Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) researcher, Jennifer Dathan, recently had her article, “Refugees fleeing explosive violence: Europe’s response”, published in the October edition of the Crisis Response Journal.
The report examines how governments across Europe have responded to the influx of refugees and asylum seekers from countries heavily impacted by explosive violence, including those from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of over 250 refugees interviewed as part of the research in the UK, Germany, and Greece, it was found that the large majority (85%) had witnessed explosive violence. In total, some 69% had witnessed shelling, 61% airstrikes, 58% Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and 39% suicide attacks.
Of the refugees hailing from Afghanistan, 92% reported being directly impacted by explosive violence, and from Iraq 90% had been affected.
The research made clear that the significant numbers of refugees coming into Europe from impacted countries have been predominantly doing so to flee explosive violence – a fact that has not been fully realised by many European governments.
Despite the levels of explosive violence occurring in the origin countries of many refugees, some European countries have failed to recognise this harm and provide support.
For example, despite the fact that over the last six years Iraq has been the country worst impacted by explosive weapons, the average acceptance rate across the EU for Iraqi asylum seekers stood at 63.5 per cent in 2016, with the rates in some countries considerably lower.
In the UK, only 12% of applicants from Iraq were granted asylum last year. Many of those rejected were returned to Baghdad, where the highest levels of explosive violence have been recorded – even according to the Home Office’s own data.
Furthermore, though the majority of those interviewed were fleeing explosive violence, only 20% of those interviewed were offered any psychological support. In fact, the report found that many of those interviewed across Europe experienced inhumane conditions and were left for considerable lengths of time without being given an asylum decision. This, in many cases, exacerbated the psychological suffering of the refugees, with many reporting depression, anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD.
Whilst Germany proved to be a notable exception in regard to support for refugees – providing higher levels of refuge, better living standards and commended psychosocial support – it remained the case that, on the whole, EU countries failed to understand and consider the needs of refugees and asylum seekers impacted by explosive violence. Until such needs are understood and addressed, many refugees in Europe and elsewhere will continue to suffer even when the blasts of bombs have fallen silent.
To read the full article in the Crisis Response Journal, please click here.
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