First Regional report on pushbacks by the Protection Rights At Borders (PRAB) initiative

Macedonian Young Lawyers Association is part of the PRAB initiative as a partner organization together with NGOs from 6 other countries.

Since January 2021, the Protection Rights At Borders (PRAB) initiative (*) has harmonized data collection methods and strengthened a coordinated evidenced-based approach to ending rights violations at Europe’s borders. PRAB partners have collected records of thousands of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees trying to cross Europe’s borders. Aiming to share information on the work done and the rights violations recorded, the attached report, entitled “Pushing back responsibility: Human Rights Violations as a ‘Welcome Treatment’ at Europes’s Borders”  brings together:

  • Data on pushbacks, as well as rights violation during these illegal practices, for a multitude of borders at the EU’s internal and external frontiers.
  • An overview of increasing protection concerns and a lack of legal pathways.
  • An update on legal venues addressed and relevant jurisprudence.
  • Policy recommendations, as good faith is not enough to ensure that border management is human-rights compliant.

During only three months, authorities illegally prevented 2.162 men, women and children from seeking protection. The instances of illegal pushbacks were recorded from January to April 2021 at different border crossings in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-and-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Hungary. More than a third of the documented pushbacks involved rights violations such as denial of access to asylum procedure, physical abuse and assault, theft, extortion and destruction of property, at the hands of national border police and law enforcement officials. The report is estimated to only reveal the tip of the iceberg. In many places along the monitored routes, NGOs are prevented from documenting the extent of illegal practices. Other challenges include people being fearful of repercussions on their status or being prevented from moving forward on their journey.

Testimonies also reveal unofficial cooperation between authorities in different countries to transfer vulnerable people across borders to avoid responsibility. The report documents 176 cases of so-called “chain-pushbacks” where refugees and migrants were forcefully sent across multiple borders via informal cooperation between states to circumvent their responsibility and push unwanted groups outside of the EU. This could be from Italy or Austria through countries like Slovenia and Croatia to a third country such as Bosnia-and- Herzegovina.

The data presented in the report again confirms that pushbacks continue to be used systematically by EU Member States and neighboring countries and can be considered a de-facto tool for border management by some countries. Pushbacks are illegal and violate EU and international law, irrespective of whether they are implemented by law enforcement personnel of an EU member state or by an EU agency, such as Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard). Mere good faith, in states’ respect for and implementation of human rights has frankly led to widespread abuses, as reported by UN agencies, NGOs, and national Ombudsperson offices.

It goes without saying that it is high time to end rights violations at Europe’s borders. As the report clearly stress that the “welcome treatment” received currently by too many people is far from in line with human dignity and the states obligations under EU and international human rights law. States should stop pushing their responsibility out. To re-establish real trust and – more importantly – to monitor respect for rights, MYLA and the PRAB partners re-state their call that it is essential to set up national independent mechanisms to monitor borders and automatically start investigations once evidence is collected by the mechanism or is referred to it. This would be a tool to hold perpetrators accountable, end impunity and ensure access to justice.

Click the following link bellow for full PDF version of the First PRAB Regional Report on Pushbacks

PRAB Report January – May 2021

(*) The Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB) initiative is formed by protection and legal aid organizations focusing on human rights compliance at the EU’s external and internal borders. Partner organisations are Italy (Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI), Diaconia Valdese (DV) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) Italy); Hungary (Hungarian Helsinki Committee); Bosnia and Herzegovina (DRC BiH); Serbia (Humanitarian Center for Integration and Tolerance (HCIT)); North Macedonia (Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA)); Greece (Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and DRC Greece); and Brussels (DRC Brussels).