What would make you flee to Iran?

Exactly, desperation. And that’s precisely why there are one million refugees there. They have escaped war torn Afghanistan and Iraq for the relative safety of Iran.

UNHCR, refugees, EU, economic migrants, Europol,
That refugees are not a threat, but are people who are threatened is frequently forgotten because of constant headlines about criminal immigrants.
Contrary to popular belief the majority of refugees are not in the West, according to UNHCR‘s 2010 Global Trends report. A staggering 80% have taken refuge in developing countries. Notably in Pakistan, Iran and Syria that account for 1.9 million, 1.1 million and 1 million respectively.

In Europe, you wrongly get the impression that the majority of refugees are here. But they are economic migrants, which is very different. Their arrival in Europe is often facilitated by human traffickers aiming to profit from the transport of migrants and also their criminal exploitation upon arrival in the EU.

How many refugees can pay people smugglers $10,000 to get to Europe?

From what I understand it costs $10,000 per person to be smuggled from Iraq or Afghanistan to Europe. Only a handful of refugees are able to pay such prices. And many people smugglers recruit their clients on the internet. How many refugees in the camps are surfing the net?

Instead it’s economic migrants who get into debt with criminal gangs thinking they will earn a fortune in Europe, which of course they don’t. To pay off their debts they hence end up, willingly or not, working for criminal gangs in all kinds of illegal activities. Anything from begging and benefit fraud to murder.

Criminals giving refugees a bad name

Europe has for a long time been happy to give refugees a new life here. But due to the problems of criminal activity by a section of economic migrants, more and more Europeans are turning against immigration. So much so that anti immigrant parties have been elected to parliament in many EU countries. That even immigrants who have been here a long time vote for such parties says a lot about how criminal gangs are exploiting the open borders in Europe.

Genuine refugees are not a threat

That refugees are not a threat, but are people who are themselves threatened is forgotten because of constant headlines about what criminal immigrants are up to.

Handle asylum applications swiftly

Asylum-seekers judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries. So speeding up such procedures would ironically be a way of helping real refugees desparately in need of asylum.

Deport criminals

Some Europeans deport immigrants convicted of a crime and some don’t. In order to help the millions of refugees that genuinely need asylum, isn’t it time for all EU countries to start deporting such criminals? In Northern Europe they don’t care if they end up in jail since the sentences are low and mild and they even get a TV in their cell. Very different from prison back home.

Who are the people smugglers?

According to Europol, the most widely reported organised crime groups involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration are of Chinese, Turkish, Albanian, Indian, Iraqi, Roma and  Russian origin. Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, and some West African groups are said to be among the most capable, managing all successive phases of illegal immigration from source to destination countries. That’s not to say that some ethnic Europeans are not involved, but mainly the gangs are of the same ethnic groups as the refugees that are suffering as a result of their activities.

Flying in their victims

Some EU countries have already started to have border controls on land and they are working. So according to Europol,organised air smuggling is an emerging trend.

Criminal groups issue flight tickets to illegal immigrants who make asylum requests upon arrival, or attempt to pass through security checks with counterfeit or forged documents, or genuine documents issued to ‘lookalikes’.

An Iraqi criminal group in Sweden was for instance identified as the owner of an airline that facilitated its people smuggling activities.

How about putting economic migration on hold?

With Europe struggling with the Euro crisis and recession, maybe it would be a good idea to temporarily only allow economic migration for people who already have secured a job? That would be a huge blow to people smugglers and make Europe accept more genuine refugees.

Exploiting Europe’s generosity

Frequently criminal immigrants, resident in the EU, facilitate the last step of the migrants’ journey, in some cases collecting final instalments of transportation fees, and are in an ideal position to profit from newly arrived migrants.

It’s really terrible that criminals are poisoning Westerners against refugees when we should instead reach out a helping hand and welcome them here. But due to the problems caused by people smugglers and their gangs, Europe is reluctant to take more refugees. What do you think can be done to stop those criminals? Let’s face it, they are ruining the lives of genuine refugees who need and should be given asylum in the West. Or maybe you believe having open borders is more important than giving refugees a safe heaven? Should we just leave genuine refugees to rot in camps so that economic migrants can be exploited by criminal gangs?

