In recent years, European countries have stepped up border control measures in an attempt to prevent migrants and asylum-seekers from reaching Europe. Some of these measures have resulted in or contributed to serious human rights violations.
European countries have forced people back to countries where the risk of human rights abuses, including torture and arbitrary detention, was already well known.
European countries and the European Union should not engage in border management practices that put migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees at risk. Agreements and operations need to be reviewed and their human rights impact assessed. Join our call for transparency and accountability. Send your S.O.S. to Europe! The petition will be addressed to the President of the European Parliament in March 2013.
LEFT TO DIE AT SEA
Migrants’ boats heading to Europe often get into danger at sea. At least 1,500 people are known to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2011. Some of these deaths could have been prevented. The desire of some European countries to prevent irregular migration (people who do not have permission to live and work in these countries) has undermined safe and timely rescue at sea.
Desperate men, women and children have been left at sea for days while countries argue about where they should be taken. In some cases, people died on these boats while distress calls went unanswered.
Italian Coast Guard rescue migrants, Italy, 13 April 2011 © AP Photo.
Many of those who do manage to enter Europe end up being detained for long periods. Countries use detention as a deterrent, despite the lack of evidence that detention deters people from migrating or seeking asylum.
International and European human rights standards set clear criteria on when it is permissible to detain someone for immigration purposes. In no case should detention be arbitrary, unnecessary or disproportionate. Less restrictive alternatives to detention must be available and explored first. Detention must always be a last resort.
Children, particularly unaccompanied children, should not be detained solely for immigration purposes. Immigration detention is never in their best interest.
Asylum seeker in detention, Slovak Republic, 16 November 2006 © UNHCR.
TREATED LIKE CRIMINALS
There has been a growing trend of “criminalization” of irregular migration in Europe. Some countries have introduced criminal penalties for irregular stay or entry. Some also punish people who help irregular migrants.
In several countries, public officials, teachers and doctors who come into contact with irregular migrants must report them to the authorities. As result, children, pregnant women, people with chronic health problems and others do not seek medical care for fear of being reported. Parents are too afraid to send their children to school. Irregular migrants are scared to report crimes and abuses, such as labour exploitation, in fear of being detained and deported.
WHAT WE ARE CALLING FOR
Amnesty International is campaigning to ensure that:
- People are treated with dignity at the borders. Their rights must be respected during border control and return operations, including the right to claim asylum.
- The right to liberty of migrants and asylum-seekers is respected. Immigration detention must only be as a measure of last resort and children must no longer be detained for the purpose of migration control.
- People on the move no longer suffer abuse because of their migration status. Those who are abused or exploited must have effective access to justice.