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English Detective # 110 Why Immigration and Asylum Policies Matter
July 17, 2018

Anne Frank’s family would probably have survived if Mr. Frank’s 1938 immigration application had been processed and approved. Although he realized their danger and sought asylum well before the war started, they were unable to escape in time.

Their story is one of many that show why immigration and asylum policies make a difference. Refugees are not just seeking a better life, but often risking everything to keep their families alive at all.

The L.A. Times reviews the history of “the right to asylum” and finishes their editorial with a plea: “We don’t have to have open borders, but we must keep an open heart.”

The Asylumist explains the value of refugee’s individual stories in changing the terms of the immigration debate. Hearing about real individuals and their experiences turns an abstract and partisan problem into a more sympathetic discussion. It’s an interesting explanation, but the individual stories are also important—so I’m linking to both, and you can choose which is most helpful to you. If you would rather read some stories yourself, the (Australian) Refugee Council gives short accounts of the experiences of refugees from many different areas.

Finally, if you have time, the Atlantic provides a different perspective. This fascinating but LONG article discusses the work of BAMF. BAMF is the German agency responsible for determining which immigrants are true refugees and which are not—and may be deported. It’s a difficult job, but important, since the large numbers of immigrants Germany has admitted are causing a major backlash. The government needs to assure citizens that it has a plan—a way to bring order into a chaotic situation and to keep numbers manageable.

BANF needs to quickly determine if the immigrants they interview are telling the truth. Many have lost their passports—accidentally or deliberately. (If you want to lie about age or origin, you don’t want to carry a document that contradicts the story.) So BAMF uses facial recognition technology and questions designed to highlight inconsistencies. “If a claimant spent time in prison, or in the army, could he draw a map of his cellblock or his barracks? Were the food trays plastic, tin, or paper?” (BAMF has a large database of such details.)

The purpose of all their observations and questions is to make a new life possible for people truly at risk if they are sent back to their homelands. In order to do that, BAMF’s detectives need to screen out those who came for better opportunities but are not truly at risk.

Refugee Vocabulary

A few definitions of words used frequently in those articles:

Asylum is a protected, safe place. (Refuge and sanctuary are synonyms.) Th United Nations gives refugees and asylum-seekers special immigration rights, because they fear persecution (the threat of violence or imprisonment) in their home countries. People usually claim asylum because their religion or ethnic group is persecuted in their home area.

A consulate is an office representing one country but located in a different country. Consulates often provide information about their country or assistance with visiting or immigrating to it.

An influx is a large number of people (or a large amount of something) coming to a place at once.

Refugees are people who have had to flee (escape or run away) from their own country because their lives were threatened. They seek (look or hope for) asylum, a safe place to stay.

For a discussion on immigration to the U.S., and practice with related vocabulary, see the EnglishHints’ Immigration Vocabulary page.

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