Lives in limbo at Ras Ajdir

RAS AJDIR – The war in Libya caused a dreadful humanitarian crisis not solely with the lives it took at the battle zone, but also with the lives it left in limbo.

Running away from Libya’s leader Moammar Ghaddafi’s bullets, they find themselves in harsh poverty and in complete dependency to foreign aid at the middle of desert of Libyan-Tunisian border Ras Ajdir.

UAE camp at Ras Ajdir

The refugees… They leave their independency behind to save their lives, to save their future and to maintain their hope with a randomly packed bad on their shoulder and on top of their head to an unknown…

Our first stop at Ras Ajdir was the camp ran by United Arab Emirates.  My photographer friend and I, we stepped in an Iraqi family’s tent who immediately offered their favourite blend of tea in a pot they’ve carried with them when they left their hope in Tripoli.

Beds, chairs, tvs and every other valuable things are the first ones left behind in pursuit of security and liberty… but the habits not… Teapot was apparently one of the first packed goods they’ve carried to this camp.

Abdulkarim Al-Rouda and his family were more than eager to tell me their stories. They were living near by the capital and have decided to leave when the bombs have reached till their street.

Iraqi family we visited at UAE camp

“Ghaddafi’s men are like barbars… Every move we’ve taken in our street was taking us one step closer to death. How could we possible stay there?”

After moving out from UAE camp, we went to see Choucha camp accommodating mostly African workers seeking refuge. There I realised the conditions at the UAE camp were way too better off then the Choucha camp ran by UNHCR and Tunisian army.

We entered into a Sudanese tent where they were playing “tawla” with plastic water lids and little pebbles laid on the sand ground. Around 9 Sudanese were sleeping in the same tent next to their stock of bread and milk that were supplementing the food they were provided with, though they said, “was never enough to feed themselves.”

Adam Sudanese refugee (26) said that ‘the main problem was waiting and the tension augmenting every other day without knowing what they’re waiting for.’

For years of having 220 USD salaries out of his construction work in Tripoli, he has found himself in this little tent playing “tawla” and surviving the starvation.

Sudanese refugees playing "tawla"

Muhammed said ‘The African immigrants were the target of Ghaddafi forces because of the way they looked.’ Ghaddafi has brought into the country tribal thugs from continents to fight against the Libyan rebels. Apparently his own forces were not able to differentiate the thugs from African immigrants and rather chose to shoot them all.

In another tent we visited, there was an Ethiopian family living with their chickens brought from home on their journey to an unknown venue. They are aiming to reach US and Europe… The shining, sparkling glory of the West has surely inspired them to take this journey.

What has surprised me there was to see the inability of UNHCR to cope with 3000 refugees in the camp which was rather a reasonable number compared to other countries where UNHCR has operated in.

Ethiopian refugees at Choucha

It was a complete chaos, and soon after we left the news coming from the camp was terrifying. The fire erupted and constant fights carried on causing the death of a number of refugees in the camp.

The profound need of an urgent serious action was no doubt in need, to an extent that cannot even be cured by a single visit of Angelina Jolie.

This article has also been published in Turkish at Radikal Daily Newspaper.

More photos from the Ras Ajdir camp can be found at my Demotix page.

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Filed under Libya, Tunisia

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