PRO ASYL works across Euro­pe for the rights of refu­gees. We are working to chan­ge the EU’s poli­cy of clo­sing its exter­nal bor­ders. The human rights vio­la­ti­ons that we have unco­ver­ed in this con­text ran­ge from arbi­tra­ry mass detenti­ons and seve­re vio­lence from poli­ce and bor­der guards to the ille­gal refou­le­ment (tur­ning-away) of tho­se nee­ding protection.

Fre­quent­ly cover­ed up and hard to docu­ment: time and again, asyl­um see­kers are unlawful­ly tur­ned away at the EU’s exter­nal bor­ders. Pho­to: Gior­gos Moutafis

In 2008 we star­ted the initia­ti­ve “Stop the dying!” to coun­ter the EU’S deter­rence poli­cy at its exter­nal bor­ders, which was pro­ving fatal for thou­sands of refu­gees. In Greece we laun­ched an aid pro­ject to pro­tect and recei­ve refu­gee minors. The­re fol­lo­wed a docu­men­ta­ti­on of push-backs in Greek-Tur­ki­sh bor­der are­as. By phy­si­cal­ly pushing boats back, the Greek coast­guard was vio­la­ting human rights – and also using bru­te force. Then we star­ted the Refu­gee Sup­port Pro­gram Aege­an (RSPA), employ­ing lawy­ers, inter­pre­ters, social workers and rese­ar­ches for refu­gees in Greece.

»On the open sea, the Greek coast­guard forced us to climb back into our inflata­ble boats. Befo­re that, they made holes in them with their kni­ves. Every group was han­ded only one padd­le. Our shoes were sim­ply thrown into the sea.«

Quo­ted from the report “The truth may be bit­ter, but it must be told”, the first PRO ASYL rese­arch pro­ject in Greece

In other count­ries on the EU’s exter­nal bor­der, such as Hun­ga­ry, Ita­ly, Spain and Bul­ga­ria, the refu­gees fre­quent­ly suf­fer vio­lence and depri­va­ti­on of rights. In addi­ti­on, they expe­ri­ence bla­tant racism, which is now spre­a­ding in many Euro­pean count­ries. PRO ASYL inves­ti­ga­tes the situa­ti­on on the ground and docu­ments inci­dents, e.g. in Bul­ga­ria, whe­re refu­gees are expo­sed to tor­tu­re, inhu­man and degra­ding tre­at­ment, and theft.

The Ger­man govern­ment has over­night declared various Bal­kan sta­tes to be safe count­ries of ori­gin. Sin­ce then, peo­p­le coming to Ger­ma­ny from the­se regi­ons have had hard­ly any chan­ce of recei­ving pro­tec­tion. The ones suf­fe­ring most are Roma and other eth­nic mino­ri­ties expo­sed to repres­si­on in their home count­ries. And yet the situa­ti­on of mino­ri­ties in the Bal­kans is known in offi­ci­al quar­ters. Dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on and social vio­lence against Roma is also men­tio­ned in reports made by the Euro­pean Commission.

PRO ASYL cam­paigns for an open Euro­pean poli­cy on refu­gees, based on soli­da­ri­ty. They should be able to app­ly for asyl­um in the EU coun­try of their choice. They urgen­tly need safe pas­sa­ges, decent living con­di­ti­ons and fair asyl­um procedures.