D R A F T: For internal aslyumlaw.org
This material was prepared by GEA2000.
The asylum systems in North America, Europe, Australia,
and New Zealand are complicated, involve significant amounts of administrative
hurdles, and are oftern adversarial. We are sorry that we partly have
to copy the administrative style of
in order to describe precisely how things work. It might take you
a bit more time to understand this administrative style. But it is
worth trying to understand our text: the text trains you for asylum
or similar procedures. Whether you get protection from persecution
at home or not can depend on how much you know on the asylum systems.
So, please, take your time and read the entire text.
The top things to think about are:
- Where (which country) are you going to seek asylum?
- How are you going to get there?
- How can you increase the odds of winning your case?
Part I: Where are you going to seek asylum?
Consider alternatives to applying for asylum in the rich countries.
The most important thing for you should be whether you are safe
from being returned to your country where you are in danger.
As you might have seen see by the help of the statistics refugee
recognition rates can be high or low whether an asylum country is
rich or not.
Many people who are not in danger apply for political asylum, mostly
without success. At the same time, many people who are really in danger
in their country of origin do not apply for political asylum or refugee
status but prefer to become legal, tolerated, or illegal immigrant.
E.g.: most of the people who fled Saddam Hussein just became legal
or illegal immigrants in Arab neighbour countries.
The range of countries accepting immigrants is wider than the range of countries
granting political asylum: Many not so rich countries accept immigrants but
do not accept refugees. If you have some money or family members living elsewhere,
you should consider settling down at other places than the rich European
asylum countries. Rich countries try to keep the recognition rates low (see
our statistics under ”Chances and statistics”). Their forcible
return policy tends to be very developed. If not compared to refugee camps
in poor countries, they offer often a restricted and poor life to asylum
seekers. Work is mostly prohibited for some months or years.
Chose your preferred country of asylum on
the basis of facts, not on rumours or prejudices.
Many refugees rely on rumours, prejudices or publicity when they
chose a certain country as asylum country. However, the chances to
become a recognised refugee or to get another form of protection from
forcible return differ enormously even between asylum countries and
even from area to area within countries (especially the United States).
This is rarely taken into account before or during the flight. But
you have applied in a certain asylum country, it is often impossible
to move to another one and to get recognised there (see point 3 below);
you risk even to lose all rights in the first country of asylum if
Unfortunately, (future) refugees frequently just follow the example
of people they know. But these people do not always tell the truth
about their status: Sometimes they are just illegally in a certain
country though they pretend to be there legally. People often lie
when their families have financed the flight and they thus feel under
pressure of success. This is understandable and human. But it risks
Chose your country of asylum also according the recognition rates
and the return policy for your country of origin.
Many times refugees can only flee in one country and nowhere else.
But if ever you have a choice between different countries: Be aware
of the fact that recognition rates for one and the same country of
origin vary enormously even between asylum countries on the same continent.
As a consequence, an asylum seeker risks to be returned to his country
of origin when he applies in one country though he might have been
recognised as refugee in another country ”next door”.
Chances for recognition differ between less than one percent and more
than 90 % for the same country of origin! Please read Chances
In some cases, countries of asylum do not recognise asylum seekers
from a certain country of origin, but grant another status or just
do not send them back. If you do not have reliable information on
the return policy of a certain targeted asylum country, be aware of
the risk of forcible return. You might address refugee-assisting organisations
in various asylum countries using the pull down menu in order to
be informed on the recognition and return practice for people of your
origin. By the way, the statistics referred to in our section ”Chances
and statistics” take sometimes to some extent account of other
forms of protection.
Part II: Travel Considerations.
How You Get There Matters.
You have no free choice of your asylum country
within Europe. Be aware of (a) the safe third country rule, (b)
the European responsibility sharing
scheme Dublin II.
Many European countries apply the "safe third country rule" to deny asylum
to applicants who lived in or even travelled through another
country deemed to
give protection to refugees. Whether the "safe" country really
is ready to grant protection is irrelevant in most of the cases.
