From Rhetoric to Action: The EU must stand by human rights promises at European borders

Refugees and migrants are living in derelict warehouses behind Belgrade’s main railway station. Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

Serbia, 2017. Refugees and migrants are living in derelict warehouses behind Belgrade’s main railway station. Lack of space in government accommodation facilities, coercion by smugglers and fear of deportation by authorities have pushed them in inhumane and degrading conditions. Photo: Miodrag Ćakić/Info Park

Blog by Raphael Shilhav, Oxfam’s EU migration policy advisor
Published: 10th November 2020

Europe must end systematic violence at European borders, and establish an effective independent monitoring mechanism to protect human rights, says a coalition of NGOs.

For years now, NGOs and media have repeatedly exposed how border guards and other government officials have been violently pushing back migrants at Europe’s borders. Only last month, shocking images of Croatian authorities abusing people seeking asylum and other migrants came to light and caught the attention of EU leaders. The systematic nature of this abuse underlines the urgency for European decision-makers to take a stand.

The European Commission has recently proposed in its new Pact for Migration and Asylum that each member state will have to establish screening centres to monitor human rights violations. But this proposal is not enough, and four steps are needed to make it effective in achieving its aim to stop human rights violations at the border.

  • Expand the monitoring scope: ensure all human rights violations committed by national authorities are captured. The current proposal risks having blind spots due to its lack of focus on cross-border cases and geographical limitation.
  • Ensure independence of monitoring: task an independent body with monitoring, provide sufficient financial resources and involve civil society organisations.
  • Strengthen accountability: specify how to investigate allegations as well as ensuring transparency through public reports and access to justice.
  • Give teeth to the mechanism: if European governments fail to set up the mechanism and implement it properly, they must pay a financial and a political price for their failure. 


Without these four measures, this mechanism risks becoming a fig leaf covering up human rights violations.

Read the full statement for a strong and effective monitoring mechanism for human rights abuses at Europe’s borders.