World Refugee Day: For the Right to Life
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By Basir Ahang
Translated by Alessandra Montesanto “For Human Rights - Milan Italy”
On the occasion of the World Refugee Day
The World Refugee Day is celebrated worldwide on June 20th. Held for the first time in 2001, by the United Nations, on occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Geneva Convention, this day celebrates the million people who are forced to leave their countries, every year, because of wars or persecutions.
Today there are more than 36 million refugees in the world, and this number seems tragically destined to rise. On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) selects a common theme to coordinate the celebratory events throughout the world. This year, a theme that many refugees would like to propose to UNHCR, is that of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, who have been blocked in Turkey for years, and of the tragedies that affect these people when they try to reach Greece.
In Turkey, this year, on 12th April, the refugees from Afghanistan started a peaceful demonstration and a hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in Ankara, to protest against the lack of verification of their applications for international protection and the resulting situation of precariousness and uncertainty in which they were forced to live. The event was carried out mainly by women, many of them with their mouths sewn in protest.
In Turkey, without any document, refugees cannot work, children cannot study and their most basic rights are not even taken into consideration. The registration of refugees is vital, also because it allows them to resettle in a Third Country.
From 1st December 2012, the UNHCR has interrupted the registration of refugees from Afghanistan, as it is written in the notice on the door of their office in Ankara. When questioned on the matter by some journalists, UNCHR did not provide any explanation of the new policies adopted by them
Translation of the announcement: "The High Commissioner of the United Nations has suspended the registration for the verification of refugee status and resettlement in third countries of refugees from Afghanistan. The measure has been renewed since May 6, 2013”.
Turkey has always been the corridor for access to Europe. Since 2010, Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) has been attempting to close the access to the border between Greece and Turkey, but this has not prevented the applicants to keep on risking their lives to escape from war and persecution. In Greece, the refugees suffer all kinds of harassment and violence by the Greek police. In particular, a case has tragically gone up to the news.
Last January, a group of refugees trying to reach the Greek coasts was violently rejected by the Greek coast guard. During the rejection the boat capsized and many women and children on board fell into the water. Those of them who were drowning, desperately tried to cling to the boat of the coast guards, but they were thrown again into the sea by the men on board, who also prevented refugees to save their relatives and friends threatening them with guns.
Finally, nine children and three women died, killed by the Greek coast guard.
One of the protagonists of the following video had once been able to reach Norway, country from which he had been repatriated to Afghanistan. Once in Afghanistan, he had tried to escape again, with his family, hoping of saving his life.
This situation affects not only the refugees from Afghanistan, but also the ones escaping from the several wars that afflict our world today.
Our hope is that, one day, to have a world day to remember dead people and living ones who are not allowed to live, won’t be necessary any more.