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  • Asylum seekers illegally returned from Italy to Slovenia, NGOs claim

    Two migrant-aid organizations are accusing authorities in northeastern Italy of illegally returning asylum seekers to Slovenia. They also claim that readmission procedures between Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia prevent people from asking for asylum in the EU.
    The Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS) and Catholic charity Caritas in Trieste published a statement on May 28, saying that they were strongly concerned about “the implementation of informal readmissions of migrants” from Italy to Slovenia.

    The two organizations provide housing to immigrants in the province of Trieste in northeastern Italy, near the border with Slovenia.

    ICS and Caritas said that it is illegal for authorities to return those who intend to apply for asylum. They said asylum requests must be registered before authorities check whether the applicant might have applied in another EU country. Under the Dublin Regulation, asylum seekers can be transferred back to the first EU country where they were registered.

    Migrants ’illegitimately sent away from EU’?

    ICS and Caritas also claimed that readmission procedures between Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia enabled authorities to “illegitimately turn away... those who have entered to apply for protection” from European Union territory. These people, “are subjected to grave violence throughout the so-called Balkan route,” they said in their statement.

    Pierpaolo Roberti, the security councilor of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, where Trieste is located, responded to the statement, saying that authorities will “move ahead with informal readmissions.” He said that the police and the prefect had his “full support.” Roberti belongs to the far-right League party, which is known for its harsh anti-migrant policies.

    He said he hopes that “as many people as possible continue to be readmitted to Slovenia and, in addition, that we strive to totally stop that migration flow.”


    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/25114/asylum-seekers-illegally-returned-from-italy-to-slovenia-ngos-claim
    #Slovénie #Italie #push-back #push-backs #renvois #frontière_sud-alpine #refoulements #refoulement #Alpes #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    ping @isskein

    • AYS Special: Italian Court StopsDeportation to Slovenia, Meanwhile Pushbacks Continue

      Italy has become the latest link in chain push backs where literally thousands of people — often violently — end up in the overcrowded camps of Bosnia and Serbia.

      Contradictory approaches in Italy

      An Italian court stopped deportation to Slovenia on the grounds that there is a risk for an asylum seeker to be subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment due to the high possibility of him (or her) being further expelled to Croatia and then to Bosnia or Serbia. However, although the court stopped the deportation of a single individual, collective push-backs from Italy are becoming increasingly common in the months since the judgement made by the court in Genova (April 7th). Thus Italian courts are acknowledging the cruel and inhumane treatment that a returnee is subjected to but, on the other hand, the Italian government is massively increasing the scope of push-backs to Slovenia, as is evident in the recent decision to deploy the army with police jurisdiction.

      16.000 people were returned to Croatia from Slovenia in the last two years.

      These are people who were caught and were processed in police stations with charges of illegal border crossing. When a person asks for asylum in slovenia, he is often faced with threats or the asylum claim is simply ignored and in the official records he is reported as an “economic migrant” — a category invented by the Ministry of Interior and the Police and not encompassed by any law. If one is classified as an “economic migrant” who has no interest to seek asylum, he can be returned to Croatia under a bilateral readmission agreement from 2006.

      The Court in Italy is concerned over systemic deficiencies in the Slovene asylum system and finds real risk for an asylum seeker to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment if deported to Slovenia. Meanwhile, reports of daily informal deportations from theItalian — Slovene border are becoming more and more common.

      COURT RULING: “…the risk of the applicant being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in Slovenia seems justified …

      In early April a court in Genoa, Italy found that:

      “Based on the submitted documentation and additional information obtained by this court proprio motu, the applicant’s complaint — given the conditions of receiving refugees in Slovenia and systemic shortcomings in the asylum procedure — seems justified. (…)

      In this case, the risk of the applicant being subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment in Slovenia seems justified (…) The data collected raise serious concerns about the reception and asylum system currently in force in Slovenia and in general about the atmosphere of cultural intolerance and discrimination prevailing in civil society, among government leaders and between police forces towards foreigners who have entered the country illegally, who have lodged or intend to lodge an application for international protection.”

      The complaint was lodged by a Pakistani asylum seeker, represented by Alessandra Ballerini, who had first filed the application for international protection in Slovenia and was consequently expected to be deported from Italy to Slovenia according to the Dublin regulation.

