Asylum seekers: Seek refuge in Macedonia, dream of Western Europe
In the first six months of this year about 500 people sought asylum in the country, the majority is from Syria, 215. Macedonia is part of the so-called Balkan route which starts from Turkey, Greece, via our country and Serbia goes to Western Europe. This year the state has recognized refugee status of two families from Syria living in Stip
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Many of the migrants facing deportation back home use the asylum option to legalize their stay in Macedonia, not giving up on the goal – to reach the countries of the European Union. So most of them, before getting a response from institutions to their request for asylum, manage to find a way to leave the country.
According to Marija Jakovleska, chief in the Interior Ministry, in 2013 1,296 asylum seekers were registered in RM. Most of them or 320 were from Syria, 245 from Afghanistan, 102 from Pakistan, 94 from Algeria, and fewer people were from Bangladesh, Sudan and Egypt. It is interesting to note that in the statistics of the Ministry of Interior people from neighboring countries are registered as asylum seekers – three from Serbia and one from Bulgaria have sought asylum in Macedonia.
The wave of asylum seekers from Syria continued in the first six months of this year, of 511 people asylum seekers, the majority is from Syria – 215, followed by Afghanistan and Somalia, and they are staying in the Reception Centre in Vizbegovo, which is under the authority of Ministry of Labor and Social Policy. In Macedonia there is only one Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, located in Vizbegovo, 3 km from the center of Skopje. The center has a capacity to accommodate 150 people, but usually there are about 80-90 people.
“Nearly all people coming from third countries are undocumented and their identity is based on their statement when completing the application for asylum. Furthermore they are registered under the personal data listed. If, however, they possess a document, it must be attached to the application for asylum and submitted to the Asylum Department in the Ministry of Interior, but it is possible to keep a copy of all documents they submit. On the basis of the application, an identity document shall be issued for asylum seekers so that they can move freely in the country and have the right to possess it until it is decided upon their asylum claims. Many of them keep scanned copies of documents they had in their e-mail addresses and use them to prove their origin where they are”, explains Irena Zdravkova from the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association for Inbox7.
As explained by the Association, it is very difficult to obtain their documents because they usually come from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria.
“Most of them say that the documents were burned in the war or destroyed during their trip to Western Europe. But at the same time, acquisition is not recommended as asylum is international protection given to a person because of problems he/she encountered in their country, and the country has failed to protect them as its citizens. It depends on the subject, but the reasons for an unhappy life and threats to a person can continue after he leaves the country, so the state that accepts the refugee must not give information that the refugee has been taken under its protection”, says Zdravkova, Project Coordinator at Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, which in cooperation with UNHCR provides legal assistance to refugees, persons under subsidiary protection, asylum seekers and other persons of concern to UNHCR.
Within its jurisdictions the Association helps only if there is a possibility to obtain documents from state institutions. Such was the recent case of obtaining a birth certificate for the newborn of applicant seeker from Afghanistan, who gave birth at the border crossing point a few months ago.
In 2011 744 requests for asylum were submitted in the Republic of Macedonia and there was a big reversal in comparison with the previous year in which, according to UNHCR figures, only 180 requests for asylum were submitted. The same increasing trend continued in the coming years, so in 2012 636 requests for asylum were filed, and by the end of June 2013 523 requests for asylum were filed. It was about people who come from countries in the Middle East and Africa, and in 2013 due to the conflict in Syria there was an enormous increase in the number of asylum seekers originating from Syria, mainly from the city of Aleppo.
Illegal migrants – asylum seekers
Macedonian police knows that some illegal migrants decide to seek refugee status only to be transferred from the shelter center of Gazi Baba, which is of closed type, to the Reception Centre in Vizbegovo, in order to legalize their stay in the country and get temporary protection.
Very often asylum seekers are equated with migrants who leave their countries for economic reasons or a better life. Migratory movements intertwine these groups of people traveling together.
“In fact the difference is in the reasons for which they have decided to leave their countries, and that is why an asylum seeker or a refugee is different from an economic migrant. Asylum seekers or refugees are forced to leave their countries, but migrants want to leave because their motive is the desire for better life. We call them irregular migrants because they have done nothing illegal except illegally coming into the country to escape a war and unhappy life”, they say from the Macedonian Lawyers Association.
t be met. But as soon as they cross the borders on the way to Western Europe, they become illegal migrants who stay closed as if they committed the most difficult crimes. Disturbing is the fact that most often in migration groups a large number of single mothers and children travel, who seek salvation in some countries in western Europe.
According to recent estimates of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of Syrian refugees exceeds 3,000,000; they mostly live in camps in Lebanon (1,100,000), Jordan (600,000) and Turkey (847,000).
The entire international community calls that they are refugees whose basic needs musт be met. But as soon as they cross the borders on the way to Western Europe, they become illegal migrants who stay closed as if they committed the most difficult crimes. Disturbing is the fact that most often in migration groups a large number of single mothers and children travel, who seek salvation in some countries in western Europe.
Two families from Syria live in Stip
The procedure for obtaining asylum status must be completed within six months after submission of the application. For this period asylum seekers stay in the Reception Center in Vizbegovo.
Lawyers that Inbox 7 consulted think that according to the present situation arising from the increasing number of migrations in the Western Balkans, it would be best to find mechanisms to avoid a situation that everyone who transits the country to have to go through the asylum procedure. Best practice would be established if mechanisms were found for early profiling the needs of all transiting on the so-called Balkan route that through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia leads to Western Europe, they say from the Young Lawyers Association.
According to legal norms, nationality on grounds of asylum is granted only if the recognized refugee resides on the territory of Republic of Macedonia, six years after receiving his status. There are such cases only with Kosovo refugees that the association works with and helps in the process of their naturalization.
“This year the state admitted refugee status to two families from Syria living in Stip. Our association is in contact with the families, we communicate in English, and it is about educated people with university education in Syria. Later, during our meeting it became clear why they insisted so much that their children learn Macedonian”, explains Zdravkova.
Turkey hit by a wave of refugees from neighboring Syria
The war in Syria has caused a huge refugee flow to Turkey. Official Ankara, after 100,000 Kurdish refugees entered the country during the weekend, decided to close part of the border crossings.
As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced, Turkey has been facing the biggest ever influx of refugees from neighboring Syria since the beginning of the war more than three years ago.
Civilians leave the country and flee from clashes between fighters of the “Islamic state” and Kurdish forces, especially after overtaking dozens of villages near the border with Turkey by IS.
There are currently 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Editor: Stojanka Mitreska