Statewatch article: RefNo# 33232
Fundamental Rights at Europe’s southern sea border. Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA), March 2013, pp.160 (ISBN: 978-92-9239-085-3). by Marie Martin
This report examines the fundamental rights aspects of EU sea border surveillance and management and analyses the impact of policies and practices on the right to life, the right to non-refoulement, and the right to be treated in a dignified manner.

This report is the first of two – another will soon be published on the situation at the EU’s land and air borders – and is based on desk research and field work in Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, and to a certain extent Cyprus, and observation during two Frontex operations (Operation Indalo – Spain, and Operation Poseidon – Greece). It covers migrants’ arrival by sea in Southern Europe and the Canary Islands and draws on interviews with migrants, refugees, officials from national border guard authorities, and the EU border management agency, Frontex.

This volume follows a series of alarming publications by human rights organisations, researchers, and the Council of Europe, on human rights violations during sea border operations, some involving Frontex, and a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in February 2012 which stated that the push-back of migrants to Libya by Italian border guards was unlawful.

Looking at interception processes, procedures at points of disembarkation, return and readmission, the Fundamental Rights Agency expresses concern at a number of shortcomings which may lead to the violation of the rights of migrants and refugees, such as the lack of regular monitoring of interception and reception practices by independent bodies. The agency highlights the absence of concrete safeguards regarding the right to claim asylum upon interception at sea: vessels used to intercept/rescue migrants are “unsuitable for carrying out asylum or other administrative procedures.” The report also warns against the reception of migrants - including unaccompanied children - upon disembarkation in “detention-like” facilities, and the lack of legal advisors or even interpreters during identification interviews.

The EU’s cooperation with third countries in Northern and Western Africa to prevent irregular migration is also disturbing, especially with the forthcoming adoption of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR). The Fundamental Rights Agency highlights that unauthorised emigration is still a crime in six of the eight countries with which the EU cooperates, in breach of the right for “everyone to leave any country including one’s own” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Moreover, although the collection and exchange of personal data with third countries is explicitly prohibited, the agency considers that current safeguards are far from sufficient with, for example, the serious risk of migrants in need of international protection being identified and intercepted before they reach European shores. Finally, the report emphasises that many of the third countries where migrants are returned “have a record of persistent and serious human rights violations.” Readmission in these countries may breach the principle of non-refoulement.

This important report documents and criticises the situation at Europe’s sea borders at a time when the human rights impact of the EU’s border management has been condemned by NGOs and has been subject to crucial debates within EU institutions. While two international campaigns have been launched since the start of 2013 (FRONTEXIT and SOS Europe), two crucial pieces of legislation will be at the heart of institutional negotiations: the controversial adoption of EUROSUR in October 2013, and the revision of the “guidelines supplementing the Schengen Borders Code as regards the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by [Frontex].”

Link to the report: link

Frontexit campaign website: link

S.O.S. Europe: What’s the deal at Europe’s borders? campaign:

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