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Institutional and Legal Affairs, PUBLICATIONS

Pushbacks at the EU’s external borders

Written by Anja Radjenovic,

© Maren Winter / Adobe Stock

In recent years, the migration policy of the European Union (EU) has focused on strict border controls and the externalisation of migration management through cooperation with third countries. Although states have the right to decide whether to grant non-EU nationals access to their territory, they must do this in accordance with the law and uphold individuals’ fundamental rights.

Not only do the practices and policies of stopping asylum-seekers and migrants in need of protection at or before they reach the European Union’s external borders (‘pushbacks’) erode EU values as enshrined in the EU Treaties, they may also violate international and European humanitarian and human rights laws.

National human rights institutions, international bodies and civil society organisations regularly report cases of pushbacks at the European Union’s land and sea borders. According to those reports, pushbacks often involve excessive use of force by EU Member States’ authorities and EU agencies operating at external borders, and degrading and inhuman treatment of migrants and their arbitrary detention.

The European Parliament has repeatedly called for Member States and EU agencies to comply with fundamental rights in their activities to protect the EU’s external borders. Several international organisations and other stakeholders have condemned or filed legal actions against the practice of pushbacks carried out at the EU’s external borders. In September 2020, the European Commission presented a pact on migration and asylum, including a proposal on pre-entry screening of third-country nationals at EU external borders, in a bid to address these potential breaches of fundamental rights.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Pushbacks at the EU’s external borders‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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