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The Refuge Jesuit Refugee Service - Europe Vol. 9 / Issue 4, December 2011

Refugee voices

The need to restore refugee protection in Europe Refugees detained at Lampadusa, Italy after crossing the Mediterranean Sea

gap solution to the refugee issue. As the century progressed, Throughout 2011 the UN High seismic events triggered flows of Commissioner for Refugees (UN- refugees en masse, which led to HCR) has been celebrating 60 the mandate being continuously years of the 1951 UN Convention extended. Fifty years later, their Relating to the Status of Refugees. mandate was made permanent. Founded in that year, UNHCR ‘‘It was understood that [refuwas first given a mandate of three gees] were being persecuted, and years; enough time, it was believed, even if there might have been some to sort out the refugee issues that among them who had economic mohad arisen after World War II. Af- tives, this wasn’t questioned at the ter the war, ‘‘people time’’, says Šunjić. found themselves in “The institution of But there has been asylum is as old as countries that were a marked attitude humankind and one not their own. They change to how refuhad been fleeing from of its finest tradi- gees are treated in communism or had tions. It should not be their new European found themselves thrown overboard.’’ host countries. Now in concentration many Europeans are camps’’ says UNunaware of human HCR spokesperson Melita Šunjić. rights abuses occurring in far off The folly of this brief mandate countries. “They don’t understand soon became apparent as it was why someone comes”, says Šunjić. realised that there was no stopUNHCR has started campaigns Cathal Foley

UNHCR/A. Di Loreto

to reintroduce the “great tradition of offering safe haven” in Europe. The “Do One Thing” campaign, for example, asks people to do small acts to help refugees. “Europe is a place where people who were persecuted can be protected” says Šunjić. Of para m o u n t The “Do One i m p o r - Thing” camtance is paign asks enabling people to do p e o p l e small acts to to see help refugees. past all of the superficial things associated with asylum to the kernel of the matter; namely, that ‘‘asylum is a tool of saving lives.’’ “The institution of asylum is, in fact, as old as humankind and one of its finest traditions. It should not be thrown overboard.’’ Read the extended version of this article at

The Refuge

December 2011

The Dublin Barricade Sayeed Mujadadi, 20, fled his wartorn hometown of Herat, Afghanistan after armed groups had kidnapped him and his cousin. He came to Europe via Greece, where he sought asylum, only to realise the nightmare which he thought he had escaped from, had followed him to Europe in the form of the Dublin Regulation Since his fingerprints were already him in the centre, he desperin the system, the Hungarian au- ately said: “Since I’m in Europe, thorities – acting on Belgium’s re- I’m detained all the time. In Afquest – accepted responsibility for ghanistan I was never detained. his case under the Dublin Regula- Now they want to send me back tion. Sayeed was thus transferred to Hungary where I will be deback to Hungary on 29 April 2010. tained again for many months.” Due to the hostility he had expeTwo attempts to return him to rienced there before, Sayeed felt Hungary failed, one because a his last resort was to escape. He court ordered a temporary suspenpaid €8.000 for trafsion. Yet despite all the ‘‘I did not come fickers to bring him efforts of his lawyer and to Ukraine. He chose here to be treated JRS Belgium, Sayeed this country because like an animal.’’ was eventually removed his Belgian lawyer to Hungary in April A refugee ponders his future in Budapest had told him that if 2011, where he was imstayed outside the mediately arrested and In Greece, the authorities failed he EU for more than three months, he detained. The last that was heard to proceed with Sayeed’s asylum would have a chance to continue his from Sayeed was that he abanclaim. After spending three months asylum procedure in Belgium. In doned his asylum claim because in limbo he went to Hungary, but Ukraine he remained in the hands he was overwhelmingly desperate. for reasons that are unclear, was of the traffickers for about four He is still detained and doesn’t deported to Serbia in October 2009. months. He returned to Belgium know what will happen to him. In Feeling unsafe in in November 2010 sheer despair he sent this email to Serbia, he returned to ‘‘I just cancelled my and filed another JRS: “I just cancelled my asylum Hungary and lodged asylum here because request for asylum. here because the situation is so a new asylum ap- the situation is so Despite having critical. No respect, nothing. I did plication in order critical. No respect, evidence of his long not come here to be treated like not to be deported. stay in Ukraine, in- an animal. I am sorry but I hate Instead of consider- nothing. I did not cluding documents this country. It gives me pain. It’s ing it the Hungar- come here to be treatfrom a hospital, the about seven months that I am in ian authorities took ed like an animal’’ Belgian authorities jail. I am going to lose my mind. only his fingerprints proceeded to transfer Please do something if you can, I and sent him to a Sayeed back to Hungary, who again am really getting mad. I’ll not be detention centre. He escaped two accepted responsibility. In February deported back to Afghanistan but weeks later and made his way 2011 he was sent to a detention cen- the situation is so bad here. I don’t to Belgium to be with his uncle. tre near Brussels National Airport, know why it is like this. They In December 2009 Sayeed to await his transfer to Hungary. call themselves Europeans but reached Belgium and submitWhen JRS Belgium visited don’t respect any human rights.” ted a new asylum application. UNHCR/B.Szandelszky


The Refuge

Giving a voice to the ‘‘ambassadors of justice’’ Hakimi Marina, an Afghan refugee living in Ukraine

Putting refugees’ voices to the fore is a core element of JRS’ advocacy and communication strategy.