      The complaint stipulated that such a deportation would violate, inter alia, paragraph 2 of Article 3 of the Dublin Regulation due to systemic deficiencies in the asylum system in Slovenia. The court agreed and refused to deport the asylum seeker to Slovenia, “because of the danger that he would be treated there contrary to fundamental humanitarian principles and contrary to the provisions of Article 4 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

      As reported by Primorski dnevnik, the judges came to this conclusion taking into account reports of non-governmental organizations on the deteriorating treatment of migrants in Slovenia in the past two years and a 2018 report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which confirms allegations by non-governmental organizations of collective expulsions and violence against migrants in the Balkan region, including Croatia and Slovenia.

      Reports of several Slovenian and International NGOs and civil society actors (Amnesty International, Are You Syrious?, InfoKolpa, Border Violence Monitoring Network) highlight the issue of the Slovenian police authority’s illegal restrictions of access to asylum and practice of forced returns of asylum seekers without a proper assessment of whether their human rights would be violated in other countries via an informal procedure and without the possibility to appeal the deportation (push-backs).

      This was shown by several fact-finding missions: a survey from 2018 by Amnesty International obtained testimonies of 51 people in Velika Kladuša and Bihać in BiH, who were returned to the hands of the Croatian authorities by the Slovenian police, despite the fact that they wanted to apply for asylum in Slovenia.

      Report on illegal practices of collective expulsion at the Slovene-Croatian border by InfoKolpa documents numerous cases of groups of migrants rejected by Slovenian police and returned to Croatia and further to Bosnia despite explicitly showing intention to file for asylum in Slovenia between 11th September and 7th November 2018 via an Alarmphone report; reports by No Name Kitchen and Balkan Violence Monitoring show collective expulsion and violent return of asylum seekers to the Bosnian border surrounding Velika Kladuša as a routine occurrence initiated by Croatian and Slovenian police forces.

      In one year there were 4,653 out of a total of 9,149 intercepted migrants that were collectively deported to Croatia. The above-mentioned reports also cite further official statistics from the Slovenian police, which show a change in practice between May and June 2018, when returns to Croatia increased sharply, while at the same time the number of people applying for asylum dropped severely. Police statistic from police station of a border town Črnomelj state that in May 2018, 371 of the 379 migrants considered (97.88% of all) applied for asylum; after receiving different instructions from the Chief of police, in June only 13 of the 412 migrants, ie 3.15%, lodged an asylum application.

      NGOs accuse the Slovenian government and police of preventing refugees from filing asylum applications and of carrying out collective forced returns without a proper and individual assessment of whether their human rights will be violated in other countries and without the possibility of appeal.

      Returns to Croatia are carried out on the basis of a controversial bilateral agreement between the two countries from 2006 (when Croatia was not yet a member of European Union), which enables informal returns under an abbreviated procedure. According to the court in Genoa, such an abbreviated procedure violates Slovenia’s human rights obligations.

      These findings are further corroborated by an official 2018 report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which confirms allegations by non-governmental organizations of collective rejection and violence against migrants in the Balkan region, including Croatia and Slovenia.

      Primorski dnevnik cites the court decision featuring portions of NGO reports, saying:

      “Threats, violence, abuse of power and denial of fundamental rights have become common practice at border police stations, and collective deportations to Croatia are repeated daily with the support and awareness of senior police and government officials, despite the high risk of further police violence and theft in Croatia.”

      Slovenian daily newspaper Dnevnik asked Slovenian police for comments on the judgement, and they replied that their procedures were legal and professional, that the guidelines for the work of police officers had already been made public and that UNHCR had not discovered any irregularities when visiting police stations. The Ministry of the Interior replied that they were fully implementing EU legislation in the field of international protection, and that they were not aware of the ruling and could not comment on it.

      Though there was a decrease of irregular entries into Slovenia during the past few months there was an increase of record irregular entries recorded by Italian authorities. This has resulted in minor diplomatic tension between the countries where Slovenia has been dismissed as not being diligent enough in their Schengen gatekeeping duties.
      We suspect that there are two reasons that Italian authorities are recording an increase of border crossings:

      First, as InfoMigrants reported, as part of covid-19 measure the Italian authorities announced temporary legalisation of undocumented residents. We suspect that this might be a reason for a greater number of people reporting themselves and, thus, creating a spike in official records. Connected with this reason might be the Covid-19 measures as traveling became more difficult a greater number of people might be pressed to weather the virus in border municipalities (such as Trieste).

