Croatian police accused of ’sickening’ assaults on migrants on Balkans trail | Global development

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  • Revealed: 2,000 refugee deaths linked to illegal EU pushbacks

    A Guardian analysis finds EU countries used brutal tactics to stop nearly 40,000 asylum seekers crossing borders

    EU member states have used illegal operations to push back at least 40,000 asylum seekers from Europe’s borders during the pandemic, methods being linked to the death of more than 2,000 people, the Guardian can reveal.

    In one of the biggest mass expulsions in decades, European countries, supported by EU’s border agency #Frontex, has systematically pushed back refugees, including children fleeing from wars, in their thousands, using illegal tactics ranging from assault to brutality during detention or transportation.

    The Guardian’s analysis is based on reports released by UN agencies, combined with a database of incidents collected by non-governmental organisations. According to charities, with the onset of Covid-19, the regularity and brutality of pushback practices has grown.

    “Recent reports suggest an increase of deaths of migrants attempting to reach Europe and, at the same time, an increase of the collaboration between EU countries with non-EU countries such as Libya, which has led to the failure of several rescue operations,’’ said one of Italy’s leading human rights and immigration experts, Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, professor of asylum law at the University of Palermo. ‘’In this context, deaths at sea since the beginning of the pandemic are directly or indirectly linked to the EU approach aimed at closing all doors to Europe and the increasing externalisation of migration control to countries such as Libya.’’

    The findings come as the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog, Olaf, has launched an investigation into Frontex (https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/20/eu-migration-chief-urges-frontex-to-clarify-pushback-allegations) over allegations of harassment, misconduct and unlawful operations aimed at stopping asylum seekers from reaching EU shores.

    According to the International Organization for Migration (https://migration.iom.int/europe?type=arrivals), in 2020 almost 100,000 immigrants arrived in Europe by sea and by land compared with nearly 130,000 in 2019 and 190,000 in 2017.

    Since January 2020, despite the drop in numbers, Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia and Spain have accelerated their hardline migration agenda. Since the introduction of partial or complete border closures to halt the outbreak of coronavirus, these countries have paid non-EU states and enlisted private vessels to intercept boats in distress at sea and push back passengers into detention centres. There have been repeated reports of people being beaten, robbed, stripped naked at frontiers or left at sea.

    In 2020 Croatia, whose police patrol the EU’s longest external border, have intensified systemic violence and pushbacks of migrants to Bosnia. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) recorded nearly 18,000 migrants pushed back by Croatia since the start of the pandemic. Over the last year and a half, the Guardian has collected testimonies of migrants who have allegedly been whipped, robbed, sexually abused and stripped naked (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/21/croatian-police-accused-of-sickening-assaults-on-migrants-on-balkans-tr) by members of the Croatian police. Some migrants said they were spray-painted with red crosses on their heads by officers who said the treatment was the “cure against coronavirus” (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/may/28/they-made-crosses-on-our-heads-refugees-report-abuse-by-croatian-police).

    According to an annual report released on Tuesday by the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) (https://www.borderviolence.eu/annual-torture-report-2020), a coalition of 13 NGOs documenting illegal pushbacks in the western Balkans, abuse and disproportionate force was present in nearly 90% of testimonies in 2020 collected from Croatia, a 10% increase on 2019.

    In April, the Guardian revealed how a woman from Afghanistan was allegedly sexually abused (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/apr/07/croatian-border-police-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-afghan-migrant) and held at knifepoint by a Croatian border police officer during a search of migrants on the border with Bosnia.

    “Despite the European Commission’s engagement with Croatian authorities in recent months, we have seen virtually no progress, neither on investigations of the actual reports, nor on the development of independent border monitoring mechanisms,” said Nicola Bay, DRC country director for Bosnia. “Every single pushback represents a violation of international and EU law – whether it involves violence or not.”

    Since January 2020, Greece has pushed back about 6,230 asylum seekers from its shores, according to data from BVMN. The report stated that in 89% of the pushbacks, “BVMN has observed the disproportionate and excessive use of force. This alarming number shows that the use of force in an abusive, and therefore illicit, way has become a normality […]

    “Extremely cruel examples of police violence documented in 2020 included prolonged excessive beatings (often on naked bodies), water immersion, the physical abuse of women and children, the use of metal rods to inflict injury.”

    In testimonies, people described how their hands were tied to the bars of cells and helmets put on their heads before beatings to avoid visible bruising.

    A lawsuit filed against the Greek state in April at the European court of human rights (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/26/greece-accused-of-shocking-pushback-against-refugees-at-sea) accused Athens of abandoning dozens of migrants in life rafts at sea, after some had been beaten. The case claims that Greek patrol boats towed migrants back to Turkish waters and abandoned them at sea without food, water, lifejackets or any means to call for help.

