Posted on the 20/06/19

At the occasion of the event “Are you a true humanist?”, European humanists urged EU and national policy-makers to urgently improve the ways in which the claims of non-believers and freethinkers seeking asylum in Europe are processed and raise authorities’ awareness of their specific needs when they arrive to Europe.

This call comes after the 2018 edition of Humanist International’s Freedom of Thought Report revealed that non-believers worldwide suffer from serious discriminations and persecutions, either from their own governments and/or from extremist religious groups. In 2018, 19 countries in the world were still brutally repressing the expression of humanist values while 6 countries still punished apostasy with a prison sentence and 12 countries with death.

To urge the EU to take action, the European Humanist Federation organized the event ‘Are you a true Humanist?‘ in collaboration with the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief which focused on the difficulties that freethinkers seeking asylum meet when they reach reception centres in European countries. In particular, it explored how governments deal with the assessment procedures of freethinkers’ asylum requests and the evolution of such procedures.

The event was opened by MEP Dennis de Jong, co-Chair of the Intergroup. He was followed by professionals from two of the EHF’s member organisations and other civil society organisations active in the domain. Representatives of the Dutch immigration and naturalization services and the European Asylum Support Office contributed to the debate with their expertise as well.

International and European guidelines clearly state that religion-based asylum claims fully apply to people who hold non-theistic or atheistic beliefs, including those who leave religion (apostates). In practice though, free-thinkers, humanists, atheists, non-believers or agnostics still meet many difficulties throughout their asylum procedure in Europe.

, commented Giulio Ercolessi, President of the European Humanist Federation.

Drawing on these exchanges, humanists urged policy-makers to act on the following six key recommendations:

  1. Ensuring that non-believers and freethinkers seeking asylum are protected from violence, harassment and persecution in reception centers in European countries,
  2. Fully applying EU legislation[1] and therefore ensuring that asylum claims on the grounds of religion clearly encompass claims by freethinkers and non-believers,
  3. Disaggregating statistics on the grounds based on which asylum is being claimed so as to help highlight the scale of the particular issue of asylum on the ground of religion,
  4. Providing training on freedom of religion or belief and on the specific situation of non-believers worldwide to decision-makers, judges, workers, administrative staff and interpreters,
  5. Capitalize on the knowledge of humanists and non-believer organisations that have extensive experience on this particular issue,
  6. Ensure that asylum procedures are sensitive to the applicant’s experience, background, mental and physical well-being and education level.

[1] Article 10(1)(b) of the EU Qualification Directive

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