Thousands of people fleeing their homeland will be crossing the Mediterranean again this month with unmanned dinghies, arriving in Italy or Greece. Earlier this year communications delegate Caroline Haga from the International Red Cross described the dinghies not only unseaworthy but also lacking required amount of petrol to even reach shore. Almost a thousand asylum seekers have drowned in the Mediterranean already this year during this extremely dangerous journey.
Europe with still attract people escaping war, violence, extreme poverty and the inability of collapsing states to provide young people with any kind of future. The Syrian conflict does not show any signs of ease, Afghanistan is still largely without basic security and Isis dominates large areas in Iraq.
Dr. Vicki Squire from the the University of Warwick has done research on asylum seekers arriving in Europe in 2015 and 2016. She has together with a team of researchers conducted deep interviews with 257 asylum seekers on the shores of Mediterranean, in Greece, Turkey, Italy and Malta. Some asylum seekers have also been interviews once they have reached Germany. The results paint a fascinating picture of the variety of reasons people have embarked on the journey and how they have eventually ended where they are now. Often coincidence and luck play a large role.
Treat us like humans
The research conducted by Dr. Vicki Squire is unique as it is the first time such a large scale deep interviews have been done on asylum seekers as they just arrive. Dr. Vicki Squire calls for alsylum seekers own voice to be more dominant in the debate. That might dispel some of the prejudices and assumptions that are often associated with the entrants, according to Dr. Squire.
“We often assume that that people are coming to Europe already waiting to receive asylum in the EU. That is not the case”, explaind Dr Squire, citing research results.
“What people have, is an image of Europe as a safe place, where people are treated with respect. However we did not find any indication in our research that people would be arriving with extensive knowledge of the asylum procedure.”
Many of the asylum seekers have been appalled by the way they have been treated at different borders. One of the interviewees summarizes the thoughts of many by asking for a more human treatment, demanding not to be treated like animals.
Europe not the main destination
Many especially of the asylum seekers arriving from different parts of Africa are mainly trying to reach work market in Libya or other North African countries. Their main goal is not to reach EU. However the security in Libya is almost nonexistent and many international organizations have described the job market in Libya to represent slave market. This drives many to seek safety in Europe. The idea of Europe as every single asylum seekers number one goal is a myth, says researcher Vicki Squire.
Dr. Squire calls for more research on the cause that actually drive people on the move. The EU has concluded agreements with few African countries, so that they receive development aid in return for their cooperation in preventing more people from leaving. People who live in danger, are however not aware of what is happening at the top level of politics, knowledge simply does not reach the grassroots level.
The correct information on asylum policy is also not given to asylum seekers coming to Europe, even if they have the right to be receiving it, says researcher Dr. Vicki Squire.
More information required
Dr. Squire describes the circumstances in which the asylum seekers are kept waiting for deportation or asylum often awful and inhumane, with little information available.
“During the interviews with people many described that on the initial arrival they were not given any information on their rights to apply for asylum, instead they were handed with an immediate demand to leave”, says Squire.
Researcher Squire along with many NGOs have called for safe routes to be opened to Europe. The current situation only benefits smugglers and criminals who put people’s lives in danger. The harder the entry to Europe, the more dangerous the journey will be.
Researcher Vicki Squire spent long periods of time talking and meeting asylum seekers. Initially she anticipated the work to be extremely hard mentally. However there was also hope to be found in the stories.
“I was surprised how inspiring it was to hear stories about people’s generosity, the stories of families coming together after long journeys and how people in difficult situations support each other.”
Editor: Anna Gustafsson
Photo: Dr. Vicki Squire, Lampedusa
The study can be found through this link: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/research/researchcentres/irs/crossingthemed/ctm_final_report_4may2017.pdf
An interactive map describing the journey:
Link to a photo essay by Dr. Vicki Squire: