Since its inception, BVMN has collected 1,575 pushback testimonies, affecting an estimated 24,990 people (BVMN, 2022). During pushbacks, BVMN has noticed a trend of ongoing and systematic violations of the fundamental rights of people on the move, constituting serious violations of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Frontex operational areas. BVMN seeks to bring to the Commission’s attention information with regard to potential fundamental rights violations perpetrated with the acquiescence, complicity, or knowledge of Frontex. Through this submission, BVMN seeks to show that Frontex’s mandate is not in full compliance with its 2019 Regulation and that an expansion of its mandate at the expense of accountability mechanisms has provided the Agency with more powers and a toxic culture of impunity.
The European Commission will address at the end of the consultation process, in particular, the evaluation criteria of effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance, and EU added value. In the absence of criteria of respect for fundamental rights, BVMN seeks to submit evidence that Frontex is not compliant with its fundamental rights obligations and the Regulation leaves a large margin to the Agency to act with impunity.
At the start of July, BVMN published a report on the phenomenon of groups being stranded on islets in the Evros river border between Greece and Turkey, and the increasing frequency with which human rights groups are filing for interim measures at the ECtHR. In the report, we highlighted the shifting modus operandi of human rights violations at the Evros border and the concurrent criminalisation of those responding to them. Read alongside the recent investigation by Lighthouse Reports, LeMonde, Spiegel, the Guardian, and ARD76 which uncovered systematic exploitation of people-on-the-move, it is evident that the mass proliferation of human rights violations in Greece are contributing to an overall erosion of the rule of law.
The following briefing details political responses that followed the publication of the report, updates on the situation regarding pushbacks in the Evros region in the last month, and recommendations to the Greek government, European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), and the European Commission.
This report documents the recent increase in use of Rule 39 measures on the Greek mainland, in order to secure access to international protection. It specifically details and analyses three case studies whereby transit groups were stranded on islets in the Evros river over the months of May and June 2022, and sent distress calls to state and civil society actors across Greece expressing their will to claim asylum. In all three cases, civil society organisations, including the Greek Council for Refugees, Human Rights360, AlarmPhone, and The Rule 39 Initiative submitted applications for interim measures on the behalf of the transit groups, and a Rule 39 decision was indicated by the European Court of Human Rights, legally binding the Greek state to provide temporary access to Greece and material reception conditions. Despite the Court’s rulings, as well as the extensive public documentation of the cases on social media platforms and in news outlets, all three transit groups were reportedly pushed back to Turkey after several days on the islets without food, water, or medical care.
In order to contextualise these events, the report briefly introduces a history of Evros islets in the context of pushbacks, the lack of access to asylum on mainland Greece and interim measures at the European Court on Human Rights. It subsequently discusses the ongoing responses and evolving consequences of the Greek state’s violations of the Court’s rulings, including by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Members of the European Parliament, the LIBE committee, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, and other actors in Greece. The report additionally observes the concerning trend of criminalisation of civil society organisations and the use of smear campaigns to restrict migrant rights defenders from operating. In the context of the cases documented here and the recent investigation by Lighthouse Reports we, the Border Violence Monitoring Network, call for Greece to be held accountable and for all operational and financial support to be suspended until the rule of law is restored.
The European Commission (EC) Proposal introduces several concerning amendments to the Schengen Borders Code (SBC) that we argue would have devastating consequences for the fundamental human rights of people-on-the-move. We will focus on the main concerns raised by the Proposal with regard to specific elements related to the management of external borders (point I, II, III), and of internal border controls (point IV, V) and analyse them against the background of already existing harmful practices of pushbacks and denial of rights at both internal and external borders that we have been documenting through our monitoring activities. Some of the most worrisome aspects of the Proposal negatively impact on the rights of people-on-the-move both at external and at internal borders and will thus be analysed jointly: they relate with the use of technologies and with ethnic profiling. With this collaborative legal and policy analysis, we seek to highlight concerns relating to the impact this reform would have on the realities of people-on-the-move navigating European borders, whose fundamental rights we have already proven to be at risk of violation in the form of pushbacks and other types of state-sponsored violence.
In conjunction with other legislative documents of the New Pact, such as provisions for pre-screening procedures that heavily rely on the arbitrary detention of people-on-the-move and the failed attempts at implementing Independent Border Monitoring Mechanisms (IBMM) in Croatia and Greece, the SBC contributes to the emergent paradigm in European migration policy that frames movement as a security concern and disregards fundamental human rights provisions. In order for the Proposal to be in line with the fundamental rights of people-on-the-move we call for the removal of some key concepts and procedures, and reiterate the necessity of obligations that are in line with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.