The situation of migrants in the Netherlands

The situation of migrants in the Netherlands

Situated in the north west of Europe, the tiny state of the Netherlands is a tough destination for migrants. Considering all the hardship and obstacles that migrants encounter on the road, I found it at times almost miraculous that people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or Eritrea reach this country at all. Arriving in the Netherlands means first of all that you did manage to leave your country, that you haven’t drowned in the Mediterranean sea, you haven’t been sent back to Turkey, you didn’t get stuck or imprisoned in one of the camps on the ‘Balkan route’, you haven’t been kidnapped, sold or enslaved by human traffickers in the African desert (or you managed to escape from them).

Once in the Netherlands, you have to make you way through the Dutch and European bureaucracy and procedures. The Dutch migration system and migration law distinguishes between regular procedures and asylum procedures. Regular migration is for example labour migration, migration for study, education or family life, if you have (core) family in the Netherlands.  If you have a well-funded fear of persecution, or there is a violent conflict in your home country, you can apply for asylum.

The Dutch asylum system is very well organized. The institutions work relative efficiently but there are also very strict criteria for being granted a refugee status. And with the high influx of migrants in 2014 and 2015 they got stricter. As an asylum seeker have access to free legal aid, interpreters, and to organizations that support you during your procedure and life in the Netherlands. The asylum procedures take between one week and six months, depending on your country of origin and your situation.  Documentation is hereby extremely important. During the procedure you will be provided by housing, healthcare and food.  Once you have a refugee status, you are entitled to housing, healthcare, work or social welfare. There are social programs and organizations that help you with your new life in the Netherlands.

Anyone who considers applying for asylum in a European country should be prepared for the so called Dublin convention.  It is called after a treaty that the European countries made in the city of Dublin, Ireland in 1990. It is supposed to be a common European framework to determine which European country is responsible for your asylum request. This system has been criticized a lot for its dysfunctionality and it is one of the many badly constructed things in the EU, but it is a reality that a lot of asylum seekers have to deal with. It says in short that the EU country responsible for you asylum request is the country where you are first fingerprinted, or the country that gives you a visa. It means, that you don’t really have a free choice in which European country you ask for asylum.  There are some exceptions to this, for example if you have dependent family members in one European state (especially when you are a minor), you can eventually be transferred to your family members.  Your fingerprints are registered in the so called Eurodac system and every European country can access this database.  When you arrive in the Netherlands and you are previously fingerprinted for example in Austria, you will be sent back to Austria where your asylum request will be processed. If you don’t want to be sent to the country where you are fingerprinted, you can appeal.

The Dublin regulation is handled more or less strict in different EU countries. In the Netherlands it is taken quite seriously, with one exception: If you were fingerprinted in Greece, you will not be sent back to Greece.  However, with the EU-Turkey deal this policy could change in the near future.

A downside of the Netherland as a migration country is that the situation for undocumented migrants is very difficult. Once your asylum procedure is rejected and eventual appeals have been unsuccessful, the Dutch government insists that you have to leave the country. If you can’t leave because you have no identification documents or don’t want to leave for other reasons, you have no legal status in the Netherlands at all. That means that you are not entitled for healthcare, housing, work or education and you are forced to live a life in the shadows.  Also are the Dutch known for the frequent and extended detention of undocumented migrants, even if this improved a little after a ruling from the European Court of Justice.

 

Why we should support Asylum Links

Life of a migrant, wherever he or she is, can be extremely challenging, complicated and exhausting. Being on the move means facing uncertainty, danger, trauma, life-threatening situations.  The ones on the move need the support of those who are settled and safe.  One way of support is passing on information in order to make well informed choices for the future. Information that sometimes can make the difference between life and death. Volunteers in and outside Europe have been inspirational in their reaction to the migrant flows in terms of offering support on numerous levels. Fortunately there are organizations like Asylum Links that just do what has to be done in the name of humanity.

I want to end with a poem that says it all, written by the Swedish author and journalist Stig Dagerman in 1953.

Flight sought us out

A bird seeks flight. We did not.
Flight sought us out. That´s why we´re here.
You who weren´t sought out – yet possess your freedom,
help us carry the heavy load of flight!

A shackle seeks a foot. We chose to go forth.
The night was merciful. Now we are here.
You are too many – might say those who are free and safe.
Can there be too many who know what freedom is?

