• Ces exilés afghans qui décident de #rester en #Bosnie-Herzégovine

    Quand il a quitté son pays il y a presque six ans, Shafiullah n’imaginait pas se retrouver un jour à Bihać, en Bosnie-Herzégovine. « Enfant, je rêvais de devenir pilote », se souvient-il en souriant. « Mais pour faire plaisir à mon père j’ai étudié le droit. » Quand celui-ci est mort, tué par une bombe dans la rue, Shafiullah a interrompu ses études. À cette époque, sa ville natale, Kunduz, tombait progressivement sous l’emprise des Talibans, dans un climat de terreur et de chaos. « Ma mère a insisté pour que je parte car elle ne voulait pas me perdre. »

    Shafiullah a donc quitté le pays illégalement en passant par l’Iran puis la Turquie. « Mon seul souhait à ce moment-là était de trouver la paix, la sécurité, peu importe où. Je n’imaginais pas que je ne la reverrai pas. » En arrivant en Turquie, le jeune homme entreprend des démarches pour demander l’asile. Mais avec 3,6 millions de réfugiés, dont beaucoup venus de Syrie, le pays est saturé et difficile pour un jeune homme afghan d’espérer obtenir le précieux sésame. Pendant trois ans, Shaffiulah y a donc vécu sans papiers, enchaînant les petits boulots dans les secteurs de la construction ou du tourisme, parfois payé, parfois non. « Je ne pouvais jamais me plaindre sous peine d’être reconduit à la frontière ou de devoir payer une lourde amende », explique-t-il.

    DES ANNÉES D’ERRANCE

    Lassé, il a repris la route en direction cette fois de la Grèce, dans le camp de réfugiés de Moria, où la situation était encore pire qu’en Turquie. En remontant par la Macédoine du Nord, Shaffiulah s’est retrouvé bloqué près de la frontière serbe. Pendant quinze jours, il a fait « le game », marchant dans la forêt pour tenter de traverser la frontière serbe, sans cesse traqué et repoussé par les policiers. « À ce moment-là, je n’avais que 13 euros en poche, un téléphone et un sac de couchage. J’avais faim et soif. C’était très dur. »

    Dans son #errance, il a fini par rencontrer un Macédonien qui aidait les migrants à traverser et l’a imploré de l’emmener. Avec d’autres Afghans et Pakistanais, ils ont rejoint Belgrade, puis Tuzla en Bosnie-Herzégovine. Sans argent, blessé à la jambe, le jeune homme a fini son périple en bus grâce à l’aide d’autres voyageurs jusqu’à Bihać, tout près de la frontière avec l’Union européenne. « La police croate est vraiment la pire. Chaque fois que vous avez un téléphone, ils le cassent devant vous et vous battent, prennent vos chaussures, votre argent, brûlent votre sac et vos affaires », explique-t-il. Un témoignage qui ressemble à celui de nombreux autres réfugiés.

    Dans le canton d’Una Sana, saturé d’exilés depuis la fin 2017, le racisme est omniprésent. Dans les supermarchés, les magasins, les gens le dévisagent et lui demandent souvent de sortir. Dans la rue, des automobilistes lui font des doigts d’honneur. Après huit tentatives de traversée à pied et aucun argent pour payer un passage sécurisé auprès des trafiquants - dont le tarif se chiffre en milliers d’euros -, Shaffiulah s’est résigné à aller dans le camp de Bira, en périphérie de Bihać. « Tout ce que je voulais, c’était arrêter de marcher, retrouver un peu d’espoir, un semblant de sérénité. » Au total, il est resté là-bas un an et demi, dont neuf mois de pandémie. « Le camp était fermé, les migrants à l’intérieur se sentaient en prison. J’ai cru perdre la raison, mais je n’ai jamais perdu espoir, convaincu que quelque chose finirait par arriver. »

    En attendant, Shaffiulah a participé à de nombreuses activités organisées par les associations à l’intérieur du camp et a entrepris les démarches pour demander l’asile, aidé par l’association Vasa prava. « Certaines entreprises voulaient m’embaucher comme guide touristique parce que je parle beaucoup de langues. Mais sans visa, impossible de travailler. » Quand Bira a fermé en octobre 2020, sous la pression des habitants et des autorités locales, Shaffiulah a saisi sa chance en demandant à être transféré à Sarajevo. Là-bas, il avait des contacts qui pourraient peut-être l’aider à déposer sa demande d’asile.

    UNE PRÉCIEUSE CARTE JAUNE

    C’est à Sarajevo que Shaffiulah a appris la mort de sa mère, décédée d’un problème cardiaque. « Elle avait dû se remarier à mon oncle pour pouvoir continuer à vivre », souffle-t-il : en Afghanistan, une femme seule n’a aucun droit. Avec la prise du pouvoir par les Talibans, la situation risque encore de s’aggraver. « Ici, tous les Afghans diront la même chose : les Talibans nous ont tout pris. »

    Dans le camp D’Ušivak, il a participé à un concours de photo avec d’autres migrants. L’organisateur de l’atelier a voulu l’aider en lui louant une chambre dans son appartement. Un précieux sésame, indispensable pour obtenir un visa. « Je suis très reconnaissant envers cette personne qui est venue avec moi faire les démarches d’enregistrement. Cela m’a permis de démarrer la procédure. » Après plusieurs mois d’attente, le demandeur d’asile a reçu la précieuse #carte_jaune, signifiant que sa demande était prise en compte. « Je n’ai pas encore obtenu l’asile, mais au moins, j’ai pu commencer à travailler comme interprète, traducteur ou guide pour plusieurs ONG. »

    Depuis six mois, il est retourné vivre à BIhać. Il partage un appartement avec un collègue bosnien et travaille comme interprète dans les camps avec les équipes de Médecins du monde qui œuvrent à apporter un soutien mental et psychologique aux migrants. « J’aime beaucoup mon travail », confie-t-il. « Il y a une bonne atmosphère. C’est l’endroit où je me sens le mieux, sur le terrain, utile auprès de gens qui sourient même si leur situation est mauvaise. Eux aussi subissent de violents refoulements. Ils reviennent avec le nez ou les jambes cassés. » Shaffiulah espère à terme obtenir le statut de réfugié et pouvoir reprendre ses études, en Bosnie-Herzégovine ou ailleurs.

    Depuis la fin 2017, plus de 80 000 exilés sont passés par la Bosnie-Herzégovine, dont 11 000 en 2021, un nombre à peu près équivalent à celui de l’an dernier sur la même période. À peine 3 sur 1000 ont déposé une demande d’asile. Fin août, l’UNHCR comptabilisait 187 procédures en cours, 124 demandes de dépôt, et sur les 56 réfugiés du pays, à peine cinq ne sont pas originaires de l’ancienne Yougoslavie. Aujourd’hui, la plupart des demandeurs sont des hommes majeurs originaires de Turquie, d’Afghanistan, d’Iran ou du Pakistan.

    https://www.courrierdesbalkans.fr/Ces-exiles-afghans-qui-decident-de-rester-en-Bosnie-Herzegovine

    #Balkans

  • Mais quelle bonne idée cher Président !

    #Kaboul comme #Srebrenica ?

    France, UK to propose safe zone for people leaving #Afghanistan, submit resolution at UN meeting : Emmanuel #Macron

    “Our resolution proposal aims to define a safe zone in Kabul, under UN control, which would allow humanitarian operations to continue,” French President Macron said.

    Ahead of an emergency meeting by the United Nations on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France and Britain would propose for a safe zone in Kabul to protect people trying to flee Afghanistan.

    “Our resolution proposal aims to define a safe zone in Kabul, under UN control, which would allow humanitarian operations to continue,” news agency Reuters quoted Macron as saying on Sunday. During his visit to Mosul in Iraq later in the day, Macron stressed the resolution would be passed by the two countries and expressed hope that it would be accepted by member nations favourably. “I cannot see who could oppose enabling the safety of humanitarian operations,” he further said.

    UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres is scheduled to meet the permanent representatives for the United Kingdom, the United States, France, China and Russia — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — to discuss the worsening situation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, earlier on Saturday, Macron had said that France had held preliminary discussions with the Taliban about the humanitarian situation. The talks also included possible evacuation of more people out of the country.

    “We have begun having discussions, which are very fragile and preliminary, with the Taliban on the issue of humanitarian operations and the ability to protect and repatriate Afghans who are at risk,” Reuters had reported on Saturday citing the French President.

    France ended its evacuation operations in Afghanistan on Friday, two weeks after the Taliban seized the capital city of Kabul. The US troops are scheduled to withdraw completely from the country by August 31, a deadline that has been agreed upon by the Taliban.

    Several other countries have also closed their evacuation operations as the last date nears. The UK pulled out the last of its troops from the war-torn nation early on Sunday despite a number of Afghans, eligible for repatriation, being left behind.

    https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/france-uk-to-propose-safe-zone-for-people-leaving-afghanistan-submit
    #Macron #UK #France #safe_zones

    –—

    De zones sures, on en parlait en 2019 pour la #Syrie :

    Le plan de la Turquie est de créer dans le nord de la Syrie une vaste zone sécurisée pour renvoyer les réfugiés.

    https://seenthis.net/messages/805214

    En 2016 Merkel soutenait déjà la même idée de la Turquie :
    Turkey thanks Merkel for support of #safe_zones in Syria
    https://seenthis.net/messages/466387

    Mais on parlait aussi de leur inefficacité... comme l’ont démontré les exemples de l’#Irak et de la #Bosnie :
    Look back and learn : #Safe_zones in Iraq and Bosnia
    https://seenthis.net/messages/471070

    ping @isskein

  • #Refoulements_en_chaîne depuis l’#Autriche (2021)

    In a recent finding, the Styria Regional Administrative Court in Graz ruled that pushbacks are “partially methodically applied” in Austria, and that in the process, the 21-year-old complainant was subject to degrading treatment, violating his human dignity. The ruling further shed light on the practices of chain pushbacks happening from Italy and Austria, through Slovenia and Croatia, to BiH. The last chain pushback from Austria all the way to BiH was recorded by PRAB partners in early April 2021, while in 2020, 20 persons reported experiencing chain pushbacks from Austria and an additional 76 from Italy.

    Source: rapport “#Doors_Wide_Shut – Quarterly report on push-backs on the Western Balkan Route” (juin 2021)

    #push-backs #refoulements #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #Slovénie #Croatie #frontière_sud-alpine #Bosnie-Herzégovine #Alpes

    • MEPs slam Slovenian Presidency for their role in chain-pushbacks

      In the first week of September (2. 8. 2021), MEPs in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs confronted Slovenian Interior Minister Aleš Hojs as he presented the priorities for Slovenian presidency of the Council of the European Union in Brussels. With evidence provided by BVMN and network members InfoKolpa and Are You Syrious, representatives of The Left in the European Parliament took the Presidency to task for its systemic policy of chain-pushbacks and flagrant abuse of the rule of law. Members also shamed the Slovenian Ministry of Interior for continuing to ignore a Supreme Court ruling which established Slovenia had violated the rights of a Cameroonian plaintiff and are obligated to allow him access to the Slovenian asylum system and to stop returning people to Croatia as there is overwhelming evidence of chain-refoulement and degrading treatment often amounting to tortute.

      Presenting the evidence

      Malin Björk, whose fact-finding trip to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia was facilitated by Are You Syrious and Infokolpa, then handed over the Black Book of Pushbacks to Minister Hojs, a dossier of cases recorded by the Border Violence Monitoring Network which collates pushback violations from across the Balkans since 2017. The book has a concerningly large section on Slovenian chain pushbacks, sharing the voices of 1266 people documented by BVMN who had either been chain pushed back (via Croatia) to Bosnia-Herzegovina or Serbia. The cases speak of systemic gatekeeping of asylum, misuse of translation, the registering of minors as adults, and fast-tracked returns to Croatian police who would then carry out brutal pushbacks. All point to a high level of complicity by the Slovenian authorities in the brutalisation of people-on-the-move, a fact reinforced by the April ruling of the Slovenian Supreme Court.

      Yet this first hand evidence is in reality just the tip of the iceberg, and a recent open letter on the matter revealed how according to officially available data, over 27,000 returns of potential asylum seekers were carried out by Slovenian authorities in the recent years, resulting in chain refoulement via Croatia to non-EU countries such as Bosnia-Herzegovina.

      “I expect you as a responsible Minister, not only for your country, but for the EU Presidency to take part of this document and tell us what you will do to stop the illegality, impunity and the brutality.”

