Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 13th 2015 Contents than 2,200 migrants this year. Most have arrived
after hair-raising treks across the vast, searing
Sahara, and then weeks in Libya s migrant jails.
Samate s five-month journey included working for
traffickers in Niger and Libya at meager wages.
Far different from the Syrians clambering off
boats in Greece, the Africans land in Sicily penniless
Now, the plight of African refugees risk getting
lost amid the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, aid
officials say. "It s important to us that Europe is
now beginning to talk about opening their borders
and welcoming refugees," says Giovanna Di Benedet-
to of Save the Children in Sicily.
"But it is not only Syrians who have to be wel-
Di Benedetto has photos of dead African infants
whose bodies washed ashore on a beach off Zuwara,
Libya, on August 28, when their smugglers boat
capsized. About 200 people drowned when the
Five days later, a photo on a beach off Bodrum,
Turkey showed another dead toddler: Aylan Kurdi,
a three-year-old Syrian boy. That image finally
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 13, 2015
With EU leaders finally working on a Europe-
wide refugee policy, there is growing concern
among some migrants and aid officials that the
new policies might unwittingly divide the migrants
into two distinct classes---with two different kinds
First, the hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing
the war back home, whose stunning flight into
Europe has seized world attention; and second, the
hundreds of thousands of much poorer, less edu-
cated newcomers who have also fled dire circum-
stances in Africa.
As EU officials prepare to meet in Brussels tomor-
row to hash out an emergency plan, the details are
sketchy as to how the continent will integrate the
massive influx of migrants who have crossed into
Europe from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
On Wednesday the European Commission pres-
ident Jean-Claude Juncker made it clear to the EU
Parliament that the union s 28 countries were duty-
bound to help host the 160,000 asylum-seekers
currently stuck in Greece, Italy, and Hungary, and
emphasised that all would be treated equally.
"Europe has made the mistake in the past of dis-
tinguishing between Jews, Christians, Muslims,"
"There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy
when it comes to refugees."
Yet, for some of the 80,000 or so who have
landed in Sicily this year---the vast majority African---
the promise of fairness for all sounds unconvinc-
Africans who have fled deadly, often forgotten
conflicts, or various kinds of persecution---including
religious and anti-gay violence---say they believe
it could take years to win refugee status or residence
in Europe, if they ever receive it at all. Those simply
fleeing poverty are not eligible for asylum. Instead,
many predict a long, tough road towards acceptance
and employment somewhere on the continent. Sev-
eral African asylum-seekers in Sicily described
overwhelming bureaucratic hurdles towards those
goals---a far different picture than the tens of thou-
sands of Syrians whom the EU and US now appear
willing to host.
Life-threatening journey to 'freedom'
Yet both sets of newcomers share one experience:
life-threatening journeys to Europe. "We risked
everything to cross the Mediterranean," says Samate,
a tall 17-year-old from Senegal, sitting in a detention
centre in the Sicilian town of Messina last Wednes-
day. He said he fled his home last February after
separatist rebels in the disputed Casamance region
where he comes from tried to draft him into battle.
The Italian Coast Guard rescued him and other
migrants as they tried to cross the Mediterranean
in late July, and brought them to Sicily.
About half of those who have landed on Europe s
shores this year have been Syrian, according to the
UN refugee agency, most crossing from Turkey to
Greece, before moving quickly on to Austria, Ger-
many and Sweden. But a large portion of the rest
are Africans who have crossed from Libya to Italy---
a more lethal sea route that has so far killed more
As Europe welcome Syrians...
Continues on Page A37
fear being left
Migrants wait to disembark from the Irish Navy vessel LE Niamh at the Messina
harbour in Sicily, Italy. AP PHOTOS
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