No one seeks destitution. We did not.                                                                                                                                                        It sought us out along the way. Now we are here.
To you who weren´t sought out: We know the weight of freedom!
Help us carry the load of being free!

 

Translated by Lo Dagerman

Refugee Life Style: Waiting to be Legal – Greece, Turkey & European Union

Refugee Life Style: Waiting to be Legal – Greece, Turkey & European Union

In this motionless humankind world I write down the words that have already been written, once again.

According to UNHCR 2016 report, the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by armed conflict, generalized violence and persecution.

Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

In Greece 2018, more than 60000 refugees and migrants (mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis) are trapped, more than 15000 have been confined to the islands.

Greece’s legal system on asylum is based on the Geneva Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, and on European Union (EU) legislation on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

At present, Turkey is the highest host countries worldwide with 3.9 million registered refugees (mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis) where almost 230000 are hosted in camps.

Turkey was one of the original signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention but limits the scope of the Convention’s application to European asylum seekers.

Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection introduced changes in its asylum system setting many temporary statuses (conditional refugee status, humanitarian residence permit, or temporary protection) for those coming from outside of the Convention’s application scope.

They can be qualifying for international protection and not be subject to return to their home country but  they do not have the ability to integrate into Turkish society.

Facing the massive flux of Syrians in 2015, European Union (EU) established measures to prevent illegal entries and disorganized asylum process.

Balkans borders were closed and two relocation plans for Syrians, Iraqis, and Eritreans were set to transfer 66000 refugees from Greece to other EU members over a period of 2 years.

In order to cope Greece deficiencies in its asylum services, EU set funds and personnel needed for Frontex – European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to help and operate the asylum centers.

The stress on Greece’s obligation to stop onward movements is based on the Dublin Regulations EU rules that require the first country of entry to take responsibility for asylum applications.

The refugee crisis has also jeopardized the functioning of Schengen Area as some EU countries have re-imposed border controls and others are considering reintroducing border controls if Greece fails to control the current migratory flow.

During that first year, less than 200 asylum seekers have been transferred out of Greece under the plan and EU countries have deployed just over half the personnel to operate the centers.

On March 18, 2016, the European Union signed an agreement with Turkey to stem migration and refugee flows to Greece.

The EU-Turkey deal commits Turkey to accept the return of all asylum seekers who travelled through its land in exchange for billions of euros in aid, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, and revived negotiations for Turkish accession to the EU. The deal also provides for the resettlement of one other Syrian refugee from Turkey for each Syrian returned to Turkey under the deal.

Asylum seekers from other countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, do not even have access to temporary protection status.

At the same time, Greece, supported by the EU, put in place a containmennt policy, confining more than 15000 asylum seekers to the islands, living in crowded and filthy processing centers, in lightweight tents or even sleeping outside on the ground.

In addition, no one, regardless of nationality, who arrived after March 20, when the EU-Turkey deal went into effect, is eligible for relocation under the scheme.

In reality, the EU-Turkey agreement has set a dangerous precedent by putting at risk the very principle of the right to seek refuge.

While Greece remains on the frontline of Europe’s asylum and migration challenges and Turkey is hosting over millions refugees, the acute economic crisis is felt by everybody and conflicts, far from ending, are sharpened increasing the hostile behaviour against refugees.

Despite UNHCR, NGOs and individual efforts to protect refugees and migrants and work on integration, this motionless humankind world is wrong, once again.

 

Bárbara Orozco Díaz / 24 May 2018

 

 

As human beings, we should never forget 3rd October 2013

As human beings, we should never forget 3rd October 2013

Since a very young age I remember empathising with sufferers. Suffering was something eerily fascinating to me, an expression of the soul, the mind and the body that manifests differently according to what you are suffering from. Exploring suffering was my way, as a youngster, to get closer to one’s vulnerability.
3rd October 2013 was the day when suffering tasted extremely bitter, and tasted like unfairness, death and many teardrops.
3rd October 2013 was the day when circa 366 refugees and asylum seekers died trying to reach the costs of Southern Italy. It was defined as one of the most terrible tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea after the Second World War. 155 people survived (41 of them were minors), 366 died and 20 were never found.
This tragedy hit me like a fist punch in my stomach. I was devastated and confused. But mostly, I could have seen my father or even myself among those people, as my family crossed the same Sea the same way those people did.