      Migrants (as well as border tensions with Slovenia) are traditionally a convenient distraction for the Italian government(s) in time(s) of crisis. To show its commitment to regulating the frontier the Italian government deployed the armed forces to aid police in intercepting migrants via the last stretch of the Balkan route. As Uroš Škerl reported for the daily newspaper Dnevnik in the last month Italy returned more people than in the previous four months combined (29 compared to 27 from January to April). In a statement for Dnevnik Gianfranco Schiavone of the NGO Consorzio Italiano di Solidarietà — Ufficio Rifugiati Onlus stated:

      “What is new in the last week is that the Italian police started to return people for whom we are convinced that they have the same circumstances as their colleagues that applied for asylum and stayed in Italy.”

      These returns are now conducted with the aid of the armed forces whose deployment the interior ministry justified as “an answer on illegal migrations”. Schiavone is skeptical of the military as they are not trained to conduct border patrols and handle asylum seekers adding: “this is all just political theater”.

      This latest act of EU migration policy melodrama has actors that are less fortunate than others. According to Dnevnik there have been three groups of people (14,17,8) returned to Slovenia and we suspect that at least one of these groups (if not all) has ended up in Velika Kladuša (BIH). A video emerged with a statement of a member of one of these groups containing claims of violent treatment during the Italy-BIH pushback was published recently by a migrant/activist: “This boy who left his fingerprints in Trieste and applied for asylum ، was deported to Slovenia and gradually back to hell”.

      So, on the one hand, Italian courts have found that push backs are cruel and inhumane, yet at the same time the same government has doubled down on its commitment to condemning people to this fate that its own courts find inhumane and cruel.

      Although the condemnation of deportation is a necessary first step, unless this idea is used to hold the security forces to account for their oppression and torture of people, it will remain a hollow ruling. Europeans like to look down on the USA due to their police violence on minorities, state hypocrisy towards its own values and their border walls. Maybe we should stop looking across the ocean and look closer to home.

      Written by: Iza Thaler and Miha Turk from InfoKolpa

      Find daily updates and special reports on our Medium page.

      If you wish to contribute, either by writing a report or a story, or by joining the info gathering team, please let us know.

      We strive to echo correct news from the ground through collaboration and fairness. Every effort has been made to credit organisations and individuals with regard to the supply of information, video, and photo material (in cases where the source wanted to be accredited). Please notify us regarding corrections.

      If there’s anything you want to share or comment, contact us through Facebook, Twitter or write to: areyousyrious@gmail.com

      https://medium.com/are-you-syrious/ays-special-italian-court-stops-deportation-to-slovenia-meanwhile-pushbacks-
      #refoulements_en_chaîne

    • Even from Trieste, Italy.

      “Working every day in the street with people-on-the-move has allowed medical volunteers in Trieste to witness the worsening situation at the Italian border with Slovenia. Here is a sum-up of the radical changes in the last two months, highlighting growing repression towards transit groups and a spike in pushbacks from Italian territory. The events are relayed in three distinct stages: from the start of the pandemic, the development of tighter police controls, and finally the expansion of pushbacks through the dubious “informal readmission” process”

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/news-from-trieste-covid-19-and-pushbacks

      Reçu via la mailing-list de Migreurop, le 15.06.2020

    • The Slovenian Administrative Court issued a judgement confirming that the Slovenian police committed chain pushbacks (https://www.cms.hr/hr/pravna-pomoc-azil-i-statusna-pitanja/slovenski-sud-potvrdio-hrvatska-sudjelovala-u-lancanom-nezakonitom-protjerivanju) in which Croatia also participated, as a result of which a person seeking international protection in Slovenia ended up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the judgement, the young man identified as J.D. must be returned to Slovenia, he must be given the opportunity to seek asylum again and he must be paid compensation in the amount of € 5,000. This judgement demonstrated the importance of the work of Infokolpa, a civic initiative and a member of the Border Violence Monitoring Network, which played a key role in gathering evidence. Namely, in the judgment, the Slovenian court relied on their reports and the reports of other organisations within the BVMN, as well as media reports. It is precisely in such cases that the importance of independent reports and the importance of documenting violent pushbacks of refugees can be seen.

