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The Devastating Reality of Being the Ultimate Outsider: An Asylum Seeker

November 27, 2018 / By: Courtney Peckosh
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Courtney Peckosh is a Biology major on the Pre-Med track and intends on pursuing a career in the medical field.

In the news media, we are bombarded with devastating realities of shootings across our beloved country, California wildfires, political opinions on our president and his actions, and the refugee crisis. The refugee crisis calls to our attention the status of multiple groups of individuals as migrants or refugees. The status or group of individuals most consistently kept outside of the public sphere, whom the media fails to regularly recognize, are those who aren’t processed: asylum seekers. The dictionary definition of an asylum seeker is a person who, from fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group, or political opinion, has crossed an international barrier into a country in which he or she hopes to be granted refugee status. The criteria and degree of persecution which allows asylum seekers to become refugees is very subjective and dependent on a multitude of indefinite factors. The United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocols have become the basis of the analysis of asylum claims. In order to become a refugee and be granted international security, the asylum seeker must directly face a fear of persecution due to race, a particular membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin The definition of persecution and the degree of persecution are not clearly defined and addressed, giving processing units a large degree of freedom in terms of who becomes processed.

For instance, I’ve learned during my time studying abroad in Rome that immigrants from Nigeria are often not granted security in Italy simply because Nigeria is the wealthiest country in Africa. This generalization of the quality of life in Nigeria based on country statistics fails to recognize the corruption and the extreme levels of poverty and persecution many groups of people face. Large numbers of asylum seekers make the dangerous, life-threatening journey across the Mediterranean in aspiration to be processed and granted refugee status, just to be denied and left scrambling to either remain in the country illegally or find a means of transportation back to their home country.

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This image from the Washington Post portrays an example of the incredibly unsafe and poorly constructed “boats” which take the asylum seekers across the Mediterranean at the risk of their lives. This boat in particular acted as the vessel transporting young men from North Africa to the island of Lampedusa, off of the coast of Italy.

A Nigerian girl named Joy was a victim to this system of neglect and corruption. In the upper level English class offered in the Rome Empower program, we have read a section from the journalistic account Roadmap to Hell, written by Barbie Latza Nadeau. This book presents the nightmares of sex trafficking, including the experiences Joy faced as a result of the lack of regard for migrant centers. Asylum seekers are invited to stay in refugee camps while they wait in anticipation for months while their applications are reluctantly processed. In these camps, described by Nadeau as a “hellish ghetto,” corruption runs rampant and seeps through the infrastructure, as security and welfare are neglected. This corruption paves the way for criminal gangs and sex traffickers to take advantage of these migrants. Joy became trapped in the oppressive system of sex trafficking with threats infringing on her and her family’s safety. Victims of sex trafficking are punished for resisting and as Nadeau fluidly describes the situation, “if a woman realizes that the punishment for not prostituting herself is violent gang rape, she will likely agree that blow-jobs and roadside sex are a better alternative.” Unfortunately, because Joy and women like her are unprocessed, they become lost in the abyss of victims of the corruption of immigration policies.