    BVMN said: “Whether it be using the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown to serve as a cover for pushbacks, fashioning open-air prisons, or preventing boats from entering Greek waters by firing warning shots toward boats, the evidence indicates the persistent refusal to uphold democratic values, human rights and international and European law.”

    According to UNHCR data, since the start of the pandemic, Libyan authorities – with Italian support since 2017, when Rome ceded responsibility (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/23/mother-and-child-drown-after-being-abandoned-off-libya-says-ngo) for overseeing Mediterranean rescue operations to Libya – intercepted and pushed back to Tripoli about 15,500 asylum seekers. The controversial strategy has caused the forced return of thousands to Libyan detention centres where, according to first hand reports, they face torture. Hundreds have drowned when neither Libya nor Italy intervened.

    “In 2020 this practice continued, with an increasingly important role being played by Frontex planes, sighting boats at sea and communicating their position to the Libyan coastguard,” said Matteo de Bellis, migration researcher at Amnesty International. “So, while Italy at some point even used the pandemic as an excuse to declare that its ports were not safe for the disembarkation of people rescued at sea, it had no problem with the Libyan coastguard returning people to Tripoli. Even when this was under shelling or when hundreds were forcibly disappeared immediately after disembarkation.”

    In April, Italy and Libya were accused of deliberately ignoring a mayday call (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/apr/25/a-mayday-call-a-dash-across-the-ocean-and-130-souls-lost-at-sea) from a migrant boat in distress in Libyan waters, as waves reached six metres. A few hours later, an NGO rescue boat discovered dozens of bodies (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/apr/25/a-mayday-call-a-dash-across-the-ocean-and-130-souls-lost-at-sea) floating in the waves. That day 130 migrants were lost at sea.

    In April, in a joint investigation with the Italian Rai News and the newspaper Domani, the Guardian saw documents from Italian prosecutors detailing conversations between two commanders of the Libyan coastguard and an Italian coastguard officer in Rome. The transcripts appeared to expose the non-responsive behaviour (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/16/wiretaps-migrant-boats-italy-libya-coastguard-mediterranean) of the Libyan officers and their struggling to answer the distress calls which resulted in hundreds of deaths. At least five NGO boats remain blocked in Italian ports as authorities claim administrative reasons for holding them.

    “Push- and pull-back operations have become routine, as have forms of maritime abandonment where hundreds were left to drown,’’ said a spokesperson at Alarm Phone, a hotline service for migrants in distress at sea. ‘’We have documented so many shipwrecks that were never officially accounted for, and so we know that the real death toll is much higher. In many of the cases, European coastguards have refused to respond – they rather chose to let people drown or to intercept them back to the place they had risked their lives to escape from. Even if all European authorities try to reject responsibility, we know that the mass dying is a direct result of both their actions and inactions. These deaths are on Europe.’’

    Malta, which declared its ports closed early last year, citing the pandemic, has continued to push back hundreds of migrants using two strategies: enlisting private vessels to intercept asylum seekers and force them back to Libya or turning them away with directions to Italy (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/may/20/we-give-you-30-minutes-malta-turns-migrant-boat-away-with-directions-to).

    “Between 2014 and 2017, Malta was able to count on Italy to take responsibility for coordinating rescues and allowing disembarkations,” said De Bellis. “But when Italy and the EU withdrew their ships from the central Mediterranean, to leave it in Libya’s hands, they left Malta more exposed. In response, from early 2020 the Maltese government used tactics to avoid assisting refugees and migrants in danger at sea, including arranging unlawful pushbacks to Libya by private fishing boats, diverting boats rather than rescuing them, illegally detaining hundreds of people on ill-equipped ferries off Malta’s waters, and signing a new agreement with Libya to prevent people from reaching Malta.”

    Last May, a series of voice messages obtained by the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/may/19/exclusive-12-die-as-malta-uses-private-ships-to-push-migrants-back-to-l) confirmed the Maltese government’s strategy to use private vessels, acting at the behest of its armed forces, to intercept crossings and return refugees to Libyan detention centres.

    In February 2020, the European court of human rights was accused of “completely ignoring the reality” after it ruled Spain did not violate the prohibition of collective expulsion (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/13/european-court-under-fire-backing-spain-express-deportations), as asylum applications could be made at the official border crossing point. Relying on this judgment, Spain’s constitutional court upheld “border rejections” provided certain safeguards apply.

    Last week, the bodies of 24 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were found by Spain’s maritime rescue (https://apnews.com/article/atlantic-ocean-canary-islands-coronavirus-pandemic-africa-migration-5ab68371. They are believed to have died of dehydration while attempting to reach the Canary Islands. In 2020, according to the UNHCR, 788 migrants died trying to reach Spain (https://data2.unhcr.org/en/country/esp).

