Independent volunteers supporting refugees at the EU internal and external borders report on difficult and unsustainable situation from Lesbos, Patras, Velika Kladuša and Šid. Their testimonies speak of the normalization of impossible living conditions in official camps and other places where refugees and other migrants are located.

Although some countries choose to deport Syrian refugees to safe zones in Syria – Syrian civil society warns that safe preconditions for returning to Syria have not been achieved and that all deportations should cease until further notice. What is referred to as a voluntary return in the international community is, for most Syrians, actually a forced return.  Syrian return monitoring organizations (such as Urnammu, Syrian Association for Citizens Dignity, Badael,, and others) talk about living in fear, precarious living conditions, arrests and enforced disappearances. 

The Border Violence Monitoring Network issued a report in January that spoke of 263 people who were deported from the country illegally during 14 different illegal acts.  Most of the deportations conducted  were from Croatia, three cases of chain deportation from Slovenia and two collective deportations from Northern Macedonia to Greece. The deportations continue to be accompanied by the use of violence, most often beatings – blows to the head that cause fainting, and bone fractures due to batting. Officers continue to use the „tunnel“ method – lining up behind the van and beating people leaving the van. The testimonies collected speak of denied access to the asylum seeking system with statements such as „that’s not our job, that’s government’s yob”, “if you want to seek asylum you must go to Zagreb, there’re no asylum facilities in Karlovac“. Likewise, some refugees who managed to reach Zagreb were deported back to Bosnia and Herzegovina –  regardless of them being in the immediate vicinity of the Porin International Asylum Seekers‘ Shelter or the UNHCR office.

At the beginning of the year, Frontex, the EU’s external border agency, published an annual review for year 2019, stating that illegal border crossings at EU borders during the year 2019 were the lowest in the past 5 years. Regardless, illegal crossings on the Balkan Route have doubled (compared to year 2018) to 14,000. In November 2019, the EU Council adopted a new regulation allowing Frontex to cooperate with Third Countries.  Frontex has signed co-operation agreements with BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Albania; and the first formal co-operation was actualised with Albania. This cooperation enables Frontex to be deployed in the territory together with national authorities. In its January report, BVM expresses concern over consistent occurrence of alleged Frontex presence during deportations at several locations in the region; and that the activation of Frontex’s external missions, questions its direct role in facilitating collective deportations. 

Following a visit to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina last week, members of the European Parliament from the Greens and Social Democrats have sternly called out Croatia for violent deportations. Tineke Strik from the Greens pointed out: “The Commission informed us that they had financed a monitoring mechanism in Croatia and that the situation had improved, but we saw that this money was not used for surveillance of operations but for border controls. Therefore, we ask ourselves whether the Commission has any interest in investigating these allegations of deportations and disrespect for human rights at the external borders.”

Croatian members of the European Parliament, belonging to political party HDZ,  disputed all the allegations and called them lies. However, the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Affairs and Foreign Security on Thursday 6th February made a unanimous decision on direct monitoring of police work in the area with most complaints regarding the treatment of refugees. The Chairman of the Board, Ranko Ostojić, emphasized that the supervision would involve members of the Committee actually going into the field.

Inicijativa Dobrodošli!/Welcome! Initiative

Al Jazeera berichtete am 07.02.2020 über einen Versuch von 200 Migrant*innen, die Grenze von Serbien nach Ungarn zu passieren, die vor 5 Jahren mit einem Zaun verschlossen wurde.

Eine Erklärung von Pro Asyl und anderen zu den Rechtsverletzungen an der Grenze zu Kroatien wurde am 20.02. veröffentlicht.

Balkan Notes