by Daniel Buchman

Our intern Dan explores how data helps us understand the process of claiming asylum, whose stories are being heard, and whose aren’t.

In our 2018 statistics report, Syrian cases make up a mere 3% of 2018 research requests, despite making up the majority of asylum seekers in Europe. In fact, out of more than 615 research requests over 8+ years, only six have been for Syrian asylum claims. Similarly, Asylos has never received a research request for Myanmar, which the UNHCR has featured alongside Syria on its list of top refugee countries of origin in both 2017 and 2018.

Asylos 2018 case statistics

Helping those who struggle to be believed

The reason for this disparity is that Asylos helps those who struggle to be believed. As one of the world’s largest refugee crises entered its ninth year in March, a quick analysis of Eurostat data shows that 94% of Syrian asylum seekers in the EU received positive decisions in 2018. Asylum seekers from Myanmar may not have fared as well, but the positive decision rate for the community as a whole increased from 18% in 2017 to 32% in 2018. This may be due to the fact that most refugee host countries have acknowledged the realities of persecution in Syria and Myanmar, though some have begun to waver on Syria, which may explain why four of the six research requests to Asylos on behalf of Syrian asylum seekers were made in 2018.

The cases our researchers investigated in 2018 help those whose credibility the authorities are most eager to put into question.

The cases that Asylos takes on are not the ones that make headlines. Instead, they are the ones where political interests pressure us into believing that the country is “safe,” implying that there is no credible reason to fear persecution for those fleeing to Europe. Even in instances when a country has not been officially designated as a safe country of origin, a low positive outcome rate for the applicants' country overall can work against an asylum seeker, whose claim may be examined less thoroughly and assumed to be unfounded.

Every claim is unique

Asylum claims should be decided on a case-by-case basis, with each case weighed on its own merits. When lawyers see that this is parity of esteem may not be extended to their client, they request an Asylos report. This may be why the top countries we researched in 2018 were Iraq, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, and Guinea. in 2018, the positive decision rate in Europe for Iraqis dropped from 42% to 34%. Meanwhile, Cameroon, the DRC, Egypt, and Guinea experience positive decision rates ranging between 21% and 27%, below average for the EU.

When refugees from places such as South Sudan and Somalia, also listed among the world’s top refugee countries of origin, have institutions such as the UNHCR advocating on their behalf, there is much less need for our work. But many communities, for various reasons, do not have such champions. Asylos' role in these cases becomes critical.

Behind each case is the story of an individual

In supporting those with the most difficult stories to prove, we often come across refugee stories other organisations overlook. One 2018 case report asked our researchers to investigate how cyclists are treated in Jordan (MEN2018-17). The asylum-seeker, a professional cyclist, claimed to be a victim of harassment, violence, and discrimination due to the perceived femininity of the sport he loved and the clothing associated with it. While many dismissed the case as frivolous, our researchers dug through social media posts and local newspapers to discover multiple incidents of roadside attacks, homophobic slurs, and other forms of harassment.

A second case involved an Afghan asylum seeker who developed a severe case of alcohol addiction while living in Europe (AFG2018-07). Our researchers had to find what the specific social consequence of alcohol addiction would be in Afghanistan and whether treatment options were available. Because of the lack of information on the subject, our team of researchers contacted various experts to determine the concrete risks associated with alcohol addiction.

Finally, one referrer asked Asylos, on behalf of several asylum seekers, to look into what happens to those who flee Ethiopia or Eritrea with falsified documents (MEN2018-15). While the authorities’ initial instinct was to dismiss the asylum seekers’ claims as a last-ditch effort to avoid deportation, our volunteer researchers unearthed sources which supported the claims that fake IDs were common in both countries and that returning after fleeing from either country with false papers could put someone at risk of legal, political, and social retaliation.

These are the cases Asylos takes on, the stories we investigate, and the claims we substantiate. The statistics report measures everything in individual cases, so each unit represents a claim, a story, and a life. Last year Asylos thoroughly investigated each of the 118 reports we produced, using a meticulous methodology that leaves no stone unturned.

Interested in learning more about the cases we investigate and the individuals who are behind the claims? Read more individual stories on our blog.

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