EU states informally cooperate to deny asylum to refugees – report | Refugees
Informal cooperation between states has prevented thousands of women, men and children from seeking protection in Europe this year, according to a report released by nine human rights organizations.
The Protect Border Rights (Prab) initiative recorded 2,162 cases of “refoulements” at various borders in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Hungary carried out on the basis of bilateral agreements between countries, which have resulted in these circumventing their responsibilities and pushing unwanted groups out of the EU.
The report comes as Greece was also criticized on Wednesday, with Europe’s main human rights watchdog calling for an end to the practice of pushing back migrants at land and sea borders it shares with Turkey.
In a damning letter, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja MijatoviÄ said it was up to the center-right government of Athens to properly investigate the refoulements. “I am deeply concerned that, two and a half years later, the allegations of refoulement persist,” she wrote, referring to a first visit during which the issue was raised.
âThe manner in which these operations would be carried out would clearly be incompatible with Greece’s human rights obligations,â she said.
The commissioner said that too often the official reaction of the Greek authorities was to simply dismiss the charges, despite what she described as “the overwhelming body of evidence that has been presented in recent years”.
But issuing its strongest rebuttal to date, Athens responded by insisting that the police and coastguard be instructed to act “in full compliance” with Greece’s international obligations both at sea and at sea. along the border with Turkey on the Evros River (also known as the Maritsa or MeriÃ§), where Greek officials work closely with Frontex, the European border agency.
Allegations of ill-treatment were not only investigated but sanctioned, Greek ministers for migration, civil protection and navigation said in a joint letter dismissing the charges. “Greek officers are constantly performing their duties in an unfavorable environment containing misleading information, in most cases emanating from smuggling networks,” they wrote, adding that the allegations were intended both to “damage their reputation and to demoralize them â.
Last week, a Guardian analysis found that EU member states illegally pushed at least 40,000 asylum seekers from Europe’s borders during the pandemic, with the methods linked to the deaths of more than 2 000 people.
Prab, which includes the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the Italian Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Diaconia Valdese (DV), the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and others, said that âMore than a third of refoulements were accompanied by violations of rights (refusal of access to the asylum procedure, physical violence and assault, theft, extortion and destruction of property), at the hands of the national border police and the police â.
According to testimonies collected by Prab, people who try to cross or who have just crossed the border between Italy and France also often report âviolations of rights by the French police. After being intercepted by the French border police along the coastal border, asylum seekers are detained overnight at the border police station, denied the right to seek asylum, not given enough food and water, and do not receive interpretation or medical assistance. The next day, they are sent back to Italy.
Prab also documented the return of asylum seekers and migrants across Italy’s northeastern land border with Slovenia, described as “one of the most visible cases of refoulement in the EU”, in because of a faulty agreement signed between Italy and Slovenia in 1996, when the two countries agreed to return to a third country nationals entering Italy illegally.
In July 2020, during a parliamentary hearing in Rome, an Italian representative of the Ministry of the Interior confirmed that back-ups were occurring âWithout any kind of formal administrative procedureâ¦ even when the intention to seek international protection aroseâ.
In January, the court of Rome declared more than 700 push-backs perpetrated by Italian police in Slovenia are illegal.
Refugees and migrants who reported refoulements in Serbia complained of various kinds of mistreatment, while all other incidents in Romania alleged violence. In two cases in Hungary, refugees reported being bitten by border patrol dogs.
Interviewees said they were slapped, kicked, beaten by police with batons and beaten on the back, hands and legs.
In 2021, more than a third of people returned from Croatia to Bosnia said they had been victims of physical violence, while 62% alleged theft, extortion or destruction of their personal belongings. Refusal of access to asylum was reported by 23% of those questioned.
Prab said that “chain refoulements across different EU member states occur entirely outside officially established mechanisms and aim to circumvent their obligations under European and international human rights law.”
So far this year, 22 people have reported being returned from Serbia to North Macedonia and from North Macedonia to Greece. Field reports and key informant data compiled by the Macedonian Association of Young Lawyers (Myla) show that as many as â4,000 people may have been turned away to Greece in the first three months of 2021â.