13. September 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Refugee Air charity set up in bid to get asylum seekers to Europe safely“ · Kategorien: Nicht zugeordnet · Tags: ,

Quelle: The Guardian

Swedish entrepreneurs behind initiative say migrants forced into risky boat trips to Europe because airlines have wrongly turned away refugees

Two Swedes have launched a charity to fly refugees to Europe, saying people with a right to asylum have been unfairly blocked from commercial flights to the continent and forced to make deadly sea journeys instead.

The two entrepreneurs scrambled to set up Refugee Air after watching a video by Hans Rosling, explaining the legal reasons why refugees should be able to board planes to the EU.

“We like to solve problems, and we found out there is a possibility to board refugees on flights without going against any rules,” said Susanne Najafi, founder and chief executive of one of Sweden’s largest retailers of beauty products and an angel investor in tech startups.

The EU in 2001 passed rules on “carrier liability” that made airlines responsible for the costs of sending back anyone travelling without a valid visa or other travel documents.

The rules do not apply to anyone with a right to refugee status, but airlines must pay the deportation costs of anyone deemed to have arrived illegally. As the bills can run to thousands of pounds per person, this has in effect led to a blanket ban on travellers without documents.

“The decision is put to someone on a check-in desk in Antalya [in Turkey], who cannot in five minutes know if this person in front of [them] is a refugee or not,” Najafi said. “So they say ‘no’ to everyone, even though refugees have the full right to fly.”

That means anyone trying to find sanctuary in Europe has little option but to risk the dangerous sea voyage. Thousands die each year.

“It’s been quite a cynical move by the powers-that-be to reduce the flow of refugees by pushing them into the hands of smugglers, so that they are forced on to these boats and unfortunately some of them end up dying,” said Leonard Doyle, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

“The governments have pushed the onus on to the airlines to stop asylum seekers getting on planes, whereas under the 1951 [refugee] convention there should be no such barrier to those with a genuine fear of persecution from escaping.”

Refugee Air aims to open up routes to refugees by carrying out pre-departure checks at camps in Turkey and Jordan, to ensure everyone with a ticket is a refugee.

They are confident the planes will be able to land, because Sweden pushed for the original amendment that exempted refugees, she says, and because they would not charge for plane tickets there would be no risk of smuggling charges.

One of their main concerns, for now, is whether Turkey will let refugees without passports through its border controls, but they say they are already talking to officials there.

“The optimal thing would be to be able to use regular flights, because we are not an airline, but in a worst case we will charter a plane on our own,” Najafi said. “We hope if we take action and show it can be done, it will be done in other countries.”

Doyle warned that if the group did go ahead, European authorities would probably try to slap financial penalties on them. But Najafi said they were already working on an insurance scheme that would cover costs and fines in the case of any deportations.

The people working on the project are among hundreds of Swedes who responded to the first Facebook posting on Friday. The operation, including a website and press team, has been set up and run by volunteers working in donated office space. The team is even working on developing translation apps and other systems to make the checks smoother.

They hope to bring in the first refugees “before the first snowfall”, which usually occurs in Sweden’s capital in October. “We can fly people to the moon and we can’t fly people to Europe,” said Najafi. “It’s a very weird climate.”

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