    Frontex said they couldn’t comment on the total figures without knowing the details of each case, but said various authorities took action to respond to the dinghy that sunk off the coast of Libya (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/apr/25/a-mayday-call-a-dash-across-the-ocean-and-130-souls-lost-at-sea) in April, resulting in the deaths of 130 people.

    “The Italian rescue centre asked Frontex to fly over the area. It’s easy to forget, but the central Mediterranean is massive and it’s not easy or fast to get from one place to another, especially in poor weather. After reaching the area where the boat was suspected to be, they located it after some time and alerted all of the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centres (MRCCs) in the area. They also issued a mayday call to all boats in the area (Ocean Viking was too far away to receive it).”

    He said the Italian MRCC, asked by the Libyan MRCC, dispatched three merchant vessels in the area to assist. Poor weather made this difficult. “In the meantime, the Frontex plane was running out of fuel and had to return to base. Another plane took off the next morning when the weather allowed, again with the same worries about the safety of the crew.

    “All authorities, certainly Frontex, did all that was humanly possible under the circumstances.”

    He added that, according to media reports, there was a Libyan coast guard vessel in the area, but it was engaged in another rescue operation.

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/may/05/revealed-2000-refugee-deaths-linked-to-eu-pushbacks

    #push-backs #refoulements #push-back #mourir_aux_frontières #morts_aux_frontières #décès #morts #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #responsabilité #Croatie #viols #Grèce #Italie #Libye

    ping @isskein

  • Monthly Report BVMN August 2020

    The #Border_Violence_Monitoring_Network (#BVMN) published 34 cases of illegal pushbacks during August, documenting the experience of 692 people whose rights were violated at the European Union’s external border. Volunteers in the field recorded a variety of cruel and abusive acts by officers, representing at least ten different national authorities. This report summarises the data and narrative testimony shared by people-on-the-move, highlighting the depth of violence being carried out in the service of European borders.

    As a network comprised of grassroots organisations active in Greece and the Western Balkans, this report was produced via a joint-effort between Are You Syrious, Mobile Info Team, No Name Kitchen, Rigardu, Josoor, InfoKolpa, Escuela con Alma, Centre for Peace Studies, Mare Liberum, Collective Aid and Fresh Response

    The report analyses among other things:

    - Czech presence in North Macedonian pushbacks
    - Unrest in the #Una-Sana Canton of Bosnia-Herzegovina
    - Continued Greek Maritime Pushbacks
    - Analyzing a summer of Italian pushbacks

    Special focus is given to the Greek context where in the Evros region, field partners collected several testimonies in August which referenced third-country-nationals facilitating pushbacks across the Evros/Meric River on behalf of Greek authorities. Three reports conducted by members of the Border Violence Monitoring Network allude to this practice and anecdotal evidence from the field reinforces these accounts.

    –-

    The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) published 34 cases of illegal pushbacks during August, documenting the experience of 692 people whose rights were violated at the European Union’s external border. Volunteers in the field recorded a variety of cruel and abusive acts by officers, representing at least ten different national authorities. This report summarises the data and narrative testimonies shared by peo-ple-on-the-move, highlighting the depth of violence being carried out in the service of European borders.Special focus is given to the Greek context where testimonies in the Evros allude to the trend of Greek au-thorities using third country nationals to facilitate pushbacks across the Evros/Meric River in the last two months. Reports collected by members of the Border Violence Monitoring Network allude to this practice and anecdotal evidence from the field reinforces these accounts. Further analysis covers the way in which Czech forces have been referenced in testimonies collected from push-backs from North Macedonia to Greece in the last month. Returns from Italy to Bosnia also continue to be legitimized by the Italian state and an analysis of recent reports from these returns is included, as well as an update written by volunteers on the ground in Trieste.In this report, BVMN also discusses several cases of pushbacks across the Aegean sea where the Greek au-thorities continue to use worrying methods to force transit ships back into Turkish waters via life raphs. New developments in both Bosnia’s Una-Sana Canton and Serbia’s #Vojvodina region are also noted, showing the situation on the ground and in the legal realm respectively, as it relates to pushbacks.

    https://www.borderviolence.eu/balkan-region-report-august-2020

    #rapport #push-backs #refoulements #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Italie #Grèce #Mer_Egée #Una #Sana #Bosnie #Bosnie_Herzégovine #Macédoine_du_Nord #frontières #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #Serbie

    ping @karine4 @isskein

    • Policajci iz Virovitice prijavljuju šefa: ‘Ilegalno tjera migrante, tuče se pijan, zataškava obiteljsko nasilje’

      ‘Da bi dobili veću plaću, njegovi miljenici tjeraju migrante iz BiH u Hrvatsku, kako bi ih zatim mogli deportirati’, tvrde naši sugovornici...

