Kilometers of barbed wire exclusion fences, thousands of high-tech patrols at sea, in the air and on land, pushback agreements with neighboring countries: the European Union goes to great lengths to exclude people fleeing from war, persecution and hardship in their home countries. To justify their actions leaders in Brussels and the EU member states claim the pushbacks are politically necessary and permitted under law.
Every other week another boat carrying migrants and refugees capsizes or sinks off the coast of Italy or Malta. Witnesses frequently report instances of abuse at the borders between Turkey and Greece. There is a steady climb in the number of people who lose their lives while trying to cross the Moroccan-Spanish border. All of these events serve as evidence of the terrible failure of the EU’s asylum and refugee policies.
Illegal pushbacks or forced returns at EU borders represent a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights and refugee laws. In the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Africa, refugees and migrants are repeatedly subjected to brutal violence from border guards. Anyone attempting to enter these Spanish cities – and thereby reach EU territory – is immediately deported to Morocco without any examination of their right to asylum.
Since 2014, ECCHR has been examining the scope for legal intervention against the practice of pushbacks in the EU and has been helping affected persons with individual legal proceedings.
Germany and Greece concluded the so-called Seehofer Deal in 2018. The administrative agreement named after German Minister of Interior Horst Seehofer says: migrants and refugees who have already applied for asylum in Greece and arrive to Germany via Austria should be refused entry and returned to Greece within 48 hours. This is what happened to Syrian asylum seeker HT.
A 21-year-old Syrian refugee crossed the Bosnian-Croatian border. He and other refugees were pushed back by armed Croatian police officials. The Syrian, supported by ECCHR submitted a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee urging it to examine Croatia’s practice of expulsions.
Croatia is obliged to account for its pushback practice to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) before the European Court of Human Rights. The court accepted the individual complaints brought by three Syrian refugees. The applicants were denied any individual assessment as they were summarily and collectively expelled in October 2018 at the border between Croatia and BiH.
Spanish authorities apprehend and summarily deport unaccompanied minors to Morocco without a procedure to identify them and protect their rights. This policy was strongly condemned by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in February 2019 in a decision that clearly upholds the fundamental rights of unaccompanied minors at Europe's borders.
At least 15 dead and many more injured: this is the outcome of a Guardia Civil operation on 6 February 2014 on the beach of El Tarajal, located at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. The deadly push-back has still not been investigated properly. ECCHR is working with survivors who are willing to give witness evidence.