The safe third country rule is regarded as assumption. Only in some cases
and/or countries of asylum the assumption is refutable.
When an asylum country wants to apply the safe third country rule, it is only
allowed to return the applicant to the third country, not to the country of
origin. However, in practice asylum countries often prefer to examine the case
themselves in order to return the applicant to his country of origin. This
is often easier for them.
The U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway, Island,
and all European Union Member States are regarded as safe by all European
states. In some cases, asylum countries regard also other states as
safe third countries though refugee help organisations haven't the
same opinion. The European Union tries to harmonise its criteria for
a state to be regarded as safe, but has not succeeded yet in doing
In addition, those seeking aslyum in Europe should have an understanding of
"European responsibility sharing system" that is commonly referred
to as "Dublin
II." This system is based on a couple of criteria determining the
responsibility of the responsible
European asylum state. The aim is to avoid double or multiple application
of the same asylum seeker. The fingerprints of applicants are registered
so that double applications are revealed. Once the authorities learned
that you used a wrong identity not just to get out of your country
of origin, but to apply for asylum twice, your credibility will be
extremely difficult to re-establish. Chances for recognition as refugee
are thus diminished. Be aware of the risk that your double identity
will be revealed by the European Union fingerprint recognition system
Eurodac and other systems described under 4. or just by accident.
Always prefer to make an intelligent use of the existing rules instead
of violating them. Reveal your real identity once you have got access
to an asylum procedure.
All Member States of the European Union (except Denmark) plus Norway
and Island take part in Dublin II. Dublin II is not applicable in
Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and in the overseas
territories and departments of France. It is not applicable in the
Balkan states (except Slovenia and Greece), Moldavia, Ukraine, Belarus,
and Russia, but asylum procedures in these states are extremely difficult
or even not existent.
As recognition practices vary very much, Dublin II is likely to influence
the outcome of your asylum procedure in Europe. You should therefore
study thoroughly the Dublin criteria. We prepared for you the complicated
legislative text in a way that makes it easier understandable. Please
free choice: Dublin II.
Is it possible to avoid the application of Dublin II by saying: ”I
do not apply for asylum but I apply for humanitarian protection”?
Humanitarian protection is protection against forcible return / expulsion
for other reasons than the once mentioned in the Geneva Refugee Convention
(see our page "Are
you a refugee?"). The answer
to this question is not easy. We deal with it on Alternatives
to Dublin II? Humanitarian protection”).
Try to enter the asylum country legally, with a visa if one is required.
Visas are often difficult, but not impossible to obtain. But compared
to an illegal journey, it is much safer to travel with a visa. Visa
are normally refused when the applicant is suspected to apply for
political asylum. Only high profile refugees and refugees with a very
strong link to a certain country of asylum sometimes get a visa for
the purpose of applying for asylum. The U.S. and other resettlement
programs might sometimes help if you already left your country. But
you cannot rely on them as they tend to be restrictive. Read
some suggestions on obtaining a visa for more tips.
Many thousands of asylum seekers still travel by a tourist or business
visa to their targeted asylum country or a neighbouring country that
is ready to issue a visa. In order not to be sent to the visa issuing
state they frequently destroy their original travel documents before
applying for asylum. They pretend to have another name than the one
on the passport. But there are some risks:
- You are less credible when you try to be somebody else, even
when telling the real true story that happened to you. You should
real identity once you have got access to an asylum procedure.
- Some asylum countries verify whether the applicant has really
lived at a certain place in his country of origin. This is
another reason to reveal
identity once you are in the asylum procedure.
- Your real identity might get revealed when your fingerprints
have already been registered within the same state or by one
of the European
co-operating by a common fingerprint recognition system (Eurodac).
This fingerprint recognition system registers people who applied
for asylum for a period of
ten years and those who entered illegally one of the European Union
states for two years.
