The EU has not been successful in distributing migration pressure in the southern EU countries equally to the rest of the EU. Other member states receive a small number of asylum seekers, with the brunt of the burden falling on the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Although the pushbacks are illegal, other member states are looking the other way, Strick says. “Keep it up, it seems their message. They are staying silent because they don’t want to solve this problem.”
Nor does the European Commission address member states about the pushbacks, despite numerous reports from the United Nations and national watchdogs such as the Greek Ombudsman, who identified serious shortcomings in human rights protection by border guards last year. After Athena’s banishment, Strick says, the commission always goes back to business as usual. “I don’t think the committee can hide behind the official answers from the Greeks.”
European Commissioner Ylva Johansson assumes that states protect the basic rights of migrants. “Last year in the new immigration plan, we proposed that all member states set up an independent system to monitor this, to make sure things like this didn’t happen. We also made proposals to register everyone and those member states to investigate these kinds of alleged pushbacks.”
Criticisms from the right
The lack of good EU cooperation has also been criticized by right-wing parties in the European Parliament. Like his left-wing counterparts, VVD MEP Malik Azmani calls the pushbacks “unacceptable”. But he says it happens because the European Union allows migrants to reach the borders. So he calls for stricter agreements.
Azmani said earlier this week in Radio NOS 1 News. As far as it is concerned, Brussels should arrange the reception of immigrants in their region. “If we want to offer refugees a place in Europe, can we allow them to come by legal means and not with the help of people smugglers.”
Other methods of deterrence
Meanwhile, the European Union is working on physical and technological means to deter potential asylum seekers. Since the migration crisis in 2015-2016, Brussels has already invested 3 billion euros in developing a high-tech monitoring network along its southern border, according to the AP news agency. The goal is to prevent migrants from crossing the border and claiming asylum procedures. Some of this technology is already being deployed in Greece, and the rest is still being tested in Hungary and other countries in the eastern European Union.
Greece is also using sonic cannons to turn away migrants on the Turkish side of the border, which has led to a worrying backlash within the European Union.
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