      However, in addition to warning of the illegal actions of the Slovenian police, this judgement also proves the role of the Croatian police in chain pushbacks of refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is time for the Croatian authorities to conduct effective investigations and make concrete efforts to stop this illegal practice.

      The brutality of pushbacks from Croatia was also experienced by a group of 16 refugees who were tortured and humiliated for five hours by unknown perpetrators in late May before being pushed back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Precisely because of this inhumane and illegal treatment of people in search of safety, the Centre for Peace Studies filed a criminal complaint (https://www.cms.hr/hr/azil-i-integracijske-politike/cms-podnio-kaznenu-prijavu-koja-je-poveznica-policije-i-naoruzanih-nasilnika-u-c) with the State Attorney’s Office of the Republic of Croatia against unknown perpetrators who tortured the group. Eight armed men in unmarked black uniforms and with balaclavas on their heads, which according to the description given by the victims may belong to a special unit of the Ministry of the Interior, the so-called “Corridor” operation (https://net.hr/danas/hrvatska/zastrasujuca-devijacija-akcije-koridor-policija-sve-dogovara-na-whatsappu-a-pose), treated in an inhumane manner people in search of protection. Armed men wearing black tied the refugees to trees, shot at their heads and feet, beat them with everything they could get their hands on, took all of their belongings under threat of death, and in the end humiliated them by rubbing mayonnaise, ketchup and sugar into the wounds they had previously inflicted. Then, they handed the refugees, some of whom could not walk due to their serious injuries, over to the police, while the police officers then pushed them back to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The victim’s testimonies suggest a cooperation between the perpetrators in black and the police. The Centre for Peace Studies once again stressed the importance of promptly conducting an effective and independent investigation into these crimes and sanctioning the perpetrators.

      Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, mail du 29.07.2020

      #Croatie #refoulements_en_chaîne #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #justice #corridor_operation

    • Slovénie : la justice reconnaît l’illégalité des expulsions vers la Croatie et la Bosnie-Herzégovine

      C’est un précédent de taille : le tribunal administratif de Ljubljana a donné raison à un jeune Camerounais qui demandait l’asile en Slovénie, mais que la police a illégalement expulsé en Croatie, et qui s’est finalement retrouvé dans les camps de Velika Kladuša et Bihač, en Bosnie-Herzégovine.

      La justice slovène a confirmé dans son verdict (https://www.borderviolence.eu/wp-content/uploads/PRESS-KIT-FOR-INTERNATIONAL-MEDIA.pdf) rendu public le 17 juillet dernier que la police slovène avait commis une expulsion illégale, à laquelle la Croatie a également participé, et à la suite de quoi un Camerounais de 23 ans, J. D., qui voulait demander une protection internationale en Slovénie, s’est retrouvé en Bosnie-Herzégovine.

      J. D., qui fait partie d’une minorité anglophone persécutée au Cameroun, a été détenu deux jours durant par la police slovène. Bien qu’il ait demandé l’asile à trois reprises, sa requête n’a jamais été prise en compte. Il a d’abord été illégalement expulsé vers la Croatie, puis vers la Bosnie-Herzégovine. À la suite de la décision du tribunal administratif de Ljubljana, il a désormais le droit de revenir en Slovénie et d’y demander l’asile. L’État slovène a été condamné à lui verser une indemnité de 5000 euros. Ce jugement n’est toutefois pas définitif, l’État ayant la possibilité de faire appel devant la Cour suprême.

      L’affaire a été suivie par InfoKolp, membre du Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN). Dans son verdict, la justice slovène s’appuie sur un rapport de 50 pages remis en mai 2019 par InfoKolp, ainsi que sur des rapports du BVMN et de divers médias, dont Radio Študent, présente dans les camps de Velika Kladuša et de Bihač, dans le nord-ouest de la Bosnie-Herzégovine. Ce verdict constitue un important précédent qui établit les violations en série des droits de l’Homme, mais aussi l’existence d’une « chaîne » d’expulsions illégales « systématiques et routinières », selon les termes de l’avocat du plaignant, depuis la Slovénie vers Bosnie-Herzégovine avec l’aide de la police croate.

