September 6, 2015
Migrants in the Balkans: All want to be Syrian
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC
A Pakistani identity card in the bushes, a Bangladeshi one in a
cornfield. A torn Iraqi driver’s license bearing the photo of a man
with a thick mustache, another one with a scarfed woman displaying a
Documents scattered only meters from Serbia’s border with Hungary
provide evidence that many of the migrants flooding Europe to escape
war or poverty are scrapping their true nationalities and likely
assuming new ones, just as they enter the European Union.
Many of those travelers believe that using a fake document – or having
none at all – gives them a better of chance of receiving asylum in
Germany and other western European states. That’s because the surest
route to asylum is to be a refugee from war and not an economic
migrant fleeing poverty. That fact has led to a huge influx of people
claiming to be Syrian.
Serbian border police say that 90 percent of those arriving from
Macedonia, some 3,000 a day, claim they are Syrian, although they have
no documents to prove it. The so-called Balkan corridor for the
migrant flight starts in Turkey, then goes through Macedonia and
Serbia before entering the European Union in Hungary.
“You can see that something is fishy when most of those who cross into
Serbia enter January first as the date of their birth,” said border
police officer Miroslav Jovic. “Guess that’s the first date that comes
to their mind.”
Vienna (AFP) - Thousands of migrants streamed into Austria from
Hungary over the weekend as residents from Vienna welcomed those
arriving with food, train tickets for
The chief of the European Union border agency Frontex said that
trafficking in fake Syrian passports has increased.
“A lot of people enter Turkey with fake Syrian papers because they
know that they’ll get asylum in the EU more easily,” Fabrice Leggeri
In Germany, customs authorities have intercepted packages mailed to
Germany containing Syrian passports, both genuine and counterfeit, the
finance ministry said.
Syrians transiting through Serbia are concerned about the trend.
“Everyone says they are Syrian, even those who are obviously not,”
said Kamal Saleh, pointing toward a group of people camping in a
Belgrade park. “That is not good for us Syrians because of limited
number of people who will get the asylum.”
Saleh left everyone he loves back in Syria – his wife, a baby boy and
a shattered home in a Damascus suburb.
There are too many people saying we are from Syria, but he is not from
Syria. He is black, and he said ‘I am from Syria.’ Unbelievable.
A Syrian who identified himself only as Yemen
But, unlike many other migrants surging into Europe, he feels
fortunate: He has a Syrian passport that he keeps carefully wrapped in
a plastic folder and tucked inside his secret trouser pocket. The
document, if genuine, should prove that he is a refugee fleeing war,
and not a migrant fleeing poverty or economic hardship. A huge
difference when asylum applications are considered.
His countryman, who identified himself only as Yemen, added: “There
are too many people saying we are from Syria, but he is not from
Syria. He is black, and he said ‘I am from Syria.’ Unbelievable.”
International aid agencies estimate that nearly 340,000 people have
sought to cross EU borders since January. Two-thirds of the latest
European arrivals are believed to be from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq,
Somalia and Eritrea – countries considered by international aid groups
to be “refugee producing states,” due to ongoing war or records of
human rights abuses.
According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, those fleeing violence and
persecution are entitled to basic rights under international law,
including the right not to be immediately deported and sent back into
harm’s way. A migrant could be someone who chooses to resettle to
another country in search of a better life and is eligible for
EU rules say the country where a migrant first arrives must process
the asylum claim. But Germany last week abolished this obligation for
Syrians, triggering a surge of people trying to travel through the EU
to get there, adding that only refugees fleeing for their life, and
not those fleeing poverty, will be allowed to stay.
Aware of the potential asylum rejection, many migrants fleeing poverty
are getting rid of their identity documents altogether.
Among those who had no second thoughts about ditching their true
identity was Rafik from Pakistan.
“I’m leaving my old life behind,” said Rafik, who gave only his first
name because he feared repercussions when applying for asylum in
Germany. “I’m starting a new one.”
“I don’t have a passport, nor any other identity paper,” he said, as
he dashed under the fence into Hungary. “Let’s see which country they
will choose to kick me back to.”
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Received on Sun Sep 06 2015 - 17:45:29 EDT