Kilometers of barbed wire exclusion fences, thousands of high-tech patrols at sea, in the air and on land, push-back 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 push-backs 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 push-backs 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 push-backs in the EU and has been helping affected persons with individual legal proceedings.
Croatia is obliged to account for its push-back 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.
ND and NT crossed the border fence structure in Melilla and entered Spain in August 2014. The Spanish Guardia Civil apprehended them, along with approximately 70 other individuals from sub-Saharan Africa who also had climbed the fences. They were immediately “pushed back” to Morocco – without access to any legal procedures or protection.
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.
With support from ECCHR, several refugees filed individual complaints against Macedonia in 2016. They assert that Macedonia’s practice of unlawful expulsions is violating the European Convention on Human Rights.