In international law, everyone has the right to seek asylum; however, not every asylum seeker is granted refugee status. When the appeal of an asylum seeker is unsuccessful, either it was because their asylum claims were not proven to be real or because they didn’t have a solid ground for their request for asylum; subsequently, they are rejected and not considered as refugees. They become a “closed file”.

If an individual is not proven to be a refugee then they are not entitled the protection under international, regional, or national law. Unsuccessful applicants lose the right to remain in the country of asylum, but many of them stay. The main fear for closed files is the concern of arrest and deportation, so many of them live on the margins hiding. It is not like they have many choices, as most countries consider the act of requesting asylum in another country as an act of treason, so they are at high risk of detention upon returning to their countries and many are even subjected to torture.

So they stay and they don’t have an official ID or passport or any other identification document, hence they are left living on the margins, hiding in fear of being sent back to their country. Others may try to find alternative ways of migrating to other states, most of them seek European countries.

Imagine not having that one piece of paper that says who you are and where you belong, to be walking around without an ID, This means you are denied the right to apply for a public school, or to get admitted into a public hospital, or signing a contract for a job or any asset, it means for the government you do not exist. You are not a citizen and you are denied the basic rights of a human being. That is the life of a ‘closed-file’.

The living conditions of this population are often dire. They are deprived of any social privileges, for those who manage to find a job; they are hired as informal workers or daily laborers since they don’t get to have a work permit. They usually get less than the minimum payment anyone gets, and most of the time they work for longer hours, with no insurance, if they get sick, they become incapable of working, and consequently they don’t get paid, hence they can’t buy medication and they starve, there is no syndicate or institution to support them or defend their rights.

Closed files can’t rent a decent household, and they are subjected to sudden evacuation most of the time, as they are abused by landlords who take advantage of their situation. 

Minors and in particular unaccompanied minors are subject to child labor, early marriage, child abuse, sexual violence, among other dangers.

The second generation: Those who do not exist

As for the second generation, the newly-born of closed files have little chance to be registered; many of them don’t get a birth certificate, so basically, they don’t exist. There is no record that they were born, no idea which day, some of them might not even have a second or a family name, and they are not counted in any residential census. Officially “they do not exist”. That is the worst fate anyone could have.

Till now there is no mechanism or defined institution to support and help ‘closed files’, there are NGOs who might provide them some services, like helping them in issuing a birth certificate for the newly born, or to get medications for those who have chronic diseases. However, these are a few organizations and they can’t reach everyone, because closed files are not registered and do not have an address or a social number or a record in the phone companies, so how could you find someone who doesn’t officially exist, they are ghosts walking among us.

It is difficult to tell the exact number or percentage of closed files, they can only be estimated, and it is hard to statistically follow their births as well. And greater steps ought to be taken in favor of this population as they are entitled to their human rights like any of us, even if they are irregular migrants.

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