For many years, refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia have taken to the Mediterranean Sea to cross into Europe. Many have lost their lives and those who have made it suffer various forms of psychological and physical trauma as a result of atrocities encountered. There are a number of reasons that compel them to partake in this journey: Many are fleeing persecution, war, and conflict while others are escaping from poverty or deteriorating conditions in their own countries or the countries of first asylum in Africa. Others are lured by false promises made by smugglers, images on social media or just follow the example of their peers.
While they may know that the journey is dangerous, many refugees and asylum seekers do not understand the full extent of risks and suffering that lie ahead of them when they decide to leave. They often have unrealistic expectations about life in Europe and do not understand the intricacies of European asylum legislation.
The Telling the Real Story platform provides a collection of authentic stories, told by the refugees and asylum seekers themselves. They speak to their own communities and share their experiences, good and bad. Through these testimonies, those who might choose to embark on the journey are informed of the full scope and perils they may encounter in order to help them make an informed decision and prepare them for their future movements.
The purpose of the Telling the Real Story platform is to allow Eritreans, Nigerians and Somalis who have made the journey to Europe to share their stories about the journey and the situation in destination countries. Telling the Real Story does not attempt to address the reasons for people’s departure from their country of origin, but instead focuses on their experiences along the journey and in Europe. While some testimony givers talk about the reasons for their flight, many have chosen not to discuss their motives due to fear of reprisals that may affect relatives who have been left behind. Through the platform, made possible by the financial support from the European Commission, UNHCR is supporting brave Eritrean, Nigerian and Somali survivors to tell their stories in their own words and to everyone who is willing to listen.
The right to seek asylum is a basic human right. So no one who is in need of international protection should be prevented from doing so. The decision to embark on the long and dangerous journey to Europe is life-changing – not only for the traveler but for their entire family. Therefore it should be based on comprehensive information.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR – is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.
UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. The agency strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.