Close to 1.5 million recognised refugees live in the European Union’s 27 countries, plus Norway and Switzerland, according to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).
A recognised refugee is someone who has been granted refugee status, allowed to stay in the host country, and therefore receiving protection under the Geneva Convention.
The European Union and countries such as Australia and Switzerland, which seem to have tightened their laws on asylum in the past 10 years or so, are being slammed by refugees’ rights activists for their nazi-style and ‘inhuman’ treatment handling of asylum-seekers and their requests.
In ‘racist’ Switzerland, some town councils have prohibited African and Asian immigrants and their children from approaching public buildings, including local schools, swimming pools, municipal parks, and even public libraries.
In Australia, migrants who land in Christmas Island in boat are kept in detention centres like criminals for up to three years in terrible conditions while awaiting deportation.
Some asylum-seekers who could no longer stand the Australian apartheid-like treatment were said to have committed suicide, according to reports.
Some believe that the financial crisis of 2008, which many parts of the developed world, particularly Europe, are still grappling with until today, may have forced the old continent to review its immigration and asylum policies, making it difficult for will-be refugees to enter at ease.
Since then, the Schengen visa in Africa has become a big business as middlemen – working hand in hand in embassies staff – are asking up to US$2 000 (about R20 000 or 1-million FCFA) for a one-month visa.
And there is no guarantee that the person who pays such a gigantic sum will get his or her visa because, as Moon of the South found out, several people have been crooked in cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Cotonou, Dakar, Lomé, Kinshasa, Abidjan, among others.
And when everything else fails, the only shortcut that remains is the Mediteranean Sea by boat from Libya or Morocco, where people smugglers charge up US$2 000 per person per trip.
But recent boat tragedies, including this month’s disaster off Italy’s Lampedusa Island, which claimed over 300 lives, highlight the danger refugees and migrants face at sea, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said last week.
The reasons that force people to leave their homelands have not changed that much in the past 50 years. Some flee political persecution, armed conflicts, wars and torture, while others leave to escape from extreme poverty, hunger and unemployment.
Photo: African migrants ride a boat on their way to Europe