Equal Right to Refuge

 

At the end of last year, the number of people forced to flee in search of refuge exceeded 84 million globally, with over half internally displaced within their home country and 85% of the world’s refugees being hosted by developing countries.

 

In recent weeks, that number has grown dramatically as we have witnessed millions of people cross Ukraine’s border into neighbouring countries seeking safety and refuge. And we know that millions more are estimated to follow as the conflict continues.

Wherever you come from, your right to seek safety and find refuge is the same.

The crisis in Ukraine has seen a welcome and historic response from the EU, offering sanctuary and immediate protection to Ukrainians fleeing to member states. EU migration ministers even agreed to activate the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time in its history, affording those fleeing access to a three-year residence permit, education and employment in any EU country, without having to have individual asylum claims assessed.

 

But not everyone is being allowed to leave Ukraine. Men are supposed to stay and fight, especially challenging if they are the sole carers for their children or dependents; whereas, non-Ukrainian nationals, particularly from Africa or the Middle East, are being stopped at the border in what the UN has called “racialised denial of entry”. For these people, being pushed back across the border into Ukraine extends the risk beyond the ongoing violence, including trafficking. Meanwhile, other vulnerable groups, like people with a disability, need extra supports to ensure they can avail of the protection they are entitled to. 

 

Across the EU, people forced to flee continue to suffer as a result of policies and procedures that are illegal under EU and international law. Arriving traumatised by what they left behind as well as the journey to safety, people then face violent push backs at EU borders, are denied their right to seek asylum for unfounded reasons and are left to languish in inhumane conditions in camps. 

 

Instead of solidarity, they are met with hostility. Instead of a welcome for all, they experience bigotry and bias.

We recently visited a camp on the Greek island of Samos along with our partner the Greek Council for Refugees and released a report on the conditions for refugees and asylum seekers left in limbo there. The report details “prison-like” conditions where people experienced illegal detention measures and excessive use of security. Surrounded by barbed wire with elevated watch towers either side of the gate, it looks like a prison, with one young man from Afghanistan describing it as a cage. Many asked what they were being punished for when all they want to do is rebuild their lives. This new €43million migration centre will serve as a blueprint for the EU’s rollout of centres across the Greek islands.

We are calling on Ireland and the EU to ensure equal right to refuge for all by:

  • Providing sanctuary and protection for all those fleeing Ukraine without discrimination, and
  • Preventing a preferential EU refugee response where some are met with solidarity and others with hostility

 

Whether you arrived by boat or walked across the border from your home country, everyone has the right to seek asylum, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or country of origin.  

 

At any border in Europe – Ukraine or beyond – we cannot have a system that treats people differently for any reason, including where they come from.