OVER 8100 DEATHS
Every year thousands of refugees try to flee to Europe to seek safety from persecution, economic security or just “a better life”.
Every year hundreds of them drown on their way from Africa to Italy or Spain, suffocate in sealed containers, starve in locked trucks, are blown to pieces by landmines between Turkey and Greece or freeze on their way across mountain ranges.
And if they do finally manage to arrive in “Fortress Europe”, they find that they are not at all safe.
They are fenced in, in so-called refugee centres, some of which do not differ from a normal prison. Some of these refugees cannot deal with the misery and the inhuman conditions in which they are held and so start a hunger strike or sew their eyes and mouth shut to protest against their situation. Some of them even commit suicide.
These deaths can be put down to border militarization, asylum laws, detention policies, deportations and carrier sanctions. They are linked to the implementation of decisions taken at the highest political level: the Schengen Treaty, the Dublin Convention and EU border control programmes.
These deaths are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of policies that no longer see the humanity of those fleeing their homeland, but prefer to see them as numbers, or worse, as a natural disaster, ‘a flood’.
If a state decides that a refugee has no right to apply for asylum, s/he is deported to her/his home-country, even if s/he has been living in her/his new home-country for ten years. Often the children are deported too, even if they do not speak their parents’ mother-tongue.
Sometimes people die during deportation, as was the case for Marcus Omofuma, who suffocated during his forced repatriation when his guards taped his mouth and restrained his body. People are sometimes murdered or ‘disappear’, because the country they were deported to was not safe after all, and they were killed or imprisoned by state forces.
Although many European states now record the lowest numbers of refugees in years, people still are still crying out for stricter rules and limitations for refugees. The Austrian government is even demanding a complete rethinking of the right to asylum. They suggest transforming it from an individual right to a policy that mainly serves the needs of the country of destination. But it is sure, that as long as Europe does not change its attitude towards African and other “Third World” countries, refugees will keep on coming*.
As shown on the map (which was published in the French monthly ‘Le Monde Diplomatique’ and largely based on UNITED research), most of the documented refugee deaths occur between Africa and Spain in the Straits of Gibraltar, around Malta and on the way to Italy. Many people drown in the Mediterranean before arriving on European shores.
The ICMPD (International Centre for Migration Policy Development) speaks about at least 3600 deaths on the Spanish coasts and the Spanish government admits that of every three drowned persons only one body is recovered. The number of people that really drown in this area is unknown. It is many times higher than the one documented for sure.
One of the reasons refugees enter a country ‘illegally’ is that the governments want to shut down all legal options of migration for people who try to escape their unbearable living conditions.
The number of these cases is alarming and it is to be feared that it indicates an even higher occurrence of maltreatment of refugees in Europe.