After a long, dangerous and expensive trip, asylum seekers bump into the last border: legal requirements. The European Refugees Commitment – through which the European States assumed the obligation of taking a different share of people from Italy and Greece and third countries – held a strict condition that has excluded thousands of people from the possibility to stay in Europe and save their life.
On the 26th of September, the European Union´s commitment to relocate and resettle at least 180.000 asylum seekers in a period of two years failed. Roughly one out of four people (25%) has been accepted by the European refugee reception program.
Besides, this agreement hides behind another dramatic story.
“From the beginning, the relocation applications have been limited to nationalities with an EU-average recognition rate for international protection of 75% or more by the agreement”
Explains the president of CEAR (the Spanish Commission of Refugees assistance), Estrella Galán.
“This has led in practice to leave out a large number of refugees that have been excluded from the agreements”, she states.
Due to this fact, only refugees from Syria, Yemen and Eritrea have been able to benefit from this program.
“This measure – in addition to its discriminatory nature and contrary to the Geneva Convention, as well – has excluded thousands of people from the process who do not meet the requirement and come from countries where serious conflicts take place”, Galán adds.
In fact, according to the International Organization for Migration, so far this year, 102.942 people have arrived at the Italian´s coast, with most of them coming from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mali.
“This condition does not mean that their application for international protection will be rejected automatically. Nevertheless, they have to prove that their native countries are suffering from a situation of widespread violence, in which they risk their lives. However, a lot of people are deported due to lack of evidence.”,
Says Daniel Rivas Pacheco who is currently the press coordinator of the NGO MayDayTerraneo and has been working on the Greek island (Quíos) for the past year.
“Even when immigrants do have such proofs, they tend to lose these pieces of evidence or get them wet during their journey. Therefore, the proofs become useless”, he says.
The latest most dramatic case that has been denounced is the Afghanistan asylum seekers. According to figures from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 11.418 people died or were injured in 2016.
In spite of this data, Amnesty International has reported that, between 2015 and 2016, the number of people returned by European countries to Afghanistan nearly tripled, from 3,290 to 9,460.
“This requirement was a measure taken by European leaders who thought that it would discourage the arrival of immigrants. But, people are fleeing from situations of war and poverty, which is much more tragic than European legislation portrays”, claims Rivas Pacheco.
He has witnessed how different nationalities feel that they are being treated like a second-class people.
“They feel like they have the same right to receive international protection. And indeed, they do”.
Hence, while 130.000 of 65.000 Syrian`s applications had not been yet approved by the end of 2016, about 240.000 of 310.000 Afghan`s applications were waiting for first-time or final decisions on appeals
Although the two-year period has finished, the commitment is still effective. Galán aks the European institution to stop building a wall of excuses and lies.
“They cannot back down with the commitment of promising people who have been forced to flee their homes and find their last hope in Europe”.
- Photography Massimo Sestini source CEAR.