When "home" is a place you cannot go
Summer is a popular time for ex-patriots returning home to visit friends and family in their country of origin.
But, for those whose “home” is no longer a place they can go, such as the scores of asylum seekers awaiting decisions in Luxembourg, the holidays can be a hard time.
Few feel the pain and frustration of this situation more than Wilson Mikail. The 48-year-old Iraqi national who fled to Luxembourg has been waiting for a year and two months for an answer to his application for asylum. With a wife and daughter to support, he has become so desperate for answers he plans to hold a hunger strike outside of the prime minister's offices on September 1.
“It's come to the point where we have to do something. It's not a life here,” explained Wilson, adding: “We are grateful to be given food, accommodation and medical care but we can eat in Iraq too. It's just that there's no stability and no future there. And now it's the same here. We must wait for a reason but that reason never comes. We've chosen to go on hunger strike to find a solution. It's up to the government how long we continue. I won't stop until I get an answer.”
A former government security guard to the state's senior press officer and practicing christian, Wilson fled Iraq in 2000 when he realised that a Saddam Hussein would be removed, unsettling the country's delicate religious balance. He sold his home and sought escape with his wife and step-daughter in Greece. Once there, he said he was given little support but was at least about to support his family by working as a security guard at a campsite in Mykonos.
After the collapse of the Greek economy, he lost his job and spent the last of his savings travelling illegally to Luxembourg, a country which he hoped would understand his predicament.
He said: “I knew that I wanted to go to a city which cares about Iraq and refugees and christians.
I heard about Luxembourg and did some research. I thought that this was a place that would care about me. Luxembourg is a country that has been invaded itself. I thought it would be able to understand our problems, that our country, Iraq, has been invaded and that Christians are being persecute.”
Wilson was initially housed in the Don Bosco temporary shelter for asylum seekers. He has since been moved to a centre in Schifflange where he says he is fed, receives a bed, medical care and a monthly allowance of 120 euros. All of which he says he is deeply grateful for.
But, he is desperate to build a future for his family and regain control of his life and to do that, he needs an answer from the government.
Wilson is just one of hundreds of asylum seekers in Luxembourg who have been left waiting because of a lack of personnel in the government's refugee services. With a team of 20 people, some of which only joined the ranks recently, the government says that it has been overwhelmed by applications, each of which must be considered carefully.
The situation has been further hampered by a large increase in the number of asylum applications. Applications grew from 505 in 2009 to 1,060 in the first eight months of 2011. Much of the influx came from Macedonian and Serbian refugees. But, the government underlines, all applications are treated based on their own merit, regardless of which country the applicant is from.
A spokesperson from the refugees department said that until more staff are hired, agents cannot work any faster to clear the backlog.
The news offers little comfort to Wilson, who is beginning to have regrets about making the journey to Luxembourg.
He said: “In a way I do regret coming here. I didn't think that Luxembourg would do this to us. Especially what we've been through as Iraqi Christians. The thing is even if they give us an answer and that is a no, we will leave. We will try in another country. We just want an answer.”