Jan Grarup for DRC

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Push back of responsibility: Human Rights Violations as a Welcome Treatment at Europe’s Borders

In a new report, DRC in partnership with six civil society organisations across six countries, have collected records of thousands of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees trying to cross Europe’s borders. Testimonies also reveal unofficial cooperation between authorities in different countries to transfer vulnerable people across borders to avoid responsibility.

During only three months, authorities illegally prevented 2,162 men, women and children from seeking protection. The instances of illegal pushbacks were recorded from January to April 2021 at different border crossings in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-and-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Hungary. More than a third of the documented pushbacks involved rights violations such as denial of access to asylum procedure, physical abuse and assault, theft, extortion and destruction of property, at the hands of national border police and law enforcement officials.

It is extremely worrying to see that so many people experience pushbacks and border violence. It goes without saying that states must stop the violence and these illegal practices, and perpetrators must be held accountable.

Charlotte Slente, Secretary General of DRC

Pushback trends across Europe's borders from January to April 2021

Further, the report documents 176 cases of so-called “chain-pushbacks” where refugees and migrants were forcefully sent across multiple borders via informal cooperation between states to circumvent their responsibility and push unwanted groups outside of the EU. This could be from Italy or Austria through countries like Slovenia and Croatia to a third country such as Bosnia-and- Herzegovina.

To avoid such illegal practices to continue, DRC and its partner organisations strongly recommend that an independent border monitoring mechanism is set up to ensure that rights violations are monitored and that effective investigations into evidence submitted by civil society actors are conducted.

Charlotte Slente, Secretary General of DRC


The report builds on data on the illegal prevention of people seeking protection along Europe’s border, which was systematically collected and analysed alongside the provision of legal remedies for those involved. The report is estimated to only reveal the tip of the iceberg. In many places along the monitored routes, NGOs are prevented from documenting the extent of illegal practices. Other challenges include people being fearful of repercussions on their status or being prevented from moving forward on their journey. 

Resorting to pushbacks as a means of protecting states' borders is illegal. States have the obligation, under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure that people can effectively seek asylum and to respect the principle of non-refoulement. States are further, under the same legal frameworks, prohibited from undertaking collective expulsions and required to treat each person with human dignity. 

Find the report here: Push back of responsibility: Human Rights Violations as a Welcome Treatment at Europe’s Borders

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