EU border countries continued their “systematic use” of illegal pushbacks last year, according to a refugee group said on Thursday, reporting 5,756 such incidents.
“It appears evident that EU Member States continue making access to international protection as difficult as possible,” said a statement by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) accompanying its latest report.
According to the council’s Protecting Rights at Borders report, these people “were ‘welcomed’ at the EU with a denial of access to asylum procedures, arbitrary arrest or detention, physical abuse or mistreatment, theft or destruction of property.”
Afghan, Syrian, and Pakistani nationals were most frequently the victim of pushbacks, said the report, adding that children were involved in 12% of the recorded incidents.
“The practice of turning a blind eye to human rights violations at EU borders must be stopped. It is high time to uphold, respect, and enforce the rights of those at Europe’s doorstep, irrespective of their country of nationality. All people have the right to ask for international protection in the EU,” said Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the DRC.
The evidence of pushback practices is “undeniable,” she added in the statement, which said the situation was “not equal” at all EU borders.
‘Crisis of human dignity’
While pushbacks at Greece’s land and sea borders remained a “de facto general policy” and the “systematic use of pushbacks” was on the rise in Italy, the statement noted that the EU provided protection to 4.9 million people from Ukraine in 2022.
One of the countries that have hosted the most Ukrainians fleeing war with Russia, Poland, opened its borders to them after the conflict broke out in February 2022, said Maja Lysienia, a strategic litigation expert, according to the statement.
“This welcoming approach of the Polish authorities did not affect the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border, where a humanitarian crisis continues since August 2021. There, third-country nationals are every day violently pushed back, irrespective of their vulnerability or asylum claims,” it quoted Lysienia as saying.
Slente described the crisis at EU borders as “a crisis of human dignity and political will, created due to failure to implement existing legal frameworks and enforce judicial rulings.”
The DRC added that EU border officials indulged in double standards based on ethnic profiling with regard to incoming asylum seekers, adding that these violate international human rights law.