NGO Appears to Condone Asylum-seekers Misleading EU Border Guards

November 13, 2018 Updated: November 16, 2018

A group helping migrants trying to get into Europe has been caught on video appearing to condone asylum-seekers making misleading statements in order to pass “eligibility interviews” and obtain refugee status.

Ariel Ricker, executive director of Advocates Abroad, a nonprofit NGO that provides legal aid and training to asylum seekers, describes in a video how her organization coaches migrants seeking entry into the European Union to put on a persuasive performance for EASO (European Asylum Support Office) agents, who are tasked with screening migrants.

“I tell them this is acting, all of this is acting as though this is theater,” she says. “So for them to get through, they must act their part in the theater, and that is the refugee in trauma.”

Ricker says in the recording that her organization teaches asylum seekers “how to tell their story, how to frame it, how to literally explain it,” adding that “because these EASO officers are so [expletive] stupid, all they know is what’s written on the paper. EASO says, ‘This is a refugee in trauma, they have these characteristics,’ so we coach people to have these characteristics.”

The video was published on Nov. 12 by Canadian activist film-maker Lauren Southern.

“So there’s a formula we came up with,” Ricker can be heard saying in the recording. “The point is to answer all the questions the same way: ‘In December 2017, in Izmir, Turkey, I was threatened for being a Christian because my boss and his friends jumped me when I was leaving my church. This is the Bible they tried to tear up, this is the crucifix I was wearing that they tried to tear, and it made me feel unsafe as a Christian in Turkey.”

“Consistency is the most important thing, even if you find yourself in a position where you have to lie because you suddenly remembered something else, it’s best to stick with what you said,” Ricker adds.

In the video, Southern muses, “So the government has created a process to try and find real refugees amongst tons of people trying to illegally migrate to Europe and they’re making it into a theater class, so everyone gets in.”

Canadian conservative and libertarian activist Lauren Southern live streams a video
Canadian conservative and libertarian activist Lauren Southern live streams a video during a rally in Berkeley, California on April 27, 2017. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

The organization responded to the initial release of the video, tweeting “Advocates Abroad was made aware of a video that shows a heavily edited version of an informal conversation that was secretly filmed and without consent,” adding, “The video is being used for political right wing effect.”

Advocates Abroad response
Advocates Abroad initially posted a response to the video released by Lauren Southern. (Screenshot via Twitter)

Since then, the group’s Twitter and Facebook page with over 140,000 followers have both been deleted.

Advocates Abroad has denied allegations that they coach asylum-seekers to lie.

“We tell the refugees we work with that they must tell the truth in their interviews and in the written statements they provide to the asylum service,” the organization said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times.

“The video suggested that in our preparation of refugees as they go through the asylum process, we encourage them to be untruthful. This is not true. We have never encouraged or instructed misrepresentation or lies, nor will we ever do so. We encourage refugees to remember the depth of their trauma and to accurately represent that pain.”

“We reaffirm our commitment to preserving the integrity of the asylum process.”

Aside from Ricker’s controversial statements in the recording, much of what she says appears to echo written instructions for asylum seekers that she published in June this year, which are based on an analysis of transcripts from asylum interviews. The instructions chart tactics most likely to ensure a passing grade.

A member of the Red Cross welcomes a man holding a child
A member of the Red Cross welcomes a man holding a child as they disembark from rescue ship Aquarius on October 13, 2017 in Palermo, Sicily. (Alessandro Fucarini/AFP/Getty Images)

Advocates Abroad has said the publication of the video has led to rape and death threats.

“This video led to shocking threats of rape and murder against Executive Director and our volunteers. By our last count, there were 37,000 of these threats.”

“Those who filmed the video spliced informal comments made by our director and presented them entirely out of context to make it appear that we do not stand for the people, institutions, and principles we serve.”

The activist film-maker claims that the UNHCR has already responded to the tapes by saying that they are “alarmed by these reports.”

According to Eurostat, an EU statistical service, last year 650,000 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the member states of the EU, and of these 538,000 were granted protection status.

In 2017, 46 percent of EU first instance asylum decisions resulted in positive outcomes.

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