      Ovo je naš zapovjednik Andrej Hegediš, kaže jedan od četvorice pripadnika Interventne policije u Policijskoj upravi virovitičko-podravskoj, pokazujući na video-snimku Border Violence Monitoringa, nevladine organizacije koja se zalaže za zaštitu prava migranata. Na tajno snimljenom videu, vide se pripadnici hrvatske policije kako, prema tvrdnjama Border Violence Monitoringa, u šumi kraj Lohova, unutar teritorije Bosne i Hercegove, protjeruju skupinu migranata prema Bihaću.

      Ta snimka prikazana je na više televizija kao jedan od dokaza nehumanog postupanja hrvatske policije prema migrantima, zbog čega su na račun Zagreba stigla i ozbiljna upozorenje iz Bruxellesa. Hrvatski MUP odbacio je takve tvrdnje kao neutemeljene.
      Tvrdnje koje zvuče upravo nevjerojatno

      No, ono što su, vezano uz migrante, Telegramu ispričali pripadnici virovitičke Interventne policije koji su sudjelovali na osiguranju državne granice, zvuči upravo nevjerojatno: “Hrvatska je policija, tvrde naši sugovornici, u nekoliko navrata ulazila na teritorij susjedne BiH da bi odatle potjerala migrante u Hrvatsku, a onda ih deportirala!”

      Zašto bi to radili? Razlog je, kažu virovitički interventni policajci, više nego prozaičan: “boravak na terenu financijski je unosan. Na taj način mjesečno mogu zaraditi nekoliko tisuća kuna više, pa treba dokazati da se na granici nešto radi”, tvrde naši sugovornici. “Tako se migrante prvo iz BiH potjera u Hrvatsku, a zatim natrag. Deportiranje se, naravno, dokumentira video snimkama, kako bi se dokazala nužnost pojačanih policijskih ophodnju iz granicu”, dodaju.
      Iz MUP-a su potvrdili anonimnu predstavku

      Četvorica pripadnika interventne policije s kojima je Telegram razgovarao ovih dana, stoje iza predstavke upućene MUP-u u kojoj iznose brojne optužbe na račun Andreja Hegediša, zapovjednika virovitičke Interventne policije. Iz MUP-a su 3. rujna Telegramu potvrdili da su primili anonimnu predstavku.

      ”Potvrđujemo zaprimanje anonimnih podnesaka te Služba za unutarnju kontrolu u suradnji s policijskim službenicima Ravnateljstva policije i Policijske uprave, sukladno Zakonu o policiji i Pravilniku o načinu rada i postupanja po pritužbama te radu Povjerenstava za rad po pritužbama, provjerava njihovu utemeljenost”, stoji u odgovoru Telegramu.
      Šef policije se napio pa nasrnuo na kolegu

      ”Također vas obavještavamo kako je, nakon provjere navoda iz ranijeg podneska, načelnik Policijske uprave virovitičko-podravske pokrenuo disciplinski postupak pred Odjelom prvostupanjskog disciplinskog sudovanja Službe disciplinskog sudovanja u Osijeku zbog sumnje u počinjene teže povrede službene dužnosti iz čl. 96. stavak 1. točke 7. Zakona o policiji. Navedeni postupak je u tijeku”, napisali su iz MUP-a.

      Kad je riječ o potonjem, radi se o slučaju o kojem je prvi pisao Telegram i koji je do tada javnosti bio nepoznat. Naime, 20. prosinca prošle godine, na božićnom domjenku za čelne ljude Policijske uprave virovitičko-podravske, zapovjednik Interventne jedinice policije, Andrej Hegediš, fizički je nasrnuo na svog kolegu, načelnika Policijske postaje Pitomača, Renata Greguraša. Ali, načelnik virovitičke Policijske uprave, Siniša Knežević, koji je sve to vidio, disciplinski je postupak protiv Hegediša pokrenuo tek tri mjeseca nakon događaja.
      Odlasci u McDonald’s i zubaru u Zagreb

      Dvojica od četvorice Telegramovih sugovornika, bivših i aktivnih pripadnika Interventne policije, kažu da su također bili žrtve Hegediševih nasrtaja i pokušaja fizičkog napada. Neki od njih zbog toga su tražili premještaj. U predstavci koju je Telegram imao prilike vidjeti, navode se i druge pritužbe na njegov rad, a zbog čega je unutarnja kontrola MUP-a prošloga tjedna dva dana provela u Virovitici. No, kako neslužbeno doznajemo, njihov izvještaj ne bi trebao zabrinuti Hegediša. Štoviše, kaže jedan od naših izvora, sada se pokušava istražiti tko su autori anonimne predstavke.

