Refugees, please print for your penalty

An Italian artist who goes by the name Tindar and a lawyer, Pierre Farge, have come together to create ‘The Trace Project’ in order to raise awareness and bite back at the Dublin Regulation which is currently negatively affecting the refugee crisis.

The Trace Project is both a political and artistic project which involves refugees collecting 10,000 fingerprints from European citizens “as a testimony of solidarity”, in opposite to the Dublin Treaty, whereby refugees must claim asylum in the first European Union country they enter.

The fingerprints will then be used to create a display board showcasing thousands of fingerprints in a gallery opening in May in Paris and all proceeds will go toward helping the refugees in France.

This is not the first time artists have based projects on raising awareness on political injustices. In February Chinese artist Ai Weiwei made headlines yet again when he placed 14,000 life jackets to cover the columns of a large building in Berlin in order to highlight the amount of refugees who are risking their lives in dangerous waters to reach Europe.

However, The Trace Project whilst still concerning the refugee crisis, has chosen to concentrate particularly on the Dublin Regulation.

Not sure what this is about or why it’s affecting the refugee crisis? Not to worry, that’s because it’s an extremely old EU law which requires migrants to give their fingerprints in whichever European country they first enter.

Once the fingerprints have been given, migrants must seek asylum in the same country.

Artist Tindar said: “This treaty was made in 1990 to prevent the so called ‘asylum shopping’ because before there were no laws and migrants were coming into Europe and asking for asylum in each country they visited.

Migrants would request for asylum for maybe five or six countries at a time and would accept whichever country responded to them first.”

He continued: “This created a lot of problems because it then meant European countries had an influx of asylum requests, which was of course not good from an administrative point of view”.

However, this law is now being abused by the Northern European countries who do not want refugees coming into their countries.

Tindar explained to me that the problem with the Dublin Treaty being used now is that refugees are coming into countries such as Greece and Italy and it obliges them to seek asylum there which is a big burden on those countries, adding “they simply cannot sustain all of the asylum requests”.

Without this treaty, other countries would be more obliged to pull their weight, spread the responsibility and relax their border laws a bit more. However, as it stands the treaty is now being used as somewhat of an excuse or loophole into not allowing migrants in – making the current migrant crisis dramatically worse.

The other problem with this is that refugees of course do not want to seek asylum in the countries they first enter because they can see they have no future there.

He continued: “With a country like Italy processing asylum requests basically means no future because once you have your asylum in Italy which is quite easy to obtain, refugees are not provided with anything.

No housing, no social welfare and no work. Italy and Greece are poor countries which are already overcrowded and the thing is 90% of refugees do not know anything about the the Dublin treaty before getting into Europe”.

This means that many refugees willingly hand over their fingerprints in countries such as Hungary, Greece or Italy and then think they can still go and seek asylum in other countries.

If they are lucky enough to make it to a better country, they believe they can start to build a life there. It is not until they attempt to seek asylum in a more promising country, that they are then told they must be deported back to whatever country they first gave their fingerprints to.

Tindar then gave me a heart-breaking example of how unfair this treaty is and how it is being used on people who have already lost so much.

He said: “I met a guy in Calais and when I asked him where he was from in perfect English he said ‘I am from England’.

“So I asked him how can you be from England, no one from here has come from England and he told me the whole story”.

He went on to say: “When he was 18 he fled from Afghanistan to Calais and managed to get on a track to England.

“He spent two years working in England illegally and he had a girlfriend and they lived together. They decided to ask for asylum because he was illegally in England and as soon as they went to the police station they immediately took his fingerprints and told him they took his fingerprints in Hungary two years ago.”

“The next day they sent him back to Hungary, they didn’t even allow him to say goodbye to his girlfriend and so he found himself in Hungary the day after.”

“He managed to get back to Calais where I met him and he was desperately trying to get back to his girlfriend, which is now impossible.”

“He said my whole family is dead. The only person I have is my girlfriend and now I can’t even be with her.”

A cruel example which highlights the inequality in the way our governments are treating refugees and migrants. The current situation is said to be the biggest migration crisis since World War Two.

The Dublin Regulation requiring migrants and refugees to give their fingerprints is also a massive invasion into people’s personal privacy. Refugees are given no voice and no choice. They are forced to simply accept.

The initial idea was for the proceeds of The Trace Project to go toward helping to make living conditions better for those in the jungle in Calais, however, in a recent turn of events where the French government has destroyed the most part of the camp, the proceeds will now be used in any way to help people seek asylum in France as quickly as possible.

Tindar says a possible idea is to use the money to provide scholarships to study on practical courses, such as French language, for the refugees who are waiting for their asylum requests to be processed.

Featured image via Flickr (Creative Commons)