Study: Beyond borders, beyond boundaries

My Dutch colleague Tineke Strik and I have commissioned a critical analysis of the EU's financial support for border regimes in Tunisia and Libya on behalf of the Green Group in the European Parliament.

You can find the entire study here English and French.

A two-page summary is available on German, English, Italian, French and Arabic.

Clear failings on the part of the Commission 

The border protection measures co-financed by the European Commission and the member states regularly result in serious human rights violations. These include the use of physical force or deliberate collisions by the Tunisian coast guard or the interception and deprivation of liberty of migrants, enslavement, forced labor, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling by the Libyan coast guard. 

These are enormous sums, over € 70 million each for Libya and Tunisia for the periods from 2018 to 2022; a detailed overview can be found in the first chapter of the study.

When allocating funds, the risk of human rights violations is not sufficiently taken into account, despite corresponding provisions in the NDICI regulation, among others, through which most measures have been financed since 2021. Even during the project period, it is unclear how the projects are monitored, as the European Commission does not provide any documents, citing confidentiality.

Next steps

Funds should only be disbursed if it can be ensured that they will not be used to support measures that are associated with human rights violations. A human rights impact assessment must not only be carried out at the beginning of the project; programs must also be reviewed and, if necessary, adjusted or interrupted during their term. To this end, it is important that sufficient documents are made available to the European Parliament. Civil society also has an important role to play here; it is important that civil society organizations are consulted in funding decisions.

Further information

In order to present the study, we held a conference on the same day. Event The human rights aspects in particular were discussed with Seawatch, the authors of the study and DG NEAR; a recording of the event can be made available on request.

You can download the summary (EN/DE/FR/IT/AR) and the entire study (EN/FR) here The German translation will follow at the end of December. The SZ has also published reports.

Question to the Commission on EU-funded detention center in Bosnia

On April 19, I sent the following question to the Commission. The Commission has again taken more time than it should to reply. In the meantime Bosnian politician announces end of prison facilitybecause there is no legal basis for it. My question about the problematic wording of the Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi is simply ignored by him.

My request

In November 2022, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi visited Bosnia and Herzegovina and announced that an additional EUR 500,000 will be used for the Lipa camp and detention center in order to âfake asylum seekersâ can be imprisoned[1]until they are returned to their countries of origin. The EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johann Sattler, on the other hand, said last weekthat people may be detained there for a maximum of 72 hours. The EU funds for Lipa come from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).

The cantonal authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina state that the construction permit for the detention center in Lipa camp was never issued. The Prime Minister of Una-Sana Canton publicly expresses his concern about the lack of information about the object. Please answer the following questions individually.

  • 1.What is the Commission's view of the term âfake asylum seekersâ and how do they differ from âcorrectâ asylum seekers?
  • How many people can be detained in the Lipa camp and for what purpose, and how is it ensured that the money is not used for the detention of persons previously illegally deported from the EU by Croatian authorities?
  • the Commission's view, is the treatment of persons in the Lipa camp in accordance with EU and international law?

Answer given by Olivér Várhelyi on behalf of the European Commission (2.08.2023)

It is one of the priorities of the EU, in accordance with international law, the principles and values of the EU and the protection of fundamental rights, as stated in the letters of the President of the Commission to the Council, The recent conclusions of the European Council and the EU Action Plan for the Western Balkans. Improve border management, ensure faster asylum procedures, combat migrant smuggling, and promote cooperation on readmission and return in order to counter irregular migration via the Western Balkan route.

The multifunctional reception and identification center in Lipa serves several purposes: Migrants are registered, their status is determined, and their identity is verified upon arrival and departure from the center. The center has significantly improved conditions for migrants and averted another humanitarian crisis, like the one in the winter of 2020â2021. At that time, several migrants were stranded without shelter in devastating conditions. The center is under the authority of the Foreigners Authority of the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

The new detention facility in Lipa will be a separate and fully self-contained facility that can accommodate up to twelve persons. In certain cases, in line with international standards and the EU acquis, temporary restrictions on freedom of movement and detention measures can be introduced here before the persons concerned are transferred to the immigration center in Lukavica (East Sarajevo). The Law on Foreigners (âZakon o strancimaâ) of BiH defines the circumstances under which the restriction of free movement can be approved. As immigration centers must comply with BiH legislation and international humanitarian standards, the EU regularly seeks information from authorities and partners on the management of the centers and frequently conducts on-site visits.