Photo: Al Jazeera English – Flickr

42 thoughts on “What would make you flee to Iran?

  1. This is a thought provoking piece, thank you.
    The Iranian refugees should be welcomed, not excluded by Western Europe. The gangs are a small but poisonous faction. They should be higher priority targets for all European law enforcement agencies including Interpol, Scotland Yard.,etc. Similarily, while fueled by different social forces, the US has adopted and is considering a wide range of policies to ban and harass Latinos who have sought jobs here most others shun.
    Political freedom and personal safety are conditions which I believe everyone deserves.

    1. Glad you agree with me Mark. Just one thing. The reach of the criminal gangs are huge, at least in Europe. A lot of economic migrants are at their mercy and when they don't get jobs to pay off their debts to the criminals they suddenly find themselves turned criminals, unfortunately.

    2. Why is it the responsibility of Europeans and others in the West to always provide refuge for people fleeing corrupt regimes? Wouldn't it be more effective to have the masses force these regimes out of power — much like the so-called Arab Spring is doing — and have people stay in their own countries and make them better? For starters, why can't the West produce the kind of "Radio Free Europe" broadcasts for Iraq and Afghanistan refugees that helped stem the flow of East European refugees into the West?

  2. Great article, Catarina. This is such a sensitive contraversial topic that most people avoid discussing …but it needs to be addressed. I have a blog category on my web site dedicated to "negating stereotypes" and have an article titled More immigrants=less crime. It's a US article, but I'm sure it has global flare. I need to learn more in this area, and your article really helped. Educating businesses and public is critical. What drives crime afterall? Is it just lack of income? Why all the racial tension and fierce immigration rules against working immigrants….when their consumption dollars is so critical to the economy of the country they reside in? Whether it is the Hispanic population in US or Muslim population in EU, their consumption dollars and cheap labor charge keep so many companies affloat, it's unbelievable….yet they're not given permission to earn an honest living.. I think it's important to look at causes, values and beliefs…and you have touched on that. There should be laws against criminals, period. But laws against spirits deep desire for freedom, even when it includes hard honest work? Hmmmm…..
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    1. Thank you Farnaz.

      You really need to differentiate between refugees and economic migrants.

      In Europe both refugees and economic migrants are given the chance to earn a living. However, because Europe is in a recession there simply aren't enough jobs or money in the welfare state to support the huge influx of Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners. Most of them are in debt to people smugglers and then when they can't get a job they are forced into crime

  3. As you say, Catarina, there are two distinct types of refugee – those fleeing violence or famine (look at the Horn of Africa region for this), who are desperately trying to find a way to stay alive, and the economic refugees who have paid to enter (generally) a Western country in the hope of a financial gain.

    That the former are in need of help is unquestionable. Of course, this needs to be balanced in some way so as to encourage them to play a part in the societies that are housing/helping them.

    The latter are often the unwitting victims of criminal gangs who charge huge sums: often a lump sum in advance (put together by the family of the person involved in the hope they will all benefit) and the balance to be paid on arrival. Of course, when they arrive, these people find the streets are not paver with gold and are often pressed into criminal activity by the people bringing them in "to repay the debt" (which, of course, can never be repaid). The people should be repatriated – except that their host countries often refuse to accept them back (China is well known for this approach, for example).

    There is also a third category – those that somehow gain entry to a (Western) country and then proceed to seek asylum with the intention of living off the welfare system. These should be repatriated, too… Yes, some are genuine and should be granted asylum on the basis that they will integrate themselves into that society, but the vast majority are not.

    1. Glad you agree with me Guy. The latter group of fake asylum seekers that you mention are, according to Europol, usually smuggled to Europe. In fact the majority of so called refugees in Europe are economic migrants.

      We simply cannot give economic migrants human rights at the expense of genuine asylym seekers, which is what is currently going on in Europe.

  4. “…the West, Europe in particular, is increasingly leaving genuine refugees to rot in camps.”