- Your real identity can also be revealed by the so-called Schengen
Information System (SIS) which registers people who asked for
visa or had to leave one
of the European Union Member States. SIS registers names, alias
names, dates and places of birth, civil status, unique physical
characteristics, passport data, but no photographs, fingerprints, or other biometrical
data yet (biometrical means: measuring electronically a part
of the body). If
somebody uses an
authentic passport which has already been used once for an illegal
entry or stay in the
European Union, the SIS will also detect it. Biometrical data
will be included to the next generation of SIS, SIS II, that
aimed at integrating
the 10 new European Union member states. Biometrical data and
an electronic photo
will be integrated in the future visa of the European Union (from
the end of 2005 onwards). The United States of America already
and an electronic photo in their visa.
- Please note also that airways personnel or European/American
border policemen working at airports in
your country or
a transit country
sometimes detect falsified visa or travel documents. There
is no asylum in the plane
yet. Only once on the ground of the targeted state you can
apply for asylum. According to some reports this right is even
airports! Inform a friend or a help organisation for refugees
of your arrival if you are really in immediate danger at home
by plane to your
Some of these risks also exist when a refugee uses a travel document
issued on another, a wrong name. This practice will become even more
common: It is not easy to falsify a high tech visa. But it is easy
to falsify a standard passport or to bribe somebody to get an original
passport on a wrong name. In this case like in all others we recommend
to reveal the identity once access to an asylum procedure has been
granted. By the way: If a refugee reveals his real identity after
the illegal entry he cannot be punished for illegal entry (Article
31 of the Geneva Convention).
Be aware that illegal journey to your asylum
country carry risks, inlcuding death.
It does not make sense to escape from a danger at home but to die
on the way to a potential country of asylum. However, several hundreds
if not thousands of people die each year while trying to reach Europe,
North America, or Australia. Travel to Europe, for example, is risky
on the sea between Morocco and Spain or Libya and Italy, at the mined
boarder between Turkey and Greece,
in the rivers in Eastern Europe, and in lorries(trucks) without air
in which people are trafficked. Based on recent press articles and
of refugee help organisations, we assume the death rate per year to
be higher than 500 for Europe. Quite similar figures are reported
from the electric fence between Mexico and the Unites States of America
or from those trying to reach America or Australia by boat.
The international press reports also extensively on cases of betrayal (you
pay for a service, but you do not get it), usury (you pay
too much for a service or goods), and armed physical attacks against
illegal migrants on the land and sea way.
As you cannot recur to the police, you are the ideal victim. Especially
horrible stories are heard about
illegal migrants in Morocco. Many African illegal migrants, some
of them refugees, live there under horrible conditions because
afford the $2,000 (or €) needed to get - mostly
with bound hands! - access to the unsafe throw-away barks going to
the continental Europe
Women and minors: be aware of the risk of being sexually aggressed
or ”sold” as
prostitutes though you paid for the trafficker.
We have numerous reports about women and sometimes also children
who have been forced into prostitution and slavery on the way to Europe.
This happens sometimes even when the women have already paid for the
journey. It happens on all routes, be it in Morocco/Spain, Libya/Italy,
Turkey/Greece, the Balkans, Ukraine/Poland, Czech Republic/Germany
etc. Not only a trafficker can sell you as prostitute, but also his ”employees” or ”partners”,
sometimes even to the traffickers' unknowing. There is a huge ”European
market” for female and child prostitutes. Therefore, try to
travel with men you can rely on. Do not accept to be separated from
them. Do not get lured by offers for ”household”, ”waitress” or
other jobs. According to some reports, there is also a remarkable
risk of getting sexually abused by policemen or border guards in some
transit countries, e.g. in the north-west of Africa.
Part III: The Asylum Application
Try to (a) find
information on the asylum procedure, (b) seek help from organisation
for refugees and (c) contact a lawyer recommended by them.
(a) The asylum procedures in all rich, ”industrialised” western
countries aren’t easy to understand. Legal remedies against
negative decisions are extremely difficult to use in practice. An
overview on legal and social conditions in European asylum countries
is given here. For many of these files you need to download and install
the acrobat reader unless it is already on your computer. For getting
an overview on legal and social conditions in the United States, Canada,
Australia, and Europe use the pull-down menu above.
