More than 2,000 refugees die after refoulements from EU states
More than 2,000 refugees have died during the pandemic as a result of illegal refoulements from European Union (EU) countries.
EU states, supported by the EU’s Frontex border agency, have a mass operation to repel asylum seekers, according to the analysis of the Guardian newspaper.
At least 40,000 refugees have been returned to states outside the EU since the start of the pandemic as they tried to cross Europe’s borders. Border guards used illegal methods, such as violence and abuse.
In 2020, around 100,000 refugees crossed land and sea to reach Europe, compared to 130,000 in 2019 and 190,000 in 2017.
But, despite the downsizing, border controls have been stepped up by countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Croatia and Malta. They have used the pandemic as an excuse to slam the borders.
Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo is an immigration lawyer and speaker in Italy. “Recent reports suggest an increase in the number of deaths of migrants trying to reach Europe,” he said. “And an increase in collaboration between EU countries with non-EU countries like Libya, which has led to the failure of several rescue operations.”
The Danish Refugee Council has registered nearly 18,000 refugees repelled by Croatia since the start of the pandemic.
The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) announced this week that in 90% of the testimonies of refugees in Croatia, abuse had been reported. It ranged from beatings, humiliations and sexual assaults. This is a 10% increase from 2019.
And in April, Italy and Libya were accused of deliberately ignoring distress calls from boats. After a call, dozens of bodies were found hours later in the sea and 130 were reported lost at sea.
Alarm Phone, a migrant phone service for boats in need of urgent assistance, said many wrecks had never been officially counted.
“In many cases, the European Coast Guard refused to respond,” he said. “Instead, they chose to let people drown or intercept them where they had risked their lives to escape. These deaths are over Europe. ”
Since the start of the pandemic, the Libyan authorities – backed by Italy – have returned more than 15,500 refugees to Tripoli where many are forced to end up in detention centers and tortured.
Matteo de Bellis of Amnesty International said Frontex planes observe the boats and report their position to the Libyan Coast Guard.
Italy “used the pandemic as an excuse to declare that its ports were not safe for disembarking people rescued at sea,” he said. “The Libyan Coast Guard had no problem sending people back to Tripoli.”
And Greece has turned back some 6,230 refugees from its borders. In 89% of refoulements, the BVMN “observed a disproportionate and excessive use of force”.
The Greek state has been accused before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of towing rafts into Turkish waters and abandoning them without any supplies.
However, in February 2020, the ECHR was accused of having “completely ignored reality” when it ruled that Spain had not violated the ban on collective expulsions. In 2020, 788 migrants died trying to reach Spain.
Anti-racists must oppose the EU border regime, which excludes refugees fleeing war, poverty and persecution.