Critics Charge Europe's Asylum System Encourages Chaos
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Day by day, European nations count the people checking in at their borders. Just yesterday, for example, about 8,000 people arrived in Austria. At midnight, the count started over, and already this morning another 3,600 people have arrived. Somewhere on the roads far behind them were thousands more crossing into Macedonia from Greece. Europe does have a system to address such a crisis, a set of rules to grant asylum. The trouble is that some immigration specialists say the system is encouraging chaos. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Vienna.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The scene at Vienna's railway station is chaotic. Thousands of migrants have been arriving for days from Hungary. Volunteers help new arrivals with soup, blankets and legal advice. A small stand has been set up at the station with a sign that says lawyer in English. Austrian immigration lawyer Prem Gaur is one of the volunteers staffing the booth. He says the migrants' top concern is asylum.
PREM GAUR: They are very confused about their - where they are going to be. Who is going to be responsible for their asylum? That is the question.
BEARDSLEY: European law mandates that migrants apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter. For most, that's Greece. But Greece is so overwhelmed, it isn't even registering them anymore. And with the Greek economy in collapse, they don't want to stay there anyway. The next EU country most migrants enter is Hungary.
SEDJIA AL TAKRITI: Hungaria - the police is very bad - very, very, very bad.
BEARDSLEY: 32-year-old Sedjia al Takriti traveled for a month to get to Vienna from Baghdad. She says the Hungarian police beat people, forced her into a camp and made her sign a paper and give her fingerprints. The Hungarian government says it is enforcing EU law by trying to register the migrants, but the migrants don't want to stay there either, says volunteer attorney Katharnia Sklenicka.
KATHARNIA SKLENICKA: The problem is the most of - the most people come from Hungary, and they gave the fingerprints, so they're asking questions about the fingerprints. What is the procedure now?
BEARDSLEY: According to EU law, the migrants should go back to Hungary if they registered there, but Gaur says the whole process is invalid if an asylum seeker is traded inhumanely, as many claim they were in Hungary. And Gaur says there are other rules not being followed.
GAUR: Every asylum seeker should be explained the asylum procedure in his own language.
BEARDSLEY: Gaur says the system is unworkable with these kinds of numbers. He believes Europe must distribute the refugees more fairly between countries and provide a legal framework that allows them to apply for asylum in a country before actually reaching it. Otherwise, he says, they have no choice but to turn to smugglers.
GAUR: Saying that OK, human trafficker are bad and all this, what other option are you giving to them?
BEARDSLEY: Gaur says until there are other options, more people will share the fate of the 70 who suffocated in a smuggler's truck crossing from Hungary into Austria. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Vienna. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.