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MDX academic leads research on asylum-related information across Europe

19/04/2018
New report reveals that vulnerable asylum seekers fall through the net during entry processes in EU countries

A new report says vulnerable asylum seeking groups including unaccompanied minors, potential victims of human trafficking and people with disabilities may not receive adequate information and guidance when they enter EU countries.

The report, authored by The People for Change Foundation is the result of a large scale research project led by Brad Blitz, Professor of International Politics at Middlesex University London. It analyses the provision of asylum-related information in six EU States: Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Malta Sweden and the United Kingdom and builds on national reports authored by partners in all these countries.

The study finds the provision of information is extremely diverse and first-contact officers are not always proactively providing information about access to asylum or prioritising vulnerable groups.

Professor Blitz, says: “Our study found a lack of user-friendly and easily understandable information and there is an alarming reliance on word of mouth, particularly in accessing rights and figuring out reception details.  The lack of structured information means that when a country’s system is under pressure, as is arguably the case in Italy, misinformation is provided and worryingly, vulnerable groups may fall through the net.

His comments were echoed by Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci, Director of The People for Change Foundation. Dr Gauci said: “A much more streamlined process is needed across all fronts to ensure all asylum applicants, irrespective of their background and the way they reach the asylum process, have accurate, accessible information regarding the asylum process, their rights and their responsibilities.”

“Our study found a lack of user-friendly and easily understandable information and there is an alarming reliance on word of mouth, particularly in accessing rights and figuring out reception details.  The lack of structured information means that when a country’s system is under pressure, as is arguably the case in Italy, misinformation is provided and worryingly, vulnerable groups may fall through the net." Professor Brad Blitz

Key country-specific findings:

  • Estonia stands out as a rare exception of an EU state that has developed a proactive approach to the provision of clear information in both asylum legislation and practice
  • In Cyprus, legally the authorities must issue a detailed leaflet in languages understood by asylum seekers, in practice the leaflet remained out of date for several years and was only rarely hand to applicants.
  • The obligation to provide information varies across countries, In Italy, the UK and Sweden a right to information applies only when a person expresses a wish to apply for asylum. In the case of Italy, basic and relevant information is generally provided soon after disembarkation and repeated afterwards in order to be fully absorbed by boat people.
  • The authors express concern that translated material in most countries was not always up-to-date despite changes in policy and procedures.
  • The case of Hungary overall serves as a sharp contrast: in its currently upheld ‘state of emergency due to mass migration’, Hungary does not comply with much of the Common European Asylum Sysem legal instruments regulating information provision to asylum seekers. The right to information of asylum seekers is heavily compromised throughout the asylum procedure. It is most deeply felt in the so-called ‘transit zones’, which are gated institutions where the majority of the asylum seekers are permanently held until the end of the asylum procedure.
  • Information for rejected asylum seekers, arguably the most vulnerable group say the authors, is seriously lacking in the study countries.

The authors argue that setting up a one-stop-shop system during the application stage and post-application is good practice. It could cover, for example, interpretation needs for rejected asylum seekers and mediation for employment and housing services.

The countries included in the report were selected as they have different legal and political traditions as well as diverse migration policies.  The report covers various forms of information provision such as access to the asylum procedure, finger-printing, reception conditions, the rights and responsibilities of refugees, resettlement and relocation and return. The comparative and national reports are available on www.inform-asylum.eu.

The INFORM* project will live on through a new community of practice. Further research is underway on information provision in Greece.

Ends

*INFORM is an EU funded project (number ASYL7859)

Learn more about studying international politics at Middlesex

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