      More weak denials

      Interior Minister Hojs doubled down on his stance that Slovenia was managing its borders according to the Rule of Law, even despite his own national court ruling the complete opposite. In an unsurprising move, reminiscent of many Interior Ministers across the EU, Hojs levied accusations of fake news and dismissed the Black Book set before him as a fabrication. Referring to his short attempt to actually look at the evidence presented in the book Hojs stated: “How many lies can be concentrated on one half page, I immediately closed the book and did not touch it again”. With the Minister unwilling to leaf through the 244 pages dedicated to crimes carried out by Slovenia, the network welcome him to view the visual reconstruction of a pushback published last year which vividly captured the experience of those denied asylum access in Slovenia and then brutalised while being collectively expelled from Croatia.

      “I have read the Black Book already in parliament and have seen what they write about me and the Slovenian police. All lies.”

      – Minister Hojs Speaking to Slovenian TV

      The fact is that Minister Hojs is personally not mentioned in the Black Book, though his actions are documented on countless pages, implies that someone is indeed lying. Court judgements, the testimony of thousands of pushback victims, and hard video evidence all highlight the fragility of the Slovenian government’s “fake news” line. While already deeply concerning at a national level, the fact that this administration is also spearheading the EU Presidency shows the extent to which perpetrators of pushbacks have been enabled and empowered at the highest level in Brussels. As a recent webinar event hosted by InfoKolpa and BVMN asked: Can a country responsible for mass violations of Human Rights be an honest broker in the preparations of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum? Until the ruling by the Supreme Court is implemented and people-on-the-move have their mandated right to request asylum in Slovenia, this question will continue to be answered firmly with a “no”.

      Today, our MEPs talked to @aleshojs 🇸🇮 Minister of Home Affairs about the thousands of men, women and children who have been denied over the past years the right to seek asylum in Slovenia, and forcefully handed over to Croatian. @Border_Violence #StopPushbacks pic.twitter.com/XvNLvoCLhY

      — The Left in the European Parliament (@Left_EU) September 2, 2021

      MEP statement

      “I was in Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, I was astonished to meet many migrants and refugees that had been to Slovenia, but they had been told that the right to seek asylum did not exist in you country. One of the persons that I met there was from Cameroon and had escaped political persecution. Once he thought he was in safety in Slovenia he called the police himself to ask to be able to claim asylum. Instead he was as so many others, as thousand of others, handed over to the Croatian police who brutalised him and sent him back to Bosnia.

      This case is a little bit special, compared to the many thousands of others, because on 9th April this year the Slovenian Supreme Court itself ruled that Slovenian police had violated the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition of collective expulsion and denied the him the right to seek international protection.

      You (Minister Hojs) have had meetings with Commissioner Johansson and you have said you will stand up for the right to seek asylum for asylum seekers. Now your own court has found that you fail in this case. So my questions are: Will you stand by your words and provide a humanitarian visa for this person so that he can come back to Slovenia to apply for asylum as he was supposed to have been granted two years ago? And the second is more structural of course, how will you ensure that people have the right to apply for asylum in Slovenia, that they are not brutally pushed back to Croatian police, who are then illegally pushing them back to Bosnia in a kind of chain pushback situation which is a shame, a shame, at European borders?”

      – Malin Björk MEP

      The case referred to is part of strategic litigation efforts led by network member InfoKolpa, which resulted in a landmark judgement issued on 16 July 2020 by the Slovenian Administrative Court. The findings prove that the Slovenian police force in August 2019 carried out an illegal collective expulsion of a member of a persecuted English-speaking minority from Cameroon who wanted to apply for asylum in the country. The verdict was confirmed on 9th April 2021 by the Slovenian Supreme Court, which ruled the following: the Slovenian police violated the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition of collective expulsions and denied the asylum seeker access to the right to international protection. The state was ordered to ensure that the plaintiff is allowed to re-enter the country and ask for international protection, but no effort has been made by the authorities to respect the ruling of the court. The case is thus another confirmation of the Slovenian misconduct that persistently undermines the foundations of the rule of law, specifically international refugee law and international human rights law.

      We fear for Slovenia.

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/meps-slam-slovenian-presidency-for-their-role-in-chain-pushbacks

    • Briefly reviewing the topic of pushbacks at European borders, it is important to report on the case of a young refugee from Somalia who was prevented from seeking asylum in Austria and was expulsed, or more precisely, pushed back to Slovenia, contrary to international and European law. His case will soon be reviewed at the Provincial Administrative Court of Styria (https://www.index.hr/vijesti/clanak/migrant-tuzio-austriju-slucaj-bi-mogao-imati-posljedice-i-za-hrvatsku-policiju/2302310.aspx), and if he wins the case, it will be the second verdict that indicates systematic and sometimes chained pushbacks of refugees through Austria, Slovenia, and thus Croatia all the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

      Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, du 16.09.2021

  • #Doors_Wide_Shut – Quarterly report on push-backs on the Western Balkan Route

    As part of the #Protecting_Rights_at_Borders initiative funded by the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), the second quarterly report on unlawful push-backs carried out by authorities in Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, and Italy was published: https://helsinki.hu/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/07/PRAB-Report-April-to-June-2021.pdf

    A key finding is that the informal cooperation between states has prevented thousands of women, men and children from seeking protection in Europe this year, in often extremely violent and humiliating ways. Rights violations at borders are not an isolated issue. There is an overall trend, a so–called race to the bottom, with regards to respect for the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum–seekers and refugees. While governments deliberately do not respect and often directly violate migrants’, refugees’, and asylum seekers’ rights under human rights law, humanitarian organizations are often prevented from providing assistance in line with their humanitarian mandates.

    Country chapters were written by Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI), Diaconia Valdese (DV) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) regarding Italy; the Hungarian Helsinki Committee regarding Hungary; DRC BiH for Bosnia-Herzegovina; Humanitarian Center for Integration and Tolerance (HCIT) regarding Serbia; Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) regarding North-Macedonia, and the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and DRC Greece regarding Greece.

    The previous quarterly report is also available here: https://helsinki.hu/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/05/prab-report-january-may-2021-_final_10052021.pdf

    https://helsinki.hu/en/doors-wide-shut-quarterly-report-on-push-backs-on-the-western-balkan-route

    Dans le rapport on trouve une carte avec le nombre de refoulements entre janvier et juin 2021 :

    #push-backs #refoulements #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Grèce #Macédoine_du_Nord #Serbie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #Hongrie #Italie
    #rapport

  • Mystery plans to redraw Balkan borders alarm leaders

    “Changing borders would mean opening Pandora’s box,” says Valentin Inzko.

    As international High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina his job is to keep the peace, which has endured since the Dayton Peace Agreement brought conflict to an end in 1995, after almost four years of fighting that cost around 100,000 lives.

    The cause of his consternation was a pair of unofficial documents suggesting some of the borders in the Balkans should be redrawn. The so-called #non-papers made the rounds in diplomatic circles, before being picked up by media in the Western Balkans.

    As far as Bosnia is concerned, its high representative is not about to entertain suggestions that the answer to its ongoing dysfunctionality would be to redraw its national boundaries.

    “If somebody likes to think about changing borders, he should first visit all military graves from France to Stalingrad,” he warns.

    The documents did not carry an author’s name. That’s in keeping with the unofficial nature of a non-paper, but the contents caused outrage across the region.

    Among their suggestions were:

    - A “peaceful dissolution” of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Serbia and Croatia annexing much of its territory
    - Unification of Kosovo and Albania
    - The creation of an autonomous, majority ethnic-Serb region in northern Kosovo.

    It reads very much like an ethno-nationalist wish-list from the 1990s. And everyone remembers how that unfolded at the time.

    “People are worried. One of my employees was crying, she was really worried about these maps”
    Valentin Inzko, High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    “We are making a mistake if we think that frozen conflicts remain frozen forever,” says Mr Inzko. “You have seen in Nagorno-Karabakh and Palestine - frozen conflicts can break out at any time. This could also be the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

    The non-papers affair has turned into a diplomatic whodunnit.

    Few people have had anything to say in support of the ideas they contain - except Bosnia’s senior ethnic-Serb politician, Milorad Dodik, who never misses a chance to push the idea of secession for the country’s majority ethnic-Serb region. Under the Dayton accords, the country was divided into a Bosniak-Croat Federation and Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska).

    - The town where neighbours won’t share a coffee
    - Land swap could bridge divide for Serbia and Kosovo
    - Capturing the Balkans 25 years after peace deal
    - Bosnia-Herzegovina: Country profile

    But the non-papers may not be the work of self-serving ultranationalists. Slovenia had to fight off suggestions that it was circulating the first document. And media in Kosovo described the second non-paper as a “Franco-German” proposal.

    James Ker-Lindsay, a Balkans expert at the London School of Economics, says “blue-sky thinking” is one way for European leaders to tackle the region’s seemingly intractable issues.

    “We can’t deny there are problems in the Western Balkans. There are two significant issues which have got to be resolved: the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo over Kosovo’s independence - and the deep-seated political dysfunctionality that exists in Bosnia.”

    “This has vexed policymakers for the last 15 years in both cases. So the idea that we would be looking at trying to come up with new approaches to this isn’t particularly unusual”
    James Ker-Lindsay, Balkans expert, LSE

    Nonetheless, Slovenia attempted to consign the non-papers to the waste bin at a meeting of regional leaders it hosted earlier this month. It proposed a declaration affirming the inviolability of current borders.

    But Serbia refused. President Aleksandar Vucic said his country recognised “the borders determined by the UN charter”. In other words, he was not about to sign a document that could be construed as recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

    After meeting Mr Vucic in Slovenia, Kosovo’s president, Vjosa Osmani, told the BBC that she was convinced Belgrade was behind the non-papers.

    “I had no doubts from the very beginning - it’s enough to just read the contents and to see what these non-papers try to push forward. The idea of border redrawing as something that could achieve peace in the region, when in fact it’s the opposite.”

    “If there is one thing the entire political spectrum in #Kosovo agrees on, it’s that border redrawing is completely unacceptable”
    Vjosa Osmani, Kosovo president

    Naturally, Serbia denies all knowledge and James Ker-Lindsay notes that there are “all sorts of confusion and conspiracy theories kicking in”.

    But with the end of his 12-year stint as high representative approaching, Valentin Inzko simply wants everyone to accept the borders as they are and focus on eventually coming together in the European Union.

    “The better idea would be to follow the example of Tyrol - one part is in Italy, another in Austria. But it is one region, with four freedoms and one currency.”

    But EU membership for Western Balkans countries will remain out of reach for years. And that means many more non-papers, whether mischievous or constructive, are bound to be written.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57251677
    #projet #frontières #Balkans #cartes #différents_frontaliers #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #Croatie #Serbie #Albanie #conflits #Milorad_Dodik #Republika_Srpska #République_serbe_de_Bosnie #nationalisme #paix

    ping @reka

  • Torture, Covid-19 and border pushbacks: Stories of migration to Europe at the time of Covid-19

    The lived experience of people navigating the EU external border during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharper focus the way border violence has become embedded within the landscape of migration. Here BVMN are sharing a feature article and comic strip from artistic journalist collective Brush&Bow which relays the human stories behind pushbacks, and the protracted violence which has come to characterise journeys along the Balkan Route. The researchers and artists spent time with transit communities along the Western Balkan Route, as well as speaking to network members Centre for Peace Studies, No Name Kitchen & Info Kolpa about their work. Combined with the indepth article (linked below) the comic strip brings to life much of the oral testimonies collected in the BVMN shared database, visualising movement and aspiration – as well as the counterforce of border violence.

    Authors: Roshan De Stone and David Leone Suber
    Illustrations and multimedia: Hannah Kirmes Daly
    (Brush&Bow C.I.C)
    Funded by: The Journalism Fund

    https://www.borderviolence.eu/torture-covid-19-and-border-pushbacks

    #push-back #refoulements_en_chaîne #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Croatie #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #dessin #BD #bande_dessinée #Slovénie #Italie #frontière_sud-alpine #Bosnie #Trieste #migrerrance #Trieste #violence

    • #Torture and pushbacks: Stories of migration to Europe during Covid-19

      Violent and often sadistic pushbacks from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are a damning indictment of Europe’s broken migrant policy.

      Anatomy of a pushback: from Italy to Bosnia

      Trieste, Zagreb – On April 13 last year, Italy’s Coronavirus death-toll surpassed 20,000, making headlines worldwide. In the afternoon on that same day, Saeed carefully packed a bag. In it, a phone, three power banks, cigarettes, a sleeping bag and a photograph of his two children back in Pakistan.

      During the March lockdown, Saeed was forcibly held in Lipa camp for migrants and asylum seekers, in the Bosnian canton of Una Sana, right next to the Croatian border. Having travelled this far, he was ready for the final leg of his journey to Europe.