      Jedna od optužbi na koju su se interventni policajci žalili odnosi se, kako tvrde, na zapovjednikovo korištenje službenog automobila u posve privatne svrhe, kao što je odlazak zubaru u Zagreb ili u restoran McDonald’s u Sisak. ”Ako postoji volja, lako je istražiti kako si je zapovjednik Interventne obračunavao prekovremeni rad i u vrijeme kada je već četiri sata bio u Mađarskoj, na privatnom putu prema zračnoj luci u Budimpešti. Treba samo pročešljati popis prekovremenih sati i usporediti to s vremenom kada je napustio granični prijelaz, pa će sve biti jasno. No, bojimo se da u policiji, zbog politike ‘ne talasaj’, za to nitko nema volje”, kažu sugovornici Telegrama iz interventne policije u Virovitici.

      ‘Natjerao me da ostavim ministra i vozim njega’

      Upravo je nevjerojatan podatak kojeg su nam iznijeli, kada je kažu, jedan njihov kolega, morao napustiti osiguranje štićene osobe i uputiti se u Slatinu, gdje zapovjednik Hegediš živi, da bi ga prevezao u bazu, u Viroviticu. Radilo se o osiguranju i obilasku kuće tadašnjeg potpredsjednika Vlade i ministra poljoprivrede, Tomislava Tolušića, kao i nekoliko zgrada u kojima bi znao odsjedati kada dolazi u Viroviticu. Hegediš se na to nije osvrtao, kažu Telegramovi sugovornici, već je policajcu naredio da prekine posao na osiguranju štićene osobe i preveze ga u Viroviticu.

      Detaljno su opisali i navodno samovolju svog zapovjednika Hegediša, zbog čega je nekoliko policajaca zatražilo premještaj. Nabrajaju imena svojih kolega koji su zbog mobinga napustili Interventnu policiju. ”Dok se njegovim poslušnicima i miljenicima sve tolerira, drugima se traži dlaka u jajetu i protiv njih se, i zbog najmanje sitnice, pokreću stegovni postupci”, kažu.
      ‘Miljenici mu pomagali u selidbi, usred radnog vremena’

      Opisuju slučaj, u kojem je nekoliko interventnih policajaca, u radnom vremenu, svom zapovjedniku pomagalo kada je iz jedne kuće selio u drugu. Akciju preseljenja, kažu, vodio je J. J.. No, naročito su ogorčeni na svog kolegu D. S., kojem je Hegediš, kažu, pomogao u zataškavanju obiteljskog nasilja i nedoličnog ponašanja, kada se na području između Kutjeva i Orahovice, u alkoholiziranom stanju, nasilnički ponašao prema supruzi, zaustavio automobil u šumi, ostavio je i otišao.

      Njegova supruga tada je, tvrde, zvala Operativno komunikacijski centar (OKC) u virovitičkoj Policijskoj upravi, prijavila slučaj obiteljskog nasilja, a postupak su proveli policajci iz Orahovice. No, slučaj je zataškan, tvrde sugovornici Telegrama, tako što je Hegediš zatražio da se u tom slučaju ne postupa. Sve, kažu, mogu potvrditi tada dežurni u OKC D. Č. i dežurni u jedinici u Virovitici M. V.. Imena svih osoba čije inicijale navodimo poznata su redakciji.

      ”Našem zapovjedniku unatoč svemu ništa se ne događa i bojimo se da ni dolazak unutarnje kontrole MUP-a neće ništa promijeniti”, kažu sugovornici Telegrama. Zatražili smo i komentar zapovjednika Hegediša, ali nije odgovorio na našu poruku. Kada je Telegram pisao o njegovu fizičkom nasrtaju na načelnika Policijske postaje u Pitomači, također ništa nije htio komentirati. Samo je rekao da kao policijski službenik ne smije javno istupati.

      https://www.telegram.hr/politika-kriminal/policajci-iz-virovitice-prijavljuju-sefa-ilegalno-tjera-migrante-tuce-se-pi

      #Andrej_Hegedis

      –—

      Commentaire reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, mail du 29.09.2020

      Telegram, on the other hand, published the testimony of intervention police officers in Virovitica, who identified their chief #Andrej_Hegediš as one of the police officers on a BVMN video about an illegal expulsion published in December 2018. They also claimed that refugees and other migrants were expelled from BiH to Croatia and back. The Ministry of the Interior confirmed to Telegram that it had received an anonymous complaint, and Virovitica police officers accused Hegediš of other violations of police powers, including violence against police officers.