      “Une « chaîne » d’expulsions illégales « systématiques et routinières ».”

      Ce verdict confirme également ce que les ONG et institutions soulignent depuis des années : des expulsions illégales de réfugiés et de migrants ont lieu, auxquelles de nombreux pays de l’Union européenne participent. Il s’agit donc d’un indicateur fort pour les institutions européennes de ce qui se passe sur le territoire de l’UE, ainsi qu’à ses frontières extérieures et intérieures, à savoir des violations des droits de l’Homme et de l’État de droit. L’affaire étaie en outre les témoignages de milliers de réfugiés et de migrants qui ont subi des violences, expulsions illégales et violations du droit d’asile, alors que les autorités croates refusent toujours de mener des enquêtes.

      Depuis le début de l’année 2018, la police slovène a renvoyé en Croatie quelque 20 000 personnes qui ont subi des mauvais traitements de la part de la police croate. Dans le meilleurs des cas, elles ont été débarquées d’une fourgonnette à la frontière avec la Bosnie-Herzégovine, mais le plus souvent, elles ont été insultées, battues et torturées par la police.

      https://www.courrierdesbalkans.fr/Slovenie-la-justice-reconnait-une-chaine-d-expulsions-illegales-v

    • Italy-Slovenia border: ASGI’s open letter to the Italian government and UNHCR

      Background

      On July the 24th 2020, in the Italian Parliament’s lower Chamber, Undersecretary Variati on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior answered urgent questions by MP Riccardo Magi on the situation of the so-called “informal readmissions” of foreign citizens at the border between Italy and Slovenia. The response provided by the government in a note is exceptionally troubling, since it clearly violates principles of domestic and EU law on basic human rights. It should be stressed that the note contains a number of contradictions and provides no legal or case-law grounds for what it asserts.

      Before briefly examining the note’s content, it is worth recalling that “readmission” is a simplified procedure allowing a States to send a foreign citizen back at the border to the country s/he came from, when the foreigner does not meet the criteria for admission into the destination country. The basis for these actions is contained in bilateral States agreements, which must not conflict with European and international provisions on movement of people, the right to international protection and fundamental rights.

      Unregulated readmissions

      First of all, the Ministry has openly confirmed that informal readmissions do take place (without any written decision provided to the interested party), which obviously prevents the person to appeal the measure. The Ministry justified this modus operandi by making generic reference to “consolidated practices” of “accelerated readmission procedures”. As already highlighted in the open letter (still unanswered) that ASGI sent to the Government CCing UNHCR on June 5th, the expression “readmissions without formalities” contained in the bilateral Agreement between Italy and Slovenia for the readmission of persons at the border, signed in Rome on September 3rd 1996, certainly cannot be understood as implying no obligation to issue a written decision, as it is indisputable that the action taken by public security with forced accompaniment in Slovenia has effects on the legal situation of the person. Instead, it should be correctly understood in the sense that the procedures for reporting and coordinating readmission operations between the Italian and Slovenian authorities can take place without procedural burdens.

      Irrelevance of the application for international protection

      The assertion that readmissions by foreign citizens are applied “even if the intention to seek international protection has been expressed” is disconcerting. The right to international protection is a fundamental right and access to the asylum procedure and the identification of the country in charge of examining the application are regulated by EU law, notably by the Dublin III Regulation which states that “Member States shall examine any application for international protection lodged by a third-country national or a stateless person on the territory of any Member State, including at the border and in the transit areas”. The obligation for the Member State to register the application for international protection lodged at the border must be respected in all circumstances, even in cases where the applicant has crossed the border of a Member State irregularly from another Member State. The criteria of competence which establish which country will have to examine the asylum application are precisely indicated in the Regulation which in any case strictly excludes that the principles and procedures contained in the inter-state Readmission Agreements may apply.