      That night, Saeed left the camp. On the way to the Croatian border, he was joined by nine other men.
      People on the move use GPS tracking systems to cross land borders far away from main roads and inhabited locations. (Hannah Kirmes Daly, Brush&Bow C.I.C)

      For 21 days, the group walked through the forests and mountains in Croatia, Slovenia and into Italy, avoiding roads and towns, always careful not to be seen. Never taking their shoes off, not even to sleep, ready to run at a moment’s notice if the police spotted them.

      When Covid-19’s first wave was at its peak in the spring of 2020, EU member states increased border security by sending the army to patrol borders and suspended freedom of movement as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus.

      This greatly affected migration, giving migrants and asylum seekers yet another reason to go into hiding. Saeed and his companions knew this well. But as they finally crossed the final border into Italy, they assumed the worst was over.

      Winding their way down the mountains, the group stopped at the border town of Bagnoli to order a dark, sweet, coffee - a small reward. Across the street, a woman looked out of her window and reached for the phone. Minutes later, police were on the scene.

      As the police later confirmed, it is thanks to calls from local inhabitants living in border areas that most migrants are intercepted by authorities.

      Bundled into an Italian police van, Saeed and his acquaintances were handed over to Slovenian officials, and driven back to the Croatia-Bosnia border in less than 24 hours. No anti-Covid precautions were taken, and requests for asylum were ignored.

      When the van finally stopped, they were released into an open field by a river bank. Plain-clothes officers speaking Croatian ordered them to undress.

      Blisters ripped open as Saeed’s skin tore off as he pried off his shoes. Two of the men were beaten with telescopic batons. Another was whipped with a piece of rope tied to a branch. “Go back to Bosnia” was the last thing they heard the Croatian officers shout as they climbed back up the Bosnian bank of the river.

      On the morning of May 7, Saeed walked barefoot to the same Bosnian camp he had left three weeks before. This was his first ’pushback’.

      #The_Game'
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnU-xWNfG8M&feature=emb_logo

      Trieste’s Piazza Liberta, in front of the main train station, above, is the final destination for many people on the move arriving from Bosnia.

      Since the start of the pandemic, the EU border agency Frontex reported a decrease in the overall number of irregular border crossings into Europe. This has been the case on all main routes to Europe aside from one: the Balkan route, a route migrants and asylum seekers take by foot to cross from Turkey into central Europe.

      On July 10, two months after that first pushback from Italy, Saeed sits in Piazza Liberta, the main square in front of Trieste’s train station.

      Young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Syria sit with him on the square’s benches, forming small groups in the setting sun. For nearly two years now, this square has been the meeting point for ’people on the move’ – migrants and asylum seekers escaping war, famine and poverty in their countries, arriving by foot from Turkey and through the Balkans.

      They sit in Piazza Liberta waiting for the arrival of a group of volunteers, who hand out food, medication and attend to the blisters and welts many have on their feet as a result from the long weeks of restless walking.

      Saeed is in his thirties, clean shaven and sporting ’distressed’ jeans with impeccably white trainers. He would look like any other tourist if it wasn’t for the scars across his arms.

      “There are two borders that are particularly difficult to cross to reach Europe,” he explains.

      The first is at the Evros river, separating Greece and Turkey. This is the only alternative to anyone who wants to avoid the risk of crossing by boat to the Greek islands, where recent reports of pushbacks by the Greek police back to Turkey are rife.

      “The second border is the one between Bosnia and Croatia,” he pauses. “The road between these two borders and all the way to Italy or Austria is what we call ’The Game’.” "It is by doing The Game that I got these," he says pointing to his scars.

      The Game is one of the only alternatives to reach Europe without having to cross the Mediterranean Sea. But crossing the Balkans is a similarly dangerous journey, like a ’game’, played against the police forces of the countries on the route, so as to not get caught and arrested.

      With the outbreak of the pandemic, The Game has become more difficult and dangerous. Many have reported cases of sexual and violent abuse from the police.

      In Croatia, police officers forced people to lie on top of one another naked as they were beaten and crosses were spray-painted on their heads. To add insult to injury, all their possessions were stolen, and their phones would be smashed or thrown in the water by authorities.

      The last of thirteen siblings, Saeed wants to reach a cousin in Marseille; an opportunity to escape unemployment and the grinding poverty of his life back in Pakistan.

      From the outskirts of Karachi, Saeed lived with his two children, wife and seven relatives in two rooms. “I would go out every morning looking for work, but there is nothing. My daughter is sick. I left because I wanted to be able to provide for my family.”

      Despite his desire to end up in France, Saeed was forced to apply for asylum in Italy to buy himself time and avoid being arrested and sent back to Bosnia.

      Under current regulations governing refugee law, Saeed’s asylum application in Italy is unlikely to be accepted. Poverty and a dream for a better future are not recognised as valid reasons to be granted status in Europe. Instead, in order to keep those like Saeed out, in 2018, the European Commission proposed to almost triple funding for border enforcement between 2021 and 2027, for an overall investment of $38.4 billion.

      Despite being a skilled electrician looking for work, Saeed’s asylum application makes it impossible for him to legally work in Italy. To survive, he started working as a guide for other migrants, a low-level smuggler making the most of what he learned during The Game.

      He pulls a second phone out of his pocket and takes a call. “There are 70 men crossing the mountains from Slovenia who will be here by 4 am tomorrow,” he says. The large group will be split into smaller groups once they arrive at the Italian border, Saeed explains, so as to not be too noticeable.

      The mountain paths around Trieste are full of signs of life; sleeping bags, shoes and clothes scattered where groups decided to stop and camp the night before doing the final stretch to Trieste’s train station.

      “When they arrive, I’ll be their point of contact. I’ll show them where to access aid, how to get an Italian sim card and give them money that their families have sent to me via Western Union.” He pauses, “I know some of them because we were in the same camps in Bosnia. I try to help them as I know what it is like, and in return they pay me a small fee.” The amount he receives varies between 5 and 20 euro ($5.8 - $23.55) per person.

      All along the route there are those like Saeed, who manage to make a small living from the irregular migration route. However, it isn’t easy to recognise a smuggler’s good intentions, and not every smuggler is like Saeed. “There are also smugglers who make a big business by stealing money or taking advantage of less experienced people,” he says.

      Pointing to two young Afghan boys, Saeed shrugs, “They asked me where they could go to prostitute themselves to pay for the next part of the journey. There are many people ready to make money out of our misery.”

      Border violence and the fear of contagion

      Since the start of pandemic, The Game has become even more high stakes. For migrants and asylum seekers on the Balkan route, it has meant adding the risk of infection to a long list of potential perils.

      “If the police are looking for you, it’s hard to worry about getting sick with the virus. The most important thing is not to get arrested and sent back,” said Saeed.

      Covid-19 rules on migration have had the effect of further marginalising migrants and asylum seekers, excluding them from free testing facilities, their right to healthcare largely suspended and ignored by national Covid-19 prevention measures.

      This is confirmed by Lorenzo Tamaro, representative of Trieste’s Autonomous Police Syndicate (SAP). Standing under one of Trieste’s sweeping arches he begins, “The pandemic has made it more dangerous for them [migrants and asylum seekers], as it is for us [the police]."

      For all of 2020, Italian police have had to deal with the difficult task of stopping irregular entries while also performing extraordinary duties during two months of a strictly enforced lockdown.

      “The pandemic has revealed a systemic crisis in policing immigration in Europe, one we have been denouncing for years,” Tamaro says. He refers to how Italian police are both under-staffed and under-resourced when facing irregular migration, more so during lockdowns.

      Broad shouldered, his voice carries the confidence of someone who is no stranger to interviews. “Foreigners entering our territory with no authorisation are in breach of the law, even more so under national lockdown. It’s not us [the police] who make the law, but it is our job to make sure it is respected.”

      Born in Trieste himself, Tamaro and his colleagues have been dealing with immigration from the Balkans for years. The emergency brought on by increased arrivals during Italy’s tight lockdown period pushed the Ministry of Interior to request the deployment of a 100-strong Italian army contingent to the border with Slovenia, to assist in the detection and arrest of people on the move and their transfer to quarantine camps on the outskirts of the city.

      “We have been left to deal with both an immigration and public health emergency without any real support,” Tamaro says. “The army is of help in stopping irregular migrants, but it’s then us [the police] who have to carry out medical screenings without proper protective equipment. This is something the Ministry should have specialised doctors and medics do, not the police.”

      To deal with the increase in arrivals from the Balkan route, Italy revived a 1996 bilateral agreement with Slovenia, which dictates that any undocumented person found within 10 kilometres of the Slovenian border within the first 24 hours of arrival, can be informally readmitted to Slovenia.

      “In my opinion readmissions work,” Tamaro says. “Smugglers have started taking migrants to Udine and Gorizia, which are outside of the 10 km zone of informal readmissions, because they know that if stopped in Trieste, they risk being taken back to Slovenia.”

      On September 6, the Italian Interior Minister herself acknowledged 3,059 people have been returned to Slovenia from Trieste in 2020 alone, 1,000 more than the same period in 2019.

      Human rights observers have criticised this agreement for actively denying people on the move to request asylum and thus going against European law. “We know Italy is sending people back to Slovenia saying they can apply for asylum there. But the pushback does not end there,” says Miha, a member of the Slovenian solidarity initiative Info Kolpa.

      From his airy apartment overlooking Ljubljana, Miha explains how Slovenia resurfaced a readmission agreement with Croatia in June 2018 that has allowed an increase in pushbacks from Slovenia to Croatia.

      “Italy sends people to Slovenia and Slovenia to Croatia,” Miha says, “and from Croatia, they get pushed back further to Bosnia.”

      “What Europe is ignoring is that this is a system of coordinated chain-pushbacks, designed to send people back from Europe to Bosnia, a non-European Union country. And adding to the breach of human rights, no one is worrying about the high risk of contagion,” Miha concludes.

      Torture at Europe’s doorstep

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t36isJ1QHA4&feature=emb_logo

      A section of the border between Croatia and Slovenia runs along the Kulpa river, as shown in the video above. People on the move try to cross this river in places where there is no fence, and some drowned trying to cross it in 2018 and 2019.

      As pushbacks become more normalised, so has the violence used to implement them. Because the Croatian-Bosnian border is an external EU-border, Croatia and Bosnia do not have readmission agreements similar to those between Italy and Slovenia.

      As such, pushbacks cannot simply happen through police cooperation — they happen informally — and it is here that the greatest violence takes place.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8T9AFOJT2A&feature=emb_logo

      People on the move have been posting evidence of the violence they are subjected to across the Balkan route. The video above was posted on TikTok in the summer of 2020, showing the beatings suffered by many of those who try and cross from Bosnia to Croatia and are pushed back by Croatian police.

      Despite the Bosnian-Croatian border running for more than 900 km, most of the border crossing happens in a specific location, in the Una Sana canton, the top eastern tip of Bosnia.

      The border here is a far cry from the tall barbed wire fences one might expect. The scenery cuts across a beautiful landscape of forestry and mountain streams, with winding countryside roads gently curving around family-run farms and small towns.

      “I’ve seen it all,” Stepjan says, looking out from his small whitewashed home, perched less than 100 meters from the actual Bosnian-Croatian border. A 45-year old man born and raised in this town, he adds, “People have been using this route for years to try and cross into Europe. Sometimes I give them [people on the move] water or food when they pass.”

      Many of the locals living on either side of the border speak German. They themselves have been migrants to Germany in the 90s, when this used to be a war zone. Asked about the allegations of physical abuse inflicted upon migrants, Stepjan shrugged, replying, “It’s not for me to tell the police how to do their job.”

      “By law, once a person arrives on Croatian territory they have the right to seek asylum,” says Nikol, a Croatian activist working with the organisation No Name Kitchen on this stretch of the border. “But this right is denied by Croatian police who force people to return to Bosnia.”

      Sitting in a smoky cafe in Zagreb, Nikol (a psuedonym) says she wishes to remain anonymous due to intimidation received at the hands of Croatian and Bosnian authorities punishing people providing aid to people on the move. She is planning her return to Bihac as soon as Covid regulations will allow her to move. Bihac is the key town of the Una Sana canton, the hotspot where most of the people on the move are waiting to cross into Croatia.

      She knows all about the violence perpetrated here against migrants and asylum seekers trying to enter Europe. “The Croatian police hands people over to men in plain uniform and balaclavas, who torture migrants before forcing them to walk back across the border to Bosnia.”

      Many migrants and asylum seekers that have managed to cross Croatia have reported stories of men dressed in black uniforms and wearing balaclavas, some sort of special unit with a mandate to beat and torture migrants before sending them back to Bosnia.

      Nikol has a gallery of pictures depicting the aftermath of the violence. “There is so much evidence of torture in Croatia that I am surprised there are still journalists looking to verify it,” she says as she flicks through pictures of beatings on her phone.

