From the war’s tornado to Dublin’s whirlpool

Originally from Syria, at the age of 23, I am now living in Belgium, where, for the last two weeks, I have been volunteering for the European Movement International via the Tandem programme.

I’m Yazan, and I would like to share with you my experience with ‘Dublin’, and give you my view on how I think it might be changed. The procedure and its applications in different EU countries is something I have experienced first-hand.

I left behind the fear that I felt living in my country, only to experience the stress and the fear again on my journey to Europe, and since arriving here.

Greece, late September 2014, waiting for a passage across the sea.

Greece, late September 2014, waiting for a passage across the sea.

The journey

After the war started in my country and the circumstances started to become really dangerous, I decided to flee my country, but before taking the decision to begin the risky journey towards Europe through unknown landscapes and across the sea, I tried to guarantee a legal path. I applied for 2 visas to get to EUROPE and was refused access – it didn’t stop there. I also tried to secure a legal path for myself by asking for an immigration or humanitarian visa through the UN in Turkey, but that didn’t work either.

After one of the scariest journeys across the sea from Greece at the end of summer 2014, I arrived in Italy; the scary boat trip ended, but the fear didn’t.

In Italy I was immediately arrested and, together with my travel companions, we were treated badly from the off. Under pretence of the Dublin regulation, we were subjected to the lies of the police, who seemed to be willing to lie to convince us to give up our fingerprints in any way possible – a degrading experience that felt especially uncivilised.

There was no way left for us to try to explain to them or convince them that we had our plans prepared regarding our destinations (my plan was to join family in Belgium where I knew shelter, belonging and companionship awaited me): no positive result came out of our efforts except for us to end up giving our fingerprints to the authorities.

Greece_September2014_Yazan_RouteItaly

Greece, September 2014, wondering what the future holds.

Applying for asylum in Belgium
I arrived in Belgium late November 2014 and asked for asylum. I went to the Dublin/first interview and had to wait for the immigration office’s decision, which led to a 7-8 month delay before I learnt that I would have to leave Belgium within 29 days.

I would like to mention that during that period of 7-8 months I didn’t have the right to work, not even to follow language courses, because I was a ‘Dublin claimer’. Going along to the immigration office once a month to sit from 8 in the morning until the end of the working day elicited a very stressful and scary feeling. However, it was not as difficult as being delayed for an entire month and having to live through constant anxiety, expecting the worst would happen (to be deported).

Obtaining a refugee status in Belgium
After I completed 13 months in Belgium with the help of my lawyer who appealed against the decision of the immigration office, I was eventually allowed to stay in Belgium with a refugee status.

In September I will begin a Bachelor degree, and now have to work on building a solid base towards a more secure future in my adopted homeland. However, my experience with European immigration has led me to propose some improvements to the working of the Dublin regulation:

  1. Shortening the period of waiting for the asylum seeker.
  2. Considering that refugees seek to lead an honest life and a fresh start in the destinations that they chose to live in, and taking into consideration the differing situations regarding different Member States’ ways of treating refugees and dealing with immigration issues.
  3. Controlling the violence and the psychological pressure that some EU members are applying on refugees in their jurisdiction.