Things change pretty quickly around here. Just two weeks ago I was babysitting H and his brother and sister while his parents were in Montpellier for their court hearing. This is the Syrian family (dad speaks English, mom speaks French, two teens and an eight year old) we’ve been helping out for the past few months. Lovely, lovely people staying just up the road a piece from me.
We spent the afternoon playing Uno. I’m talking multiple games of Uno. The eight year old actually cheated a lot and I finally had to look up “cheat” on my translator app and say it in Arabic which made his older sister giggle and agree. At one point I said, “no more Uno” at which case I got the sad eyes. The same sad eyes I get from my own kids when I say “no more”, exhausted from interminable board games.
I thought a lot about those big, brown, sad eyes over the next week, I thought about how refreshing it was to have this sweet kid sad about something so normal amidst all the instability and madness of his life.
His parents had been anxious about this appointment for weeks, increasingly so. This was the Prefecture that would decide if their asylum application would be accepted in France. Note, the language here is very deceptive. This wasn’t the decision about whether they would be granted asylum, but rather, if their application would even be accepted, considered.
“But they’re Syrian,” you say. “Aren’t Syrians the group that are supposed to be automatically granted asylum in France? Anywhere, really, in Europe?”
We keep hearing that there is discriminatory treatment being applied at the Greek border and throughout the continent. But Syrians have been the beneficiaries of such unsaid treatment. Or so the rumor goes.
Because there’s an exit clause. An “out” if you will. A handy little way that European countries have of passing the buck.
And it’s called Dublin.
For a long time, Dublin was just one of those cities that I always wanted to go to. But now it’s a verb. To Dublinise. Dubliner. Dublineich. Ok, I’m starting to make stuff up but let’s take a moment to look at what it means to DUBLIN someone.
It all comes from this little convention signed in, you guessed it, Dublin. Back in 1990.
The Dublin Regulation aims to “determine rapidly the Member State responsible [for an asylum claim]” and provides for the transfer of an asylum seeker to that Member State.
That basically means that wherever you land in Europe, if you are a refugee, you are supposed to apply for asylum in that country.
You don’t need an A in geography to know what that means. Apart from the lucky few that catch a nice plane ride to Paris, or perhaps those refugees cruising across the Mediterranean in yachts, ALMOST ALL REFUGEES ARRIVING IN FRANCE are going to have to go through another country. Right?
You’re probably guessing that this is not a happy ending, not yet anyway, for this family that spent the past four years making their way up to France from Homs, one of the hardest hit cities in Syria.
Dad had his fingerprints taken in Spain. The system is all digitized and centralized so that France could see that he had passed through Spain on the way and therefore can be “offloaded”. And sure enough, while France, Germany, and other countries have decided to apply the agreement selectively, this lovely family of five was told Thursday to show up at the airport the following Monday. They’re being sent back to Spain. Where they know nobody. With ONE business day to make an appeal.
They came to France because their best friends — another family they had spent the last four years with — they are here. In the past two months they have formed deep relationships with friends and neighbors locally. They had people volunteering to write testimonials for their asylum application, taking them to medical appointments, registering the kids for school, opening up their houses. There’s none of that in Spain.
Perhaps it’s about time to lift Dublin and stop the sad eyes.
Please sign this petition to support this family’s effort to stay in France.