      Scrolling through, she brings up picture after picture of open wounds and arms, backs and bodies marked with signs of repeated beatings, burns and cuts.

      She goes through a series of pictures of young men with swollen bloody faces, and explains: “These men were made to lie on the ground facing down, and then stamped on their heads to break their noses one after the other.”
      Activists and volunteers receive pictures from people on the move about the beatings and torture endured while undergoing pushbacks. (Hannah Kirmes Daly, Brush&Bow C.I.C)

      “These are the same techniques that the Croatian police used to terrorise Serbian minorities in Croatia after the war,” she adds.

      Finding Croats like Nikol willing to help people on the move is not easy. Stepjan says he is not amongst those who call the police when he sees people attempting to cross, but a policeman from the border police station in Cabar openly disclosed that “it is thanks to the tip offs we get from local citizens that we know how and when to intervene and arrest migrants.”

      As confirmed by Nikol, the level of public anger and fear against people on the move has grown during the pandemic, fueled by anti-immigrant rhetoric linked with fake and unverified news accusing foreigners of bringing Covid-19 with them.

      Much of this discourse takes place on social media. Far-right hate groups have been praising violence against migrants and asylum seekers through posts like the ones reported below, which despite being signalled for their violent content, have not yet been removed by Facebook.
      Hate speech and violent threats against people on the move and organisations supporting them are posted on Facebook and other social media on a daily basis. Despite being reported, most of them are not taken down. (Hannah Kirmes Daly, Brush&Bow C.I.C)

      Nikol’s accounts are corroborated by Antonia, a caseworker at the Center for Peace Studies in Zagreb, who is working closely on legal challenges made against Croatian police.

      “We continue to receive testimonies of people being tied to trees, terrorised by the shooting of weapons close to their faces, having stinging liquids rubbed into open wounds, being spray-painted upon, sexually abused and beaten with bats and rubber tubes on the head, arms and legs.”

      In July this summer, an anonymous complaint by a group of Croatian police officers was made public by the Croatian ombudswoman. In the letter, officers denounced some of their superiors of being violent toward people on the move, suggesting that such violence is systematic.

      This was also the opinion of doctors in Trieste, volunteering to treat people’s wounds once they arrive in Italy after having crossed Croatia and Slovenia. Their accounts confirm that the violence they often see marked on bodies is not just the consequence of police deterrence, but is aimed at causing long-term injuries that might make a further journey impossible.

      Neither the Croatian nor the Slovenian national police have responded to these allegations through their press offices. The EU Home Affairs spokesperson office instead did reply, reporting that “Croatian authorities have committed to investigate reports of mistreatment at their external borders, monitor this situation closely and keep the Commission informed on progress made.”

      And while the EU has sent a monitoring team to meet the Croatian Interior Minister, it nevertheless continues to add to Croatia’s internal security fund, sending over €100 million ($120 million) since 2015 to manage migration through visa systems, policing and border security.

      Back to square one…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc0Um3gEbzE&feature=emb_logo

      Pushbacks from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia all the way back to Bosnia end with people on the move returning to overcrowded reception facilities, unsanitary camps, squats or tents, in inhumane conditions, often without running water or electricity. People in the video above were queuing at a food distribution site outside one of the IOM camps on the Bosnian-Croatian border in winter 2020.

      “These people have travelled thousands of kilometres, for months, and are now at the door of the European Union. They don’t want to return home,” Slobodan Ujic, Director of Bosnia’s Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, admitted in an interview to Balkan Insight earlier this year.

      “We are not inhumane, but we now have 30,000, 40,000 or 50,000 unemployed, while keeping 10,000 illegal migrants in full force…we have become a parking lot for migrants for Europe,” Ujic added.

      Public opinion in Bosnia reflects Ujic’s words. With a third of Bosnians unemployed and many youth leaving to Europe in search of better opportunities, there is a rising frustration from Bosnian authorities accusing the EU of having left the country to deal with the migration crisis alone.

      During the summer of 2020, tensions flared between Bosnian residents and arriving migrants to the point where buses were being stopped by locals to check if migrants were travelling on them.

      Today, thousands of people in Bosnia are currently facing a harsh snowy winter with no suitable facilities for refuge. Since the start of January the bad weather means increased rains and snowfall, making living in tents and abandoned buildings with no heating a new cause for humanitarian concern.

      In Bosnia around 7,500 people on the move are registered in eight camps run by the UNHCR and International Organization for Migration (IOM). The estimated number of migrants and asylum seekers in the country however, tops 30,000. The EU recently sent €3.5 million ($4.1 million) to manage the humanitarian crisis, adding to the over €40 million ($47 million) donated to Bosnia since 2015 to build and manage temporary camps.

      With the start of the pandemic, these reception centres became more like outdoor detention centres as Bosnian authorities forcefully transferred and confined people on the move to these facilities despite overcrowding and inhumane conditions.

      “I was taken from the squat I was in by Bosnian police and confined in a camp of Lipa, a few kilometers south of Bihac, for over a month,” Saeed says. “We had one toilet between 10 of us, no electricity and only one meal a day.”

      On December 23, 2020, Lipa camp, home to 1,300 people, was shut down as NGOs refused to run the camp due to the inhumane conditions and lack of running water and electricity. This came at a time where the closure of the camp had also been advocated by Bosnian local authorities of the Una Sana canton, pressured in local elections to close the facility.

      As people evacuated however, four residents, allegedly frustrated with the fact that they were being evicted with nowhere to go, set the camp on fire.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK6mqaheA3c&feature=emb_logo

      The trauma of living through forced lockdown in those conditions will have a lasting effect on those who have lived it. “I still have nightmares about that place and the journey,” Saeed says, avoiding eye contact.

      “Most nights I hear the sound of dogs barking and I remember the running. But in my dreams, I am paralysed to the ground and I cannot move.”

      When Saeed managed to escape Lipa camp in June 2020, it took him three weeks to walk back to Trieste. “Now I spend my days here,” he gestures across, pointing his open palms at Piazza Liberta.

      As he speaks, Saeed is joined by two friends. A long scar twists a line of shiny nobbled skin across the scalp of one of them: a souvenir from the baton of a Croatian police officer. The other has burnt the tips of his fingers to avoid being fingerprinted and sent back to Greece.

      The absurdity of Europe’s migration policy is marked on their bodies. The trauma imprinted in their minds.

      “I dream of being able to drive a car to France, like any normal person, on a road with only green traffic lights ahead, no barriers to stop me.”

      https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/torture-and-pushbacks-stories-of-migration-to-europe-during-covid-19-45421
      #game #Katinovac

  • Rückführung illegaler MigrantenNGOs üben scharfe Kritik an Nehammers Balkan-Plänen

    Österreich hat mit Bosnien die Rückführung illegaler Migranten vereinbart, Nehammer sagte Unterstützung zu. Laut NGOs mache sich Österreich damit „zum Komplizen eines Völkerrechtsbruches“.

    Innenminister #Karl_Nehammer (ÖVP) hat am Mittwoch seine Westbalkanreise fortgesetzt und mit Bosnien einen Rückführungsplan für irreguläre Migranten vereinbart. Mit dem Sicherheitsminister von Bosnien und Herzegowina, #Selmo_Cikotić, unterzeichnete er eine Absichtserklärung. Scharfe Kritik äußerten mehrere Initiativen in Österreich. Außerdem kündigte Nehammer an, dass Österreich für das abgebrannte Camp #Lipa 500.000 Euro bereitstellt, damit dieses winterfest gemacht wird.

    Die Arbeiten dazu haben laut dem Innenministerium bereits begonnen, mit dem Geld sollen ein Wasser- und Abwassernetz sowie Stromanschlüsse errichtet werden. Im Dezember war die Lage in Bihać eskaliert, nachdem das Camp Lipa im Nordwesten des Landes kurz vor Weihnachten von der Internationalen Organisation für Migration (IOM) geräumt worden war – mit der Begründung, dass es die bosnischen Behörden nicht winterfest gemacht hätten. Kurz darauf brannten die Zelte aus, den damaligen Berichten zufolge hatten Bewohner das Feuer selbst gelegt. Beobachter gehen davon aus, dass auch die Einheimischen das Feuer aus Wut auf die Flüchtenden gelegt haben könnten.

    Charterflüge für Migranten ohne Bleibechancen

    Zentrales Ziel der Balkanreise von Innenminister Nehammer ist die Erarbeitung von Rückführungsplänen mit den besuchten Ländern. Migranten ohne Bleibewahrscheinlichkeit, die laut Nehammer auch ein Sicherheitsproblem sind, sollen bereits von den Balkanländern in die Herkunftsländer zurückgebracht werden. Mit Bosnien wurde bereits ein Charterflug vereinbart. Damit zeige man den Menschen, dass es nicht sinnvoll sei, Tausende Euro in die Hände von Schleppern zu legen, ohne die Aussicht auf eine Bleibeberechtigung in der EU zu haben, betonte Nehammer.

    Die geplanten Rückführungen sollen über die im vergangenen Sommer bei der Ministerkonferenz in Wien angekündigte „Plattform gegen illegale Migration“ operativ organisiert werden. In die Koordinierungsplattform für Migrationspolitik mehrerer EU-Länder – darunter Deutschland – sowie der Westbalkanstaaten wird auch die EU-Kommission miteinbezogen.
    Beamte sollen im „Eskortentraining“ geschult werden

    Bosnien hat bereits auch konkrete Anliegen für Unterstützung vorgebracht. So sollen 50 sogenannte „Rückführungsspezialisten“ in Österreich trainiert werden. Diese sind bei Abschiebungen und freiwilligen Ausreisen für die Sicherheit in den Flugzeugen zuständig. Bei diesem sogenannten Eskortentraining werden die bosnischen Beamten theoretisch und praktisch geschult, in Absprache mit Frontex und unter Miteinbeziehung der Cobra, berichtete Berndt Körner, stellvertretender Exekutivdirektor von Frontex.

    „Wir helfen bei der Ausbildung, vermitteln Standards, das ändert aber nichts an der Verantwortlichkeit, die bleibt in den jeweiligen Ländern“, sagte er im Gespräch mit der APA. Es gehe darum, dass „alle internationalen Standards eingehalten werden“, betonte der österreichische Spitzenbeamte.
    NGOs sehen „falsches Zeichen“

    Scharfe Kritik an dem von Nehammer geplanten „Rückführungsplan“ übten unterdessen zahlreiche Initiativen aus der Zivilgesellschaft. „Wenn Österreich den Westbalkanländern helfen will, dann soll es diese Länder beim Aufbau von rechtsstaatlichen Asylverfahren unterstützen. Wenn allerdings Menschen, die in diesen Ländern keine fairen Verfahren erwarten können, einfach abgeschoben werden sollen und Österreich dabei hilft, macht es sich zum Komplizen eines Völkerrechtsbruches“, kritisierte etwa Maria Katharina Moser, Direktorin der Diakonie Österreich, in einer Aussendung.

