10 practical tips to prevent border management rights violations

European Union and international law clearly prohibits returning people to places where they risk serious harm. EU Member States also have to respect these laws when they cooperate with non-EU countries when controlling the EU’s external borders. To uphold the rights and principles of these laws, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights has developed practical guidance.

The guidance has been published together with the report Scope of the principle of non-refoulement in contemporary border management: evolving areas of law. It was developed based on consultations with experts at a meeting at the Agency on 14 March 2016. It will enable Member States take effective action to manage external borders in line with the non-refoulement principle of not returning people to places where they risk persecution or other serious harm. The report contains suggestions that will help Member States meet fundamental rights obligations when carrying out border management beyond their territorial borders. The suggestions include:

  1. Conduct a prior assessment and monitor the human rights situation in the third country.
  2. Clarify responsibilities and procedures in arrangements concluded with third countries.
  3. Refrain from asking third countries to intercept migrants in case of real risk of harm.
  4. Provide fundamental rights training to staff deployed in third countries.
  5. Offer human rights training to third-country officials.
  6. Clarify responsibilities in operational plans.
  7. Embed fundamental rights in capacity-building activities.
  8. Take decisions on an individual basis applying appropriate safeguards.
  9. Disembark people rescued at sea in a place where they are safe.
  10. Facilitate access to international protection at borders.

Throughout the report different scenarios for what constitutes non-refoulement violations are examined. They look at the situation at sea, at the EU’s external borders and in non-EU countries. For each scenario, the laws, current practices, and arguments for and against finding a violation of non-refoulement are outlined. For instance, EU Member States that ask non-EU countries to prevent refugee arrivals on their behalf may be liable if rights violations occur.