Violence, assault and assault continue to be reported regularly at a number of entry points at land and sea borders, inside and outside the European Union (EU), despite repeated calls from UN agencies, including the UNHCR, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs to end such practices. .
We are concerned about the repeated and consistent reports coming at Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where the UNHCR has recorded almost 540 reported informal returns from Greece since the beginning of 2020. Disruptive incidents are also reported in Central and South-Eastern Europe at. At the borders of the EU Member States.
Although many cases go unreported for various reasons, UNHCR has interviewed thousands of people across Europe who have been sidelined and reported harassing intimidation, intimidation, violence and humiliation. At sea, people report being left drifting on liferafts or sometimes even being forced directly into the water, indicating an insensitive lack of respect for human lives. At least three people have been reported dead in such incidents in the Aegean since September 2021, one last in January. Equally appalling practices are often reported at land borders, and consistent evidence of people being stripped of their clothes and shoes and brutally pushed back in harsh weather conditions.
With a few exceptions, European states have failed to investigate such reports, although credible evidence has increased. Instead, walls and fences are being built on different borders. In addition to the re-entry ban, we have received reports that some refugees may have been repatriated despite the risks they face, which may run counter to the principle of an international re-entry ban.
The right to seek and enjoy asylum does not depend on the method of entry. People who want to apply for asylum should be able to do so, and they must be informed of their rights and given legal aid.
People fleeing war and persecution have few options. Walls and fences are unlikely to act as a meaningful deterrent. They only increase the suffering of people in need of international protection, especially women and children, and lead them to consider different, often more dangerous routes, and are likely to lead to new deaths.
What is happening at Europe’s borders is legally and morally unacceptable and must stop. The protection of human life, human rights and dignity must remain our common priority. Progress in preventing human rights violations at borders and the establishment of genuinely independent national control mechanisms to ensure the reporting and independent investigation of events are urgently needed.
We fear that these unfortunate practices are now in danger of being normalized and politically based. They reinforce the harmful and unnecessary “Fortress of Europe” narrative. The fact is that most of the world’s refugees host low- and middle-income countries with far fewer resources and often bordering countries of origin in crisis.
EU law requires that border control measures be carried out in full respect of fundamental rights. It is possible to manage borders and address security concerns while pursuing a fair, humane and effective policy on asylum seekers that is in line with States’ obligations under international human rights and refugee law, including the 1951 Convention, and European law.
For a long time, European countries have strongly supported the work of the UNHCR and are making important contributions that both help to protect refugees and support recipient countries. However, financial and capacity support abroad cannot replace the responsibility and obligation of states to receive and protect refugees on their territory.
Although resettlement and other legal routes are necessary to demonstrate the external support of the main host countries, they cannot replace the obligations of asylum seekers at the border, including those who arrived illegally and spontaneously, including on board.
States must live up to their commitments and respect fundamental human rights, including the right to life and the right to asylum. How Europe decides to protect asylum seekers and refugees matters and sets a precedent not only in the region but also worldwide.
This statement is based on Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Source: UNHCR Northern Europe
Source: The Nordic Page