    „Die Vertiefung der Zusammenarbeit mit der EU-Agentur Frontex ist ein falsches Zeichen“, erklärte Lukas Gahleitner-Gertz, Sprecher der NGO Asylkoordination Österreich. „Die Vorwürfe gegen Frontex umfassen inzwischen unterschiedlichste Bereiche von unterlassener Hilfeleistung über Beteiligung an illegalen Push-backs bis zur Verschwendung von Steuergeldern bei ausufernden Betriebsfeiern. Statt auf die strikte Einhaltung der völker- und menschenrechtlichen Verpflichtungen zu pochen, stärkt Österreich der umstrittenen Grenztruppe den Rücken.“

    „Im Flüchtlingsschutz müssen wir immer die Menschen im Auge haben, die Schutz suchen. Ich habe bei meiner Reise nach Bosnien selbst gesehen, unter welchen Bedingungen Geflüchtete leben müssen. Für mich ist klar: Diejenigen, die Schutz vor Verfolgung brauchen, müssen durch faire Asylverfahren zu ihrem Recht kommen“, sagte Erich Fenninger, Direktor der Volkshilfe Österreich und Sprecher der Plattform für eine menschliche Asylpolitik.

    https://www.kleinezeitung.at/politik/innenpolitik/5972469/Rueckfuehrung-illegaler-Migranten_NGOs-ueben-scharfe-Kritik-an

    #Autriche #Bosnie #accord #accord_bilatéral #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #renvois #route_des_Balkans #expulsions #Nehammer #Selmo_Cikotic #externalisation #camp_de_réfugiés #encampement #IOM #OIM #vols #charter #dissuasion #Plattform_gegen_illegale_Migration #machine_à_expulsion #Rückführungsspezialisten #spécialistes_du_renvoi (tentative de traduction de „Rückführungsspezialisten“) #avions #Eskortentraining #Frontex #Cobra #Berndt_Körner

  • Covid-19 : la Serbie commence à vacciner les migrants et étrangers - InfoMigrants
    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/31172/covid-19-la-serbie-commence-a-vacciner-les-migrants-et-etrangers

    Covid-19 : la Serbie commence à vacciner les migrants et étrangers
    Depuis vendredi, les migrants et ressortissants étrangers séjournant en Serbie ont été inclus dans la campagne vaccinale pour lutter contre le coronavirus. Seul le vaccin AstraZeneca, dont l’utilisation a été temporairement suspendue la semaine dernière par de nombreux pays européens, peut leur être administré.La Serbie, qui se montre parmi les pays les plus réactifs en matière de vaccination anti-Covid sur le continent européen, permet depuis vendredi 26 mars aux migrants et ressortissants étrangers vivant sur son territoire de recevoir leurs injections. La télévision d’État RTS rapporte que la vaccination de migrants a notamment débuté dans plusieurs camps, dont celui de Krnjaca près de Belgrade. Plus de 500 migrants, provenant principalement des pays de la région des Balkans et aussi de pays de l’UE, se sont enregistrés pour recevoir leurs doses.
    Les migrants et étrangers peuvent également être vaccinés à la Foire de Belgrade où est situé le principal centre de vaccination, selon la RTS. En revanche, seul le vaccin AstraZeneca peut leur être administré.Son utilisation a été temporairement suspendue la semaine dernière par de nombreux pays européens après le signalement de cas de thrombose, de troubles de la coagulation et de formation de caillots sanguins. L’Agence européenne des médicaments l’a, depuis, jugé « sûr et efficace ».La Serbie a également ouvert la vaccination à ses voisins : en Macédoine du Nord, les médias rapportent que des milliers de citoyens ont été appelés vendredi à se rendre à Belgrade pour y être vaccinés. La RST a d’ailleurs annoncé au cours du week-end le lancement d’une campagne de vaccination de propriétaires d’entreprises et de leurs employés venant d’Albanie, de Macédoine du Nord, du Monténégro, de la Bosnie et du Kosovo. Au total, 10 000 doses de vaccins ont été mises à leur disposition.
    Plus de 1,3 million d’habitants de ce petit pays européen des Balkans qui en compte 7 millions ont reçu une dose de vaccin et près d’un million deux doses.La télévision nationale n’a toutefois pas avancé de chiffres sur le nombre de ressortissants étrangers et de migrants présents dans le pays, ni expliqué si la décision de les vacciner est due à une chute de l’intérêt des citoyens serbes.Dans un rapport publié au début du mois, la Croix-Rouge alertait sur le manque d’accès à la vaccination pour les migrants, partout dans le monde. En Grèce, par exemple, 50 000 étrangers qui n’ont pas de numéro de sécurité sociale n’ont pas accès à la vaccination, indique l’ONG qui rappelle que le virus continuera de circuler si tout le monde n’est pas vacciné. Peu importe qu’ils aient des papiers ou non.

    #Covid-19#migrant#migration#serbie#bosnie#kosovo#albanie#macedoine#grece#etranger#sante#vaccination#inclusion

  • The fortified gates of the Balkans. How non-EU member states are incorporated into fortress Europe.

    Marko Gašperlin, a Slovenian police officer, began his first mandate as chair of the Management Board of Frontex in spring 2016. Less than two months earlier, then Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar had gone to North Macedonia to convey the message from the EU that the migration route through the Balkans — the so-called Balkan route — was about to close.

    “North Macedonia was the first country ready to cooperate [with Frontex] to stop the stampede we had in 2015 across the Western Balkans,” Gašperlin told K2.0 during an interview conducted at the police headquarters in Ljubljana in September 2020.

    “Stampede” refers to over 1 million people who entered the European Union in 2015 and early 2016 in search of asylum, the majority traveling along the Balkan route. Most of them were from Syria, but also some other countries of the global South where human rights are a vague concept.

    According to Gašperlin, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s primary interest at the EU’s external borders is controlling the movement of people who he describes as “illegals.”

    Given numerous allegations by human rights organizations, Frontex could itself be part of illegal activity as part of the push-back chain removing people from EU territory before they have had the opportunity to assert their right to claim asylum.

    In March 2016, the EU made a deal with Turkey to stop the flow of people toward Europe, and Frontex became even more active in the Aegean Sea. Only four years later, at the end of 2020, Gašperlin established a Frontex working group to look into allegations of human rights violations by its officers. So far, no misconduct has been acknowledged. The final internal Frontex report is due at the end of February.

    After allegations were made public during the summer and fall of 2020, some members of the European Parliament called for Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri to step down, while the European Ombudsman also announced an inquiry into the effectiveness of the Agency’s complaints mechanism as well as its management.

    A European Parliament Frontex Scrutiny Working Group was also established to conduct its own inquiry, looking into “compliance and respect for fundamental rights” as well as internal management, and transparency and accountability. It formally began work this week (February 23) with its fact-finding investigation expected to last four months.

    2021 started with more allegations and revelations.

    In January 2021 the EU anti-fraud office, OLAF, confirmed it is leading an investigation over allegations of harassment and misconduct inside Frontex, and push-backs conducted at the EU’s borders.

    Similar accusations of human rights violations related to Frontex have been accumulating for years. In 2011, Human Rights Watch issued a report titled “The EU’s Dirty Hands” that documented the ill-treatment of migrant detainees in Greece.

    Various human rights organizations and media have also long reported about Frontex helping the Libyan Coast Guard to locate and pull back people trying to escape toward Europe. After being pulled back, people are held in notorious detention camps, which operate with the support of the EU.

    Nonetheless, EU leaders are not giving up on the idea of expanding the Frontex mission, making deals with governments of non-member states in the Balkans to participate in their efforts to stop migration.

    Currently, the Frontex plan is to deploy up to 10,000 border guards at the EU external borders by 2027.

    Policing Europe

    Frontex, with its headquarters in Poland, was established in 2004, but it remained relatively low key for the first decade of its existence. This changed in 2015 when, in order to better control Europe’s visa-free Schengen area, the European Commission (EC) extended the Agency’s mandate as it aimed to turn Frontex into a fully-fledged European Border and Coastguard Agency. Officially, they began operating in this role in October 2016, at the Bulgarian border with Turkey.

    In recent years, the territory they cover has been expanding, framed as cooperation with neighboring countries, with the main goal “to ensure implementation of the European integrated border management.”

    The budget allocated for their work has also grown massively, from about 6 million euros in 2005, to 460 million euros in 2020. According to existing plans, the Agency is set to grow still further and by 2027 up to 5.6 billion euros is expected to have been spent on Frontex.

    As one of the main migration routes into Europe the Balkans has become the key region for Frontex. Close cooperation with authorities in the region has been growing since 2016, particularly through the “Regional Support to Protection-Sensitive Migration Management in the Western Balkans and Turkey” project: https://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Partners/Third_countries/IPA_II_Phase_II.pdf.

    In order to increase its powers in the field, Frontex has promoted “status agreements” with the countries in the region, while the EC, through its Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) fund, has dedicated 3.4 million euros over the two-year 2019-21 period for strengthening borders.

    The first Balkan state to upgrade its cooperation agreement with Frontex to a status agreement was Albania in 2018; joint police operations at its southern border with Greece began in spring 2019. According to the agreement, Frontex is allowed to conduct full border police duties on the non-EU territory.

    Frontex’s status agreement with Albania was followed by a similar agreement with Montenegro that has been in force since July 2020.

    The signing of a status agreement with North Macedonia was blocked by Bulgaria in October 2020, while the agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina requires further approvals and the one with Serbia is awaiting ratification by the parliament in Belgrade.

    “The current legal framework is the consequence of the situation in the years from 2014 to 2016,” Gašperlin said.

    He added that he regretted that the possibility to cooperate with non-EU states in returns of “illegals” had subsequently been dropped from the Frontex mandate after an intervention by EU parliamentarians. In 2019, a number of changes were made to how Frontex functions including removing the power to “launch return interventions in third countries” due to the fact that many of these countries have a poor record when it comes to rule of law and respect of human rights.

    “This means, if we are concrete, that the illegals who are in BiH — the EU can pay for their accommodation, Frontex can help only a little with the current tools it has, while when it comes to returns, Frontex cannot do anything,” Gašperlin said.

    Fortification of the borders

    The steady introduction of status agreements is intended to replace and upgrade existing police cooperation deals that are already in place with non-EU states.

    Over the years, EU member states have established various bilateral agreements with countries around the world, including some in the Balkan region. Further agreements have been negotiated by the EU itself, with Frontex listing 20 “working arrangements” with different non-member states on its website.

    Based on existing Frontex working arrangements, exchange of information and “consultancy” visits by Frontex officials — which also include work at border crossings — are already practiced widely across the Balkan-EU borders.

    The new status agreements allow Frontex officers to guard the borders and perform police tasks on the territory of the country with which the agreement is signed, while this country’s national courts do not have jurisdiction over the Frontex personnel.

    Comparing bilateral agreements to status agreements, Marko Gašperlin explained that, with Frontex taking over certain duties, individual EU states will be able to avoid the administrative and financial burdens of “bilateral solidarity.”

    Radoš Đurović, director of the NGO Asylum Protection Centre (APC) which works with migrants in Serbia, questions whether Frontex’s presence in the region will bring better control over violations and fears that if past acts of alleged violence are used it could make matters worse.

    “The EU’s aim is to increase border control and reduce the number of people who legally or illegally cross,” Đurović says in a phone interview for K2.0. “We know that violence does not stop the crossings. It only increases the violence people experience.”

    Similarly, Jasmin Redžepi from the Skopje-based NGO Legis, argues that the current EU focus on policing its borders only entraps people in the region.

    “This causes more problems, suffering and death,” he says. “People are forced to turn to criminals in search of help. The current police actions are empowering criminals and organized crime.”

    Redžepi believes the region is currently acting as some kind of human filter for the EU.

    “From the security standpoint this is solidarity with local authorities. But in the field, it prevents greater numbers of refugees from moving toward central Europe,” Redžepi says.

    “They get temporarily stuck. The EU calls it regulation but they only postpone their arrival in the EU and increase the violations of human rights, European law and international law. In the end people cross, just more simply die along the way.”

    EU accused of externalizing issues

    For the EU, it was a shifting pattern of migratory journeys that signified the moment to start increasing its border security around the region by strengthening its cooperation with individual states.

    The overland Balkan route toward Western Europe has always been used by people on the move. But it has become even more frequented in recent years as changing approaches to border policing and rescue restrictions in the Central Mediterranean have made crossings by sea even more deadly.

    For the regional countries, each at a different stage of a still distant promise of EU membership, partnering with Frontex comes with the obvious incentive of demonstrating their commitment to the bloc.

    “When regional authorities work to stop people crossing towards the EU, they hope to get extra benefits elsewhere,” says APC Serbia’s Radoš Đurovic.

    There are also other potential perks. Jasmin Redžepi from Legis explains that police from EU states often leave behind equipment for under-equipped local forces.

    But there has also been significant criticism of the EU’s approach in both the Balkans and elsewhere, with many accusing it of attempting to externalize its borders and avoid accountability by pushing difficult issues elsewhere.

    According to research by Violeta Moreno-Lax and Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, who have analyzed the consequences of the EU’s approach to border management, the bloc’s actions amount to a “dispersion of legal duties” that is not “ethically and legally tenable under international law.”

    One of the results, the researchers found, is that “repressive forces” in third countries gain standing as valid interlocutors for cooperation and democratic and human rights credentials become “secondary, if at all relevant.”

    APC’s Radoš Đurović agrees, suggesting that we are entering a situation where the power of the law and international norms that prevent illegal use of force are, in effect, limited.

    “Europe may not have enough power to influence the situations in places further away that push migration, but it can influence its border regions,” he says. “The changes we see forced onto the states are problematic — from push-backs to violence.”

    Playing by whose rules?

    One of the particular anomalies seen with the status agreements is that Albanian police are now being accompanied by Frontex forces to better control their southern border at the same time as many of Albania’s own citizens are themselves attempting to reach the EU in irregular ways.

    Asked about this apparent paradox, Marko Gašperlin said he did “not remember any Albanians among the illegals.”

    However, Frontex’s risk analysis for 2020, puts Albania in the top four countries for whose citizens return orders were issued in the preceding two years and second in terms of returns effectively carried out. Eurostat data for 2018 and 2019 also puts Albania in 11th place among countries from which first time asylum seekers come, before Somalia and Bangladesh and well ahead of Morocco and Algeria.

    While many of these Albanian citizens may have entered EU countries via regular means before being subject to return orders for reasons such as breaching visa conditions, people on the move from Albania are often encountered along the Balkan route, according to activists working in the field.

