On Tuesday, October 12 at 19:30 GMT:
People fleeing their homes due to war and persecution could once consider Europe one of their least worst options when seeking safety. But as European Union member states from the Baltic to the Mediterranean fortify their borders – and in some cases illegally eject asylum seekers – the continent is becoming increasingly inhospitable.
A newly-published investigation by investigative journalism outlet Lighthouse Reports and several European media partners found illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers in three EU countries. Croatia admitted Friday that police officers had mistreated vulnerable individuals after journalists recorded 11 recent cases where its security forces had forced people back into Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Romania, reporters filmed border guards sending people into Serbia on three occasions. They also compiled video evidence of 635 alleged pushbacks in Greece from open sources.
The three countries are among several in the EU that have deployed extra border guards, police units and troops to ensure people do not enter their territory and ask for asylum. EU members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have each imposed states of emergency along their frontiers as asylum seekers from places including Afghanistan, Syria and Cameroon try to cross from neighbouring Belarus.
The three countries say Belarus is deliberately sending hundreds of asylum seekers their way in response to EU sanctions against the Belarusian government. But human rights groups say there is clear evidence that the rights of vulnerable people are being violated amid those political tensions. A recent digital investigation by Amnesty International concluded that 32 Afghan asylum seekers who had been seen on Polish territory were pushed back into Belarus. Minsk has meanwhile suspended an agreement with the EU on the readmission of displaced people. The political manoeuvring risks leaving unprotected people in border zones, between countries unwilling to accept them.
Responding to the latest reports of pushbacks in Croatia, Romania and Greece, the EU’s Commissioner for Home Affairs said on Friday “we have to protect our external borders, but we also have to protect our values, the rule of law and fundamental rights.” But the European Council on Refugees is among those saying that the EU executive is doing little to stop the abuses at member states’ borders. Amnesty International says the European Commission “continues to turn a blind eye to the staggering violation of EU law, and even continues to finance police and border operations in some of these countries.”
As EU countries intensify patrols at their borders, they are collectively unwilling to accept an urgent appeal by the UN refugee agency to take in half of the 85,000 most vulnerable Afghans forced to flee their homes after the Taliban’s takeover.
In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at the challenges faced by dispossessed people who are caught in limbo as EU countries lock their doors.