Geneva - The 12 people found dead at the Turkish border are victims of Greek illegal pushbacks and inhumane political games trapping migrants in neglected no man’s lands, leaving them to freeze to death all over European borders, warned the Euro-Med Monitor in a statement today.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said authorities have recovered 12 bodies that froze to death near the Ipsala border crossing “without shoes and stripped of their clothes”, believed to be among the 22 migrants who were recently pushed back by Greek border guards.

   States are aware that pushing migrants back will put their health and life at risk, especially in winter. What we are continuing to see all over European borders is a conscious and merciless disregard for life   

Michela Pugliese, Migration Researcher at Euro-Med Monitor

This is the latest shameful and predictable outcome of European politics, that allow Member States to push asylum seekers back, also with the direct or indirect support of the EU Border’s Agency Frontex, despite being a clear violation of international and European law.

All over European borders, asylum seekers and migrants who are trying to access the EU in search of safety and dignity are struggling to survive.

They are routinely abused by law enforcement officials, subjected to intimidation and bare violence, physically pushed away from national territories, and prevented from seeking international protection. These abuses tend to pass unnoticed and now even the deaths resulting from these abuses and, more in general, states’ pushbacks pass unnoticed.

Thousands of migrants are trapped in the Balkan states as well as between the Belarus-Poland border, daily pushed away and beaten by border guards, injured, in pain, unable to cross national borders, sleeping rough with freezing temperatures. Only a month ago, the body of a 10-year-old girl was recovered from the Dragonja River where her family had been trying to cross the border into Slovenia. On the same days, in the same place, a 31-year old man was found dead of hypothermia. Similarly, in 2021 at least 21 people died along the Belarus-Poland border, where the temperature outside can reach -7, trying to cross into the European Union.

The starvation, dehydration, and hypothermia migrants face as they hide from border guards in harsh winter conditions in the attempt to continue their journey or properly seek asylum are not unfortunate consequences. It has been happening on a daily basis, every winter, for years, and it is acknowledged, as states, by pushing people back, abdicate their responsibility for examining their asylum claims and for sheltering them.

“States are aware that pushing migrants back will put their health and life at risk, especially in winter. What we are continuing to see all over European borders is a conscious and merciless disregard for life” said Michela Pugliese, Migration Researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor, “This mounting tragedy is the direct result of the illegal and yet blatant pushbacks occurring in Greece, in Poland, in the Balkan states, preventing asylum seekers from finding a safe and warm shelter, as their lives are seen as not worth saving”.

Euro-Med calls upon the governments of Greece, Poland, Hungary, Croatia and all EU Member States pushing migrants back towards other countries to immediately end such unlawful practice and ensure the safety and dignity of people on the move; to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and, in particular, to respect and fulfil the right to access the asylum procedure, the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition on inhumane and degrading treatment and of collective expulsion; and to provide all the applicants with adequate shelter, drinking water and food, medical assistance, sanitation facilities and psychological support.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on the EU to urgently take action against the illegal practice of pushback that is taking place so openly all over its borders; to oversight human rights’ violations and make sure that all Member States respect international and European law, particularly Article 6 of the Directive 2013/33/EU stating that they “shall ensure that, within three days of the lodging of an application for international protection, the applicant is provided with a document issued in his or her own name certifying his or her status as an applicant” and Articles 17 and 18 on material reception conditions and health care of asylum seekers.