European Parliament calls for sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea

Finally! The EU Parliament has in a resolution clearly spoken out in favor of an EU sea rescue mission. In addition, we demand, among other things, that information about sea rescue cases be shared immediately, that the criminalization of sea rescue organizations be refrained from and that ships be allowed into the next safe port after sea rescues.
I negotiated the resolution for our group and even if we cannot immediately force the Member States to implement the measures, it is a clear sign of where the majority in Europe stands.

The deaths in the Mediterranean cannot be tolerated any longer.

I took the cover photo on a sea rescue mission after we gave people life jackets. Often on the overcrowded inflatable boats you can hardly see a piece of boat – only dozens of people in acute danger of their lives. This reality that every day is decided on life or death of many people at our external borders and the decision is too often that people just have to die in case of doubt, that must never become normal. But it has become normal and we have to change that again. Parliament's decision unfortunately does not bring about any concrete change, because Parliament cannot decide on operations and has only very limited powers in this area. But it does increase the pressure on the heads of state and government and sends a clear signal against right-wing populism.

Here are some of the demands from the resolution

  • We call for an EU maritime rescue mission.
  • Member States and the EU should finally comply with applicable international law and come to the aid of people in distress at sea.
  • We demand that the Commission creates a new, reliable and sustainable approach that ensures sea rescue and that we are no longer constantly dependent on ad-hoc solutions. The Commission should provide material, financial and operational support for this.
  • Member States and Frontex should proactively operate search and rescue missions and provide or deploy all necessary and available boats and equipment to save lives.
  • All Mediterranean states and Frontex should share or provide information on sea emergencies to ensure rescue.
  • Rescued people should be assigned to the nearest safe haven.
  • The Commission should set up a sea rescue contact group to coordinate missions by Frontex and member states and regularly inform the Parliament about it.
  • Frontex should share information about its operations and comply with Union law, just as member states do.
  • The Commission must ensure that Frontex and Member States only enter safe ports after rescue and do not expose asylum seekers to danger.
  • The dead of Pylos should be recovered, identified, their relatives informed and more bodies searched for. The survivors must be distributed in solidarity in the EU.
  • We advocate that safe escape routes are the best way to prevent deaths and therefore call for humanitarian corridors.

Here you can find the complete text on german and english.

Green delegation trip to the Greek border

From September 19 to 21, I was part of a delegation from my group in the European Parliament, together with MEPs Tineke Strik from the Netherlands, Saskia Bricmont from Belgium and Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield traveled from France to Greece. The aim of the trip is to get a picture of the current situation of refugees in Greece – but also the situation of the rule of law and freedom of the press in general. The Greek government has had leading opposition politicians and journalists monitored by spyware and, according to Reporters Without Borders, the country is lagging behind in terms of press freedom, currently ranked 108 out of 180 countries – Only Russia and Belarus perform worse in Europe. 

RIC Fylakio – Conditions in the camps.

The focus of our trip was a visit to the Evros, the border river to Turkey. Here again and again particularly serious human rights violations – violent and systematic pushbacks – documented. In addition, we have also addressed issues related to biometric mass surveillance of protection seekers in so-called RIC (Reception and Identification Center). We visited the RIC in Fylakio, where people are actually allowed to be locked up for a maximum of 25 days. In practice, even children are locked up there for months and have no access to education or medical care. The camp itself is small, but full of locked doors and barbed wire, with no shade or color. People live in container houses with blocks for families, men and unaccompanied minors. The NGOs on the ground are so intimidated by the government that they are afraid to talk to us MPs for fear of losing access to the camp or funds if they do.