      Subsequently, the text takes on ambiguous and contradictory tones, reassuring that “all the irregular migrants found are informed, through an interpreter, of the possibility to request international protection”, specifying that a special information booklet is distributed for this purpose. This assertion not only is contradicted by numerous testimonies collected, in Italy and abroad, but in any case would be a pointless exercise, in light of the imminent fate (i.e. readmission) that awaits also those who express their intention to seek asylum. As a further confirmation of this, the ministerial note states that “if the conditions for the readmission request are met and the same is accepted by the Slovenian authorities, there will be no formalization of the request in the police headquarters”. Declaring one’s intention to seek protection therefore produces no apparent legal effect and, consequently, entails no obligation for the Italian authorities, since if Slovenia accepts the readmission application “by completing and sending a special form in which the elements supporting the application are indicated” the foreign citizen is readmitted to Slovenia like those who have not asked for protection, therefore as an irregular foreigner. The note also does not consider that in this case the foreigner would be readmitted to Slovenia as an asylum seeker, thus opening the way to chain rejections as it has already happened in a number of cases.

      Risk of “chain” refoulements

      In relation to this practice, documented by numerous international reports, the Ministry of Interior merely replies that “Slovenia and Croatia are members of the European Union” and consequently “they are to be considered intrinsically safe countries, in terms of human rights and international conventions on the matter”. ASGI expresses serious concerns about the Slovenian and Croatian asylum systems and, above all, about the possibilities of effective access to the asylum procedure. According to Eurostat data, in the first four months of 2020, Croatia registered 400 applications for international protection, equal to 0.3% of the EU total. In Slovenia there were 490 applications registered against 6840 asylum applications registered in Italy. Furthermore, as already highlighted in the ASGI note of June 5th 2020, the right of States to reject or expel those who are not entitled to enter or remain on national territory, albeit lawful as an expression of the principle of state sovereignty, finds specific limits in that States have not only the obligation to recognize, guarantee and protect the human rights of people under their jurisdiction, but also the duty to respect human rights treaties and not to transform them into ineffective norms. The Italian government cannot pretend to ignore that migrants readmitted from Italy to Slovenia and then from Slovenia to Croatia are subsequently transferred coercively to Serbia or Bosnia-Herzegovina, that these operations take place without any written decisions being adopted and served on the foreigners and that migrants are subjected to brutal violence by both the Croatian police and members of private militias. The practice of chain refoulements was also recently recognized by the Slovenian Administrative Court which on July 16th recognized the unlawfulness of the readmission from Slovenia to Croatia and then from Croatia to Bosnia of an asylum seeker. The Slovenian judge ruled that the police had not informed the interested party of his right to apply for international protection, in clear violation of national and EU law. The readmission also violated the ban on collective expulsion because the applicant was not notified of a removal order, nor was he given legal and linguistic assistance before his readmission to Croatia. As regards chain refoulement, the ruling found “sufficiently reliable reports on the possible risks from the point of view of article 3 of the ECHR” both in Croatia, where the applicant was initially removed, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was subsequently rejected.

      Likely ineffectiveness, against the background above, of a service to assist migrants at border crossings

      Lastly, the note ends with the reassurance that an assistance service for foreigners in the province of Trieste will be soon activated and will be operated by CIR (Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati). In light of the above considerations (i.e. the substantial uselessness of the application for international protection in order to prevent the readmission mechanism), it is highly questionable whether such a service would have any effectiveness and foreign citizens could access it.

      Conclusion

      In conclusion, the note with which the Ministry of the Interior made known its position on the so-called informal readmissions of foreign citizens, including asylum seekers, on the Italian-Slovenian border, represents an ideological endorsement of unlawful procedures implemented in total contempt for domestic and EU law. Despite the controversial and sometimes obscure asylum policy in Italy, so far there hasn’t ever been such a flagrant infringement of the legality, one that may make Italian and European institutions face possible responsibilities for violations of fundamental rights taking place on the border with Slovenia.

      Due to this very serious situation

      ASGI asks the Italian government

      to immediately end the practices of unlawful readmissions at the Italian-Slovenian border;
      to give precise indications to the peripheral government offices to respect the right of asylum and in particular the effective right to access the territory and request international protection adequately;
      to report urgently before the Parliament on the situation at the eastern border by providing all the necessary data and specifically reporting on the operating procedures with which the readmissions have so far been implemented.

      ASGI asks UNHCR

      to take an open public position on the note of the Italian Government in relation to the readmissions of applicants for international protection. For understandable reasons related to its mandate, UNHCR often operates through actions of moral suasion that do not take a public dimension. However, situations, such as that covered by this analysis, require that public opinion, institutions and associations have the full right to know UNHCR’s position on such serious events taking place in the territory of the European Union;
      to implement effective direct monitoring of the situation on the eastern border which has so far been completely lacking, in the awareness that the illegal situation described has already led to the rejection of hundreds of asylum seekers and that stopping this situation must become a top priority on the part of the United Nations agency responsible for defending the very existence of the right to asylum.