Philip Amaral people experience in a detention the report that came with it, German refugee organisacentre. It’s now a key reference gave JRS several opportunities tion ProAsyl once called refugees document for EU policymakers to conduct one-on-one advocacy the “ambassadors of injustice”. and civil society organisations. with policymakers in Ukraine. Refugees bring us face-to-face Earlier this year, our European In 2009 we invited three refuwith conflict, abuse, persecution conference on the desgees to speak at an and the timidity of our political titution of forced mi- In 2009 we in- event we organleaders. They personify the gap begrants included the ac- vited three refu- ised at the Eurotween the powerful and powerless. tive participation of gees to speak at an pean Parliament. They also show us that a more two refugees. One was event we organ- They told their humane and dignified path is interviewed, and pubised at the Euro- stories to a room possible. They are keen to comlished, by a major Brusof MEPs and their bat the injustice they and othsels-based media outlet; pean Parliament. colleagues – peoer refugees have experienced. the other made a speech ple who do not ofRefugees are at the heart of everyand panel presentation, using ten have the opportunity to listen thing we do, especially the way that his personal experiences to in- to the voices behind the policies. we do advocacy. We go to policyform the discussion on policy. We are ending this year with makers not with whatever we conWe featured two refugees in two two events that highlight the coct in a meeting – but with the facts separate press conferences within voices of refugees. For the first, on the ground, as a refuthe last year. In the a commemoration of the 60th gee would experience it. Refugees are at first, a Somali refugee anniversary of the UN Refugee Putting refugees’ voic- the heart of everytold journalists of his Convention, two refugees will es to the fore is a core ele- thing we do, espejourney through the share the floor with a global ment of our advocacy and cially that way that Sahara Desert, Libya refugee scholar, an MEP and an communication strategy. we do advocacy. and the Mediterra- archbishop. Their testimonies Over the last year we have nean Sea. His story will be published into a report undertaken several activwas published in a that we will disseminate to tarities to make this a reality. leading Swedish newspaper. In the geted policymakers. For the Our 2010 study, Becoming Vulsecond, Hakimi Marina, an Afghan second event we will launch our nerable in Detention, is based on refugee living in Ukraine presented latest research on alternatives to hundreds of interviews we conher story through video. Two offi- immigration detention, which ducted with people in detention. cials of the Ukrainian government is based on interviews with miThe report is replete with data that were in attendance. Her story, and grants in three EU countries. systematically shows the suffering



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JRS offices meet in Sweden for media training Staff and volunteers from the JRS munication doesn’t change any- is true for refugees. Having backEurope gathered for three-day Annual General Meeting in Uppsala, Sweden, at the end of October. This year Terry Prone, from the Communications Clinic in Dublin, Ireland, trained participants on using refugee voices in the media, and on how to communicate important messages via television, radio and other public platforms. Participants were invited to do mock interviews with Mrs. Prone on camera. Afterwards, she guided the entire plenary in assessing people’s interviews, providing expert advice based on her decades worth of media experience. An important lesson JRS learned is that true communications is not about changing attitudes, but changing behaviours. As Mrs. Prone put it, “if comPAGE 4

thing, than its just entertainment.” This is an important strategic element to pursue, according to Philip Amaral of JRS Europe. “The purpose of communicating is not just to collect social media accounts, but to actually persuade people to do things differently: to convince a politician to support a good refugee law, to encourage someone to donate to a refugee cause, and so on.” Mrs. Prone warned participants “putting someone in the media immediately endangers them”. This

grounds of trauma and persecution makes refugees vulnerable to the media spotlight, which can be harsh just as it can be illuminating. To counter this, JRS offices were taught to thoroughly prepare refugees before media appearances, even how to deal with negative publicity. During the next year JRS in Europe will use these lessons to implement a regional communications strategy aimed at bringing refugees’ voices to the fore.

Jesuit Refugee Service Europe Rue du Progres 333/2 B-1030 Brussels Tel: +32 2 250 32 20 Fax: +32 2 250 32 29 Executive Editor: Philip Amaral Editor: Cathal Foley

With the financial support from the EU Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme

The Refuge - December 2011  

JRS Europe quarterly newsletter. This issues spotlights refugee voices and international protection.

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