Dead on the Evros 

We were denied access to the border region, even though we are MEPs and I am responsible for external borders in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Greek authorities are concretely preventing me from doing my work as an MEP. We were standing in front of two containers, in which lay the bodies of 20 people found on the Evros River. This year alone, the bodies of 51 people have been found in the Greek border region. We talked to Dr. Pavlidis; he takes care of these cases on a voluntary basis, trying to create certainty for the relatives whether their missing sons, daughters or parents are still alive. Often the bodies are found only after months – also because NGOs are denied access to the border region.

Meeting with Frontex

All activities of the agency are based on the self-declared needs of the national authorities and are under that supervision. The Greek authorities try to keep Frontex away from their illegal activities and pushbacks, because Frontex should actually report them – which they have demonstrably not done in many cases. The border guards and supervisors we spoke with claim to report all activities, but have never witnessed any pushback. When we asked what they actually do all day, we did not receive a comprehensible answer.

Meeting with Notis Mitarachi 

On Tuesday we had a meeting with the Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi, who has repeatedly accused us MPs and also renowned international media of spreading fake news and Turkish propaganda when we talked about the obvious pushbacks, violence and disappearances at sea. The Greek government is not only building fences on the border, but also a wall of lies. In his speech, Mitarachi spoke of much better reception conditions and a minimal backlog of asylum procedures in the country, but did not address the issues raised by credible actors allegations of pushbacks raised and other human rights violations. I have confronted Mr. Mitarachi with several recent cases, including the Cases of people stranded on an island on the river Evros. But Mr. Mitarachi simply claimed that all these cases were lies and fabrications. 

Freedom of the press in Greece 

We met journalists who were involved in the coverage of the Predator case involved where Greece illegally wiretapped journalists and opposition politicians. Their accounts painted a picture of intimidation, national media that have become the government's mouthpiece, and a severe lack of resources for investigative journalism.


After the end of the green mission, I traveled to Lesvos to see the situation in the Mavrouvoni camp, which was built after the fire in Moria and was intended as a short-term emergency solution. The situation in the camp is still not good, but it is also much better than a year ago due to the many NGOs and international pressure. How the situation was a year ago, I have written down here. Currently, a new camp is being built, which is even more remote than Mavrouvoni and should be ready next spring. It is feared that people will be locked up there and NGOs will not have access.

General situation in Greece 

On Tuesday, we met with experts in Athens who deal with the dangerous effects of biometric mass surveillance, corruption in the allocation of public funds, attacks on press freedom and the wiretapping scandal. The many discussions left the picture of a state where basic democratic standards and human rights are no longer respected. The EU, especially the Commission, must act quickly and build pressure to counter further deterioration. Civil society, independent journalists and refugees need active support to resist the attacks by the state and the government. 

Greek government lies

My visit to the Evros and Athens has shown me once again that the Greek government systematically lies in order to evade its responsibility and does not shy away from mistreating people on the run, intimidating NGOs and attacking and spying on journalists. But there is also an intact civil society that needs our support now to continue fighting for the rights of those seeking protection and for the preservation of democracy and the rule of law. 

Fire in Moria – call for emergency evacuation and relocation

169 MEPs signed the call for immideate action on Moria. This is the letter:

Vice-President Margaritis Schinas
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson
Federal Minister for the Interior, Horst Seehofer

Brussels, 11 September 2020

Dear Vice President Schinas,
Dear Commissioner Johansson,
Dear Minister Seehofer,

The fire in the EU's biggest refugee camp Moria is a humanitarian disaster and a disaster for Europe as a whole. For far too long, Europe has ignored that the camp was heavily overcrowded and that people had to stay in Moria for years under slum-like circumstances. They had no access to proper sanitary facilities nor to appropriate accommodation. When Covid-19 broke out, not just the infected persons were put under quarantine, but the entire camp. More than 12,000 people were locked in a place where they had no possibility to protect themselves from the virus. The catastrophe was predictable. It is a shame for Europe that it was not prevented.

