Europe out of range of refugees looking for safety

A report recently published by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), an alliance of non-governmental organisations acting for refugees, revealed the persistent gaps between the theory and realities of a Common European Asylum System. The report reviews the situation of refugees in 15 Member States of the European Union. The section of the report about Poland was based on information provided by lawyers working with the HFHR.

Migrants seeking international protection have problems with reaching European Union Member States, and even if they do manage to do so, they are often detained and placed in custodial facilities or forced to live on the street. Despite rescue efforts, foreigners escaping wars and persecution still die at sea. The first conclusion from the report indeed focuses on a necessity to ensure asylum seekers have safe and legal ways of travelling to the European Union.

“In Poland, we still observe that foreigners seeking international protection have problems with crossing borders. Recently, we have intervened in a case concerning Syrian nationals”, says Karolina Rusiłowicz, a lawyer with the HFHR. “It’s worth noting that asylum applications submitted by citizens of Syria are generally approved by Polish authorities. It means that if Syrians are able to enter Poland, they will ultimately be granted appropriate protection”, she adds. The report indicates that a policy preventing immigrant access only persuades smugglers to organise illegal transportation of asylum seekers in life-threatening conditions.

The foreigners who managed to complete a difficult journey are still being placed in closed facilities. In Hungary, one problem is the frequent application of detention measures, in Cyprus – conditions of detaining foreigners. In Poland the maximum period for the allowable detention of foreigners was extended on 1 May 2014. “Extension of the aggregate period of a foreigner’s placement at a guarded centre is all the more disturbing because of the continuing problem of detention of families with children”, Ms Rusiłowicz emphasises.

Only few states covered in the report put in place an effective mechanism of identifying vulnerable groups among asylum seekers such as victims of torture or unaccompanied children. These persons should be treated with special care in terms of the immigration procedures used, for example, they should not be detained. Polish non-governmental organisations have long been appealing for the introduction of measures allowing for the quick identification of such vulnerable migrants and preventing their placement at custodial facilities.

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