“Catch Me If You Can”
Foreign Policy, February 13, 2015
“Like more than 3 million other Syrians, Nawras fled his country in 2012 as the Syrian civil war ramped up in brutality. Along with his mother and six siblings, he escaped Damascus for Istanbul soon after his 13th birthday, where the family has eked out a living for the past two years. (His father died about a year before the war began.) … Nawras’s journey to Sweden represents one of the last options for his family to be together, but it is one he must make alone. Over the last year, his three older sisters have all made it there. But Nawras’s journey carries extra significance: Unlike them, he is a minor, so if he makes it and receives asylum, he’ll likely be able to bring his mother and two younger siblings to Sweden as well. Without enough money to send anyone with him, the family’s dreams for this future together depend on his success in evading authorities over the course of the next few days. Current European Union law demands that all migrants who arrive to Europe by Italian shores register for asylum in Italy, and make that country their home. But it’s a fate most seek to avoid: Registering for asylum in Italy means entering a labyrinthine bureaucracy, then getting spit out into a hobbled economy, and becoming dependent on the country’s overburdened social services. Worse for Nawras, if he’s stopped and forced to register, his sisters will be bound to Sweden, unable to bring their mother or younger siblings across, and Nawras will become fastened to Italy. His future with his family will all but dry up. … Sweden is often near the top of the list for asylum seekers looking to rebuild their lives — especially Syrians. With medical and dental care, daily allowances, assistance with accommodation, and English, Swedish, and IT classes, the country offers institutional support to help migrants integrate. And in September 2013 the country began giving permanent residency to all Syrian refugees who manage to reach its borders — a status that translates into full Swedish citizenship after four years. … But to get to this northern promised land, migrants like Nawras who arrive in Europe’s south must navigate a balance: playing along with authorities’ efforts at oversight, while trying to skirt out from under that supervision as soon as possible.”
Quickie analysis: A compelling look at the journey of one Syrian refugee smuggled into Europe and at the EU’s convoluted system for dealing with refugees. If you want to know if Nawras makes it from Italy to Sweden, you’ll have to read the story :-).