Four years ago, Parwais ended up inBelgium. Not for his pleasure, neither to search for a better life. But because his own life is in danger. His father lost is life in an attack on the family home, the home was destroyed. He himself was left scarred for life. He fled in fear of his life, away fromAfghanistan, the country that has figured in the top three least safe countries since more than a decade.
At his arrival inBelgium, the General Commissariat for refugees and stateless people questioned his story, as these instances always do. When you flee for your life, it is expected for you to be able to carry all the evidences with you. If you are unable to do so, or if the evidences are considered weak, you are unlucky. The authorities of this country readily assume you are lying. That leaves you to wait until your procedure is handled to be arrested afterwards and most probably sent back.
The asylum and migration policies in our country are not only very strict, they are inhuman and unjust. Their main aim is to send back as many people as possible. The first victims are those who fled in fear of their lives, and while fleeing did not have the time or the chance to bring evidences with them.
Those who keep track of the asylum policies, know how this works. The instances are given the clear mission to deny as many people as possible. Furthermore they expect the stories of these people to be false. We know for instance from the interpreters that they find big discrepancies between what the asylum seeker tells them and what is mentioned in the interviewers reports.
We know also that the people working for these services do their jobs in an ever more bureaucratic fashion, aimed at demotivating the asylumseekers and putting them under stress. Just imagine, dear reader, having to undergo an interview that decides on your life, your future. Imagine the stress you would face knowing that your story has to be the same each time you have to tell it, down to the commas and full stops, because any discrepancy in even the minutest detail will have you sent away. Because that will be perceived as “proof” that you are lying.
There are quota’s to be met. It’s not about who is before you, nor about the story of that person. No, that person is a figure. A part of a figure that has to decrease. In this way the minister can proudly announce on television, radio and in the newspapers how the figures are decreasing, how many people have been sent back and so on…
While politicians and the media talk about figures and about how we are to act even more strictly, they forget that this involves real people and that these people, too, have a number of rights.
As long as we do not know the stories of these people, we are at ease. The problem of the asylum seekers is a complex one, and we have no say in the matter. What we know is what the politicians, beginning with the minister and a number of members of parliament tell us. Sadly many believe that this is reality.
But then stories emerge, like that of Pusta Pandey, Scott Mayo and now Parwais Sangari. Refugee-stories we will call “the case”. All of them persons who have been here for a long time, who have integrated here, who contribute to our society and who have built their lives here. People who have the right to live here and deserve to do so. What’s more: people our country needs. Isn’t it the same government telling us there are shortages in the jobmarket for jobs that are waiting to be filled? Parwais is a welder, and welders are in short supply in our country.
Our politicians are continually speaking of integration. Here we have one of the many examples of a refugee who is perfectly integrated and yet has to leave. What is the sense in asking people to integrate if they can’t stay here?
For Scott Mayo, who by chance was arrested on the same train as Parwais, and who shared a room with him, an exception was made. Why is there no solution possible for Parwais?
That Scott is allowed to stay is thanks to the support and efforts of tens of people and to the positive influence of the media and some politicians. Well, these people can play a part this time too.
At the same time we all have to realise that it isn’t possible to just “wake up” and react to individual stories in a struggle against the clock : Parwais has less than 24 hours before his forced repatriation as I am writing this. We have to demand another kind of policy for everyone in this situation. A policy that is clear, humane and just. In order this kind of stories stop being a daily reoccurrence.
We cannot forget that only a few of the stories capture our attention and that of the mainstream media. At the same time there are a lot of poignant stories that escape our attention and where the unjust policies of our country cause even greater injustice.
The policies are not alone in bearing responsibility. The tens of civil society organizations have to assume their role and take up the cause of these people, bring their stories in picture and commit themselves to the protection of their rights. Show clearly that these people are more than mere figures.
The outraged citizens can urge these organisations – to which they often are member of- to take action and come up with structural solutions. The question is: will these organisations organize themeselves to do so? Looking back on the past year, I tend to be pessimistic, but it is never too late. They have my commitment in any case.
Bleri Lleshi is political philosopher and human rights activist
Translation from Dutch to English by Mitta Van der Maat