Push-backs and police violence – legal framework

Modern asylum law is based on the conviction that every individual has a right to apply for international protection in the case that their life is threatened in their country of origin. Most national and international regulations concerning asylum are based on the 1951 Geneva Convention (Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees)1. Expanding off of the basic right to apply for asylum, the Geneva Convention includes the principle of non-refoulement (Art. 32, 33) which forbids states from returning anyone declaring the will of applying for asylum to a place in which they would be in likely danger of persecution. While there is no international legal definition of the term push-back, it can be understood as behaviour violating the general rule of non-refoulement. Prohibiting an individual from the right to apply for asylum is generally an infringement of the Geneva Convention and as such should be considered a violation of international law. Collective expulsions of whole groups, as they are conducted by several EU member states, deny each individual in this group the right to apply for asylum and explain their specific and individual reasons.

The principle of non-refoulement has since been adopted in the legislation regulating  asylum procedures on the EU level. Examples  can be found in Article 18 and 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of European Union2 and in Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council3 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. To this end, the responsibility of EU member states to comply with international standards on refugee protection is double:  not only are all EU-member states signatories of the 1951 Geneva Convention4 but they are also beholden to the EU principles and regulations on its common asylum system5. It is the responsibility of all member states, then, to ensure that their common principles are not ignored on the external borders of the European Union.

  1. The 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees;
  3. Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection;
  4. Parties of the Geneva Convention;
  5. Common European Asylum System