The growing influx of refugees in Europe in recent years has led to an asylum crisis in the European Union that is still unresolved.
Millions of people have arrived at the continent's borders fleeing war and violence, but the failure to comply with reception agreements and quota sharing in each country has left thousands of people without options, leaving them waiting in refugee camps for months or even years.
In order to deal with this humanitarian crisis, the European Union has rules to ensure that all member countries act in a coordinated manner.
However, the European Parliament itself has recognised that the one million refugees who arrived in 2015 revealed "serious deficiencies in the asylum system".
Hosting fees by country The so-called refugee crisis began in 2015, with the arrival of almost one million people fleeing the civil war in Syria. These were joined by other displaced people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
Most of these people arrived in southern European countries, since they are the closer to the countries of origin. As a result, border countries such as Greece and Italy were overwhelmed.
In order to alleviate the difficulties of these countries, in 2015, quotas were established for the reception of immigrants among the member countries of the European Union. The distribution followed an "equity mechanism" and was based on the wealth and size of the population of each country. Germany was one of the countries that took in the most refugees.
According to the agreement, the states were to share out 160,000 refugees and the European Commission earmarked more than 5 billion euros over two years to help countries achieve this.
However, despite the Community agreements, each member country has the power to decide whether to grant refugee status or not. This is why the reception programme failed and only a quarter of the refugees were relocated.
Countries such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia refused to comply with the commitments and closed their borders to migrants.
The failure of asylum policies has led to a proliferation of refugee camps in Greece and Turkey, a country with which the EU has an agreement that allows the deportation of migrants in an irregular situation.
According to the Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR), EU countries resolved almost 600,000 applications for international protection in 2018 (half as many as two years earlier), although two out of every three final decisions were negative.
CEAR and other humanitarian organisations report that differences in asylum application procedures in each country make it difficult to grant permits to refugees.
Obtaining refugee status According to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of origin or habitual residence and is persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership of a particular social group, gender or sexual orientation, and cannot claim the protection of his or her country.
People who fear for their lives in their own country can apply for asylum in other countries through a formal request. They will not become refugees until they have been formally recognised by the authorities of that country. This process often involves the requirement for certified translations of the applicant’s personal documents and any supporting evidence they wish to submit.
The procedures for validating the asylum application often take a very long time, especially as the number of applicants is increasing.
In addition, the Convention recognises the principle of non-refoulement, which means that these people cannot be returned to the country from which they left because their lives would be in danger. However, this principle is not always fulfilled.
The Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which brings together the common migration regulations for EU member countries, has remained unchanged for five years. The European Council is considering several proposals to respond to the thousands of migrants who hope to start a better life in Europe.
For the time being, the European Commission is relying on temporary arrangements such as the proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard to assist Member States, the return of illegal immigrants and cooperation with third countries such as Turkey. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious end in sight to this crisis, and we must recognise the plight and hardship of the people caught up in this system. This is why we offer free and reduced-price certified translations to refugees and others in difficult situations. We are able to do this thanks to the generosity and kindness of many of the members of our certified translation network, who often work for free to support good causes when they are able. If this situation applies to you or a loved-one, a friend or acquaintance, or if you would like to help with volunteer translations for good causes, please do get in touch. Thanks for reading.