    Let me get this straight: Someone voluntarily leaves one country to find what they think will be safety in a neighboring country, and you think European countries–who aren’t even involved–have some sort of obligation to people who aren’t even citizens and aren’t even physically in Europe?

    Other than participating in UN relief and peacekeeping operations, or offering actual foreign aid, why on Earth would any Western government be expected to do something for non-citizens in a third country on a different continent, especially one (such as Iran) that flouts international law and hates the West?

    If, as you write, Iran offers “relative safety” for Afghans and Iraqis, then by at least one measure they must be better off as refugees in Iran.

    If someone makes an error in judgment by fleeing their country and then finds themselves in an unexpectedly worse situation in some other country, no one else has any legal or moral obligation to rescue them from their poor judgment. Just because someone chooses to flee their country does not mean the world owes them a place to live in some other country. With the possible exception of Israel, no one has a right to expect asylum, legal immigration, alien residency or citizenship from any government.

    1. Steven,

      All I can say is WOW!

      My bad, one more thing. Hope you are never in need or a desperate situation, you just may see things differently.

  5. I wasn't aware of this happening in Europe Catarina. In Australia we have a lot of heated discussion about illegal immigrants and what they call boat people who pay smugglers to get them to Australia. They go into detention centres and it can take a long time for them to be processed. Currently the government is trying to do a deal with Malaysia to take some which is not popular due to their human rights issue.
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    1. Susan, am aware Australia is having problems with economic migrants being smuggled into your country and claim asylum. The same category is causing huge problems in Europe. And unfortunately their human rights are safe guarded at the expense of genuine refugees who need our help.

  6. This is a vert thought provoking article. My heart goes out to those refugees who have to flee their country because of problems. Some of them pay huge sums of money to come to Europe only to find that it’s not easy to earn a living in Europe especially if you do not speak the language or do not have the right qualifications. A lot of them end up working illegally in low paid jobs. I feel sorry for the economic migrants who often have dependents back home and need to send money to them. Often they can not go back as they have borrowed money to get to Europe.

    1. That's true Mina. But the economic migrants made a choice to come to Europe because they believed the people smugglers telling them they would get a job, benefits and housing. They frequently end up criminals. However, the ones we really should feel sorry for are genuine refugees that have fled say,war torn Afghanistan. However, because of the problems with the economic migrants more and more countries are declining to take more genuine refugees.

  7. Agree with you Jeannette. But in the US it's mainly Mexicans and people from other Latin American countries. According to UNHCR the United States only has 260,000 refugees. Germany alone has 670,000 and there are millions in total in Europe. One small town in Sweden has more Iraqi refugees than the whole of the US. Economic migrants are smuggled to Europe from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, at the expense of genuine refugees who are left in camps in developing countries.

  8. Hi Catarina, I agree this is a thought provoking topic – and I do understand you're talking about war refugees. The thing is – for all the abundance that we have in the U.S. – there are plenty of people here without jobs, medical insurance and in too many cases without food. While it's not my intention to discount the suffering of war refugees, I do agree that it's time America took a little better care of her own … and if anyone is naive enough to still think of our country as having bottomless pockets, then they need to take some time to read up on the current budget crisis.
    My recent post The Key to Successful Life Changes

    1. M'arquita the US has 260,000 war refugees only. Germany on it's own has 670,000. Do you realize that one town in Sweden has taken more Iraqi refugees than the whole of the US?

      The people you are talking about are economic migrants, that's completely different. Europe hasn't got bottomless pockets either. Both the US and EU have to get their act together and send back economic migrants to instead give shelter to more war refugees. What makes people fleeing Afghanistan or Iraq different from the people who escapted Nazi Germany?

  9. As a U.S. citizen, my heart goes out to refugees and Im certainly open to welcoming people who honestly want to come here and make a life for themselves. Unfortunately, many people come here expecting to instantly go on the public doles. Many of them bring crime with them. Living in a small town surrounded by economically challenged cities, I see and feel the impact that this is having on the US economy. As you said, Criminals giving refugees a bad name.
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  10. My heart goes out to anyone who is living an unhealthy or unsafe life. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live in a poor or war torn country. With that being said it's not that I can't sympathize with what those people have to go through. It's just that since I live in the US, we have our own problems with illegal immigrants. Our government wants us to pay for the roof over their heads, the food they eat, their medical expenses yet we're screwed if we can't pay for what we need ourselves. It's just a very touchy subject with me so I'll leave it at that.