      For further information, please refer to the ASGI note of June 5th 2020 and to the recent dossier “La rotta balcanica” (“The Balkan Route”) by the Network “Rivolti ai Balcani”.

      https://en.asgi.it/informal-readmissions-balkan-route-asgi-letter-government-unhcr

    • Cries for help from the Balkan Route. Access to asylum remains a problem in Slovenia.

      “They don’t care about us. We have reached the refugee shelter several times, and they send us back to Croatia.”

      This is part of a message I received on Whatsapp on July 29 from 19-year-old Mohammed from Morocco who was writing from a center in south west Slovenia where he was being held in detention.

      Mohammed explained that he had previously managed to enter Slovenia several times, crossing over the mountains, but was pushed back initially to Croatia, and then again to Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia. This illegal deportation practice has been documented in recent years by a number of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe, as well as some European parliamentarians.

      NGOs and human rights collectives including Amnesty International and Border Violence Monitoring Network have also said that since July 2018, people on the move have been denied their legal right to apply for asylum by Slovenian police, who have been part of an illegal chain of push backs from the EU, along Italy and Croatia to Bosnia or Serbia.

      Mohammed further told me that since July 19 he had been held alongside a number of other potential asylum seekers in the Aliens Center in #Postojna, a town in Slovenia midway between Ljubljana and the Italian border.

      Usually, people held in this center are in the process of being deported after their asylum claims have been denied, or their stay in the country has been deemed illegal, as defined by the Aliens Act. However, until recently, asylum seekers and those wanting to seek asylum like Mohammed were not being placed there unless there were specific circumstances where they were deemed a flight risk or a danger to public order.

      Through text messages, photos and videos, some of those inside the center managed to reach out to journalists like myself, as well as to some NGOs, and civil society groups.

      A group of activists subsequently organized protests on August 25 in an attempt to raise awareness about what is going on, supporting ongoing protests being held within the center by those being held in detention. They warned the public about this practice by the Slovenian police and drew parallels with the so-called Hungarian model of locking people up during their asylum process.

      Threats and deportations

      The center in Postojna where people are being detained consists of a large hangar-like building that has only lately been equipped with 14 containers. Each has six beds. Additionally, there are two sanitary containers serving as bathrooms and toilets.

      The official capacity of the complex is 180 beds, but the number of those locked-up varies daily. At the beginning of August, through email correspondence, police said that 145 people were held in the center, including 42 in the process of deportation and 65 who had requested asylum but who had not yet received an official response..

      Out of the total number, 38 individuals were registered asylum seekers.

      A few days later, police reported that 142 individuals were being held in the center, including 111 asylum seekers.

      People held in Postojna claim that when they were brought in, police told them they would be quarantined due to the pandemic.

      The General Police Directorate denied that the center in Postojna is being used as a form of quarantine, claiming that only basic medical check-ups are carried out. But in answer to questions, they also state that “the majority stays there for more than 14 days,” the quarantine period recommended by the World Health Organization for those who have been in close contact with somebody with COVID-19.

      https://vimeo.com/453221076

      Messages from those in the center claimed that even the right to request asylum was being denied, despite promises by police upon entering the center that everyone would get a chance to apply.

      Some, like Mohammed, say they have already gone through the experience of being deprived of the right to apply for asylum, and then being deported from the EU, back to the Balkans. They say they reached out to appeal for help after being threatened with deportation to Croatia 10 days after being taken to the center.

      In one of these messages sent to a local NGO, X. from Morocco wrote that the living conditions in the center are “terrible.”

      “They put us in a closed place, some people have been here 28 days and others 25 days without knowing what will happen with us,” he wrote.

      “They take out some and leave some in, even though we have the same case and were arrested in the same circumstances. There is no logic and no law. Some leave without proof of identity, while others are sentenced to three months.

