Pushback (Buzzwords of European Affairs 7/8)

The newly elected European Parliament faces a challenging composition of factions and parties. Forming progressive majorities will be more difficult than before. Despite this, and for this very reason, now is the right moment to emphasize the unique strength of the European project. It's also crucial to address the pressing issues it must tackle to continue fulfilling its promise of peace and prosperity. With our small project ”Buzzwords in European Affairs” we would like to bring you closer topics which are currently making the rounds in Europe. What are the actual meanings of these often dropped terms? What are the issues behind, and why are they so important for Europe? And what are social democratic actors in Europe saying about them?

Pushbacks at and within the borders of the European Union represent a contentious issue with significant human rights implications. These pushbacks involve the forcible removal or prevention of refugees and migrants from entering EU territory, often through methods that violate international law. Instances of pushbacks frequently occur at land and sea borders. The violations include collective expulsions, which are often accompanied by allegations of severe ill-treatment or excessive use of force by border guards and security forces. Such actions not only disregard fundamental rights but also undermine the EU's commitment to uphold all human rights standards and provide asylum to those in need.

In the past, the practice of push-backs has attracted significant negative attention towards the responsible authorities, like Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and member state authorities.  Nowadays, they occur so frequently at the EU's external borders that human right organizations view this practice as a systematic, de facto established EU policy.

Another aspect to consider is that push-backs are not solely carried out by European authorities. The EU also cooperates with and supports countries on migration routes, such as Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya, which have been accused of conducting deadly push-backs on sea or in the Sahara desert.

Social Democrats in the European Union take a critical stance on push-backs, viewing them as violations of international law and human rights. They find the involvement of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and member state authorities in illegal push-backs intolerable. As a result, Social Democrats are calling for a tougher stance on investigating human rights violations committed by authorities.

In the spring of 2024, the EU agreed on a new pact on migration and asylum, which primarily aims to reduce migration into the EU. The pact was supported by the Social Democrats in the parliament, who hope that the new rules will lead to fewer dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. However, this new pact has been criticized by human rights organizations and many in the migration research community as inadequate for addressing the humanitarian crises at the EU's external borders.

You should read:

Bianca Benvenuti, Chloe Marshall-Denton, Sophie McCann: DEATH, DESPAIR AND DESTITUTION: THE HUMAN COSTS OF THE EU’S MIGRATION POLICIES, Medecins Sans Frontiers, 02/2024.

Ella Joyner: EU border pushbacks: A 'shadow' migration policy?, Deutsche Welle, 17/09/2023.


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