    • Bosnie-Herzégovine : les migrants pris en #otages du mille-feuille institutionnel

      La complexité du système institutionnel bosnien ne joue pas en faveur des réfugiés. Le 30 septembre dernier, les autorités du canton d’#Una-Sava et celles de la municipalité de #Bihać ont pris la décision unilatérale d’évacuer le #camp de #Bira, à la grande surprise du ministère de la Sécurité intérieure. Depuis, tout le monde se refile la patate chaude : que faire de ces centaines de personnes qui dorment tous les soirs dans les rues ?
      Le ton monte entre les représentants du canton d’Una-Sava et ceux de l’État central de Bosnie-Herzégovine. « Ils vont devoir utiliser les infrastructures qui sont à leur disposition, dans leur intérêt et dans celui des habitants du canton d’Una-Sana », a sèchement expliqué Selmo Cikotić, le ministre de la Sécurité intérieur, qui réagissait aux propos de Mustafa Ružnić, le président du canton d’Una-Sana, et à ceux du maire de Bihać, Šuhret Fazlić. Ces derniers avaient déclaré qu’ils ne permettraient pas le retour des migrants à Bira, le centre d’hébergement de Bihać vidé par les autorités cantonales le 30 septembre dernier. Suite à l’intervention de la police, certains exilés avaient été laissés libres de se diriger vers la frontière croate, d’autres avaient été conduits dans le camp de #Lipa, situé à une trentaine de kilomètres de Bihać, et ceux qui voulaient revenir vers Sarajevo avaient été autorisés à acheter des tickets de bus pour la capitale. Le camp de Lipa étant déjà plein, les migrants avaient ensuite été laissés dans les rues, sans aucun abris.

      Selon Selmo Cikotić, différentes mesures ont été prises pour fermer définitivement les camps de Bira à Bihać et de #Miral à #Velika_Kladuša. Le ministre peine donc à comprendre le refus des élus locaux de ne pas autoriser le retour temporaire des migrants. « Le plan du ministère de la Sécurité intérieure était en accord avec les institutions internationales et les différentes structures bosniennes », assure-t-il. « Nous avions tout organisé en accord avec la présidence, avec les instances internationales, les lois bosniennes, le conseil municipal de Velika Kladuša, les autorités cantonales et les représentants de l’Union européenne (UE). Le volte-face des autorités cantonales est donc pour moi très surprenant. Le camp de Bira devait de toute façon être fermé d’ici trois à quatre semaines, sans porter préjudice aux migrants ni aux habitants du canton. Je ne comprends pas pourquoi le Premier ministre du canton et le maire de Bihać ont précipité les choses. »

      « Cela fait trois ans que la municipalité est abandonnée à son sort », s’emporte Šuhret Fazlić. « C’est terminé, aucun migrant ne reviendra à Bira et nous appliquerons cette décision par tous les moyens à notre disposition. Je ne fais pas comme s’il n’y avait pas de migrants dans notre région, je dis juste qu’il n’y en aura plus à Bira. Nous avons assuré à ces gens un toit dans le camp de Lipa ». Selon le maire de Bihać, ce centre n’est pas encore plein, mais « la crise de l’accueil des migrants a mis à jour absolument tout ce qui ne fonctionne pas au sein de l’État bosnien ».L’évacuation du camp de Bira a en tout cas provoqué de nombreuses réactions. L’ambassade des États-Unis en Bosnie-Herzégovine, l’Organisation Internationale des Migrations (OIM), les Nations-Unies et Amnesty International sont unanimes : le camp de Bira ne peut être laissé vide, tant que des migrants dorment dans les rues. Dans un communiqué daté du 1er octobre, l’UE a jugé « inacceptable » la décision du canton et de la mairie de Bihać de transférer par la force les migrants vers le camp de Lipa. « L’UE a sans cesse répété que Lipa ne pouvait être qu’une solution temporaire, pendant la pandémie de coronavirus, et que ce centre ne remplissait pas les conditions nécessaires à l’accueil de réfugiés et de migrants, en particulier avec l’arrivée de l’hiver. Jamais Lipa n’a été agréé comme un centre d’accueil », précise le communiqué. Selon Šuhret Fazlić, l’UE menace de sanctions pénales la mairie de Bihać et les autorités du canton d’#Una-Sava.

      Un problème financier ?