The sunken shipwreck that transported 386 migrants

Being a refugee is not a choice. Dying away from home, in a sea is not a choice. Putting unaccompanied minors on fragile boat is not a choice. And we must understand this, the same way we should try to understand why our indifference, fear of even xenophobia of refugees (especially if hosted in our countries) is dissociating us from the gravity of this humanitarian crisis. How, as human beings, have we come to turn our backs to this:

Red roses, teddy bears and flowers to commemorate refugees and asylum seekers who lost their lives during 3rd October 2013

And this

Unknown body of migrant floating in the sea

Suffering is something we all feel deeply, and makes us do things we never thought possible from us. Images like these ones have the power to make us reflect on how we perceive the suffering that we see through a television screen, or read in a newspaper. We do feel moved, but we decide to move on and concentrate on other things. And outside the comfort of our lives, 3rd October 2013 happens every day. We render this humanitarian disaster a mere daily news that has us accustomed to feel sadness, but not too much. Anger, but not too much. Guilt, but not too much.
3rd October 2013 is a date recognized solely by the Italian government. However, I believe that such tragedy (and perhaps the lessons learned from it) should reach a wider public. And as mentioned before, the above pictures show us images that are constantly displayed on news channels, and is this constancy that perhaps strips such pictures from their true meanings:
Don’t turn your back to suffering, but act on it.

 

Roki Seydi

The unique experience of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers within the UK

The unique experience of LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers within the UK

Asylum Links offers refugees and asylum seekers the accessibility to documents and contacts that assist them in establishing the rights that are available to them in the country they are trying to relocate to. Having fled a country that has stripped these rights from them, Asylum Links facilitates the necessary information and support to help refugees, migrants and asylum seekers to reconfigure their lives in a period of turmoil and uncertainty.

Women and minors have been recognised as being especially threatened by their situation as refugees, however another unique situation that has not been quite as widely acknowledged is that of LGBTQ refugees. LGBTQ people may have been forced out of their country due to their experience surrounding their sexual orientation, or otherwise due to political conflict.

Asylum seekers in the UK are at risk of isolation due to the weighted pressure of seeking security without the prejudice they are conditioned to be fearful of.  Their previous circumstances may have shaped a wariness or uncertainty within them due to the riskiness of being open about their identity within their home territory. If it is difficult to trust people with the knowledge of your identity within the social environment of your origins, how readily can you trust people in a new and unfamiliar backdrop. Implications may arise for LGBTQ people if their gender identity or sexual orientation was to be found out by people from within their home communities. This shows the lasting impact of the LGBTQ refugee experience, even once they have arrived in Scotland. This notably affects mental health and also the confidence to approach the appropriate support services. They may struggle in expressing themselves emotionally, but lack of knowledge in regards to language specific to LGBTQ identity may also create a barrier when seeking advice.

The intersectionality of LGBTQ experiences requires expert support in that every case is unique within the larger experience of being a refugee. This is where Asylum Links provides a network of helpful sources to whatever range of support is solicited. In the past, the Scottish Asylum system has not been sufficient in thoroughly protecting LGBTQ people. Often, when making asylum claims, the system dismissed the legitimacy of their experience by purporting that security could be available to them within their home country if they were to maintain their gender identity or sexual orientation as private. Although, it is no longer viable to reject asylum claims for this reason, LGBTQ refugees are still particularly vulnerable in their journey. LGBTQ people constantly face misrepresentation, with organisations and authorities lacking in understanding of the intersectionality of their experiences in relation to their gender identity and sexual orientation. Asylum seekers have been known to have claims rejected under premise they cannot ‘prove’ their sexuality.  Detention centres are also known for having a history of violence and abuse towards LGBTQ people as there is not sufficient support or refuge from these antagonistic behaviours. This emphasises the length of the journey and also the necessity for an immediate support system when refugees arrive in the UK. It is a basic human right to live freely under whatever gender identity or sexual orientation and this struggle to maintain this human right without discrimination can still be overlooked.

These are examples of how LGBTQ people have a lonely and frustrating experience as refugees. Therefore, carefully tailored advice is at the crux of improving this difficult passage, helping alleviate a situation that is both intimidating and overwhelming.

Photo by Harry Quan on Unsplash

Are refugees to blame?

Are refugees to blame?

