Violent pushbacks where refugees and migrants are forced back over a border irrespective of their individual circumstances have become distressingly common along the border between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

More than 21,422 pushbacks have been reported here since May 2019.

DRC’s border monitoring teams are interviewing affected migrants and documenting these violations, and October 2020 saw an all-time monthly high of 1,934 pushbacks from Croatia into Bosnia & Herzegovina.

The proposed solution risks becoming a fig leaf

Regrettably, despite the extensive evidence collected by DRC and numerous other organisations, impunity for rights violations at the EU’s external and internal borders remains commonplace.

The European Commission has proposed the establishment of a human rights monitoring mechanism as part of the EU’s recently announced Pact on Migration and Asylum aimed at modernising the common European asylum system.

This mechanism will investigate allegations of fundamental rights violations at the pre-screening phase.

While this represents a significant step forward in the quest to end impunity at EU borders, the unfortunate reality is that this mechanism will not meet its goals if implemented as currently planned. Worse yet, it risks becoming a fig leaf behind which violations continue.

Four key recommendations

Therefore, DRC and seven other organisations are proposing a set of essential revisions that would ensure the mechanism’s success and efficacy.

Key recommendations proposed by DRC and seven other organisations

  1. Scope: Expand the scope of the monitoring to apply to all alleged fundamental rights violations by national border management authorities or during border control activities
  2. Independence: Require the involvement of independent national authorities and civil society organisations and support them through EU funding
  3. Accountability: Specify how Member States should investigate allegations to put an end to abuse, guarantee access to justice and ensure transparency
  4. Consequences: Build in political and financial costs if Member State governments fail to cooperate with the mechanism, do not set it up or ignore its findings

DRC strongly encourages the European Parliament and representatives of EU Member States to ensure that these four key recommendations are reflected in the pre-screening regulation.

Negotiations on the Pact offer a crucial opportunity for legislators to both address illegal practices and create a robust mechanism to ensure accountability.

DRC maintains our unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of refugees and migrants, sanctioning rights violators, and ending the culture of impunity that exists along the border between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as at other borders within and around the EU.

Find monthly border monitoring snapshots from DRC Bosnia & Herzegovina here.