BFF-02 Asylum ‘under attack’ at Europe’s borders: UN

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ZCZC

BFF-02

UN-REFUGEE-MIGRATION

Asylum ‘under attack’ at Europe’s borders: UN

GENEVA, Jan 28, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – The UN voiced alarm Thursday at
increasingly frequent pushbacks and expulsions of refugees at Europe’s
borders, warning that the very idea of asylum itself was under attack on the
continent.

The United Nations refugee agency called on countries to create
independent monitoring mechanisms to ensure the right to seek asylum and to
investigate violations.

Gillian Triggs, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said the
agency had “received a continuous stream of reports of some European states
restricting access to asylum, returning people after they have reached
territory or territorial waters, and using violence against them at borders.”

“The pushbacks are carried out in a violent and apparently systematic
way,” she lamented.

“Boats carrying refugees are being towed back. People are being rounded up
after they land and then pushed back to sea. Many have reported violence and
abuse by state forces.”

The UNHCR also warned that people arriving by land were also being
informally detained and forcibly returned to neighbouring countries “without
any consideration of their international protection needs”.

– Pushbacks ‘simply illegal’ –

The 1951 Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and
EU law requires states to protect people’s right to seek asylum and
protection, even if they enter a country illegally, the agency pointed out.

International law also protects against so-called refoulement — returning
asylum seekers to places where they risk persecution and torture, it said.

“Respecting human lives and refugee rights is not a choice, it’s a legal
and moral obligation,” Triggs stressed.

“While countries have the legitimate right to manage their borders in
accordance with international law, they must also respect human rights.”

“Pushbacks are simply illegal.” UNHCR said it had made its concerns clear
to European countries and had called for “urgent inquiries into alleged
violations and mistreatment”.

The agency pointed out that the number of migrants, refugees and asylum
seekers arriving in Europe has been steadily declining.

In 2020, some 95,000 arrived by sea and land, down 23 percent from 2019,
and down 33 percent from 2018.

“With so few arrivals to Europe, this should be a manageable situation,”
the UNHCR said.

“It is regrettable that the issue of asylum remains politicised and
divisive despite such declining numbers.”

The agency said it realised some European countries were carrying a
“disproportionate responsibility” in taking in new arrivals and called on
other countries on the continent to do their share and demonstrate
“solidarity”.

It also urged European countries to uphold commitments to refugee
protection, meaning they should admit asylum seekers at their borders, rescue
those stranded at sea and allow them to promptly disembark.

UNHCR has repeatedly lambasted countries which close their doors to
desperate refugees — in particular European nations that have left migrants
stranded at sea for long periods of time and supported repatriation to chaos-
wracked Libya.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 0820 hrs