Beyond Borderline: Refugee and Migrant Exclusion in Europe
Kilometers of barbed wire exclusion fences, thousands of high-tech patrols at sea, in the air and on land, push-back agreements with neighboring countries: the European Union goes to great lengths to exclude people fleeing from war, persecution and hardship in their home countries. To justify their actions leaders in Brussels and the EU member states claim the push-backs are politically necessary and permitted under law.
Every other week another boat carrying migrants and refugees capsizes or sinks off the coast of Italy or Malta. Witnesses frequent report instances of abuse at the borders between Turkey and Greece. There is a steady climb in the number of people who lose their lives while trying to cross the Moroccan-Spanish border. All of these events serve as evidence of the terrible failure of the EU’s asylum and refugee policies.
Illegal push-backs or forced returns at EU borders represent a flagrant violation of fundamental human rights and refugee laws. In the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Africa, refugees and migrants are repeatedly subjected to brutal violence from border guards. Anyone attempting to enter these Spanish cities – and therefore reach EU territory – are immediately deported to Morocco without any examination of their right to asylum. During this process, injuries and even deaths are common. Stripped of their rights, it is almost impossible for victims to take any form of legal redress.
Over the past year ECCHR has been examining the scope for legal intervention against the practice of push-backs in the EU and has been helping affected persons with individual legal proceedings.
PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS WITH LEGAL INSTRUMENTS
Guaranteeing human rights worldwide is one of today’s most important challenges. Even now, at the start of the 21st century, systematic violations of human rights occur in every region of the world. Across the globe, genocide, torture, deportation, oppression, as well as limitations of social, economic and cultural rights transpire due to ethnical, political, religious or gender discrimination.
Governments and public authorities have actively committed or tolerated these crimes and denied people their most basic rights. Moreover human rights are often violated or ignored through ruthless corporate business practices for the sake of economic gain. Those responsible are rarely called to account. The need to prosecute those responsible for atrocities was first recognized by the International Military Tribunals of Nuremberg and Tokyo. There it was avowed that the impunity of responsible persons abets new crimes. Legal institutions must defend human rights and uphold this litigation.
In recent years some of the most important and innovative human right cases have been initiated in Europe.
Criminal charges against the former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, the architects of the Argentinean military junta in Spain, Zakir Almatow, the Uzbek Minister of the Interior, as well as the former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were all filed in Germany.
These initiatives highlight the need for the independent coordination of human rights litigation, strategic juridical development and critical reflection.
Furthermore, cases involving the American Central Intelligence Agency’s « extraordinary rendition » program, which involves the movement of suspects across international boarders, exemplify the necessity for cooperation and advocacy on a European and international level between human rights organizations.
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting civil and human rights throughout Europe. It was founded in 2007 by a small group of renowned human rights lawyers, in order to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other declarations of human rights and national constitutions, by juridical means. ECCHR engages in innovative strategic litigation, using European, international, and national law to enforce human rights and to hold state and non-state actors accountable for egregious abuses.