This World Refugee Day one of our Cultural Mediators shares his perspective on the unequal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and the hostile Greek asylum system:
Migration is not a new phenomenon, or a problem that has appeared in the past ten years. It’s a reality that has been going on for a long time: with the migration of people from Europe to America, from Mexico to US, from Afghanistan to Iran, and more recently from Syria to Europe and Türkiye, the list grows longer and longer the more you look into it. After all, migration, and seeking asylum specifically, is something that could happen to anyone. We are not going to discuss the conflicts in the country of the origin. Instead, we should focus on the rights that people seeking safety should have according to asylum law.
Unfortunately there are many complications around migration and asylum laws. Each year refugees have to fight the laws that are being passed against them by European countries, making their right to seek asylum more and more restricted.
The Greek Government is one of the Member States passing harmful laws. These include: considering Türkiye a safe country for certain nationalities, a mandatory fee for second and follow subsequent applications, restrictions on the right to movement, construction of closed camps, and almost no time between the arrival and the asylum interview. People do not have enough time to settle and rest after the long and dangerous journey that they had to go through, or to learn about their rights as asylum seekers and about the asylum system in Greece. They are just thrown into this brutal system that is designed against them without being aware of it. Despite the efforts that legal actors in Greece are putting into this matter we’re seeing the numbers of the cases that are receiving rejection on their asylum claim increasing day by day. For example, from 2020 to 2021 there was a 126% increase in rejections based on whether the person seeking asylum is considered safe in Türkiye. These are just some of the barriers that a refugee has to face while running away to save their life.
Nobody is born to be a refugee. Being a refugee or an asylum seeker is not determined by someone’s country of origin or the region they are from. The Russian invasion of Ukraine serves as a clear reminder that having to flee war, violence, persecution, and human rights abuse, does not only happen to people from certain countries far away. Becoming a refugee is something that can happen to anyone during their lifetime. All refugees have the same rights to seek asylum, and must have the same possibility to exercise and access their rights. We must stand against the double standard, unequal treatment, and human rights abuses refugees and asylum seekers face in Europe, and all over the world.