After Moria burnt down, more than 12,000 people are now stranded without even a tent or a roof over their heads. They urgently need our help. We, the undersigning MEPs urge you to provide immediate humanitarian and medical help, to evacuate the people as quickly as possible and to provide a sustainable solution for the people of Moria by relocating them to other Member States.

We call on you to support Greece with corona tests of all asylum seekers and locals on the island and with medical personnel and equipment for people with severe disease progression.

Many of us, including the President of our House, have already at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis called for an evacuation of the camp and the relocation of asylum seekers from Moria to avoid an outbreak. We acknowledge that it is a challenge to evacuate now more than 12.000 persons at once and encourage you to look into all possibilities. People who cannot be immediately transferred to the mainland could also preliminarily be accommodated in cruise ships, which due to Covid-19 are currently out of operation, before they are relocated. In any case, we call on you to support Greece in providing emergency accommodation for the people of Moria where they can protect themselves from the virus.

We further urge you to ensure the relocation of asylum seekers from Moria to other Member States. Taking care of the people of Moria is not just the responsibility of Greece. Moria is a European refugee camp, and Europe has to stand by its responsibility. Many municipalities and regions in Europe have long declared their willingness to receive asylum seekers from Greece.

Since Wednesday night, thousands of people went on the streets to show their solidarity with the people of Moria and to call for their swift relocation. We fully support their call. We call on you to uphold our common European values and to relocate the people of Moria to places where they can find safety and dignified living condition.

Reconstructing Moria is not a solution, nor is it as a solution to create similar conditions in other camps. It will only lead to the same problems that have caused the catastrophe.

We call on you to ensure that the upcoming Pact on Migration and Asylum will be based on solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibilities among Member States. We must make sure that a humanitarian disaster like in Moria will never happen again.

We urge you to do everything possible to help the people of Moria and to show European solidarity!

