Pushbacks at EU’s Borders

Pushbacks are expulsions without legal justification and procedure, usually employed by border police, law enforcement officials or other authorities. It is being used to push foreigners such as migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from a state’s territory to the territory of another state without regard for the individual’s circumstances and right to seek asylum.

At many places along the Central Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes, at EU’s external borders as well as at EU’s internal borders, the illegal practice of pushbacks is being used as a systematic deterrence measure and as a de facto tool for border management.

DRC and partners are present in many European countries where pushbacks take place. We carry out several different activities: we collect data on pushbacks; we gather documentation and evidence of rights violations; we provide medical relief and legal support to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers; and we are present in Brussels where we advocate for the respect of human rights obligations under European and international law.

On these pages you’ll be able to find more information about our work and positions on pushbacks and border management.

Pushbacks 2021

Number of pushbacks reported in 2021

Why pushbacks are illegal


  • Resorting to pushbacks, regardless of whether these involve violence, as a means of protecting states’ borders constitutes an illegal practice.
  • It risks violating the principle of non-refoulement, as well as the prohibition of collective expulsion and it prevents access to procedures for international protection.
  • States have the right to control movement across their borders, however this must happen in compliance with their obligations under international and European human rights law.
  • Human rights compliance must not be an obstacle to migration management – a rights-based approach to border management is indispensable.

Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB)

Throughout 2021 DRC and six protection and legal aid civil society organizations from six European countries have joined forces in the Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB) initiative.

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Press releases about pushback
12,000 pushbacks in 2021 reflects worrying normalization of illegal practice
DRC Assists Bih

From January to November 2021, DRC and six civil society organizations across Europe documented close to 12,000 incidents of men, women and children being pushed back by border police, law enforcement officials or other authorities from EU Member States.

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Criminalizing mobility, securitizing borders, and preventing access to territory will not end dangerous journeys
Grarup Bosnien 2020

The tragic and preventable drownings in the French Channel on Wednesday November 24, and the similarly avoidable humanitarian crisis at the EU’s border with Belarus are being used politically to promote and advance an increasingly securitized approach to border management. But criminalising mobility, securitizing borders, and preventing access to territory will not result in safer mobility.

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Joint Statement: Call on the EU: Restore Rights and Values at Europe’s Borders
Random Dots

As European civil society and professional organisations working on asylum, migration, humanitarian assistance and human rights, we are shocked by the continuing humanitarian crisis at the borders between the EU and Belarus which causes immense suffering and has led to the deaths of at least ten people.

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Croatia/EU Border Monitoring System: Effective Mechanism Needed - Independent, Broad Mandate, Adequate Resources
Bosnia DRC52

Croatia’s recently announced border monitoring mechanism, meant to provide for independent human rights monitoring of border operations, appears to fall short of the standards needed to ensure its effectiveness and success, 8 human rights and humanitarian aid organizations said today.

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Countering human smuggling: No silver bullet for safer mobility
Grarup Bosnien 2020

New DRC-MMC position paper offers evidence-based recommendations towards a protection-sensitive approach to actions against human smuggling.

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Predictable, preventable and tragic loss of life in the Central Mediterranean
Random Dots

22 April 2021 saw yet another preventable tragedy at sea with more than 100 people perishing in a single incident. DRC repeats its plea for the EU to commit to search and rescue in the Mediterranean and for expanding safe pathways to protection to avoid desperate crossings and countless deaths at sea.

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Open letter: End Containment and Deterrence at the EU’s External Borders
Inside Moria1

Five years after the EU-Turkey Statement, European Civil Society Demands an End to Containment and Deterrence at the EU’s External Borders

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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Immediate Solutions Needed to Alleviate the Suffering at the Lipa site
Bosnia DRC52

The undersigned humanitarian organizations call for an immediate solution for at least 900 migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers who have been kept in dire humanitarian conditions and uncertainty at the Lipa location for more than 24 hours.

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Statement on the situation at the Lipa site
Bosnia DRC21

With the recent heavy snowfalls and temperatures below freezing, up to 500 people currently stranded at the location of the former Lipa are at immediate safety, health and protection risk.

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DRC Supports European Union Push for Border Accountability
Bosnia DRC09

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.

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New monitoring mechanism at European borders should ensure fundamental rights and accountability
Random Dots

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.

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Asylum and Migration Pact
IMG 0140

EU should not confuse hard borders with an effective asylum system. The EU’s priority should be to protect people not borders.

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Moria fires: European Governments must urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece
Lesbos Moriacamp Grarup26

Urgent call to action: The undersigned organisations reiterate their call on the governments of EU Member States, with support from the European Commission to urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece.

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New EU migration pact must dust off fundamental rights

The EU's new Pact on Migration and Asylum is an opportunity to take a different approach. To take a breath, to remember the values that the European project was founded upon, and to dust off the good old fundamental rights and put them to use.

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New Pact, new direction?

The EU’s upcoming Pact on Migration and Asylum provides an opportunity to choose another direction for EU asylum and migration policy.

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