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Tension Between Migrants Grows Over Europe Asylum Policy

  • Henry Ridgwell

Europe faces the task of processing hundreds of thousands of refugee applications – and identifying those in genuine need of asylum. But there are claims that some migrants are carrying fake Syrian passports – creating tensions with genuine Syrian nationals.

Tens of thousands of migrants have walked along dusty tracks through the cornfields and across Serbia’s border with Croatia in recent days, trying to reach Western Europe. VOA spoke to three Syrian men in their early 20s making that journey.

They asked not to be identified - and were quick to voice anger at some of the other migrants.

“Too many people here have Syrian IDs and passports, and they are not Syrians. They are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, too many [countries]. And actually I’m really shocked because this is our problem, this is our case,” said one.

UNHCR statistics on EU migrant crisis, Sept. 2015

UNHCR statistics on EU migrant crisis, Sept. 2015

But Iraqi migrant Sadek told VOA he and his family should be entitled to asylum because they are escaping the Islamic State terror group – known in Iraq as Daesh.

“You must know this information, all of the Europeans. Daesh is not just Syrian, because Daesh is coming from Iraq and Syria, and everyone, they hate everyone,” said Sadek.

Mohamad, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, voiced resentment at the focus on Syria.

"Syrian refugee is, all the process is very easy, but for Afghanistan refugees it is not. All things are for Syrians, not for Afghans," he said.

Who is a genuine refugee fleeing conflict or persecution -- and who is a so-called economic migrant, escaping poverty or looking for a better life?

Hungary, which is building fences on its southern borders to keep out all migrants, wants Europe to enforce the distinction. Zoltan Kovacs is a government spokesman.

“A joint European force that is able to stop illegal migration and establish the form, the protocol by which we are able to separate genuine refugees who are in real need of shelter from those who are only economic migrants,” said Kovacs.

European leaders plan to hold an emergency meeting on the crisis Wednesday. Many say part of any solution will be identifying the genuine refugees, but migration experts say the distinction is rarely black and white.

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