Refugees and Asylum Seekers debate - “Immigrant, terrorist or refugee: How do EU see me?”

Article published on April 23, 2007
community published
Article published on April 23, 2007
Cafebabel.com gathered around 50 Brusselers in a cosy Italian restaurant to debate on the theme of the EU's asylum policy. After 9/11, not only has it become harder to get asylum in European countries but refugees also suffer increasingly from misperception.

With the participation:

Diederik Kramers, Public Information Officer for UNHCR: Brussels Angela Martini, Head of sector for Asylum in DG Justice, Freedom and Security Torsten Moritz, Project Secretary, CCME (Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe)

According to Angela Martini, Head of sector for Asylum in DG Justice, Freedom and Security, the biggest challenge stems from the fact that migration flows are mixed. How can we ensure the respect of the rights of those who need protection while dealing fairly with those who don't.

Torsten Moritz, Project Secretary, CCME (Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe), said there was an increasing need in making a clear distinction between forced and voluntary migrations. Many people go through the asylum application process while they don't need it.

Diederik Kramers, Public Information Officer for UNHCR pointed out that since the fall of the USSR, it has become more difficult to recognize refugees. Its definition is now mixed up with that of migrant. He also highlighted the fact that asylum policies throughout Europe have very different criteria. The acceptance rates from country to country vary significantly. The fact that depending on the country you arrive to, you get more or less chances to have your application accepted was seen by the speakers as truly unfair.

The audience raised the issue of work permit for asylum seekers. While in most EU countries this right is only given after a year, it should be lowered to six months according to Angela Martini.

Finally, the speakers advocated for an EU asylum system with common criteria, processes and leaving conditions for applicants. The question remains whether the Commission has the resources to implement such a scheme throughout 27 countries, given the amount and diversity of legislations in this area.

Author: Laurence Modrego