Tuesday

27th Feb 2024

12,000 illegal pushbacks this year 'tip of iceberg', says NGO

  • Border fence between Greece and North Macedonia (Photo: Vadim Ghirda)
Listen to article

Almost 12,000 prospective asylum seekers in Europe were illegally forced back across a border in 2021, according to the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

"That might be the tip of the iceberg here," Charlotte Slente, DRC's secretary-general, told EUobserver on Thursday (16 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Pushbacks are becoming acceptable, and to some degree, sort of approved by other members [EU states]," she said.

Such practices prevent people from being able to file for asylum or international protection in an EU country.

The Danish NGO, along with six other civil society organisations, documented the cases, noting for instance that some 6,000 took place between July to November 2021 alone.

They also point to Hungarian police statistics, citing over 11,000 pushbacks into Serbia in August. Those figures are not included in the overall findings by the NGOs because they only highlight the pushbacks they themselves documented.

The findings were revealed in their report out on Thursday , along with testimonies describing violence and physical abuse.

An Afghan minor is said to have vomited from the beatings received by the Croatian police. Others say they were forced to strip naked by Slovenian police.

Croatian pushbacks into Bosnia were among the most egregious in the 6,000 cases spanning July to November, posing questions on whether independent border monitors tasked to oversee rights are able to do their jobs.

Afghans fleeing persecution were the hardest hit, with around 1,700 saying they were forced back to Bosnia, notes the report.

Similar findings were uncovered in Croatia by the anti-torture committee at the human-rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, which said police were keeping hand-written logbooks of pushbacks.

Although most of the cases described in the Danish report involved single men, women and children also suffered abuse in a practice the European Commission has condemned in the past.

However, with migration and asylum increasingly framed as a "hybrid threat", the reactions and policy-decisions by national and EU authorities appear to condone the pushbacks.

Collective pushbacks are now allowed in Poland and Lithuania, for instance.

And earlier this month, the commission floated emergency measures allowing Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to bend asylum rules due to their border stand-off with Belarus.

Slente said the proposals looks like an "attempt to legitimise that some member states are unwilling to implement and respect the EU asylum acquis in general."

According to commission figures, as of 21 November, only 7,831 people managed to enter Latvia, Lithuania and Poland from Belarus.

Left-leaning and liberal MEPs this week also spoke out against those plans, noting the relatively small numbers.

"There's no need for such emergency measures," German centre-left MEP Birgit Sippel told the Strasbourg-plenary on Wednesday.

"This we feel would be harmful to the right of asylum," said French liberal MEP, Fabienne Keller.

"The commission stayed completely silent on the structural violation of the right to apply for asylum and instead of forcing the countries [Poland, Lithuania] to reverse the legislation," said Dutch Green MEP, Tineke Strik.

EU demands answers on Croat border attacks against migrants

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson wants to send her officials to Croatia sometime this month to make sure authorities there are complying with fundamental rights following numerous allegations of violence against migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross into the country.

Frontex documents 'collective expulsion' in Lithuania

Collective expulsions of people seeking asylum violates the European Convention of Human Rights. At least 14 reports of collective expulsions in Lithuania have been lodged by officers from the EU's border agency, Frontex.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. MEPs slap three-month ban on foreign ads ahead of EU polls
  2. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash
  3. Memo from Munich — EU needs to reinvent democracy support
  4. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive
  5. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  6. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit
  7. Angry farmers block Brussels again, urge fix to 'unfair' prices
  8. Luxembourg denies blind spot on Nato security vetting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us