We have all heard of the refugee crisis facing Europe. More than a million refugees have crossed into Europe mainly hailing from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, escaping war and poverty. These women, men and children have risked their lives whether it be crossing the Aegean Sea by boat or hiding inside trucks in Calais for a better life; many if not thousands do not survive the journey. Unfortunately, the response from the EU has been nothing but disappointing. European countries have squabbled with each other on which country gets more refugees while some politicians have opted for outright racist remarks on refugees or specifically requesting Christian refugees instead of Muslim ones.
Although some countries such as Sweden and Germany have been committed to receiving asylum seekers, the refugee crisis in Europe in the past three years has resembled a game of pass the box but unlike the birthday party game no one wants to win the box. David Cameron has proposed that boats of refugees sailing from Libya to Europe be stopped once the dangerous journey begins in an attempt to stage an early intervention. The latest update of the crisis has been a deal between Turkey and the EU where refugees arriving in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if their asylum claim is rejected or they do not apply. One of the biggest reasons why refugees do not apply immediately for asylum in Greece is because many want to go to Germany. Due to the ‘point of first entry’ under the Dublin regulations, asylum seekers must make applications for asylum in the first EU country they enter but for some refugees this makes no sense. For instance, Mohammed from Daraa wants to join his wife and baby in Germany whereas Rola Hallak from Aleppo wants to go to Germany to join his father and sisters, both are stuck in legal limbo in Greece. One refugee speaking to the Guardian, sums up the depressingly frustrating situation by pointing to another fellow refugee, caught in the ‘Dublin trap’: “What can he do? He is 18, his family are in Sweden – but his fingerprint is in Italy.”
The obstacles for refugees do not end in legal matters only. Those who are in Europe, face racism and xenophobia along with squalid living conditions in detentions centres and camps. A UCL policy briefing on the refugee crisis states that the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner identified “significant shortcomings” in detention facilities in Bulgaria, “while both the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union have found that detention conditions in immigration centres in Greece amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment”.
To paraphrase from the UCL briefing, what is lacking in the European conversation in regards to refugees is human rights. Many a times the human face of refugees is forgotten and the discussion turns into the economic impact of migration to European countries or safeguarding European culture from refugees. Economic migrants are dismissed as opportunistic brown men coming to take European jobs even though someone leaving their country to seek work so they may feed their family and perhaps provide a better future for their children through affording an education is a legitimate reason for seeking asylum. Moreover, even when one does reach Europe “the right not to be discriminated against, the right to peace, and the right to work, among others, are rarely included in the discourse concerning migration.”
What is really important in this crisis is that politicians remind themselves these refugees are human beings escaping unspeakable violence and poverty, not a burden to be quietly shuffled outside European borders.
JAN Trust has been working with refugee women for decades and has extensive experience in such matters. We provide counselling, English and technology classes along with assistance in integration. With the growing refugee crisis, more pressure will be on such charities like JAN Trust to help refugee women adjust to life in Britain. If you would like to support us please visit: www.jantrust.org.