Since we started working in Greece, Action for Education has put a strong emphasis on working with members of the refugee community. This has been praised by many and is something we continuously stand for and aim to promote.
However, today we want to address the challenges we do sometimes face. Working with people who are still in the asylum procedure comes with a risk: the risk of them being rejected. Whilst this hasn’t stopped us, and won’t stop us in the future, from working with members from the refugee community, it has often shown us how quickly someone can go from a working, motivated individual to a so-called “undocumented migrant” with no rights. They have no access to work, healthcare and any official support system in Greece. They are then forced to move on to another European country with the hope of receiving asylum there, whilst in constant fear of being caught and deported.
Recently, we got to witness how quick all of this happens - once the second rejection is received in just a matter of days, they are forced out of the system they were asked to comply with for years. Particularly, Syrians are harshly affected.They are systematically rejected based on the untenable assumption that Turkey is a “safe” country for them. Overnight, people are stuck in a legal limbo, and at the risk of deportation and only able to move “illegally”, unsafely and at the mercy of law enforcement.
The recent hunger strike held by migrants and refugees in Brussels shows this is not a new issue. Neither is it only a problem in Greece. Systematically rejecting people on the basis of the safe third country principle or not allowing them to obtain legal status doesn’t make people leave, it shifts the problem. It forces people to remain off the radar and try their luck in different European countries.
Whilst everyone entering the EU has the right to apply for asylum and is asked to trust a system deemed ‘regulated and fair’ - data shows it is not. With varying recognition rates for asylum seekers across European countries, fairness is not the common determining factor. If anything, it’s arbitrary and down to luck, or how they arrived and by which member state they got fingerprinted first. For example, the recognition rate for Afghan citizens at first instance is 1% in Bulgaria in comparison to Greece with a Recognition Rate of 66.2% to 93% in Italy.
For more information and specific country reports visit the Asylum Information Database.
Despite the many barriers our volunteers from the refugee community face, our work wouldn’t be possible without them.