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PRAB Report VII- Suprisingly suprised

Surprisingly surprised is the seventh report in the series published by Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB)[1], an initiative aiming to document evidence of the use of illegal pushbacks in the context of border management in Europe. The initiative, through its collaborative efforts, also serves to advance strategic litigation across borders for people affected by widespread and systematic pushbacks and other rights violations at Europe’s doorstep. Data is gathered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and grassroot initiatives across Europe who have joined forces in the PRAB initiative to create a solid evidence-base, anchored in direct observation and interviews with persons on the move. 

This report covers the period from 1 May to 31 August 2023. Data collected directly by PRAB partners or obtained from Government sources document a total of 9,515 pushback instances during the four-month reporting period. As part of the documentation, 2,030 persons were interviewed by PRAB partners to record the details of their demographics, migratory routes, and the rights violations they reported being exposed to. While the 9,515 pushbacks documented by PRAB during the past four months may seem a high number, it is evident that these represent only a small sample of the actual number of illegal pushbacks at European borders. 

The vast majority (over 83%) of those reporting having been pushed back are adult males. Nearly every third pushback (31%) involved children. Of particular significance are the pushbacks of 141 unaccompanied and separated children. Numerous reports of violence, as well as inhuman and degrading treatment, are collected, particularly at the borders between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and between Hungary and Serbia. Lack of access to asylum procedures is also documented, especially from people at the Hungarian-Serbian border and the French-Italian border. 

During the period covered by this report, events took place that exacerbated the challenges experienced by persons on the move. They include: 

  • Continued cases of fatalities in the pursuit of reaching and crossing borders, as well as many people reported missing. 
  • Belarus granting visas to growing numbers of persons from Middle Eastern, African and Latin American countries, with a resulting augmented pressure on the border with the EU. 
  • Poland increasingly militarising the border with Belarus and starting to insist asylum claims can be accepted only at official crossing points along that border. 
  • Lithuania detaining higher numbers of persons entering from Latvia. 
  • Croatia strenghtening the use of drones, and resorting to cameras, to identify people. 
  • Italy expelling people based on discrepancies between the personal data contained in the refus d’entrée issued by French authorities and those registered upon first entry to Italy and requesting discretionary documentation to grant access to asylum procedures, while being unable to accommodate all asylum seekers in reception centres. 
  • In Greece, persons on the mainland not being able to access asylum procedures as the online platform, representing the only channel, was not in operation during most of the reporting period (only resuming operating on 21 August 2023). 

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