Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Different Type of Asylum-seeker

The BBC reports that two Eritrean football players were denied asylum in Tanzania because they "failed to prove that their lives would be in danger" if they were to return to Eritrea. According to the Tanzanian home ministry, the young athletes were trying to escape Eritrea's crushing poverty, repressive one-party government, and national military service, but their seeking of "greener pastures" did not sufficiently constitute future persecution. Instead, the UNHCR is seeking other countries who could offer the football players "resettlement" status.

This anecdote highlights the often overlooked reality that asylum-seekers are not necessarily the poor and the marginalized. In fact, they can be successful national athletes who intentionally board the wrong plane after a tournament in a neighboring country. And while their claims of persecution might face tighter scrutiny, does that make them any less legitimate?

Persecution, in one form or another, can impact even the most well-off. Yes, those with resources and fame might be able to avoid being targeted more so than those with nothing, but they don't necessarily face different threats. Race, ethnicity, religion, political opinion, and membership in a social group are not reserved for the socioeconomically disadvantaged or for the wealthy. They are immutable characteristics that permeate societies, and which ought to be respected at all levels. Anyone who possess a demonstrable and genuine fear of persecution based on any of those characteristics deserves protection, regardless of their social placement.


arabianknight said...

Very interesting post! You are correct in saying that we often fail to realize that people fearing persecution can be from all aspects of life, as your report indicates. We have stereotypes on the kind of person seeking asylum. We are so engaged in helping the poor and the needy, that we never realize anyone can be facing fear of persecution. I'm still inclined to believe that those who are well off, may have an easier time finding resettlement because of the resources they may have (i.e. access to money and social capital).

HumanRightsAdvocate23 said...

I would even argue that for the most part - asylum seekers are not "the poor and marginalized." It is extremley expensive to escape a country and make it across the world to America. Only individuals that have some sort of money most likely will be able to make the trip.