Sincerely yours,

Erik MARQUARDT (Greens/EFA), initiator of the letter
Ska KELLER, Co-President of the Greens/EFA
Philippe LAMBERTS, Co-President of the Greens/EFA
Iratxe GARCÍA-PEREZ, President of the S&D group
AUBRY MANON, Co-President of GUE/NGL
Martin SCHIRDEWAN, Co-President of GUE/NGL
Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR, Chair of the LIBE Committee
Maria ARENA, Chair of the DROI Committee
Abir AL-SAHLANI (Renew)
Alexandra GEESE (Greens/EFA)
Alice KUHNKE (Greens/EFA)
Alviina ALAMETSÄ (Greens/EFA)
Andreas SCHIEDER (S&D)
Aurore LALUCQ (S&D)
Benoit BITEAU (Greens/EFA)
Bernard GUETTA (Renew)
Bernd LANGE (S&D)
Bettina VOLLATH (S&D)
Billy KELLEHER (Renew)
Brando BENIFEI (S&D)
Caroline ROOSE (Greens/EFA)
Ciaran CUFFE (Greens/EFA)
Claude GRUFFAT (Greens/EFA)
Claudia GAMON (Renew)
Cornelia ERNST (GUE/NGL)
Damian BOESELAGER (Greens/EFA)
Damien CARÈME (Greens/EFA)
Daniel FREUND (Greens/EFA)
David CORMAND (Greens/EFA)
Deirdre CLUNE (EPP)
Diana RIBA I GINER (Greens/EFA)
Dietmar KÖSTER (S&D)
Ernest URTASUN (Greens/EFA)
Evelyn REGNER (S&D)
Fabienne KELLER (Renew)
Francisco GUERREIRO (Greens/EFA)
Francois ALFONSI (Greens/EFA)
Gabriele BISCHOFF (S&D)
Grace O’SULLIVAN (Greens/EFA)
Gwendoline DELBOS-CORFIELD (Greens/EFA)
Hannah NEUMANN (Greens/EFA)
Hannes HEIDE (S&D)
Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA)
Henrike HAHN (Greens/EFA)
Hildegard BENTELE (EPP)
Irena JOVEVA (Renew)
Isabel SANTOS (S&D)
Ismail ERTUG (S&D)
Jakop DALUNDE (Greens/EFA)
Jan-Christoph OETJEN (Renew)
Jarosław DUDA (EPP)
Jordi SOLÉ (Greens/EFA)
Jutta PAULUS (Greens/EFA)
Karen MELCHIOR (Renew)
Karima Delli (Greens/EFA)
Katarina BARLEY (S&D)
Kathleen VAN BREMPT (S&D)
Kati PIRI (S&D)
Klemen GROSELJ (Renew)
Konstantinos ARVANITIS (GUE/NGL)
Lukasz KOHUT (S&D)
Margarete AUKEN (Greens/EFA)
Margarida MARQUES (S&D)
Maria NOICHL (S&D)
Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (S&D)
Marie TOUSSAINT (Greens/EFA)
Markéta GREGOROVÁ (Greens/EFA)
Martin HÄUSLING (Greens/EFA)
Massimiliano SMERIGLIO (S&D)
Michael BLOSS (Greens/EFA)
Michèle RIVASI (Greens/EFA)
Milan BRGLEZ (S&D)
Monica Silvana GONZALEZ (S&D)
Monika VANA (Greens/EFA)
Mounir SATOURI (Greens/EFA)
Nico SEMSROTT (Greens/EFA)
Nicolae STEFANUTA (Renew)
Niklas NIENAß (Greens/EFA)
Patricia GUEGUEN (Greens/EFA)
Patrick BREYER (Greens/EFA)
Paul TANG (S&D)
Petra DE SUTTER (Greens/EFA)
Pierfrancesco MAJORINO (S&D)
Rasmus ANDRESEN (Greens/EFA)
Reinhard BÜTIKOFER (Greens/EFA)
Robert BIEDROŃ (S&D)
Romeo FRANZ (Greens/EFA)
Salima YENBOU (Greens/EFA)
Samira RAFAELA (Renew)
Sarah WIENER (Greens/EFA)
Saskia BRICMONT (Greens/EFA)
Sergey LAGODINSKY (Greens/EFA)
Sophie IN’T VELD (Renew)
Sven GIEGOLD (Greens/EFA)
Sylwia SPUREK (S&D)
Tanja FAJON (S&D)
Terry REINTKE (Greens/EFA)
Thomas WAITZ (Greens/EFA)
Tiemo WÖLKEN (S&D)
Tilly METZ (Greens/EFA)
Tineke STRIK (Greens/EFA)
Vera TAX (S&D)
Ville NIINISTÖ (Greens/EFA)
Yannick JADOT (Greens/EFA)

Question: Situation on the border between Turkey and the EU

In order to be able to exercise my parliamentary control function as a Member of the European Parliament, I have the opportunity to put questions to the European Commission. The Commission must answer these questions.
On 04/03/2020, I asked the Commission the following questions:

Priority question for written answer P-001313/2020 to the Commission

Subject: Situation on the border between Turkey and the EU

Since Turkey's decision to open its borders on Friday, 28 February, the situation on the border between Turkey and the EU at the border between Turkey and the EU. Officials have that a four-year-old Syrian boy has died in the waters off Lesbos. and journalists report that a Syrian refugee was shot dead by border guards. border guards was shot dead. In addition, the Greek government has announced a decision to increase deterrence at the border and to block new asylum applications for one month. The UNHCR estimates that about 1200 people arrived on the East Aegean islands on March 1 and 2. East Aegean Islands on March 1 and 2.

The suspension, albeit temporary, of the right to apply for asylum and any violation of the principle of non-refoulement are unlawful under the Geneva Convention, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on European Union.

1. what the Commission will do to ensure that the EU and its Member States take account of international asylum law and EU asylum law?

2. will it look into the alleged use of violence at the EU-Greece border, including the use of tear gas and the excessive use of physical force by border guards against asylum seekers?

3. what measures the EU will take, in coordination with international organisations, including the UNHCR and the IOM, to alleviate the pressure on Member States of first entry?


Answer given by Commissioner Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission:

According to Article 4 of the Schengen Borders Code[1] Member States must, when carrying out border checks, comply with the relevant Union legislation relating to access to international protection and the principle of Non-rejection act.

