A researcher on immigration issues has called on Europe to stop using racist logic as an excuse to control borders, saying it is the same approach that characterized Europe's racist past.

Karolina Augustova, who has a doctorate in sociology and external relations from Aston University in England, stated that thousands of children die or are harmed while fleeing to - or within - Europe in search of safety, due to the strict policies pursued by the countries of that continent to monitor their borders.

Augustova began

her article

on the Al-Jazeera English website, by telling the story of the 5-year-old girl Maria, who died from a scorpion sting on the Greek-Turkish border on the tenth of last August.

Maria, a Syrian child, was among a group of 39 refugees who crossed from Turkey to Greece to seek asylum, but were instead pushed back by the Greek authorities to an uninhabitable island near the Evros River that runs along the border.

Ignore distress calls

Although activists called Greek police, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and the UNHCR office in Greece to rescue the group, their calls were dismissed as "fake news".

Augustova also told the story of another 4-year-old girl who died when a boat she was traveling in with other refugees crashed while trying to reach Italy.

Despite calls for help, the European authorities did not move a finger for 6 days.

And these were not just isolated cases of refugee children dying at European borders while fleeing war, tyranny, natural disasters linked to climate change or poverty, or a combination of these factors.

In 2017, international media broadcast the story of a 6-year-old Afghan girl named Madinat Hussein who was hit by a train after the Croatian authorities sent her and her family back to Serbia.

More than a thousand children died or went missing during their trips to Europe between 2014 and 2022 (Reuters)

More than a thousand children

In addition to these rarely revealed stories, the "Missing Migrants Project" - an initiative launched by the International Organization for Migration - reported that more than a thousand children died or went missing during their trips to Europe between 2014 and 2022.

Children who survive their trips to EU countries are often injured or traumatized while crossing borders.

Augustova says that while preparing her research on violence at the border, she met many families who witnessed their children being hurt or dying, noting that their stories were similar to what happened to the child Maria.

She adds that all these stories occurred at international borders where the "unlawful" refoulement of asylum seekers by local authorities and Frontex is a common practice that deprives people of the right to seek asylum.

The border between Iran and Turkey

About 2,000 kilometers east of where Maria died, lies the border between Iran and Turkey, which refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran try to cross on their way to Europe.

Even asylum seekers from Turkey's neighbors (Iraq and Syria) chose this perilous route after the Syrian-Turkish and Iraqi-Turkish borders became very difficult to cross.

To prevent asylum seekers from moving towards its borders, the European Union provided $110 million to Turkey to build a concrete wall and install additional monitoring equipment on its border with Iran.

In parallel, the operations carried out by the Turkish border authorities to turn irregular migrants back on their heels have become the main pattern for deterring migration.

In her article, the researcher referred to other cases in which refugees - including children - were injured or died while being transported by smugglers through Turkish territory.

It quoted an Afghan refugee she met in the Turkish city of Van as saying, "I was here when 70 people drowned in Lake Van, including a 6-month-old baby from Afghanistan."

Children queue for food at a temporary camp for migrants and refugees on the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni (Reuters)

Police killing children

"We were all crying and we buried the little body in the local cemetery."

Augustova said she also heard stories of children killed when police opened fire on the vehicles they were traveling in or when they crashed.

Usually, officials of these countries describe the deaths and injuries of refugee children as accidents that occur due to the harsh terrain that the refugees cross and attacks by wild animals, or as a result of their dealings with smugglers.

The authorities of the destination country tend to blame and prosecute parents for the deaths of their children, a practice that even officials of international aid agencies support.

The author quotes Vincent Cochetel, the special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as saying that the symbolic trial of parents for endangering their children "could lead to a serious change of attitude during the journeys of death".

The blame lies with the European countries

By adopting this narrative, EU governments and officials seek to absolve themselves of responsibility for the deaths of refugee children, but the blame falls on them, Augustova believes.

In her article on the Al Jazeera English website, the expert on immigration issues attributed putting children in such dangerous situations to the immigration policies and border controls pursued by the European Union with the aim of limiting the arrival of refugees to its countries.

She believed that children were dying at the border because of "violent" policies that were deliberately implemented to prevent them from exercising their right to asylum, as she put it.

This means - and still talking to the author of the article - that the deaths of children are not a coincidence, but are the result of "European Union strategies that prevent the arrival" of asylum seekers, in order to deprive them of the rights granted to them under international law.

At the end of her article, Augustova stresses the need for European officials to abandon violent closed border policies and develop safe and legal routes in cooperation with their main partners.

Instead of prosecuting parents who lost their children on dangerous migratory journeys, governments should hold accountable members of the security forces who commit illegal forcible returns and use violence against them.