Every year thousands of migrants and refugees try to reach Europe. Some are driven by the need to escape grinding poverty; others are seeking refuge from violence and persecution. Their journey is fraught with danger. At least 23,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives trying to reach Europe since 2000. And those who make it to the borders of the European Union (EU) find that safety remains beyond their grasp.
The EU and its member states have constructed an increasingly impenetrable fortress to keep irregular migrants out – irrespective of their motives, regardless of the desperate measures that many are prepared to take to reach its shores. In order to “defend” its borders, the EU has funded sophisticated surveillance systems, given financial support to member states at its external borders, such as Bulgaria and Greece, to fortify their borders and created an agency to coordinate a Europe-wide team of border guards to patrol EU frontiers.
Individual member states themselves are taking drastic measures to stop irregular arrivals. Migrants and refugees are being expelled unlawfully from Bulgaria, Greece and Spain, without access to asylum procedures and often in ways that put them at grave risk. They are ill-treated by border guards and coastguards. In addition, some EU countries are using the threat of lengthy detention as a deterrent for those thinking about coming to Europe.
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