The newly released report, which is based on testimonies collected between April and June 2021, speaks of a wide presence of rights violations accompanying pushbacks experienced by asylum seekers and migrants irrespective of their age, gender, vulnerability or legal status. The report is the second of its kind, and also this time it documents physical beatings, abusive and degrading treatment, and destruction of property. However, in some EU Member States, the report also reveals cases of forceful family separations, which indicate a re-emerging trend in deterrence practices.
“It is hard to imagine the nightmare these families are going through! Having already endured an often difficult and dangerous journey, only to experience all parents’ worst fear – to be separated from your children without any means to contact them. And this as the result of actions by authorities in the countries you are trying to reach for protection,” says Secretary General of DRC, Charlotte Slente.
The report, which is published in partnership of DRC and six civil society organisations across six countries, includes incidents involving 3,403 persons – an increase compared to the first quarter of the year with higher numbers of pushbacks recorded at the Croatia-Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Hungary-Serbia borders.
Charlotte Slente, Secretary General of DRC
The report documents continued widespread use of illegal pushbacks, including chain pushbacks as those documented in the previous report, from EU Member States (MS) and neighbouring countries.
“The numbers alone are outrageous, but behind the statistics are real children, women and men, who experienced danger, fear, perilous journeys and multiple rights abuses, from humiliating and degrading treatment, to being deprived of their belongings or exposed to physical and psychological abuse,” says Charlotte Slente: “And often, these people have had not one, but multiple such experiences, at the same or different borders.”
Despite calls for effective monitoring mechanisms of border practices and investigations of complaints related to pushbacks, the report shows that this is still lacking. This affects asylum seekers’ rights to an effective remedy and states’ path to accountability.
“The rights abuses and undignified treatment of very vulnerable people, which we continue to see in several countries are very worrying and we hope to see immediate action by governments of countries accused of conducting illegal pushbacks by migrants,” says Charlotte Slente.
The report builds on data collected during protection monitoring activities and case referrals for legal remedies.
Resorting to pushbacks as a means of protecting states' borders is illegal. States have the obligation, under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure that people can effectively seek asylum and to respect the principle of non-refoulement. States are further, under the same legal frameworks, prohibited from undertaking collective expulsions and required to treat each person with human dignity.
Italy: (Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione (ASGI), Diaconia Valdese (DV) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) Italy); Hungary (Hungarian Helsinki Committee); Bosnia and Herzegovina (DRC BiH); Serbia (Humanitarian Center for Integration and Tolerance (HCIT)); North Macedonia (Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA)); Greece (Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and DRC Greece); and Brussels (DRC Brussels).
In a new report, DRC in partnership with six civil society organisations across six countries, have collected records of thousands of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees trying to cross Europe’s borders. Testimonies also reveal unofficial cooperation between authorities in different countries to transfer vulnerable people across borders to avoid responsibility.
The EU has presented a positive step forward to end impunity for rights violations at borders within and around the Union, but it risks becoming a fig leaf. Along with seven other organisations, DRC presents four key recommendations.
The serious violations committed at European borders with impunity must end. It is now up to Members of the European Parliament and Member States to ensure that violations of rights at EU borders are recorded, that those responsible are held to account and that justice for individuals affected is guaranteed.