UN Refugee Agency: Concerns About Violence at Europe’s Borders

UN Refugee Agency: Concerns About Violence at Europe’s Borders

UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, warns of many violent incidents and serious human rights violations against refugees at Europe’s borders. However, despite several calls from UNHCR and other (UN) organisations, incidents of this kind are still regularly reported.


The messages come from, among other things, the border area between Greece and Turkey. Since the beginning of 2020, 540 incidents have been registered there. There are also many reports at the borders of other EU Member States in Central and Southeastern Europe. In addition, many incidents go unreported.

UNHCR says it had spoken to a total of thousands of refugees who reported threats, intimidation, violence or humiliation when they were turned back at the border. Some refugees were released into the sea with their life rafts or were pushed into the water. In the past five months, at least three people have been killed in these incidents in the Aegean Sea. Many refugees also reported that their clothes or shoes were taken before returning.

According to the UN organisation, European member states have in most cases failed to investigate the incidents, although there is often evidence.

“What is happening at Europe’s borders is legally and morally unacceptable and must stop. Protecting life, human rights and dignity must remain our shared priority,” UNHCR said in a statement. The organisation fears the standardisation of such practices and advocates national control mechanisms at the borders, ensuring that reports are independently investigated.

“Countries must fulfil their obligations and respect fundamental human rights, including the right to life and the right to asylum. How Europe chooses to protect asylum seekers and refugees matters and sets a precedent not only in the region but also worldwide,” UNHCR said.

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