A recent video reportedly shows the director of a refugee advocacy group, admitting to coaching refugees to lie about being Christian in their asylum claims.
Advocates Abroad is an NGO that provides legal advice and assistance in preparing refugees for asylum interviews. The group was started in 2016 and claims to have helped more than 15,000 refugees seek asylum.
The video was released as part of the investigative documentary film “Borderless”. The film, created by the controversial Canadian journalist and Youtuber, Lauren Southern, is an attempt to shine a critical light on the refugee crisis in Europe.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that members of the European Union have noticed our work and will be including it in future reports and investigations into NGO activity across Europe,” Southern told The Post Millennial when asked about whether her reporting would lead to political action in Europe.
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NGO director says asylum claims are “all acting” and calls border officers “f***** stupid”
Ariel Ricker, the director of Advocates Abroad is shown in the video in conversation with “Borderless” Director, George Llewelyn-John.
“I tell them that this is acting, all of this is acting. It’s all acting as though this is theatre” said Ricker.
Ricker then proceeds to explain the procedure she uses to exploit the sympathy of border personnel by teaching refugees to pretend that they are Christian. The methods Ariel describes include fake crying, pretending to pray, claiming they celebrate Christmas and feigning trauma.
“So, for them to get through they must act their part in the theatre and that is the refugee trauma, because these EASO officers are so fucking stupid all they know is what’s written on the paper.”
The EASO office is the “European Asylum Support Office” in Greece that deals with incoming refugees. Officers are trained to look for signs of trauma among applicants.
How an NGO was infiltrated at one of the main refugee entry points into Europe
The Island of Lesvos is an entry point for thousands of migrants entering into Europe from Turkey by way of inflatable boat.
“Borderless” Director, George Llewelyn-John went to the island undercover to find out more information about the NGOs operating there.
“I returned to Lesvos to investigate the NGOs operating on the north of the Island, where the crossing to Turkey is its shortest. In a small fishing village called Skala, people like Ariel have created their own sort of idealistic ecosystem which feels perfectly detached from the wider world” George told The Post Millennial.
Skala, originally a tourist vacation spot is now a host to refugee boats and a landfill of lifejackets.
According to Southern, George was able to gain the trust of the NGOs “after reaching out as an independent journalist. This is when he got into contact with Ariel Ricker.
“Over the course of the week they had many dinners and lunches while discussing her work on the island” said Southern. “It didn’t take much for her to open up, I don’t believe many of these groups receive much opposition from the press so George actually reporting on their illegal behaviour likely came as a shock.”
According to George, extending his trip helped him gain the trust of Ariel, “as did complaining constantly about the alt-right, fascists, and ‘how scary things are getting in America and the UK’…”
“She told me one night it ‘really speaks to your character’ that you’re extending your trip. I still feel bad about that” said George about his encounter with Ariel.
Advocates Abroad and its partners
Advocates Abroad’s declared goal is to provide legal aid for refugees during their asylum claims. The NGO has tax-exempt status in the United States.
The organization’s website even has a guide (PDF) meant to walk refugees through their initial admission interviews step by step, training them how to respond and what they should expect to hear.
Since Lauren Southern released the video the organization has taken down its Twitter and Facebook page.
In a now-deleted response to the allegations Advocates Abroad claimed in a Facebook post that the video was a “heavily edited version of an informal conversation that was secretly filmed and without consent. The video is being used for political right wing effect…This is a shameful act of cowardly abuse.”
The University of Denver is one of the group’s partners, alongside the University of Baltimore Law School, the Greek Helsinki Monitor, and others.
The group has also been featured in a documentary by the International Bar Association.
Operations funded by Cambridge University campaign and promoted by UK Liberal Democrat politician
Advocates Abroad received some funding from the student-led Cambridge University initiative “SolidariTee”. The fundraiser was promoted by UK politicians including the former Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron.
Today I’m delighted to support the Day of #Solidaritee – great work by students across the country selling t-shirts to raise money to provide legal help to refugees in Greece and Turkey https://t.co/Cw0DfTFtjX pic.twitter.com/nNjOxrQ2QN
— Tim Farron (@timfarron) November 24, 2017
Documents show that Tim Farron, took his support for Advocates Abroad to the House of Commons promoting the group in a motion called “DAY OF SOLIDARITEE” on November 2017.
The United Nations Refugee Agency “alarmed” by the leak
UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov released a statement on the video claiming that the “UNHCR is alarmed by these reports”.
According to Lauren Southern, she and her team were in contact with EU politicians while filming the documentary.
“In fact, we visited Brussels during the filming of our documentary and spent a few days discussing migration with politicians in both formal interviews and lunches,” she said in a written statement to The Post Millennial.
NGO Director allegedly in hiding after receiving death and rape threats
Whether Advocates Abroad have committed in a crime or violated any international law, it is yet to be determined.
Ariel Ricker’s whereabouts are currently unknown and she has yet to publicly comment on the allegations.
“Ariel has since messaged me to say that she is in hiding, having been arrested four times previously I don’t know whether this is from the police or from extremists. She has also told me that she has received many rape threats and death threats, which of course is a terrible thing,” said George Llewelyn-John.
Lauren Southern was once detained for turning away an NGO refugee boat in Italy
This isn’t the first time that the Canadian Youtube celebrity and journalist has been the source of controversy.
Lauren, who is either described as a right-wing activist or a far-right identitarian, depending on who you ask, was once responsible for turning away a refugee search and rescue boat in Italy in 2017.
Alongside the French identitarian and nationalist group “Generation Identitaire”, Lauren boarded a boat and intercepted an NGO search and rescue ship “The Aquarius” in a project called “Defend Europe”.
“Our goal was to stop an empty boat from going down to Libya and filling up with illegal migrants,” said Southern in a video. “…if the politicians won’t stop the boats, we’ll stop the boats.”
Southern and the group were detained by the Italian Coast Guard but later released.
Southern would “not be surprised” if more NGOs were also guilty
“Borderless” is Lauren Southern’s latest project. She had formerly released a documentary on racially motivated farm murders in South Africa called “Farmlands”.
Southern’s film comes at a time when European governments are increasingly debating and reacting to the ongoing refugee crisis.
“If we want migration policy to be applied properly we must ensure those working on the process are impartial. We’ve ignored the activists within government and NGOs for far too long and because of that groups like Advocates Abroad have been able to make a mockery of immigration law for years,” said Southern.
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