    Meanwhile, other migrants have complained of being subjected to illegal push-backs at Albania’s border with Greece, though there is a lack of monitoring in this area and these claims remain unverified.

    In Serbia, the KlikAktiv Center for Development of Social Policies has analyzed Belgrade’s pending status agreement for Frontex operations.

    It warns that increasing the presence of armed police, from a Frontex force that has allegedly been involved in violence and abuses of power, is a recipe for disaster, especially when they will have immunity from local criminal and civil jurisdiction.

    It also flags that changes in legislation will enable the integration of data systems and rapid deportations without proper safeguards in place.

    Police activities to secure borders greatly depend on — and supply data to — EU information technology systems. But EU law provides fewer protections for data processing of foreign nationals than for that of EU citizens, effectively creating segregation in terms of data protection.

    The EU Fundamental Rights Agency has warned that the establishment of a more invasive system for non-EU nationals could potentially lead to increased discrimination and skew data that could further “fuel existing misperceptions that there is a link between asylum-seekers, migration and crime.”

    A question of standards

    Frontex emphasizes that there are codified safeguards and existing internal appeal mechanisms.

    According to the status agreements, violations of fundamental rights such as data protection rules or the principle of non-refoulement — which prohibits the forcible return of individuals to countries where they face danger through push-backs or other means — are all reasons for either party to suspend or terminate their cooperation.

    In January, Frontex itself suspended its mission in Hungary after the EU member state failed to abide by an EU Court of Justice decision. In December 2020, the court found that Hungarian border enforcement was in violation of EU law by restricting access to its asylum system and for carrying out illegal push-backs into Serbia.

    Marko Gašperlin claimed that Frontex’s presence improved professional police standards wherever it operated.

    However, claims of raising standards have been questioned by human rights researchers and activists.

    Jasmin Redžepi recounts that the first complaint against a foreign police officer that his NGO Legis filed with North Macedonian authorities and international organizations was against a Slovenian police officer posted through bilateral agreement; the complaint related to allegations of unprofessional conduct toward migrants.

    “Presently, people cross illegally and the police push them back illegally,” Redžepi says. “They should be able to ask for asylum but cannot as police push people across borders.”

    Gašperlin told K2.0 that it is natural that there will be a variation of standards between police from different countries.

    In its recruitment efforts, Frontex has sought to enlist police officers or people with a customs or army background. According to Gašperlin, recruits have been disproportionately from Romania and Italy, while fewer have been police officers from northern member states “where standards and wages are better.”

    “It would be illusory to expect that all of the EU would rise up to the level of respect for human rights and to the high standards of Sweden,” he said. “There also has not been a case of the EU throwing a member out, although there have been examples of human rights violations, of different kinds.”

    ‘Monitoring from the air’

    One of the EU member states whose own police have been accused of serious human rights violations against refugees and migrants, including torture, is Croatia.

    Despite the allegations, in January 2020, Croatia’s Ministry of the Interior Police Academy was chosen to lead the first Frontex-financed training session for attendees from police forces across the Balkan route region.

    Frontex currently has a presence in Croatia, at the EU border area with Bosnia and Herzegovina, amongst other places.

    Asked about the numerous reports from international NGOs and collectives, as well as from the national Ombudsman Lora Vidović and the Council of Europe, of mass human rights violations at the Croatian borders, Gašperlin declined to engage.

    “Frontex helps Croatia with monitoring from the air,” he said. “That is all.”

    Gašperlin said that the role of his agency is only to notify Croatia when people are detected approaching the border from Bosnia. Asked if Frontex also monitors what happens to people once Croatian police find them, given continuously worsening allegations, he said: “From the air this might be difficult. I do not know if a plane from the air can monitor that.”

    Pressed further, he declined to comment.

    To claim ignorance is, however, becoming increasingly difficult. A recent statement on the state of the EU’s borders by UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, notes: “The pushbacks [at Europe’s borders] are carried out in a violent and apparently systematic way.”

    Radoš Đurović from APC Serbia pointed out that Frontex must know about the alleged violations.

    “The question is: Do they want to investigate and prevent them?” he says. “All those present in the field know about the violence and who perpetrates it.”

    Warnings that strict and violent EU border policies are increasing the sophistication and brutality of smugglers, while technological “solutions” and militarization come with vested interests and more potential human rights violations, do not seem to worry the head of Frontex’s Management Board.

    “If passage from Turkey to Germany is too expensive, people will not decide to go,” said Gašperlin, describing the job done by Frontex:

    “We do the work we do. So people cannot simply come here, sit and say — here I am, now take me to Germany, as some might want. Or — here I am, I’m asking for asylum, now take me to Postojna or Ljubljana, where I will get fed, cared for, and then I’ll sit on the bus and ride to Munich where I’ll again ask for asylum. This would be a minimal price.”

    Human rights advocates in the region such as Jasmin Redžepi have no illusions that what they face on the ground reflects the needs and aims of the EU.

    “We are only a bridge,” Redžepi says. “The least the EU should do is take care that its policies do not turn the region into a cradle for criminals and organized crime. We need legal, regular passages and procedures for people to apply for asylum, not illegal, violent push-backs.

    “If we talk about security we cannot talk exclusively about the security of borders. We have to talk about the security of people as well.”

    https://kosovotwopointzero.com/en/the-fortified-gates-of-the-balkans

    #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #frontex #Macédoine_du_Nord #contrôles_frontaliers #militarisation_des_frontières #push-backs #refoulements #refoulements_en_chaîne #frontières_extérieures #Regional_Support_to_Protection-Sensitive_Migration_Management_in_the_Western_Balkans_and_Turkey #Instrument_for_Pre-Accession (#IPA) #budget #Albanie #Monténégro #Serbie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #accords_bilatéraux

    –—

    ajouté à la métaliste sur l’externalisation des frontières :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/731749
    Et plus particulièrement ici :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/731749#message782649

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • IOM run camps in Bosnia: Structural violence is not an incident

    We demand transparency in the work of international organizations and an immediate switch to the practices of care and justice!

    Since 2018, when the first “temporary reception center” run by the IOM and financed by large from the EU, was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina, people placed in camps have been trying to draw the attention of the public. They have been united in saying that living conditions have been below any standards. At the same time, IOM representatives, as well as the EU, have been repeating that the centers have been built in accordance with the “European standards”. However, they have never told us what these standards are.

    At the moment, camp Blažuj near Sarajevo is the biggest concentration camp in BiH with over 3.200 people ‘housed’ inside. The conditions are precarious. No hot water, food is only basic, it is overcrowded, no heating, many people have scabies, every illness is treated with paracetamol and brufen (DRC responsibility). A similar precarious situation is in another camp near Sarajevo, Ušivak.

    People in Sarajevo are receiving everyday pleas for help from the people in the camps. They ask for food, clothes, hygiene supplies, even baby diapers. Tensions are high and occur in daily conflicts. Additionally, the part of the staff in centers is rude, unprofessional, abusive, and often disrespectful towards the people. Local police enter the camps, and the surrounding area, often using methods that should be scrutinized.

    Therefore, we must ask: Do mass, overcrowded camps represent the “European standard” of living? Is the absence of basic living conditions like hot water and heating, the absence of medical care and treatment, the absence of regular diet and widespread hunger, the absence of human care and compassion the “European standard”? Are mass camps soon becoming new mass graves, as a result of the European living standard in question?

    The atmosphere of tension culminated in Blažuj on the evening of January 20th, when a huge fight broke inside the camp. Another one. Each time it is bigger and bigger. IOM cannot negate this as we all saw the fire a few nights ago, which was the result of one such fight. Those who are running camp do not have the knowledge, or willingness, to deal with tensions, meaning to provide more psychological support than security, better conditions, and activities that would make people at least feel human. Instead of that, the IOM and others have decided to limit media access, and to monitor contacts ‘residents’ have with people outside of the camp and the media, often punishing those who are found to communicate with people outside and accused of sending true information about the conditions in the camp (that should be public anyway). Those who do that are often punished with retaliation, expulsion, or even detention inside the special area in the camps, but also in official detention centers in Bosnia, where with no trials or delivered sentences people are kept sometimes for months.

    In the end, the media, IOM, and authorities put the perpetual blame on people on the move, demonizing and criminalizing them in order to justify their own (wrong) doings and (mis)handlings.

    We ask for transparency in the work of international organizations, and an immediate switch to the practices of care and justice. People in Bosnia, but also many other countries in a similar situation, have been asking for this for decades, with little success, while witnessing what could be described as very problematic behaviour of the personnel and leaders of the international organizations (e.g. during the war, especially in so called “safe zones”, or after the war when the UN personnel was involved in human trafficking).

    - unlimited media access to the camps

    – freedom of speech for people inside the camps

    - utter protection from all kinds of violence

    – access to nutritive food, hot and drinking water, hygienic care, medical treatments, mental health support

    – end to the police, military, and security guards’ violence.

    No more structural violence.

    No more mass camps.

    No more (mass) graves.

    Transbalkan Solidarity

    https://transbalkanskasolidarnost.home.blog/iom-run-camps-in-bosnia-structural-violence-is-not-

    #violence_structurelle #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Bosnie #OIM #IOM #camps_de_réfugiés #Blažuj #Blazuj #Balkans #route_des_Balkans

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • Bosnia: Fight in migrant camp leaves three officials injured

      Two police officers and an IOM employee suffered minor injuries in clashes at the Blazuj migrant reception center near Sarajevo on Wednesday, police said. More than 3,000 migrants are currently housed at the former military barracks.

      Police were called late Wednesday night to intervene in a fight that had broken out between migrants at the center outside Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

      “During the intervention, migrants attacked police officers and damaged several police and International Organization for Migration (IOM) cars, as well as IOM offices,” police spokesperson Mirza Hadziabdic told the news agency AFP.

      Hadziabdic confirmed that two police officers and an IOM employee were slightly injured, and that the property damaged in the clash included computers and other equipment.

      According to a statement by the IOM, “a skirmish between two migrants … quickly escalated into a bigger fight.” It was not immediately clear if anyone was arrested, AP reports.

      In Bosnian media, the incident was described as a major clash. The news platform Klix.ba published images of smashed cars and reported that police brought in members of special units with dogs. According to Klix.ba, around 2,000 migrants clashed with police and threw stones.

      Klix.ba reported on Friday that six persons involved in the scuffles had received deportation orders from the foreigners’ office and local authorities in the Sarajevo Canton. One Iranian national reportedly also received an an entry ban of three years and is due to be deported.
      Tense situation for migrants in Bosnia

      Bosnia is a transit country for migrants, mainly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, who travel along the Balkan route in hopes of reaching Western Europe. Many however remain stranded in Bosnia and fail to cross into EU member state Croatia — their attempts are thwarted by Croatian border police who are regularly accused of applying force to push migrants back into Bosnia.

      Bosnia has struggled to manage a growing number of migrant arrivals since 2018 and most recently, the EU called upon Bosnia to provide adequate housing for migrants who are stranded in the country and face harsh winter conditions.

      According to estimates from EU and IOM officials, there are currently between 8,000 and 9,000 migrants in Bosnia.

      Around 6,000 migrants are living in five centers run by the IOM.

      Roughly 900 migrants are living in heated tents at Lipa camp, which the Bosnian army set up after weeks of criticism from the international community over the conditions at the camp.

      Roughly 2,000 migrants are camping out in the woods and in abandoned buildings in northwestern Bosnia, and their situation is becoming increasingly dangerous.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/29826/bosnia-fight-in-migrant-camp-leaves-three-officials-injured

    • Twenty Police Cars damaged by Migrants in Blazuj

      In last night’s riots in the migrant center in Blazuj near Sarajevo, 20 vehicles of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Sarajevo Canton and several IOM vehicles were damaged. This information was confirmed for Klix.ba by the Minister of the Interior of Canton Sarajevo, Admir Katica.

      Two injured police officers and one International Organization for Migrations employee is the epilogue of the chaos that happened last night in the migrant camp in Blazuj. This information was confirmed for “Avaz” by Mirza Hadziabdic, spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior of the Sarajevo Canton, and added that 2,000 migrants took part in the riots.

      The situation calmed down last night at 10:50 p.m. The police are still on the spot, an investigation is being carried out, and no one has been detained so far – Hadziabdic added.

      Recall, the workers of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) tried to move to another camp a migrant who disturbed the order and who is the leader of one of the groups in this camp. Migrants tried to release him by force, after which there was a conflict.

      https://www.sarajevotimes.com/around-2000-migrants-participated-in-riots-in-blazuj

  • ’I’m certain that people have died here’ – German doctor talks about his experience treating migrants in Bosnia

    Aid workers are increasingly alarmed about the worsening situation of the some 1,500 migrants stuck in northwest Bosnia, hundreds of whom are staying in abandoned buildings and makeshift forest settlements with little access to aid. InfoMigrants spoke with German streetwork doctor Gerhard Trabert about his patients’ physical and mental health, a lack of cooperation at the expense of the migrants and what ought to happen next.