(b) The likelihood of getting protection from forcible return depends
on the early and qualified assistance. In order to find an appropriate
organisation in your asylum country please have a look at the various
directories using the pull-down menu.
(c) In many asylum states, it is necessary to consult a lawyer
sooner or later. However, we advise to consult, if ever you have enough
time, a refugee-assisting organisation first so that they can recommend
you a good and dedicated lawyer. Unfortunately, there are not only
good and dedicated lawyers working for asylum seekers, but also lawyers
who are not so good or not very much dedicated to refugee assistance.
Lawyers listed as asylumspecialists in our directories will, in most
of the cases, be both good and dedicated.
During the whole procedure, give a true, complete, detailed and
consistent picture of the reasons for your application, both in writing
Even if the interrogating officer of the asylum country is only interested
in the way you took to get here, you should always insist on laying
down the reasons for your application. Credibility criteria vary slightly
from one asylum country to the other. But generally speaking, you
better prepare both a written and oral statement, which is
- True (lies are mostly revealed and hinder any form of protection),
- Complete (mentioning all elements of your personal history which
are relevant for your flight),
- Detailed (describing the concrete circumstances of all the
elements, even if they might seem shameful)
- Consistent (without contradictions to former statements
or evident facts).
Some recommendations for the asylum interview which takes place in most of
the European asylum countries:
- Whenever possible, prepare a written statement on the reasons
for your flight in advance. This takes time to be done well.
the questionnaire here to check whether you really mentioned
all relevant points. Keep a copy or two of your written presentation
when you hand
it over to the
- It is better to present your asylum case both orally and in
writing in a chronological way, so one event after the other,
in order to avoid
But you should also refer back to facts you mentioned earlier if
there is a
- Also in interviews, indicate precisely the time and the place
when and where something happened. Be aware of the fact that
the asylum officer
your story as you do.
- Insist on presenting all facts legitimating your asylum application
even if the officer asks you only about the way you took to
get to Europe. Asylum
officers sometimes neglect their task to find out the facts
of your persecution.
- Indicate right from the beginning that you
do not understand the asylum officer or the translator/interpreter
is the case.
- Ask for an asylum officer and translator/interpreter of
your sex/gender if you do not dare to mention delicate/intimate
facts otherwise. Officers
mostly trained to accept these requests.
- If you are still shocked by what happened to you, ask
for psychological assistance. Let the officer know that
all delicate / intimate
details of what happened to you or your loved ones.
- Do not sign interview minutes or other documents that
you do not fully understand or that are not complete,
correct or that are
not at least orally
retranslated into a language you fully understand.
In lawful states nobody is obliged to sign documents. No
is a "must."
- Do not sign the withdrawal of your application unless
you have thoroughly reflected this step for several
days at least,
advice by a lawyer or a refugee-assisting organisation.
Do not believe any arguments
of urgency with respect to the withdrawal.
Collect and bring documents supporting
your asylum claim.
Your major task as asylum seeker is, in your own interest, to present
your individual case in a complete, detailed and consistent way. Documents
that back up your claim, however, can be very helpful in proving your
case. Documents your shoudl try to bring with you include:
- Documents confirming your identity and citizenship. Passports,
licenses, work papers, birth certificates, etc. Identity is an issue
in every asylum case, and the more documents you have to prove idedntity,
- Documents confirming what happened to you. Arrest
records, medical records, newspaper clippings, political or religious
identity cards, pictures of injuries, and the like are all very
- Documents describing the conditions you are fleeing.
While many countries have general information about country conditions,
do not think that all officers or judges deciding on asylum claims
are well informed about the situation in your country of origin:
Sometimes they are, sometimes
they are not. In order to guarantee a minimum level of knowledge you should
add to your application, the sooner the better, documents indicating
in your situation are in danger at home. Keep a copy of these documents
of all other asylum procedure documents. The first step to find adequate
information is to click on www.ecoi.net and
to insert your country in the white field on
the left top. If you cannot find what you look for, please use the asylumlaw.org
search tool. The later will search ecoi.net as well as 14 other human