Protecting Rights at Borders: Beaten, punished, and pushed back
The fifth Protecting Rights At Borders report (PRAB) reconfirms a pattern of a systematic use of pushbacks at EU Borders. The study recorded incidents involving 5,756 persons between 1 January and 31 December 2022.
It appears evident that EU Member States continue making access to international protection as difficult as possible. These practises are systemic and integrated into countries’ border control mechanisms although they are in strict violation of EU law. The newly released PRAB report shows that many of those victims who were pushed back were not merely prevented from crossing a border. The data collected outlines that they were “welcomed” at the EU with a denial of access to asylum procedures, arbitrary arrest or detention, physical abuse or mistreatment, theft or destruction of property.
Nationals from Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan reported most frequently being the victim of pushbacks and in 12% of the recorded incidents children were involved. This data is unfortunately only the top of the iceberg.
"The practice of turning a blind eye to human rights violations at EU borders must be stopped. It is high time to uphold, respect and enforce the rights of those at Europe’s doorstep, irrespective of their country of nationality. All people have the right to ask for international protection in the EU. For years, DRC jointly with its PRAB partners and many other actors, has been recording evidence on pushback practices. The evidence is undeniable,” says Secretary General of DRC, Charlotte Slente.
Access to international protection, within the EU, is far from safeguarded - not merely due to a systematic use of pushbacks across EU borders or the unwillingness to let boats disembark, but also due to other policy developments.
"This pattern should not be seen in isolation. It is part of a wider Rule of Law crisis. The crisis at the EU’s borders is not one of numbers. Instead, it is a crisis of human dignity and political will, created due to failure to implement existing legal frameworks and enforce judicial rulings”, says Charlotte Slente.
Preventing access to territory with all means
"In Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders remain a de facto general policy, as widely reported including by UN bodies. However, instead of effectively investigating such allegations, Greek Authorities have put in place a new mechanism which does not ensure the guarantees of impartiality and effectiveness. At the same time, NGOs and human rights defenders supporting victims of alleged pushback remain under pressure and find themselves increasingly targeted", says Konstantinos Vlachopoulos of GCR.
In Italy the systematic use of pushbacks is increasing.
"We are witnessing continuous readmissions along the Adriatic ports from Italy to Greece and rejections to Albania. What we hear about is inhuman treatment, such as confiscation and destruction of personal belongings, forced undressing, and exposure to extreme temperatures. The Italian government tries to deny that this is happening. But the situation seems to be getting worse”, says Erminia Rizzi of ASGI.
Welcome at one border, pushed back at another.
The situation is not equal at all EU borders. There are double standards based on ethnic profiling and they violate international human rights law. 2022 was the year that the EU provided protection – at least on paper – to 4.9 million people who entered the EU from Ukraine. The triggering of the Temporary Protection Directive was a historic decision.
“In February 2022, Poland has opened its borders to admit large numbers of Ukrainian nationals fleeing war. Temporary protection was given to numerous persons seeking protection from the war in Ukraine. This welcoming approach of the Polish authorities did not affect the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border, where a humanitarian crisis continues since August 2021. There, third-country nationals are everyday violently pushed back, irrespective of their vulnerability or asylum claims”, says Maja Łysienia, SIP Strategic Litigation Expert.