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Asylum seekers struggle in Europe

Friday, October 11, 2013

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Thousands of refugees who have fled the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Africa have winded up neglected and abandoned on the streets of Europe.

Thousands of refugees escaping conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and north Africa have been risking their lives by jumping onto overcrowded ships, trucks and train carriages to sneak into Europe.

They leave behind everything they have left, some having already lost their homes and their families, and flee to Europe not knowing how, or if, they will make it. The sad fact is that some of them don’t, as we saw in the recent Lampedusa boat sinking off the coast of Italy, which killed over 300 immigrants trying to escape from war stricken Africa for a second chance at life in Europe.

Those who do make it often wind up destitute, begging on the streets for their daily bread, or even locked up in detention camps.

The past six years has witnessed an increase in asylum applications to European countries, while many European countries are actually clamping down on illegal immigrants and limiting the amount of asylum applications they accept. On Tuesday, EU representatives met in Luxemburg to review Europe’s asylum system, but no positive changes were made.

Pope Francis described the Lampedusa incident as ‘a disgrace’, while the Italian government granted citizenship to the deceased and held a state funeral for them. As for the survivors, however, they must endure a long application process for asylum and possibly even face a €5,000 fine if the court declares them as illegal immigrants.

Those who do make it through the system are often left homeless and unemployed. If they do find employment, they are paid almost slave wages and barely make enough to get by on a day to day basis.

Greece locks immigrants up in overcrowded, unhygienic detention camps. According to an article on spiegel.de, Greece only granted asylum to two Syrian refugees last year, having arrested 8,000 for entering the country illegally.

The far-right Golden Dawn Party, which is the third strongest party in Greece, leads the way against immigrants as they claim that Greece, which is currently going through economic troubles, cannot afford to take on any more foreigners. Members and supporters of Golden Dawn have personally resorted to attacking immigrants on the streets.

In France as much as 90% of asylum applications are rejected over a 22 month process. Tens of thousands of immigrants are forced to go underground every year to avoid detection. The UK is more generous, accepting about 60% of the 25,000 applications made every year. Immigrants are given furnished housing, usually outside of London, and the process is a lot quicker. However, they are not given the right to work and are forced to survive on £30 to £40 a week – hardly enough to get by. If applications are rejected, asylum seekers are usually deported within a few days. Immigrants in Austria often have to wait years for a decision, while those who make it to Sweden are made to feel marginalized and targeted.

Dozens of migrants from Africa risk their lives by swimming to Spain, but are often sent back without being checked if they are eligible for asylum or not. Borders surrounding the Spanish coastal cities of Ceuta and Melilla on Moroccan soil are referred to as ‘Europe’s Wall of Shame’, as many African migrants lose their lives trying to scour the wall, either from accidents or by being shot by Spanish border guards. In 2005, 13 to 18 migrants were killed by live ammunition after being caught between Spanish and Moroccan gunfire.


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