The Commission takes seriously all allegations of the use of force at the EU's external borders and understands that the Greek authorities are investigating all cases. Although Member States are responsible for determining which measures are appropriate to prevent unauthorised border crossings, the use of physical force must be justified and proportionate. The Commission is assisting the Greek authorities in de-escalating tensions and restoring calm and order at the border.

On 4 March 2020, the Commission adopted an Action Plan for urgent measures in support of Greece.[2] was presented. Recent achievements of the initiative include the coordinated relocation of around 1600 unaccompanied minors from Greece to other Member States and the transfer of 1000 vulnerable migrants from hotspots to local hotels as part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, the new Migration and Asylum Pact will include proposals for wide-ranging solidarity with Member States of first entry. The Commission continues to work closely with international organisations in this regard, in particular the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which continue to play a crucial role in the implementation of EU assistance to migrants and refugees.

[1] Regulation (EU)2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 establishing a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code).


We can't leave anyone behind!

We now need a substantial evacuation of the camps in the Greek islands so that the refugees can protect themselves from the corona virus.

When i arrived in lesbos at the end of february, i did not think that the situation could get much worse. i wanted to spend the week off from sitting here to see how the situation on moria has developed. a camp in europe, where the processing of an application can take over a year and children cannot attend school during that time. a camp where people have been sleeping on the damp ground or in summer tents for four winters.

That people in the EU have to live like this is a disgrace for all of us. the situation here is not so bad because the EU could not organise it better. it is so bad because it is politically desired. it is politically desired that conditions should be so bad because people want to deter. but the aim cannot be that conditions in the camps on the external borders should be worse than in a civil war, just so that no one would think of fleeing to Europe.  

Erdoğans Border opening and right-wing extremists on Lesbos

Unfortunately, I was wrong in assuming that things could hardly get any worse. After Erdoğan announced the opening of the border and suddenly there were a few thousand people on the external border, Greece reacted with violence and simply suspended the basic right to asylum. I have a commissioned a legal opinion which shows that the Greek government has acted unlawfully. The Greek coast guard started shooting towards rubber dinghies full of people instead of rescuing them. Boats were left in distress for hours instead of intervening immediately. A girl drowned trying to get to Lesbos although she could have been rescued.

Right-wing extremists from all over Europe mobilized the mob to Lesbos. on some days more Nazis than refugees arrived on Lesbos. right-wing gangs took over the streets and patrolled the city with iron chains. right-wing extremists could hunt down aid organizations, fugitives and journalists for days on end without the police intervening. one aid facility was even set on fire. the Greek constitutional state simply failed completely there.

The Corona virus is a danger to the people in the Greek camps

And then it got worse again. the corona virus is spreading very fast in europe. the virus does not differentiate by skin colour, religion or gender. while contact bans and curfews are imposed everywhere in europe, here 20,000 people live crammed together in a camp that was built for 3,000 people. for every 1,300 people there is a single tap and even that one is constantly breaking down. you can hardly wash your hands here, let alone practice social distancing. when the corona virus comes to moria, it will not be stopped so quickly.

The member states have ways of preventing the Corona disaster in overcrowded refugee camps. Surely it is in our interest not to allow places in Europe where the virus can spread unhindered. The camps must be evacuated quickly not in spite of Corona but because of it.


People must now be given quarantine facilities in places where they are protected from the virus. The Commission must coordinate the process, but Member States must go ahead and support Greece in the fight against the spread of the Corona virus. This also requires financial aid, but above all it requires the political will to solve problems instead of always telling us what we cannot do.The Greek mainland needs support in this, as do the people on the Greek islands. For far too long, we have abandoned these citizens.

In order to create more attention for the topic, I have created the campaign "Leave no one behind" It is an initiative which is about citizens from all over Europe standing together in the Corona crisis and standing up for those who need our solidarity. This includes the refugees at our external borders, the homeless, the old and sick. If we do not act now, we will be complicit in the catastrophe which threatens these people.