was halal, but he confessed he had no choice to eat it as he was short of funds and could not afford the journey to ride into Frankfurt or to buy any additional food. Despite the difficulties, Ahmed has managed to keep the Ramadan fast, “We break our fast at 9 at night, with the food given to us at 12 midday,” he said. “We eat it cold. It isn’t very appetizing but we have no other choice.”
Ahmed who is 22 said he was hoping to begin a new life in Germany although he would have preferred to get to the UK. He talked about finding a job and getting married perhaps to a German citizen. He recounted the difficulties and hardships he had suffered along the way but hoped this would be the last Ramadan he would have to spend under these harsh conditions.
Massive Show of Support for GAZA
Demonstrators have held one of the biggest protests ever staged in London in support of Palestine and in condemnation of the Israeli military aggression against Gaza.
Some estimates put the crowd close to 100,000 people and in an unprecedented show of solidarity, speakers from different organisations appealed for the immediate end to the hostilities.
The demonstrators began the march outside 10 Downing Street and proceeded on to the Israeli Embassy. Kensington High Street was completely closed off in order to accommodate the huge numbers of people.
The crowds expressed anger and dismay at the aggression against the Palestinian people, which has lasted almost two weeks and has resulted in the deaths of over 350 Palestinians, most of which have been women and children.
The violence has led to an international outcry condemning the deliberate targeting of civilians and there have been harsh criticisms of Israeli bombing of hospitals - a clear violation of international law.
The march was staged by a number of organisations including the Muslim Association of Britain, Stop the War Coalition, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and others.
MAB president, Dr. Omer El Hamdoon expressed his delight at the massive turn out of support, "This has been an historic occasion. What we have witnessed is that categorical rejection of the British people of the aggression against the citizens of Gaza."
He continued, "There can be absolutely no justification for the killing of innocent women and children or for the targeting of civilians or for the devastation to the lives and property of the Palestinians. It is abundantly clear that the British government and the international community must act swiftly to put an end to this violence and the end the causes of this aggression so it never happens again."
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