'Where is the action?': Politicians under fire for rights violations at EU's borders

'Where is the action?': Politicians under fire for rights violations at EU's borders
Asylum seekers being mistreated at the Greek-Turkish border in Edirne. Credit: Belga/ Bulent Kilic

The Flemish Coalition for International Solidarity (11.11.11) wants to put an end to politicians who are all talk and no action when it comes to human rights violations at Europe's external borders.

The latest campaign of 11.11.11 titled 'Nicely Said' juxtaposes Belgian and EU politicians' statements on protecting the human rights of refugees alongside images and footage of their mistreatment at Europe’s external borders.

The aim of the campaign is to expose the gap between what politicians say, and the reality that follows.

Walk the walk

"Politicians talk about human rights, but turn a blind eye to beatings and gunfire on refugees. Outrage without action is no use to anyone," said Els Hertogen, director of 11.11.11.

Figures published by the NGO earlier this year highlighted that more than 225,000 illegal pushbacks of migrants were carried out at Europe's external borders last year, killing at least 77 people.

The group stressed that people being violently deterred from seeking asylum – including them being tortured – is becoming the new normal. It is, however, in violation of European and International Law, which states that people have the right to seek asylum because they may be at risk elsewhere.

"Yet hardly any action is being taken," said Hertogen. "On the contrary, Member States at the external borders receive hundreds of millions of euros to manage the borders. The fact that they do so using violence and illegal practices is unacceptable."

'Moral leadership'

In the campaign, the organisation has put in a video certain statements by several politicians, including the voice of Conner Rousseau (leader of Vooruit, the Flemish socialist party), who claimed refugees should be given decent reception, but then the video shows refugees being shot at by border guards.

Ahead of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2024, during which migration is expected to be a key issue, the organisation has stressed that the country should use its position to end pushback and ensure that the new EU Pact on Asylum and Migration includes a strong, independent mechanism that watches over human rights at our external borders and acts in case of violations.

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"We ask that Belgium shows moral leadership. After all, the coalition agreement states that the right to asylum is a crucial international obligation and that European institutions, such as Frontex, must respect fundamental rights and international obligations," Hertogen stated.

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