      Reste que les désaccords persistent entre les autorités locales et le ministère de la Sécurité intérieure, alors que tous sont sous pression pour trouver rapidement une solution. « Il faut aménager le camp de Lipa », souhaite Šuhret Fazlić. « L’électricité vient d’un groupe électrogène, il faudrait 200 000 euros pour que le camp soit raccordé au réseau. L’eau est puisée dans une source, et provient en partie de notre réseau. Il faudrait 140 000 euros pour avoir assez d’eau, les canalisations existent déjà. Avec un peu moins de 350 000, on pourrait donc assurer les approvisionnements en eau et en électricité. Je ne vois pas pourquoi cela ne serait pas faisable. »

      La municipalité a donné cinq hectares de terre pour construire le camp et a pris en charge, avec l’aide du canton, une partie des frais de fonctionnement, ce que l’UE avait demandé. L’argent de l’État bosnien se fait en revanche attendre, car le Conseil des ministres n’a toujours pris aucune décision en ce qui concerne la fermeture du camp de Bira et l’ouverture de celui de Lipa. Deux millions et demi d’euros prévus pour l’accueil des migrants n’ont donc pas pu être débloqués. Selmo Cikotić estime ainsi que le problème n’est pas financier mais politique.

      Reste que pour l’instant, pas un euro n’a été débloqué pour le financement du camp de Lipa. « La présidence avait décidé de verser 2,5 millions d’euros, mais le Conseil des ministres n’a toujours pas pris la décision d’agréer Lipa comme un centre d’accueil, ni celle de fermer Bira. Je ne sais même pas s’il existe un consensus sur ces questions », s’agace le maire de Bihać.

      La société privée Bira, propriétaire du hangar où ont séjourné les migrants, n’a pas répondu aux questions de Radio Slobodna Evropa sur leur éventuel retour. « Nous ne sommes pas en capacité de vous répondre car le président du conseil d’administration n’est actuellement pas en état d’assurer ses obligations professionnelles. Pour toute précision, adressez-vous à l’OIM », a-t-elle répondu. Le principal actionnaire de Bira a également refusé de fournir des précisions sur la durée du contrat de location du hangar.


      https://www.courrierdesbalkans.fr/Bosnie-Herzegovine-migrants-otages-mille-feuille-institutionnel-b

      #Bihac #Velika_Kladusa

    • Croatian police accused of ’sickening’ assaults on migrants on Balkans trail

      Testimony from asylum seekers alleging brutal border pushbacks, including sexual abuse, adds to calls for EU to investigate

      People on the Balkans migrant trail have allegedly been whipped, robbed and, in one case, sexually abused by members of the Croatian police.

      The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has documented a series of brutal pushbacks on the Bosnia-Croatian border involving dozens of asylum seekers between 12 and 16 October.

      The Guardian has obtained photographs and medical reports that support the accounts, described by aid workers as “sickening” and “shocking”.

      “The testimonies collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying,’’ said Charlotte Slente, DRC secretary general. “More than 75 persons in one week have all independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings and even sexual abuse.’’

      According to migrants’ accounts, the pushbacks occurred in Croatian territory over the border from Velika Kladuša in Bosnia, close to Šiljkovača – a tented forest settlement of around 700 refugees and migrants.

      “All of the persons interviewed by DRC bore visible injuries from beatings (bruises and cuts), as a result of alleged Croatian police violence,” reads the DRC report. “According to the statements provided by interviewed victims (with visible evidence of their injuries), pushbacks included brutal and extremely violent behaviour, degrading treatment, and theft and destruction of personal belongings.” One of the testimonies includes a report of serious sexual abuse.

      On 12 October, five Afghans, including two minors, crossed the Croatian border near the #Šturlić settlement. On the same day, near Novo Selo, an uniformed police officer stopped them and then called two more officers. One of the migrants ran, and the other four were detained at a police station. Two days later they were taken to court, where they say they were to “appear as witnesses in the case launched against the fifth member of the group – the one who escaped”, who had been accused of violent behaviour towards police.

      The asylum seekers told the DRC that the original officers then took them “to some unknown location, where they were put in a van in the charge of 10 armed people, dressed in black and with full face balaclavas, army boots and with flashlights on their foreheads”. Their money was taken, their belongings torched and they were ordered to strip to their underwear. The migrants allege that they were forced to lie face down on the ground.

      “One man in black was standing on the victim’s hands, preventing any movements,” reads the report. “Legs were also restrained. Once the person was hampered, the beating started. They were punched, kicked, whipped and beaten.” Medical reports confirm that migrants’ injuries are consistent with the use of a whip.

      One migrant, MK, says at this point he was sexually assaulted by a man using a branch.

      Mustafa Hodžić, a doctor in Velika Kladuša, examined the man. “The patient had wounds all over the back of his body, on his back and legs. I can confirm the signs of clear sexual violence … I have never seen anything like it. Even if it isn’t the first time as a doctor [that] I have seen signs of sexual violence on migrants, which, according the asylum seekers’ accounts, were perpetrated on Croatian territory by Croatian officials dressed in black uniforms.”

