Aïcha prepares food for herself and her daughter, Hawa, whom she conceived after being sexually assaulted on the Mauritanian-Moroccan border. Photo by Helena Rodriguez Gómez

Pushbacks, humiliations, detentions. In recent years, reports of human rights violations at the EU’s external borders have been legion. Yet one indignity has gone largely unreported: sexualised violence. 

This investigation by a cross-border team of freelancers reveals how suspected border guards and their accomplices  have, during illegal pushbacks, forced refugees to undress completely in front of others before threatening or using violence.

Asylum seekers also report humiliating vaginal and anal genital searches — conducted without privacy, sometimes with the same gloves. Such searches are carried out on women by men.

According to lawyers, non-governmental organisations and people who have gone through the ordeal, sexualised humiliations are intended to deter refugees and irregular migrants from entering Europe. They are also done for personal enrichment, because money and valuables are often stolen at the same time. 

Both forced undressing and forced genital searches likely violate the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The team

  • Benjamin Hindrichs
  • Helena Rodríguez
  • Sandra Abdelbaki

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