How Will Europe Cope with Its Migrants? Benjamin Ward of Human Rights Watch Explains Asylum Seeking

LBN has been following the developing migrant crisis in Europe (see this previous LBN report on the crisis.) Over the weekend, 20,000 migrants seeking asylum made their way to Germany from Hungary. Britain and France have pledged to help. Germany wants the European Union to take a bigger role and not leave the burden to a few countries. Questions of what to do with the hordes of people and what their status will be are still being worked out. Benjamin Ward of Human Rights Watch explains the situation in this report.

Many people who are migrating have inadequate or no paperwork. Ward says that, in some cases, migrants were told to destroy documents so that their nationality couldn’t be determined. Others were given false documents, and the real documents were then discarded. That’s why, Ward says, there is really no way for the migrants to enter Europe through regular means, such as smugglers. Human Rights Watch has looked at legal routes for migrants to enter Europe and present claims for asylum.

Benjamin Ward

Benjamin Ward

Ward explains that “migrant” is a term for any person who is on the move, for any of a host of reasons. Within the broad category of migrants are people who are seeking to have another country grant them asylum as a refugee on the basis that they face persecution in their home country. Asylum seekers who are granted asylum are called refugees. Ward notes that Turkey does not have an asylum system. Syrians in Turkey are given a sort of status, but they aren’t refugees.

Ward says that most of the migrants arriving in Europe want to go to one or the other of a very few countries. Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are high on the list. Still, many people feel that there should be a sharing of responsibility among the twenty-eight member states of the European Union. Those who become refugees tend to become more or less permanent residents of the countries where they are given refugee status. That status will grant them some travel rights in Europe. Once they attain full citizenship, they can travel like any other citizen of a European country. But that status takes a long time to attain.

Benjamin Ward, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division, supervises research on the EU region, the Western Balkans, and Turkey. He writes regularly about human rights in Europe. Before joining the organization, Ward worked for the United Nations in Somalia and New York, and in Bosnia for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He was admitted to practice as a barrister in England & Wales in 2003, and holds a bachelor's in government from the London School of Economics and a master's in international affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.