    Over the past 20 years, Gerhard Trabert has done no fewer than 34 medical aid missions abroad in countries and hotspots including Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Lesbos.

    In 1998, the German doctor and social worker founded the aid organization “Armut und Gesundheit in Deutschland” ("Poverty and Health in Germany"), whose medical streetwork approach is to seek out homeless people so they get access to health care. For his accomplishments and services, he received Germany’s Federal Cross of Merit in 2004 and was named professor of the year in 2020, among other awards.

    Trabert’s latest mission took him to northwest Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the living conditions of the some 1,500 migrants stranded in the Una-Sana canton are becoming increasingly miserable and dangerous. For months, they have been staying there without access to the most basic necessities.

    Despite not receiving an official permit to deliver medical care, Trabert and his team managed to treat some 170 people in Bihać, the administrative center of the Una-Sana canton, and several other hotspots in the region over the course of eight days.

    InfoMigrants spoke to the 64-year-old in mid-January, three days after he returned from his trip to Bosnia. The interview, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, was conducted by InfoMigrants’ Benjamin Bathke.

    ************************

    InfoMigrants: The experiences you had in Bosnia must still be very present. What is going through your mind now that you’re back in Germany?

    Gerhard Trabert: Seeing people living in ruins without access to food, water and medical care at freezing temperatures in shabby blankets and mattresses, who make open fire to somehow keep warm; seeing the migrant camp Lipa that’s still not functioning — all this makes (you) melancholic, sad and angry because these conditions shouldn’t, they mustn’t exist; and Europe is failing to act.

    It’s bizarre that only a ten-hour car drive away from my home, it almost feels like being almost in another world. It also feels bizarre how different and incommensurate priorities can be: While protective measures against COVID-19 are being discussed in Germany, none of these measures exist for migrants and refugees in Bosnia. People complain about not being able to go skiing this winter while migrants live in cold and damp huts full of snow and mud.

    All week long we had sub-zero temperatures. After spending three hours in one of the dwellings, we were chilled to the bone. Of course we were able to go where it’s warm afterwards, but the notion that these people are living in these conditions 24/7 is unfathomable. It’s hard to convey these things if you haven’t seen them with your own eyes or sensed it with your own body, if only temporarily.


    https://twitter.com/InfoMigrants/status/1351220558529224704

    Can you tell us why you decided to go to Bosnia and what your mission looked like, broadly speaking?

    It was a very spontaneous decision after watching all the media reports. We drove down there with two mobile clinics and had contact with our Bosnian partner organization SOS Bihać upfront. We tried to get a permit but decided we could no longer wait and must give it a try. Our vehicles are rolling consulting rooms equipped with an examination couch, medical equipment, medicine, dressing material, and so on. After waiting at the Croatian-Bosnian border for six hours, we were allowed to cross the border, but without our vehicles. A few hours later, we were told we couldn’t go anywhere because of the curfew in Bosnia, so they brought us to a nearby accommodation. The next day, it took another five hours to finally enter Bosnia with our vehicles and drive to Bihać.

    Our team of five consisted of two nurses, two social workers and myself in the role of a physician. We had brought high-quality, suitable material including sleeping bags usable for down to -15°C, sleeping pads, hygiene articles like diapers and toilet paper and warm underwear. We weren’t able to use our mobile clinics, especially in the first few days, because SOS Bihać told us police would come immediately if we show up at a hotspot with the vehicles. So we put as much as we could in our backpacks and walked to the hotspots.

    One of those hotspots you described on Facebook is the run-down four-story building in Bihać of what you say used to be an elderly care facility. What did you experience there?

    We saw more than 100 Pakistani and Afghan men staying there in the freezing cold, most of them between the ages of 20 and 40. We went from floor to floor, introduced ourselves and offered help. It was so dark we had to use flash lights and headlamps at all times. There was this biting smoke everywhere from the open fireplaces they used to keep somewhat warm and cook food.

    Around one in three people had some kind of injury that required medical attention. We treated lots of cases of scabies, which causes bacteria to enter the wound through itching. Fortunately, we had brought special salves and medication needed to treat scabies, which a local pharmacy didn’t have. Many people had respiratory diseases and problems with their digestive organs like gastritis due to the cold and their general living conditions. We also saw skin wounds and severe open wounds as well as typical stress disorders like high blood pressure. During our second visit, we changed the bandages.

    Experiencing people forced to live like this was very intense. Some people told us they had been staying in the building for over a year, one even said it’s been three years. They occasionally try to cross the border, get pushed back and return to the ruin.

    https://gw.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/5a72f32860f584ddd9f1aa6e8c805ff8e535fd37.jpeg

    What do the surroundings of the ruin look like?

    It’s a hotspot in the middle of the city, next to a river. The distance to our apartment in Bihać, which has a population of around 50,000, was only 200 meters. During the day, people were out and about in the city for a while and received some food at kiosks. I saw some shovel snow, so perhaps they received some money in exchange. But a regular care concept for these people doesn’t exist. Drinking water, groceries, sanitary facilities — the migrants are more or less dependent on themselves.

    I also noticed protests by locals, but we were told those Bosnians weren’t against refugees and migrants per se but against illegal hotspots. They called for accommodating and providing for them instead of living in the middle of Bihać by the hundreds. But it seems that nobody on the Bosnian side feels responsible for providing for them.

    What about the NGOs — to what extent can they alleviate the suffering?

    My impression after a week on the ground is that there was no real cooperation, interconnectedness or communication between the NGOs. We even sensed some competition. It’s a scrap for power and competence, and many things happened in a very uncoordinated way.

    Regarding Bosnian authorities, there are conflicts between the Una-Sana canton and the capital Sarajevo. Overall, the different players didn’t look at who has which resources, who can take on which task, and so on. I perceived the situation as absolute bleak. And I do have to say that this imbroglio was wanted from the side of Bosnian authorities, which didn’t surprise me as I know it from my time on Lesbos, where the Greek, but also the EU authorities acted similarly: Signaling time and again to the people that they were not welcome there. So I assume chaos is part of the strategy.

    How does the group dynamics among the migrants staying in the hotspots look like? Are there hierarchies and tensions?

    From my experience on the ground in Bosnia, but also from missions in other countries, I must say that there is a hierarchy among the different nationalities. Syrians usually hold the top spot, followed by Afghans, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and northern African countries like Morocco. Why? Because Syrians have the best shot at receiving asylum. Migrants there know exactly how Europe reacts. This hierarchy sometimes manifests in violent confrontations — we treated stab wounds, for instance. Moroccans and Algerians told us they couldn’t go to groups from other countries without getting sent away. There are some mixed groups, including people from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Moroccans and Algerians.

    What can you tell us about people’s mental health?

    Please allow me to make a short scientific digression. There are three forms of traumatization, primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary and secondary cases occur when people suffer from violence directly or observe others becoming the victim of violence, respectively. My point is about the tertiary form of traumatization, or sequential traumatization. It means that a person with a primary or secondary trauma — and that includes all the 1,500 people in northwest Bosnia — who isn’t received with respect, who isn’t able to share their experiences with others, who isn’t listened to or shown empathy, also suffers from tertiary traumatization. The tragic thing about this third form is that it is graver than the first two because only then does the trauma become chronic; only then they have flashbacks, anxieties, sleep disorders, depressions, panic attacks and heightened risk of suicide. All this means that the way we treat those people leads to another, active traumatization. And you can feel it when you talk to talk to them.

    Speaking of suicides, you said in a recent interview that you “wouldn’t be surprised if people died here”. What made you arrive at this conclusion?

    We were told there were bears and wolves in the woods in the Una-Sana canton that have attacked and killed migrants in the past, as well as many wild dogs that have bitten many of them. We treated one person with a bite wound from a dog, which is extremely dangerous because of the certain kind of germs in that wound. If such a wound isn’t treated with antibiotics, his life is in danger. We gave him a special antibiotics. He also had a swollen, infected hand. I cannot imagine that nobody has died yet — and dies — in these conditions. The question is how deaths are dealt with, and I believe they are swept under the rug. If you look at the living conditions as well as the diseases and illnesses of these people with a bit of common sense, I’m certain that people have died.

    On your Facebook page, you also wrote about treating small children.

    In Bosanska Bojna, a small village north of Bihać directly on the border with Croatia, a contact who was shooting a film there had met 20 families who lived in ramshackle houses and ruins with their infants and toddlers. We were able to drive there with our mobile clinics because there were no controls. We treated infections, inflammations of the middle ear, which unless it is treated can lead to meningitis. It seemed that the children there were well cared for by and large, but it’s always difficult to tell because children being able to suppress many things fairly well means it’s not easy to see the scars and wounds on their souls.

    Many had stomach aches and nausea, which could stem from the hygienic conditions, but could also be an indicator for a psychosomatic component. Children can also get depression, but the symptoms are different from those in adults: Most of the time, children are very nervous or hyperactive. Oftentimes, this is interpreted as attention deficit disorder, when it is in fact a depression. One sees that time and again among migrant children: Being hyperactive or reclusive, which I also saw in Bosanska Bojna. Partly no talking and no eye contact, nothing. Symptoms like these are always signs for psychic traumatization.

    What did you hear about violent push backs at the hand of Croatian police?

    We have seen many wounds on arms and legs that might well have been caused by beatings. Many call trying to cross the borders “Game” — they go back time and again in the hope to eventually encounter Croatians who allow them into the country.

    Calling it “Game” — is that some kind of coping strategy or black humor?

    I think it speaks to an optimism bias that’s especially prevalent in situations of extreme stress like the one migrants in northwest Bosnia are in. They perceive and describe their situation much more positive than it objectively is. This also manifests in their language, so “Game” is a trivialization to suppress the brutality of the experience a bit. Optimism bias also applies to their general situation and their health conditions, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to act in their situation or survive. It’s astounding what the body and the psyche do in order to deal with such life-threatening situations.

    Why do so many people choose to live outside of the camp in Lipa?

    Lipa is located at 750 meters in an area hostile to life. It is surrounded by wood, and it’s cold and windy there. There is no infrastructure nearby. The village of Lipa is hours away by foot, and you have to use a dirt road for two kilometers to reach the camp. It’s obvious that the location of the camp emphasizes to the people: “You are not welcome here, and we kind of don’t care what happens to you.”

    That’s why people look for opportunities elsewhere like in Bihać, where they might get some kind of assistance or earn some money by working somewhere. So they use former factories, the ruins of the said elderly care facility or the so-called jungle camp in Velika Kladuša, where we also treated people. These hotspots are everywhere because there is no real care concept, like I said before. So people try to create a certain amount of ’free space’ for themselves they can shape more actively — notwithstanding all the other deprivations, because hardly anybody goes to those spaces and brings food and water.

    From your perspective, what needs to happen now to help migrants in northwestern Bosnia?

    My principal claim is to evacuate all of the people there and distribute them among EU member states. It’s possible, we can achieve it and it needs to happen. Their living conditions are not in keeping with human rights and are inhumane. We cannot wait for all of Europe to go along with this. There’s a shift to the right across Europe, toward nationalism and racism, which I also see in this debate. We have to take a stand, and German needs to lead the way.

    Right this moment we need to conceptually organize how medical care can be provided. This needs to happen immediately. The EU alongside Bosnia needs to show where money is invested in a transparent way. At Lipa, we need tents that protect people from all kinds of weather. We also need a hygiene concept and sanitary facilities. All of this is possible — the containers can be brought there and be installed quickly. Moreover, we need a real interconnectedness and cooperation between the different organizations, and ideally a UN organization like UNHCR at the helm that brings together all the different players and decides who does what and where. My impression is that the Bosnian authorities are overburdened and ill-suited, which has something to do with the old wounds and still existent power struggles and rivalries from the Bosnian war.

    Will you go back to Bosnia and Herzegovina in case you receive the permission from the Bosnian authorities to deliver medical aid?

