Asylum seekers forced to use traffickers

 Genuine asylum seekers are paying large sums of money to smugglers to come to Europe illegally, because they are afraid of the official asylum process. That is one of findings of a series of studies commissioned by the Jesuit Refugee Service. The report finds a number of other factors have served to heighten fears among asylum seekers. These include a fear of detention and a perceived growing culture of disbelief among decision-making authorities. In addition many countries are seen by EU member states as 'safe countries of origin' and people with a genuine case from those countries feel their asylum application will have little chance of success. Furthermore, regardless of the merits of asylum cases, government policies barring access such as carrier sanctions and restrictive visa policies make it hard for those seeking asylum to gain access to the territory in the first place. "We are extremely concerned at the results of this research" said Fr John Dardis SJ, Regional Director of JRS Europe. 'One strand of it shows that the people who are the most vulnerable and who have most claim on our compassion are afraid to pursue that claim through channels open to them as of right. Asylum seekers are being forced into the arms of traffickers. This is especially serious as government policies seem to be playing a role in this. "Another strand of the research highlights something of which we have been aware for some time, the fact that alongside an asylum system there is an urgent need for an immigration policy. Since most irregular migrants do not fulfill the requirements of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, they cannot claim refugee status. There has to be a system that addresses their needs in an just way and with a respect for their human rights." The research provides insight into migration which occurs for economic reasons. Irregular migrants may be fleeing poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity. "For too long European states have not been honest with themselves about the need for immigration" said Lena Barrett, policy officer with JRS-Europe. She added: "I welcome recent changes in this regard and in particular I welcome the Commission's recognition that the EU must open up legal channels for labour migration. Europe needs immigrants and we must admit this. JRS commits itself to working with the relevant authorities in whatever way we can to develop more adequate policies on immigration. Without these, the asylum system becomes overburdened and asylum seekers are treated with a suspicion that they do not deserve. I also have concerns about how asylum claims are processed. We need to look at the possibility that some claims are being improperly rejected." Whatever the motives for irregular migration, the research shows that irregular migrants face a right-less existence 'without the basic protection of criminal and civil law and with no regular avenues by which to assert an entitlement to just and humane treatment.' Their basic human rights can be violated and they have no redress. Based on the results of the research, Jesuit Refugee Service is calling for more humane asylum procedures and the creation of a just immigration policy. "We need to get rid of the barriers which are forcing people to resort to traffickers" said Lena Barrett. "If we do not, we will have strengthened criminal elements who unscrupulously trade in human cargo; their increasing power must be a concern to all. And even more importantly, if we pride ourselves on human rights, we must guarantee basic rights for people based on their dignity as human beings and regardless of whether their status is regular or irregular. Otherwise our condemnation of human rights violations abroad will ring hollow." The research was carried out by teams working in Germany, Spain and the UK and was collated and summarised by Matthew Gibney at Oxford University. Further Details and Executive Summary of the research available from: Jesuit Refugee Service - European Office - e-mail: Tel: 0032-2-7380863

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