Life in Tunisia’s closed refugee camp: ‘I lost my mind’

Choucha camp, Tunisia – Clad in a long, white robe, Ali Ahmed Ali gazes into the separation from his exhausted tent. A companion, additionally from Chad, sits quietly close to him.

“Everybody is drained here,” Ali, 27, discloses to Al Jazeera in a soft tone. “We don’t have anything to discuss any more. We are simply pausing.”

These men have been living in Choucha camp, in a desolate piece of desert in southern Tunisia, since its establishment by the United Nations displaced person organization (UNHCR) in mid 2011. Ali has been on the run for quite a long time: He escaped his town in Chad’s line area close to Darfur, Sudan, in 2005 after it went under assault from equipped posses. He lived in Libya for quite a long time, bringing in cash by cleaning government structures, yet had to escape again as savagery broke out during Libya’s 2011 uprising – and from that point, he crossed the line into Choucha camp.

However, in June 2013, in the wake of migrating a few thousand evacuees from Choucha to western, not really set in stone that its central goal was finished and shut the camp, eliminating the latrines, showers, power and running water.

Peruse MORE: Refugees abandoned in Tunisia’s desert

Around 700 individuals – whose exile claims were denied yet who accepted their lives would be at serious risk on the off chance that they got back – stayed in the camp, a number that his since dwindled to around 60.

“During Ramadan, I flew off the handle,” Ali says, with a sack containing medications to treat wretchedness, uneasiness and schizophrenia spread out before him. “They say I left into the desert and consumed myself, however I can’t recall … Since I became sick, I’ve quite recently asked for food from the Libyans passing by out and about. In any case, these days there is little work.”

Snakes and cockroaches swarm under our beds. It is unfeeling here.


The Chadians with whom he shares his tent have gone to the closest city of Ben Gardane, 20km away, to get easygoing work at whatever point they can, developing houses or stacking trucks. Installment is around $10 per day.

The most established and just Egyptian man in the camp, 68-year-old Ali, sits a little further away in a little nursery around the tent, produced using a couple of desert plants, stones and plastic jugs. He says he was tormented in Libya prior to coming here, blamed for “bringing the upset from Egypt”. He says he has attempted to end it all twice.

“Snakes and cockroaches swarm under our beds. It is unfeeling here,” he discloses to Al Jazeera.

Chamseddine Marzoug, an angler and volunteer for the Red Crescent from the close by city of Zarzis, goes to the camp every month on his own drive to bring medications and to drive debilitated individuals to the emergency clinic. He recognizes that the displaced people’s psychological wellness is declining.

“Numerous men in Choucha are damaged and discouraged,” Marzoug says.

Oliver Tringham, a British exile advocate associated with AMERA International who has been helping displaced people in the camp since it opened, says plainly they need assistance.

“I think by far most of the Chouchans have been experiencing PTSD [post-horrible pressure disorder], which has showed in their actual prosperity,” Tringham discloses to Al Jazeera.

Parker, a 36-year-old exile who declined to give his last name, and Mamadou Sylla, 28 – both from the Ivory Coast – sit before perhaps the most very much fabricated tents, which they tongue in cheek call the “White House”. Parker labored for a year as a welder in Tunis, however as of late chose to get back to Choucha, in light of the fact that he never got the greater part of his guaranteed pay of $272 per month.

After the conclusion of Choucha, the Tunisian government declared that individuals who stayed in the camp could get residency licenses.

“A couple hundred needed to remain here and applied for residency, however never got it,” Tringham says.

Moez Ben Dhia, a previous counsel to Tunisia’s pastor of get-togethers, reveals to Al Jazeera that large numbers of the exiles didn’t meet the legitimate prerequisites –, for example, holding the essential recognizable proof papers – for acquiring residency grants. Plans were made to revise that law, he said, yet that never happened attributable to the political tumult in Tunisia.

Also, Ben Dhia said, large numbers of the individuals who stayed in the camp dismissed remaining in Tunisia, rather communicating a longing to head out to Western nations. Others declined to give fingerprints out of dread that they could be sent back home, he said.



need to confront reality. They can return home on the off chance that they wish, or apply for a residency license like some other foreigner.”]

“The camp doesn’t exist for us any more,” Hilmi Tlili, a current authority with the Ministry of Social Affairs, discloses to Al Jazeera inside his Tunis office. “It has been shut for over three years. It isn’t our obligation any more.”

Parker and Sylla say they’re not sure why they were not given refuge by UNHCR, communicating trust that the organization will return their case documents. Sylla says that rebel contenders in the Ivory Coast killed his mom, who was against them, however “UNHCR didn’t accept my story. The meeting went quick. I didn’t get the opportunity to clarify my circumstance well.”

Tringham keeps up with that there were clear lacks, including interpretation issues, in the evacuee assurance strategy at Choucha, a position dismissed by the office.

“Errors are not liable to occur,” Felicitas Nebril, UNHCR’s appointee delegate in Tunis, reveals to Al Jazeera. “The refuge application is a cycle, not only one meeting and one questioner. There are other meeting officials and interpreters, just as bids methodology that have occurred … [Those still in Choucha] need to confront reality. They can return home on the off chance that they wish, or apply for a residency license like some other outsider.”

The Tunis-based Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, a NGO that was against the conclusion of the camp, has requested that UNHCR return the excess cases.

“The way that they are still in that horrendous spot demonstrates it is risky for them to get back to their nations,” Romdhan Ben Amor, a representative for the gathering, discloses to Al Jazeera. “No one thinks often about them. The camp has caused the public authority and the global associations a genuine cerebral pain.”

Specialist Mongi Slim of the Red Crescent in Zarzis, nonetheless, says that the displaced people at Choucha can “go to our safe houses in Zarzis or Medenine and get food and clinical consideration, however they like to remain in the camp to show the media they are casualties”. He adds that the public authority should get out the camp and move the inhabitants somewhere else for compassionate and security reasons.

Back in the camp, a considerable lot of the tents have been deserted or imploded into stores in the midst of the merciless breezes.

“The vast majority went to Italy in little boats,” Ali Ahmed Ali says, noticing that he in some cases gets messages from companions in France or Sweden. Others have essentially vanished: “Maybe they suffocated, or kicked the bucket in the desert in Algeria.”

Benedict Joseph, a 33-year-old displaced person from Liberia, passes by Ali’s tent headed to the thruway, trusting that a Libyan man, who regularly drops off rolls in the early evening, will come today also. He normally eats just one time each day.

“We actually have trust that we can go to a Western country,” he says, grinning. “By what other method would we be able to remain alive? Here, you figure out how to show restraint.”

Leave a Reply