    Yes, in that case we would go back there, at least with one mobile clinic. We would then deliver medical aid in cooperation with others and might leave the vehicle in Bosnia long-term, perhaps by lending it to a different NGO to use free of charge like we’re doing right now in Sicily with an Italian NGO.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/29741/i-m-certain-that-people-have-died-here-german-doctor-talks-about-his-e
    #route_des_Balkans #Bosnie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #santé_mentale #violence #Gerhard_Trabert #Lipa #hiver #froid #neige #Bihać #hotspot #hotspots #traumatisme #the_game #game #camp_de_réfugiés

  • En Bosnie, une inhumaine route migratoire
    https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/01/18/en-bosnie-une-inhumaine-route-migratoire_6066667_3210.html

    Les squats se sont multipliés au fur et à mesure que la Bosnie a fermé les camps officiels. Cet hiver est, à cet égard, le pire. La fermeture du camp de Bira, en septembre 2020, au moment où une surenchère politique antimigratoire animait la campagne pour les élections municipales, a donné le ton. La fermeture et l’incendie en décembre du camp de Lipa, qui n’était par ailleurs qu’un camp temporaire d’urgence destiné à faire face à la crise d’épidémie de Covid-19, ont achevé de déshumaniser l’accueil aux migrants. Ce qui fait aujourd’hui office de « camp de réfugiés » à Lipa consiste à entasser près d’un millier de migrants sous des tentes installées à la hâte par l’armée bosnienne. Il n’y a ni eau potable, ni électricité, ni soins médicaux. Les migrants se lavent dans l’eau glacée du ruisseau en contrebas. Ils ne dorment pas la nuit tellement il fait froid, et errent la journée sous la neige, dans l’attente des distributions de vivres.
    « La situation est cette année encore plus précaire qu’auparavant, avec davantage de personnes sans abri, reconnaît Peter Van der Auweraert, le chef de l’Organisation internationale des migrations (OIM) à Sarajevo. Il y a de l’argent européen disponible pour construire des abris, mais tout est bloqué par les autorités bosniennes. » Car la même Union européenne qui organise les refoulements illégaux et tolère les violences à sa frontière fait pression sur la Bosnie pour que les migrants soient traités « humainement », comme on dit à Bruxelles.Ces fermetures de camps et restrictions diverses ne changent rien à la migration elle-même, stable et continue. La Bosnie n’a certes enregistré que 17 000 arrivées en 2020, contre 25 000 à 30 000 les années précédentes, mais c’est surtout parce que l’épidémie de Covid-19 a fait que beaucoup d’enregistrements n’ont pas eu lieu. Et, en dépit des violences et refoulements, cette route reste le chemin principal vers l’UE. « Il y a eu au moins 70 000 entrées dans le pays depuis 2018, et on estime à 8 500 le nombre de migrants présents aujourd’hui. Cela montre bien que la route est ouverte », explique Peter Van der Auweraert, de l’OIM.
    Lire aussi L’UE dénonce les conditions « inacceptables » pour les migrants en Bosnie.

    #Covid-19#migrant#migration#bosnie#balkan#ue#politiquemigratoire#sante#santementale#oim#droit#refugie

  • Janvier 2021 : Incendie dans le camp de réfugiés à Blazuj (Bosnie-Herzégovine)


    https://twitter.com/SeebrueckeFfm/status/1347627466026790912
    #Bosnie-Herzégovine #Herzégovine #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #feu #asile #migrations #réfugiés #camps_de_réfugiés #Blažuj #Blazuj

    –—

    Ajouté à la métaliste sur les incendies dans des camps de réfugiés (principalement en Grèce, mais du coup, élargissement à la route des Balkans) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/851143#message892911

  • Is Frontex involved in illegal ’pushbacks’ in the Balkans ?

    Refugees and migrants in Greece trying to reach western Europe have accused EU border protection agency Frontex of taking part in illegal deportations known as “pushbacks.” DW reports.

    Ali al-Ebrahim fled in 2018 from Manbij, a Syrian city that was under Kurdish control, to escape being forced to fight in the conflict.

    Al-Ebrahim, now 22, first tried his luck in Turkey. When he arrived in Antakya, not far from the Syrian border, Turkish authorities took his details and sent him back home without citing any reasons, the young Syrian man says in very good English. He explains that this meant he was banned from legally entering Turkey again for five years.

    Nevertheless, al-Ebrahim decided to try again, this time with the aim of reaching Greece. He managed to make his way to Turkey’s Aegean coastline and eventually reached the Greek island of Leros in a rubber dinghy. When he applied for asylum, however, his application was rejected on the grounds that Turkey was a safe third country.

    But al-Ebrahim was not able to return to Turkey, and certainly not Syria — though this was of no interest to Greek authorities. “The new Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is very strict when it comes to migrants,” he says. “So I decided to go to Albania.”
    Uniforms with the EU flag

    Al-Ebrahim says that in September 2020, he traveled by bus with five others to the northern Greek city of Ioannina, and then walked to the Albanian border without encountering any Greek police.

    But, he says, staff from the EU border protection agency Frontex stopped them in Albania and handed them over to Albanian authorities in the border town of Kakavia. When asked how he knew they were Frontex officials, al-Ebrahim replies, “I could tell from their armbands.”

    Frontex staff wear light-blue armbands with the EU flag on them.
    €5,000 to reach Austria

    Al-Ebrahim says that he and the other migrants asked the Albanian authorities for asylum but were told that the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to file any new asylum applications. They were then just sent back to Greece without the Greek authorities being notified, he says.

    Al-Ebrahim had more luck on the second attempt. He managed to travel to the Albanian capital, Tirana, and then on to Serbia via Kosovo.

    His interview with DW takes place at a refugee camp in the Serbian city of Sombor, near the Hungarian border. Al-Ebrahim says he wants to travel on through Hungary into Austria, but the traffickers charge €5,000 to get as far as the Austrian border.

    Detention instead of asylum

    Hope Barker has heard many similar stories before. She coordinates the project “Wave - Thessaloniki,” which provides migrants traveling the Balkan route with food, medical care and legal advice. Barker tells DW that the northern Greek city was a safe haven until the new conservative government took office in summer 2019.

    In January 2020, a draconian new law came into effect in Greece. According to Barker, it allows authorities to detain asylum seekers for up to 18 months without reviewing their cases — and detention can then be extended for another 18 months.

    “So you can be held in detention for three years without any action on your case if you ask for asylum,” says Baker.

    Pushbacks by Frontex?

    Baker tells DW that the illegal deportation of migrants, known as “pushbacks,” happen both at the borders and further inland. Migrants trying to reach western Europe avoid any contact with Greek authorities.

    Refugee aid organizations say there have been “lots of pushbacks” at the border with North Macedonia and Albania. Baker says that witnesses have reported hearing those involved speaking German, for example, and seeing the EU insignia on their blue armbands.

    Frontex rejects allegations

    Baker says that it is, nonetheless, difficult to prove pushbacks at the Greek border because of the confusing situation, but she adds that they know that Frontex is active in Albania and that there are pushbacks on a daily basis across the River Evros that flows through Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey and forms a large part of the border. “We know that pushbacks are happening daily. So, to think that they don’t know or are not at all involved in those practices seems beyond belief,” says Baker.

    A Frontex spokesman told DW that the agency had investigated some of the allegations and “found no credible evidence to support any of them.”

    Frontex added that its staff was bound by a code of conduct, which explicitly calls for the “prevention of refoulement and the upholding of human rights, all in line with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

    “We are fully committed to protecting fundamental rights,” it added.

    Border protection from beyond the EU

    So why does the European border protection agency protect an external border of the European Union from the Albanian side? “The main aim of the operation is to support border control, help tackle irregular migration, as well as cross-border crime, including migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and terrorism, and identify possible risks and threats related to security,” said Frontex to DW.

    Frontex also said that cooperation with countries in the western Balkans was one of its priorities. “The agency supports them in complying with EU standards and best practices in border management and security,” the spokesman said.

    Yet it is worthwhile taking a look at another part of Greece’s border. While military and police officers are omnipresent at the Greek-Turkish border and are supported by Frontex staff, you seldom encounter any uniforms in the mountains between Greece and Albania. As a result, this route is regarded as safe by refugees and migrants who want to travel onward to western Europe via Greece.

    The route west

    Many migrants travel from Thessaloniki to the picturesque town of Kastoria, about 30 kilometers outside Albania. “There, the police pick us up from the bus and take us to the Albanian border,” Zakarias tells DW at the Wave Center in Thessaloniki. He is Moroccan and arrived in Greece via Turkey.

    But at this point, these are just rumors.

    That afternoon the men get on the bus. Another Moroccan man, 46-year-old Saleh Rosa, is among them. He has been in Greece for a year and was homeless for a long time in Thessaloniki. “Greece is a good country, but I cannot live here,” Rosa tells DW. He aims to reach western Europe via Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and then Hungary.

    Ominous police checks

    Police stop the bus shortly before its arrival in Kastoria. There is a parked police car with uniformed officers. Two men in plain clothes board the bus, claiming to be police. Without showing any ID, they target the foreigners, detaining Saleh, Zakarias and their companions.

    At around 11pm that same evening, the migrants send a WhatsApp message and their Google coordinates. They say that the men in plainclothes have taken them to a place some 15 kilometers from the Albanian border, but within Greece. Later in the Albanian capital, Tirana, DW met with Rosa again, who stresses that his papers were not checked in Greece.

    Conflicting accounts

    When asked by DW, Greek police authorities confirmed the existence of the plain-clothed officers and the roadside check. But then their account diverges from that of the two men. Police said they wanted to check if the migrants were legally permitted to be in Greece and they were released once this was confirmed.

    But the migrants say that Saleh Rosa was the only one with the papers to stay in Greece legally and that the other men were unregistered. Moreover, there is a curfew in Greece because of COVID-19. You are only allowed to travel from one district to another in exceptional cases. Even if they had been carrying papers, the men should have been fined.

    The police refused to comment on that.

    https://www.dw.com/en/is-frontex-involved-in-illegal-pushbacks-in-the-balkans/a-56141370

    #Frontex #Balkans #route_des_balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Albanie #Serbie #Kosovo #Sombor #Hongrie #Macédoine_du_Nord #Evros #Grèce

    –---

    voir aussi les accusations envers Frontex de refoulement en #Mer_Egée :
    Migrations : l’agence européenne #Frontex mise en cause pour des #refoulements en mer
    https://seenthis.net/messages/882952

    • Frontex confronted with allegations of violence in North Macedonia

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2494/letter-to-frontex-sw-and-bvmn.pdf) sent to Frontex today by #Statewatch and #Border_Violence_Monitoring_Network (#BVMN).

      Allegations that officials deployed on Frontex operations have participated in or condoned violence against people on the move in North Macedonia must be investigated, says a letter sent to Frontex today by Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).

      Since September 2019, volunteers for BVMN have gathered five separate testimonies from people pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece alleging the presence of Frontex officers on North Macedonian territory, where the agency has no legal authority to act. The reports involve a total of 130 people.

      The testimonies include allegations that officers deployed by Frontex engaged in or condoned brutal violence – including the use of tasers and electroshock batons, throwing people into rivers, and tying people up and beating them.

      Frontex says it has no records of any such incidents. The agency’s press office said to Statewatch last month that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      The letter, addressed to Frontex’s executive director, the new Fundamental Rights Officer, and the agency’s Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, calls for a thorough investigation into the allegations to clarify the facts and ensure appropriate action against any individuals found to have engaged in, condoned or consented to violence and/or to have acted on North Macedonian territory.

      The violence allegedly meted out or condoned by Frontex officials is part of a broader wave of violence against people on the move through North Macedonia. Since February 2019, BVMN volunteers have gathered 37 reports of pushbacks from North Macedonia to Greece, which are likely only a fraction of the total number of pushback cases.

      The five reports alleging the presence of Frontex officials are a subset of 15 testimonies that cite the involvement of foreign officials working alongside North Macedonian officers.

      An analysis published today by Statewatch (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor) looks at the deployment of foreign border guards to North Macedonia, which since 2015 has played a key role in the EU’s efforts to prevent migrants and refugees departing from Greece to reach ‘core’ EU territory further north.

      A number of states (members of the EU and other states in the region) have signed bilateral deals with the North Macedonian government that allow the deployment of border guards in the country.

      Frontex, meanwhile, is not yet legally able to operate there. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia is in the works, but is being held up in a dispute over language (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu).

      The agency must provide answers and an investigation into the numerous allegations of its officials being involved in abuse.

      https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/june/frontex-confronted-with-allegations-of-violence-in-north-macedonia
      #Macédoine_du_Nord

    • Briefing: External action: Frontex operations outside the EU

      The EU has negotiated five agreements with states in the Balkans that allow Frontex operations on their territories, and most of the agreements have now been approved by both sides. This briefing looks at the main provisions of those agreements, highlights key differences and similarities, and argues that they will likely serve as a template for future deals with states that do not border the EU, as made possible by the 2019 Regulation governing Frontex.

      For an overview of the key points of the agreements, see the table at the end of this article, or here as a PDF (https://www.statewatch.org/media/2011/eu-frontex-external-action-briefing-table.pdf).

      Frontex launched its first official joint operation on non-EU territory at Albania’s border with Greece in May 2019. Still ongoing today, this was the first operation resulting from a series of Status Agreements between the EU and a number of Western Balkan states – