Winners of the Roland Berger Human Dignity Award 2014/15
Dr. Katrine Camilleri
Dr. Katrine Camilleri is a Maltese lawyer and the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta. For almost 20 years now, she has advocated for the rights of boat people who come to Malta as refugees, visiting them in Maltese detention centers and advising them on legal and administrative matters until their status is determined.
Dr. Camilleri has headed the Malta office of the international Jesuit Refugee Service since August 2011. In 2002, the organization was the first to offer regular legal assistance to refugees in Malta's detention centers. Since then, Dr. Camilleri and her staff of 18 have supported hundreds of refugees, giving them legal advice, organizing visits, establishing social worker projects and facilitating access to healthcare.
2006 saw a series of violent attacks on Dr. Camilleri personally and on her work. A total of nine Jesuit vehicles were burned out in two assaults. In April 2006, burning material was thrown into Dr. Camilleri's car and her front door was also set alight, terrifying her family trapped inside. The attacks gave the Maltese public a wake-up call and drew fierce condemnation, including from the government.
Being an experienced expert in refugee rights, Dr. Camilleri repeatedly speaks out on political mat- ters concerning migration and refugees. She is critical of the fact that migrant destinations are increasingly attempting to stem the influx of arrivals with stricter border controls, given that, as she explains, turning people away at the border violates their right to asylum. She also criticizes the Maltese authorities' practice of placing asylum seekers in detention as soon as they arrive. Under the provisions of Malta's Aliens Act, migrants who are refused entry or placed under a deportation order are detained. They remain in detention even if they apply for asylum. The asylum procedure takes an average of 6-8 months.
Dr. Camilleri was born in Malta in 1970 and first went to work for a small law firm after graduating from law school, before joining the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1996. She has lectured in refugees' rights and coordinated a study group on the subject at the University of Malta since 2003. She was honored by the United Nations with the Nansen Refugee Award for her commitment to the rights of boat people in the Mediterranean in 2007.
Dr. Alganesc Fessaha
Dr. Alganesc Fessaha is an Eritrean-Italian human rights activist who provides humanitarian assis- tance to African refugees in North Africa, frees refugees from the clutches of human traffickers, and draws the world's attention to the plight of refugees who suffer terrible maltreatment at the hands of people smugglers in Egypt's Sinai desert and in Libya.
Freeing African refugees kidnapped by human traffickers while fleeing their homelands is Dr. Alganesc Fessaha's chief objective. She travels regularly to Sinai (Egypt) and Libya, where, at great personal risk and with the help of local power brokers, she tracks down kidnap victims, gets them released from torture chambers without paying a ransom, and hands them over to the UNHCR or other refugee organizations. In the past five years, Dr. Fessaha has managed to free 550 refugees from the hands of traffickers and 2,300 from prisons in the Sinai.
Human rights organizations estimate that between 25,000 and 30,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa have been kidnapped and taken to the Sinai peninsula since August 2009. Almost half of the victims are women and children, who are then held in so-called torture camps where they are systematically and brutally abused. In the course of their torture, refugees are forced to call family members in their home countries, but also in Germany and other countries around the world. The tor- turers' goal is to blackmail up to 60,000 US dollars in ransom money out of their hostages' families. Activists estimate that at least 600 million US dollars have been handed over by these means so far. The United Nations calls human trafficking in the Sinai "one of the most unreported humanitarian crises in the world". Dr. Fessaha has been traveling the world for many years raising awareness of the plight of these people.
In a bid to render humanitarian aid to torture survivors and other refugees long term, Dr. Fessaha got together with other medics and friends to found the NGO Gandhi in 2003, which looks after refugees and orphans in 12 North African countries and establishes feeding and healthcare programs in refugee camps. The organization also assists refugees in Milan, where the NGO is based, with visits to the Italian authorities.
Dr. Fessaha was born in the Eritrean capital of Asmara in 1948. At the end of her schooling she left her homeland to study in Milan. She remained in Italy, now has Italian citizenship and lives in Milan.
Petite Flamme is a Congolese school project. It was founded in Kinshasa in 1996 and now runs 12 schools for more than 2,200 children from desperately poor families, mainly in the slums of the Congolese capital. Petite Flamme is the only school organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo where children receive study materials, school uniforms, food and all-round healthcare.
The school project was initiated by the Christian Focolare Movement under the leadership of German theologian Dr. Monika-Maria Wolf, who went on to develop Petite Flamme into a large-scale school organization in the ensuing years. At the beginning, 25 children were cared for and taught in the classrooms of a looted school building that was then standing empty. Now, more than 100 staff of Petite Flamme run schools under the two Congolese directors Dada Adeline Diambu Mbinda and Odon Makela Dhombazi Basosa at nine locations in the slums of Kinshasa and in the capital's immediate surroundings.
Petite Flamme is largely funded by donations and sponsorship. German sponsors first began to support the project in 2006 when the German armed forces took part in the EU's "EUFOR RD Congo" operation to provide security for the first democratic elections in the Congo. The German contingent of 780 soldiers was led by Rear Admiral Henning Bess, who visited Petite Flamme with his troops. Many of the soldiers were so impressed that they sponsored the first of the children straight away. Sponsors pay 20 euros a month. For that, a child gets schooling, healthcare, one high-protein hot meal a day and a school uniform. Henning Bess and his wife Jule Müller now supervise more than 320 German sponsors from their home in Potsdam.
Many of the former students report that they see their own future in the Congo – thanks to the support of Petite Flamme. They do not want to travel north as refugees, they want to use their schooling and further education to help advance their homeland of the Congo, one of the world's poorest countries. That being the case, projects like Petite Flamme are instrumental in preventing future refugee flows.