Sometimes the images of horror and destruction we see on the news can be so overwhelming that it leaves us with a sense of helpless. The refugee crisis seems far too complex, our news screens are filled with grim images of dead kids, cities covered in rubble, men in balaclavas holding massive guns.

In some sense it can be comforting to distance these individuals from ourselves, alienate, create a ‘them and us’ dichotomy which allows us to blame the individuals for their situation rather than feel empathy. I saw this recently in the comments section of a news article concerning refugees ; many attested that the people that live in places such as Syria should simply ‘stand up and fight for their country’ and ‘defend their territory. I’m sure Barry from Wandsworth would grab all his kitchen utensils and rush to the front door for queen and country if ISIS were hammering at his door. Many suggested that somehow the refugees were faking poverty because they dared to own an android phone. I know that if I had to rush from my home for my safety and make a perilous journey, one of the first things I would grab is my phone. Not so I could snapchat my journey across Europe in the back of a lorry or see my tinder matches in France but to have some connection with family and friends; to let others know I am safe and to have necessary contacts that could help me. We have to remember their entire identity is not ‘refugee’ and that as soon as you become a refugee its not like a reverse Cinderella where a godmother comes along and transforms your clothes into rags and your hair into matted strands, they are normal people.

In 2016 the news confronted us with the startling image of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on the beach, spat out by the waves, face down. Highlighting the desperation of the people, the horrors a mother must be running from to put her own toddler in a boat, knowing he may not survive the trip. The headlines very quickly changed from accusations of hordes of refugees swarming European countries, bleeding the benefits system dry, planning terrorist plots and raping young women to outcries of sympathy and support. As if it was an epiphany that these refugees were dying in vast numbers attempting to escape terrorist groups and war zones. As if we did not know that ISIS could be a particularly cruel bunch. The right to asylum is an inalienable right documented in the UN. Everyone has the right to flee a country from persecution, in fact 19 million children flee their own country every year, sadly 70% do not reach their destination.[1] I witnessed a glimpse of some of the atrocities on a small visit to the Calais refugee camp where many refugees stayed in the hopes of eventually reaching the UK via the port. Many staying up all night attempting every single evening to find some way to get to the UK. Many of the men I met had been doctors, lawyers, teachers in their countries but had been stripped of everything in the move here, including their identities. Finding borders closed, police that assault and tear gas you and hospitals refusing to treat you. Forced to be stripped of your humanity and treated like a parasite for the crime of wanting to be safe in a country.

 

 

Why Are The Refugees There?

The situation in Calais is part of a mass migration crisis caused mostly by displaced people from war torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and North Africa. Many are staying in Calais in the hope of reaching the UK because of its proximity to the port. [2]The camp was officially demolished in October 2016 but since then has began to build up again. The crisis was not solved and the refugees merely shifted to other locations across northern France[3]  Many are hidden in small camps, fields, garages or derelict buildings. Others are at an official camp near Dunkirk at Grande-Synthe.[4] Many want to get to the UK because they dream of a better life, they dream of jobs, opportunities, security and many have family already there.

 

What Can You Do to Help

There are some fantastic charities that I discovered in my research. Some of these I have previous experience through volunteering or fundraising for.

Calais Action

Calais action provides mobile internet and calls to refugees providing a lifeline to recipients. For many accompanied children this is the only safety net they have and for many this is the only way they can contact their families and let them know they are safe. All you need to do is text CALA85 and the amount you want to donate to 70070.

Refugee Community Kitchen

Refugee community kitchen provides nourishment to people in need. You can email to volunteer with the kitchen or you can donate money.

Care4Calais

Care4calais helps with distribution of essential products such as toiletries or clothes. Sometimes all refugees arrive with is the shirts off their backs. They are currently doing Packs4Calais where you can collect essential items together for refugees into a pack and drop them off at a collection centre where they will be sent to Calais. You can volunteer with Care4Calais in Calais, or you can help with collecting and sorting items to be sent from the UK to Calais. You can also donate funds or buy essential products.

Calais People to People Solidarity

This is a group where you can help organise aid from the UK to those stranded in Calais. You can find your local group on the facebook page.

[1]http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/videos/right-to-asylum.html

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29074736

[3] http://www.humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/videos/right-to-asylum.html

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/05/refugees-northern-france-dunkirk-calais-camp-demolished