The findings of a leading anti-torture body on systemic abuses at Europe’s borders corroborate thousands of testimonies

The findings of a leading anti-torture body on systemic abuses at Europe’s borders corroborate thousands of testimonies
Several people are camping on the border between Belarus and Poland. Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The conclusions of the main European body against torture, according to which authorities across Europe have used practices amounting to torture to attack refugees and migrants trying to cross European borders, reinforce calls for things to change urgently. This has been stated by Amnesty International.

He reportpublished hoy by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, of the Council of Europe, concludes that there is a widespread use of violence, intimidation and prolonged detention and identifies “clear patterns of physical ill-treatment” against people in the context of return operations without due process. It also concludes that there is a persistent disregard for basic legal safeguards and the right to access asylum throughout Europe.

“This damning report adds to the growing mountain of data on serious and systematic human rights violations committed against people at the borders by the authorities of European states,” said Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s Office in Europe.

“The report confirms the testimonies of thousands of people who have suffered violence at the borders marIntimate and terrestrial of Europe.”

The Committee’s report identifies general trends at European borders, although it does not specify individual countries. He cites cases of police, border guards and other law enforcement officials beating people with batons and firing bullets over their heads; they have thrown people into rivers, sometimes with their hands tied; they have been forced to walk barefoot and in their underwear (and, in some cases, totally naked) to the other side of the border; and have used dogs without muzzles to threaten or chase them.

The authorities use these brutal and illegal practices, often in the context of illegal summary returns, or “hot returns”, to prevent people in need of protection from reaching their borders. The Committee’s conclusions about the systemic nature of these abuses have been corroborated by research carried out by Amnesty International at the borders of Europe; the most recent investigations have included those carried out on spain, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania y Latvia.

The report has been published while the Lithuanian Parliament is debating a bill that seeks to legalize “hot returns” in its national legal system. If approved, this bill will effectively deprive people who have entered Lithuania irregularly of any chance to seek international protection, and will allow many of them to be forcibly returned to places where they are at risk of torture.

Since the summer of 2021, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia have enacted states of emergency to legalize the repeated use of “hot pushbacks” at their borders with Belarus, exposing large numbers of people to physical violence, summary pushbacks and terrible prison conditions. During this period, at least 37 people have lost their lives on the Polish borderwhile others have died on the border with Latvia and Lithuania.

The Committee’s report’s findings that the authorities generally fail to adequately investigate allegations of torture, ill-treatment and other abuses in the context of border operations are reflective of data collected by Amnesty International.
“Unfortunately, the appalling catalog of violence and intimidation detailed in this report is all too familiar. The lack of accountability for gross human rights violations allows the cycle of violence to continue unstoppable and shows a chilling disregard by European countries for the lives of people seeking protection,” said Eve Geddie.

“There is an urgent need to ensure prompt and independent investigations into reported reports of violence, hold those responsible to account, and establish strong and independent border control mechanisms.”

Additional information

In March 2022, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of refugees and migrants, including families with young children, were stranded in the forests between Belarus and Poland trying to survive in sub-zero temperatures without shelter, food, water or medical attention. These people faced repeated violent “hot” pushbacks by Polish border guards who fired live ammunition over their heads and used unmuzzled police dogs to force people into frigid rivers and swamps.

The border authorities of Latvia y Lithuania they subjected refugees and migrants at their borders to similar abuses; among other things, they cruelly and gratuitously attacked them with batons or tasers, threw stones at them, shot them with rubber bullets and beat them as they lay semi-conscious on the ground after being sprayed with tear gas in an enclosed space.

The violent repression by the authorities both spanish as moroccans at the Melilla border in 2022 caused at least 37 deaths and injured dozens of people. Some people who had managed to reach Spanish territory were immediately and forcibly expelled by Spanish border guards, not only without due process to assess the risk to their security, but also despite the fact that they clearly needed medical attention.

In 2022, Amnesty International reported that the authorities polish they had detained thousands of asylum-seekers who had entered the country from Belarus and subjected many to abuse, including strip searches, forced sedation and the use of tasers, while crammed into appalling conditions in detention centres.

In Latvia, Amnesty International found that, amid “hot pushes”, border authorities had arbitrarily detained refugees and migrants in secret locations in the forest, often after confiscating their phones, a practice that may amount to enforced disappearance. . In some cases, people could only leave the border area after agreeing to return to their countries “voluntarily”, sometimes after spending long periods in the forests or enduring physical abuse or threats. Other people were forced, by tricks or by force, to sign return papers after being transferred to detention centers or police stations.


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