“We are being stared at strangely and we are being verbally abused,” says Pastor Thaddeus Ejiofor Eze as mood changes in town against Africans
The Nigerian asylum-seeker suspected of killing Soopika P., a refugee aid worker, in the western German town of Ahaus on 11 February has agreed to be swiftly extradited to Germany from Switzerland.
According to Martin Botzenhardt, chief public prosecutor of Münster, who is responsible for Ahaus, the 27-year-old African, who was arrested in the Swiss city of Basel on 14 February, renounced his right to an appeal against his extradition to Germany.
Mr Botzenhardt emphasised that the fact that the Nigerian has been named a suspect in the crime does not mean that he is guilty of it. “So far, it is only clear that the man who has been arrested in Basel is the man that is being sought in this case,” he explained.
Meanwhile, more facts have emerged about the case.
Fear, anger and grief among African refugees
Thaddeus Ejiofor Eze is chaplain in the parish of St. Mary’s Ascension in Ahaus.
He is from Nigeria. Since Soopika P. was killed and a Nigerian is considered a suspect, the clergy feels that the mood in the town has changed.
“We are being stared at strangely and we are being verbally abused,” says Pastor Eze in an interview with the online newspaper “RuhrNachrichten”.
That is not only the experience of other Africans in the town but his own experience as well.
“There is a lot of everyday racism and a general suspicion against all who look different,” he says.
There is fear, anger and grief also among the refugees living in Ahaus over the terrible incident, he revealed.
They are afraid of generalization and general suspicion and are grieved and angry over the terrible event.”They simply fear that they will be thrown together with the suspect,” says Pastor Eze, who knew both victim and suspect personally.
He describes the murder suspect as a seemingly calm, balanced person.
The Nigerian had been living in Ahaus for about two years and regularly took part in the activities organised by the refugee aid in the town including football matches. “You did not notice anything like that about him; one could not imagine something like that,” says the clergyman who has been working in the church for four and a half years.
Pastor Eze is aware of the fact that the suspect and the victim had known each other for some time and that there was a quarrel among them. And they then avoided each other afterwards. “The police are now investigating,” says Pastor Eze, reluctant to say more on the relationship between the two persons.
“I understand the fear, the grief and the rage – and I can imagine how bad it must be for the victim’s family,” he added.
Refugee aid workers afraid
Meanwhile, the tragic incident has affected refugee aid activities in Ahaus because the victim was a volunteer and the suspected perpetrator an asylum-seeker. Among the many volunteers for refugees in the town, there is currently a great uncertainty about how to deal with the situation, reports “RuhrNachrichten”. “Some are afraid, others would like to withdraw.”
Swiss police arrested the Nigerian man on 14 February in Basel. He had been identified as a prime suspect in the murder of the Soopika P. in the early hours of Saturday 11 February.
A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Münster said witnesses had heard cries for help and saw a person who had bent over the woman lying on the ground.
“The extensive investigations of the murder commission” singled out the Nigerian as a prime suspect, said the prosecutors. “There is a suspicion that the 27-year-old has been in contact with the young woman in recent weeks. The evidence suggests that the accused could be responsible for the killing of the young woman.”
A Europe-wide arrest warrant was therefore issued by the police which subsequently led to the arrest of the Nigerian in the Swiss city.
Meanwhile, Soopika P. was laid to rest last week at an event attended by about two hundred local residents. She was described by friends as a gentle person who loved to help people.