The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) Thursday published a report detailing that it had noticed “unlawful pushback practices and ill-treatment of foreign nationals” throughout 2022. These findings come after various monitoring visits to the land and sea borders of the Council of Europe member states.
Largely pertaining to foreign nationals, the CPT witnessed bullets being fired, the use of unmuzzled dogs and forcing individuals to walk barefoot or naked across the border. Furthermore, the CPT witnessed unlawful and prolonged detention. Additionally, families and children were separated and held in “unsafe and appalling conditions.” This was used as evidence for breaches of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The removal of individuals as a group and not considering their legal situation objectively is strictly prohibited under Article 4 of Protocol No 4 to the ECHR, which relates to Article 3. Collective expulsion happened in various member states and was considered a failure of protection according to the CPT.
After monitoring the treatment of foreign nationals, the CPT promised to reinforce safeguards and continually monitor the mistreatment to avoid future violations of the ECHR. According to the CPT, there needs to be thorough and effective procedures where foreign nationals can undergo screening and processing, health treatments and the ability to claim asylum. If removal is necessary, individuals need to be well informed of their rights and legal remedies. Additional safeguarding through video recording must be used at all times during detention and law enforcement must be always identifiable.
Despite all these new procedural practices, there have been significant challenges. For example, national legislation (in EU and non-EU countries) which legalises pushback needs to be altered to avoid future violations of the ECHR. Either way, the CPT aims to take a human rights-based approach in dealing with arrivals and champions collaboration with all member states to bring the ill-treatment of foreign nationals to an end.