GV Face: Asylum Seekers Are Fleeing Conflict to Face Brutal Politics in Europe and Australia

Recently in France, a rejected asylum seeker from Chad set himself on fire outside an appeal court. 

According to the UNHCR, 612,700 applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year – the highest total for any year since 2001. Most of these people were fleeing conflict and violence from  Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Serbia, and Iraq. 

While the numbers of applications for asylum seekers to industrialized countries may be increasing, the politics of entering has never been more vicious.

Under banners like “Fortress Europe” and “No Way, You Will Not Make Australia Home“, right-wing parties in Europe and Australia are trying to prevent asylum seekers from entering by tightening their borders, running campaigns that blur the lines between refugees and terrorists, and pushing to send asylum seekers to prison-like detention centers for delayed “processing”. In Australia, they are even pushing for “offshoring” the processing of applications. With bad economic conditions at home, these parties are increasingly getting popular. 

Many asylum seekers arrive in these countries through illegal means. Globally, human smugglers and traffickers earn an estimated 7 billion USD. This past year alone, more than 4,000 died in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea in search for a better life. Since the beginning of this year, 134,272 survived the treacherous illegal journey from Libya to Italy seeking asylum. 

Acceptance rates for people from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, are between 62 percent and 95 percent. Acceptance rates from nationals of the Russian Federation and Serbia are significantly lower at around 28 percent and 5 percent.

And for those who do manage to get asylum, they are often given poor housing and red tape stalemates, generating an endless series of difficulties. 

In 2013, Europe received 484,600 claims – an increase of a third from 2012. Germany was the largest single recipient with 109,600 new asylum claims and France received 60,100.

In this new episode of GV Face we try to highlight the individuals behind the numbers, problems and policies. Is hospitality still possible? How can Europeans and Australians be reminded that their continent was, one century ago, itself source of a huge emigration movement?

We talk to GVers Suzanne Lehn from France, Anne Hemeda from Germany, Kevin Rennie from Australia ,  Thalia Rahme from Lebanon,  and Abdoulaye Bah in Italy in this episode.

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