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.