Europe, Spain, Human Rights, Politics

There is No Refuge: The Real Facts About Migrants and Refugees in Western Europe

The “Tres mil viviendas” in Seville, Spain is the most dangerous place in the city. This neighborhood, on the very edge of the city limits, is where gypsies, refugees, and most non-Western “poor” migrants live.

Segregation in Western Europe

The “Tres mil” is a new form of segregation in Western Europe – government-built housing, usually very small apartments or office buildings, walled in and denied regular services. In the “Tres mil” there is no water, no working elevators in the buildings, hardly any electricity and the trash is never picked up by the city. The police, firefighters, and paramedics are directed not to enter the area because it is “unsafe” for them to do so. The “Tres mil” is the way the Spanish government chooses to treat migrants from Africa, the Middle East, and gypsies – those deemed as low class, dangerous, or poor.

No Refuge for Migrants

The Spanish government isn’t the only one guilty of segregating and mistreating refugees and migrants – Italy and France are doing it as well. In Italy, there are 5 refugee centers, each as terrible as the “Tres Mil” in Spain. In France, there are several centers, almost as bad as Spain’s and Italy’s, some worse. Even worse than these centers, where only those granted asylum may live, are the ports of entry. All refugees and migrants seeking asylum must pass through these ports of before they may be granted asylum.

How Migrants Come to Europe

These migrants have made a grueling journey across the sea, and have lost many of those they traveled with. They have to spend up to 24 hours on the water waiting for the coast guard like authorities to pick them up and take them to the port of entry, as they are not allowed to enter of their own accord. The old harbor where refugees are admitted in Italy is walled in, there are shacks set up for the migrants, with no windows, no seats, and only old military cots for sleeping. The sickening smell of rotting fish, trash that hasn’t been picked up, and unbathed bodies is a constant stench one must get used to.

These facilities, resembling presidios, are meant to hold refugees for 24 hours while they pass tests and start their application for asylum. However, they are often overfilled, with migrants who have been waiting weeks to apply for asylum. These migrants are stuck in this encampment, where they are immediately given bracelets with numbers to identify them. They must undergo physical and psychological examinations, and they must be fingerprinted. Once they are fingerprinted, they are not allowed to apply for asylum in any other country – even if they are denied asylum where they first applied.

The Agonizing Wait

The second step, after days to weeks at the port of entry, is where they are sent while waiting for a response to their request for asylum. This process should take only two weeks – but can take up to a year, and only 44% of these refugees are granted asylum. Those that are not granted asylum and stay in the country are detained until they can be sent back to their worn-torn homelands. Official statistics released by these countries admit that because of the bureaucracy it can take over a year to receive an answer when requesting asylum – stories from refugees say it takes at least twice as long.

Human Rights Issues

The treatment of refugees is a Human Rights issue, but due to xenophobia in Western Europe, it is often not addressed. These countries continue to accept refugees when they can’t support them and then treat them like threats to society. Though segregating these migrants is not openly supported, most citizens agree it’s necessary to keep their cities “safe” from threats of terrorism and violent crime. Recent events and attacks in Europe have only worsened this fear of non-Western migrants, making it practically impossible for refugees to live there in peace. While these countries treat these migrants like criminals, and oftentimes like animals, they accept the praise from other governments for continuing to accept thousands of refugees.

The true humanitarian crisis of refugees is not that they seek refuge – it is that governments promise them refuge but do not provide it. Should the United States and other countries really speak so highly of Western Europe for accepting refugees? Why would any government want to emulate the actions taken by these countries? The segregation, mistreatment, and deaths of these refugees in Europe are tantamount to the use of concentration camps and should be addressed by each and every government in the European Union immediately. If true asylum cannot be provided, there is no use offering it – these refugees do not deserve to be quarantined, targeted, or caused to suffer because of their country of origin. The nationalistic xenophobia of Western Europe must stop before other countries follow in their footsteps.

About Emma Saxby

Emma is an egalitarian, activist, freelance writer, photographer, and artist residing in the United States. She studies nuclear engineering, plasma physics, international politics and culture. Emma spends a lot of time hiking, geeking out about Star Wars and keeping up with current events.

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