Two new reports by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reveal grave and widespread deficiencies in identifying persons in need of international protection and preventing violations of the absolute prohibition of non-refoulement at airport and land borders of the EU.

One third of border guards deployed at land border crossing points interviewed by FRA said they would not take steps to have an asylum procedure initiated if the person expresses that their life or freedom would be at risk if returned unless the person explicitly requests asylum. Furthermore, 19% of airport border guards fail to recognise fear of harm as request for asylum.

According to FRA, rights-based training of border staff, including about the recognition of persons in need of protection, was insufficient at most of the airport and land borders assessed for the report, and not widely distributed enough amongst border staff. 22% of airport border guards had been provided with written guidance on how to identify victims of human trafficking, while no such material had been distributed at any of the land border check points.

Other obstacles to accessing protection include difficulties in obtaining legal assistance and necessary information, sometimes due to the lack of interpreters or translations of documents, while in other cases no attempts are made to provide information. That includes the land border in one of the Spanish enclaves on the North of Africa, Ceuta, where explanations of refusal to entry are not provided and non-admission decisions are not available in writing. 106,826 third country nationals were refused entry to Ceuta in 2013 at El Tarajal border check point. The right to an effective remedy, including the right to appeal the refusal of entry or a negative decision on a protection claim, is in many cases impossible due to procedural downfalls.

Five airports and six major land border crossing points were investigated for the two reports. A report on Fundamental rights at Europe’s southern sea borders was published by FRA in 2013.



This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 14 November 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.