  11. Hi Catarina,

    I never realized that situations like this can really happen. My heart goes out to the refugees as well. I just hope that the wars be stopped because it is causing a lot of problem all over the world.

  12. Hey Catarina,

    As usual a very thought provoking article. I admit to not knowing about the details of economic refugee smuggling, but it seems like a major problem brought about by a serious criminal element (s).

    I would agree with your proposition to only allow economic migration of immigrants who already have a job. As in the US, the European countries are under substantial economic pressures and it makes sense to slow things down.
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  13. My prayers go out to struggling people all over the world. Struggle, pain and suffering…Be thou dissolved!

  14. Catarina,

    Girl I love your posts, you are deep. I am an avid PBS watcher and listener to NPR and I have the horrible stories. I have also been unfortunate enough to meet people who have run from such desperate situations.

    I think I am more amazed at some of the comments about poor judgment. I am a believer that we make the best decision we can at the time with the tools we have available at the time. If I lived in some of these countries of dire poverty, war, drought or whatever, would I pay to be smuggled someplace that sends my country propaganda about about life in western civilization, I probably would. How many magazines, tv shows or radio reports tell of the poverty of those country, the people who struggle, the difficulties of living there, not many. What they get from the U.S. is reality shows of people having nothing but money to spend on stupid shit and the good life. Just like we believe what we see on tv about other countries and their people, they believe the same about us.

    Unless you watch something like PBS or listen to NPR you are not likely to see what life is really like in our country or other countries, the good and the bad. If you believe our television all of Africa is at war, in poverty, in drought or has AIDS. You would think that all Middle Easterners are crazy, bomb wearing Muslims who hate all westerners.

    We should be careful to decide that people just make poor decisions without understanding their circumstances and maybe just maybe think of what it would be like to be in their shoes. We have a bad habit of thinking narrowly about people and what they should do. Let's not forget that everyone in the U;S; that is not Native American is an immigrant. Why was it ok for them to leave their country and go to another in seek of a better life?
    My question is, What would you do if you were them (the people Catarina is talking about)?

    Great job, again.
    Jenn

  15. Catarina, There is so much surrounding this topic that i am not well versed enough to comment on from a real educated point of view. Quite ignorant I know.

    What I do know is that our system here in Canada is abused badly by illegal immigrants and it makes many of us impatient.

    In my opinion, there are people here who are born here who need help and don't get the assistance than many of the illegal immigrants do.

    I do feel badly for those who are born into difficult circumstances. We are very blessed to live in a country that has all the luxuries and safety that we do.

    While I fee for those who suffer and wish this sort of thing didn't happen, feel compassion for my fellow human beings… I still feel that entering a country illegally is plain wrong.

    What is the alternative? I don't know. I guess in some cases they don't have a choice but to escape.

    Its a lot to consider and think about Catarina. A real shame this sort of thing goes on in our day and age.

    Jayne
    My recent post Is Honesty the Best Policy | Building an Online Business?

  16. Gosh, such a painful issue. In my opinion it goes along with wishing that we had enough money to give to every single charity… they are all worthwhile causes, but realistically it just isn't possible to help everyone.

    1. Exactly Angela, that's why we should give priority to genuine refugees and not economic migrants. There is a huge difference between wanting to earn more money and having had to flee war. Afghanistan today is living hell.

  17. Hi Catarina,__You always make us think. In answer to the question your headline poses, why would someone flee to Iran?, I honestly don't know. The last piece I read about Iran was about a Christian minister in Iran who was sitting waiting to be executed for "apostasy".__As far as refugees who are criminals, I agree they should be deported, unless it's known they would be shot when they got back to their country. They've abused the privilege given by their host, and should incur the consequences.__Lou

  18. Glad you like my article Ankesh. Good points you make but it doesn't change the fact that we should give genuine refugees priority and not economic migrants. As it is criminal gangs smuggling people have the upper hand in Europe.

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