      “There’s patients here and the medical care is not good, some friends are scared about what will happen with us and others are thinking of killing themselves here.”

      https://vimeo.com/453221292

      Violation of asylum laws

      The Ombudsperson’s Office in Slovenia has warned on several occasions about the problematic role of border police in asylum procedures and about the role of Postojna’s Aliens Center, which is officially considered a detention facility.

      Furthermore, in its reports the Office acknowledges that families and children were amongst those previously detained there, a controversial practice it calls to be abolished.

      The men who are currently locked up in Postojna complain of further irregularities, including accusing the translators working for the police as being corrupt and unprofessional. These echo similar claims cited by organizations including Amnesty International Slovenia, while the Ombudsperson’s office has also mentioned it in one of its reports and called on the government to react.

      Saša Zagorc, a professor of constitutional law at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana and a member of the Odysseus Network with other experts on asylum, says that to date little has been done to address the concerns.

      “Systemic problems and irregularities when it comes to deprivation of personal liberty in Slovenia have been known and well analyzed for at least five years,” he says.

      Depriving those wanting to seek asylum of liberty is considered a measure of last resort under international law and is legal only after an individual’s specific circumstances have been taken into account and possible milder measures considered. But Professor Zagorc emphasizes a systemic lack of alternative measures in Slovenia.

      Self-organized activist collective Work-group for Asylum — part of the Ambasada Rog collective that has been working with refugees and migrants in Slovenia for years — issued a statement saying that deprivation of liberty of people who seek asylum is now used in Slovenia as a rule, and not as an exception, as stipulated in law.

      The Interior Ministry denies these allegations.

      Not standard police procedure

      The videos and photos that appeared in the public and the media at the end of July, shortly after protests within the camp, created public pressure. Three days after I received the first message from Mohammed, the men in Postojna reported they had been visited by a group of officials from the Interior Ministry with two different interpreters.

      However, three weeks later, on August 21, they still remained locked up and deprived of their liberty, with no legal counsel.

      In answer to my questions about the broader framing of the current situation in Postojna, the Ombudsperson’s Office said that part of the problem is a lack of systemic access to free legal counsel for some people deprived of their liberty in the Aliens Center.

      The official response from the Interior Ministry is that the men’s detention in Postojna might “not be a standard police procedure,” but that all police actions are lawful.

      Standard police procedure is to take asylum seekers to Ljubljana’s Asylum Center, where they have freedom of movement after a few days of quarantine and an initial interview. The Interior Ministry said that their officials can, and do, conduct first interviews with people who wish to apply for asylum in Ljubljana’s Asylum Center, as well as at other police stations.

      They explained that the asylum requests can be “deemed obviously unfounded if an individual comes from a so-called safe third country.” Such procedures aim to speed up deportations of individuals whose asylum requests have been denied.

      Human rights organizations, including the Council of Europe, however, have warned that even in such expedient procedures individual circumstances need to be considered and these may make asylum claims valid even when an applicant is from a so-called safe third country.

      The police practices are reflected in official statistics. According to the Interior Ministry, in the first half of 2020, 64 out of 120 asylum requests were rejected as “obviously unfounded.” In the same period last year, 30 out of 51 asylum requests were denied as “obviously unfounded.”

      Police instructions, exposed last month by Slovenian media, reveal that as a rule, asylum seekers are now to be taken to Postojna in an apparent attempt to speed up deportations, not to Ljubljana’s Asylum Center.

      In a phone conversation with a representative of the Legal-Informational Centre for NGOS, I find out that since late May and June they have been overwhelmed with filing legal motions to appeal the detention of asylum seekers in Postojna.

      Interior Ministry data shows that this year, police have deprived 75 potential asylum seekers of their liberty, 69 of which were in June alone. The administrative court this year annulled 35 of these measures.

      Meanwhile, based on a request made by right wing politicians in Italy, additional Italian army troops are to be deployed to the border with Slovenia. Some troops were already deployed in May, while the idea of having the army is supported by far right groups on both sides of the border.

      In Slovenia, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, a member of the right wing SDS party, openly welcomed the idea.

      For now, the struggle of people in Postojna and Slovenian civic society continues. In one of his messages sent to the activists, X. wrote:

      “We are not criminals — we are humans. The difference between us and other people is just the paper — we are people without papers and that does not mean we are not good people.”

      https://kosovotwopointzero.com/en/cries-for-help-from-the-balkan-route