More than 300 Sudanese asylum seekers have been arrested by police on charges of burning their UN camp near the northern Niger town of Agadez, the Agadez prosecutor said on Monday.
« 335 asylum seekers identified for having participated in the fire (from their camp) were arrested and made available to the police » on Saturday, said on public television Seyni Saidou, prosecutor of the High Court of Agadez.
City official said « incidents » broke out on Saturday after hundreds of Sudanese asylum seekers were dislodged by security forces from the premises of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where they had started a sit-in since December 16, demanding the acceleration of the processing of their applications for refugee status and their routing to Europe.
« When they were brought back to their site in buses, they first set fire to the camp » before attacking « members of the security forces » who escorted them, the official said.
According to a report by local authorities, of the camp’s « 331 homes », « 290 homes and the hospital wing have been reduced to ashes ». At least two people were injured by the demonstrators who “broke bus windows”.
Those arrested “are being prosecuted for serious breaches of criminal law” including “the unarmed assembly on the public highway, the rebellion by deliberate destruction of movable and immovable property and the arson of places used as accommodation”, noted the prosecutor.
Some 1,400 Sudanese who have fled insecurity and slavery in Libya since 2017 live in this camp some 10 km from the city of Agadez. Since 2018, these Sudanese have demonstrated regularly in Niamey and Agadez to demand an acceleration of their settlement in host countries, especially in Europe.
Hundreds of refugees, particularly Ethiopians and Eritreans living in Niamey, have been resettled in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland. « The files of the Sudanese in Agadez are being dealt with expeditiously, » the Nigerien interior minister told AFP in December.