      One Pakistani migrant told of being intercepted with two others near Croatia’s Blata railway station. The police allegedly ordered them to strip naked before loading them into a van and taking them to a sort of garage, where five other migrants were waiting to be sent back to Bosnia. Awaiting their arrival were men dressed in black.

      “They started to beat us with batons, and the third one took his mobile phone and took a selfie with us without clothes,” the Pakistani man said. “The first four of us were on the ground, and we lay next to each other, naked and beaten, and the other four were ordered to lie on us, like when trees are stacked, so we lay motionless for 20 minutes. The last one was a minor. He was from the other group; I saw when the police officer ask him where he was from. He tried to say that he is a minor. He was beaten a lot, and when it was his turn to take off his clothes, he was beaten even more.”

      One man added: “A minor from the second group fainted after many blows. His friends took him in their arms, and one of the police officers ordered them to lay him down on the ground. Then they started hitting them with batons. Before the deportation, police told us: ‘We don’t care where you are from or if you will return to Bosnia or to your country, but you will not go to Croatia. Now you have all your arms and legs because we were careful how we hit you. Next time it will be worse’.’’

      Small groups of asylum seekers attempt to cross from Bosnia into Croatia nightly on the migrant trail into western Europe. The EU’s longest internal border, it is patrolled by police armed with truncheons, pistols and night vision goggles. Aid workers, doctors, border guards and UN officials have documented systematic abuse and violence perpetrated along the border stretch for several years.

      Last May, the Guardian documented a case of more than 30 migrants who were allegedly robbed and had their heads spray painted with red crosses by Croatian officers.

      The UNHCR has asked the Croatian government to set up an independent assessment of the border situation.

      The details of the latest pushback are in a report that the DRC has shared with the European commission, which has yet to investigate.

      ‘’The Croatian government and the European commission must act to put a stop to the systematic use of violence,” said Slente. ‘’Treating human beings like this, inflicting severe pain and causing unnecessary suffering, irrespective of their migratory status, cannot and should not be accepted by any European country, or by any EU institution. There is an urgent need to ensure that independent border monitoring mechanisms are in place to prevent these abuses.”

      Croatian police and the ministry of the interior have not responded to requests for comment.

      In June, the Guardian revealed EU officials were accused of an “outrageous cover-up” for withholding evidence of the Croatian government’s failure to supervise border forces. Internal emails showed Brussels officials were fearful of full disclosure of Croatia’s lack of commitment to a monitoring mechanism that EU ministers had agreed to fund.

      In January, a commission official warned a colleague that Croatia’s failure to use money earmarked two years ago for border police “will for sure be seen as a scandal”.

      The recent accusations come as the commission presented its final report on the grant, in which Croatia asserted that the co-financing project had “helped make the implementation of activities of border surveillance more conscientious and of higher quality, with emphasis on the respect of migrants’ rights guaranteed under international, European and national legislation”.

      Regarding allegations of abuse, Croatian authorities stated: “Every single [piece of] information and every single complaint was inspected in the process called internal control. We did not establish that the police officers committed any criminal or disciplinary offence in any of the cases.”

      Clare Daly, an Irish MEP, is among those who have raised concerns in Brussels. “The blood of these people, so horrifically mistreated on the Croatian border, is on the hands of the European commission. They have enabled this violation of fundamental rights by ignoring the facts presented to them by NGOs and MEPs that all was not well. They turned a blind eye time and again, and now these horrible events have occurred again, even worse than before.”

      She added: “The last time such behaviour occurred, the commission rewarded Croatia with an extra grant even bigger than the first one, and said they were happy with how the funds had been spent … when is someone going to be held accountable for these crimes against humanity?”

      https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/21/croatian-police-accused-of-sickening-assaults-on-migrants-on-balkans-tr

      –----

      See the report of Border Violence Monitoring Network (October 21) with photos and videos:
      Croatian authorities leading choreographed violence near #Cetingrad

      In the last fourteen days, BVMN-member No Name Kitchen have collected testimonies alluding to a spike in pushback violence in the Cetingrad area of the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The veracity of these testimonies is further supplemented with reports from local people and media outlets. The characteristics of this trend in violence have been complex and coordinated assaults by Croatian police, consisting of repetitive baton strikes, lashing and kicking. These tactics leave an indelible mark on returned transit groups, visible in the extensive bruising and lacerations across the legs, torso and upper body of people subject to such violence. First hand testimony of recent pushbacks are examined here, alongside pictures and videos from the HR/BiH border which reveal the deterioration in border violence seen in the last fortnight.


      https://www.borderviolence.eu/15983-2

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6JnnUfpulA&feature=emb_logo

      #Novo_Selo #Sturlic