My name is (name supplied), I’m a refugee from Palestine seeking asylum from persecution in my country. I was detained in the Pawschino Camp in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine.
On behalf of my fellows, I’d like to share with you my experience and circumstances in the camp.
After a long journey of eight days at sea, living in hunger and thirst and being affected by sickness, we (me and others “refugees on the same boat”) eventually arrived to Ukraine. My boat landed on shore at Port Odessa and at night we were taken away by a car. We got to Kiev in nine hours and two days later we crossed the Slovakian border. After 12 hours walking into Slovakia we were detained by the Slovakian police and although we asked for asylum in Slovakia, we were returned to Ukraine on the same night.
When we got to Ukraine, we were taken to Pawschino. There we were striped naked of our clothes and the border guards took all our money, mobiles, personal stuff, what have you The border guards do not return any of the stuff back to the refugees, but it can be later bought back from them for money. Then we were thrown into a crowded building where there was no place to sleep. I myself had to sleep on the very dirty floor like many others in that miserable place, in Pawschino.
Conditions in Pawschino are inhuman. There is no clean drinking water and we have to drink from a rusty pipe that brings water to the heating system of the border guard building. (Caritas, an Austrian organization provides 200 liters of clean drinking water a week for more than 500 refugees.) The toilets are flooded all the time, since there is no water in the toilets.The food is full of dust and most of the time we couldn’t wash our dishes because the water from the heating system of the border guards building was not running. I’ve seen many fights between inmates in Pawschino because of the water. We can see when a car is bringing a 200 liter tank of drinking water and as soon as we hear it coming in the camp, everyone grabs a bottle or whatever they can find and starts running and getting ready to fight for every drop of water. The tank has two taps that everyone fights over. Usually, the soldiers are just standing aside watching and taking photos of the fights on their mobile phones.
Whoever is sick in Pawschino cannot even get access to proper medical aid. The answer from the border guard’s nurse, who is not always present in the camp, is that they don’t have any medicine except “Panadol” or “Paracetamol”, which is provided by Caritas. A Caritas doctor visits the camp once a month and brings with him this Panadol or Paracetamol. But if without even these simple painkillers for the rest of the month.
When I was in the camp, a couple of people were very ill and we asked the border guard’s nurse to check them out. But he said that he is not a doctor and can’t advise us on anything. He said we would have to wait for the big Caritas doctor. But these two guys were very ill, so we asked if they could be moved to a hospital. The nurse then told us that he wanted some money to send a text message to the hospital nearby so that they could send an ambulance. Some days later, the two guys were moved to the hospital, but one of them died there. I guess it was too late for him. But I hear he wasn’t the only one who died in a hospital after getting sick in Pawschino.
For legal aid, you get a visit from a lawyer who gives you a form to fill out in your native language. The lawyer takes the form and hands it to the border guard’s chief office in the camp and within 4 to 6 months, the immigration office prepares an interview for you if you asked for asylum in that form. There are no translators provided for this interview that has to be conducted in your native language and so you have to pay for your own translator. I paid $400, but I saw others pay up to $1000 for a private translator, depending on the language. In the process, neither the lawyers nor the translators explain our status according to the Ukrainian laws and that leaves us with a combination of isolation and uncertainty, all we know about laws is what we learn from older inmates and its all speculations, you hear many different advices from different inmates about what is going to happen to you, we ask the lawyers but as I said they give you nothing, the private translators refuse to talk to you unless you pay, and when you pay them they tell you not to concern yourself about anything and that they will handle everything, you paid didn’t you, so you’ll get your «freedom»…
Having been detained in this camp for almost 5 months myself, I was always in fear of being deported. I also strongly felt that there would be no agencies or organizations working there to support or help us in case we were jailed or harassed.
My mind and heart were always pre-occupied with the fear of persecution, day and night. This was how I had felt in my homeland and it was actually why I left my country and sought asylum in
the first place.
I see that many inmates even after leaving Pawschino feel broken by the experience and what they had to go through. Some feel ashamed of the whole thing. I believe that it is because we were treated like criminals.
I believe that in sharing my experiences will shade a light on what is going inside Pawschino that may help Human rights Advocates in the fight against such cruel treatment of people who their “crime” is that of seeking asylum…
Thank you very much for your time reading through this letter.
My best wishes to you all.