When waiting around or hiding from life is not an option

door Mihnea

More than three years ago, Derek arrived in Belgium from the Middle East and decided that this would be his home. 'I am in safety now, so this is where I will apply for asylum' is what he thought on his first day in the capital of the European Union, Brussels. Even though he has some relatives in other EU countries, he wanted to start a life in Belgium, away from the prosecution and hardship of his home-country. And so began the long process of getting an acknowledged refugee status.

After more than a year of waiting, interview after interview, the result came out negative. At first, Derek was devastated but his attitude quickly changed. This positive switch turned out to be crucial to overcome his disappointment. Instead of feeling sorry for himself or blaming others, he went for a pro-active approach: he filed an appeal and insisted on the authorities to look at his file. He went against the advice of his friends, who warned him for getting another rejection. But Derek insisted on starting his life in Belgium and wouldn’t be able to do this without a confirmed refugee status.

 'Waiting around or hiding from life was not an option.' He chose to work on the case himself, since lawyers specialized in migration and asylum are few in number and usually overworked. 

'It’s all about what you want to do with your life. Waiting around for others to come and help you is not the way. Why would I do this? After the negative result, I could have decided to move to a country where relatives of mine are living, like so many others do. But I don’t understand why I should do that when I already planned to start my life here!'

 The case in question and the decision thereafter were based on the fact that people from the responsible migration institutions did not believe Dereks statements were accurate. This is often the case in refugee dossiers. But Derek persisted. He began collecting more evidence to prove his credibility. Fortunately, his statements could be proved by online evidence derived from third party sources. After gathering all of the material he could find to support his claims, he presented his newfound evidence to the authorities. In a matter of weeks, he received a positive answer: he now got his refugee status.

Vluchtelingenwerk aims to inform people about their universal human rights everywhere. When applying for asylum in Belgium, a set of rights – like the right for shelter or the right to benefit from free legal aid (for a complete list of the 27 'pro deo' offices click here) – should be recognized immediately. When the refugee status is granted by the authorities, the person in question receives an A-card: a temporary residence permit. After five years, someone like Derek is entitled to a permanent residence, which can be renewed every five years.