The right to asylum is coming under increasing attack at Europe’s borders, the UN’s refugee body, UNHCR, says .
It is alarmed by mounting expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum-seekers and is calling for states to urgently investigate and halt increasing violence against people at Europe’s land and sea borders. The 1951 refugee convention, the European convention on human rights and EU law require states to protect the right of people to seek asylum and governments cannot automatically deny entry or forcibly return or push back people without assessing their need for protection. UNHCR was receiving a “continuous stream of reports of states restricting access to asylum, returning people.”
“Respecting human lives and refugee rights is not a choice, it’s a legal and moral obligation. 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,” said Gillian Triggs, assistant high commissioner for protection. “The pushbacks are carried out in a violent and apparently systematic way. Boats carrying refugees are being rounded up after they land and then pushed back to sea. Many have reported violence and abuse by state forces. People arriving by land are also being informally detained and forcibly returned to neighbouring countries without any consideration of their international protection needs.”
UNHCR said that the Covid-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to deny the right to asylum or refugee status “The Covid-19 pandemic provides no exception; it is possible to protect against the pandemic and to ensure access to fair and speedy asylum processes,” said Triggs.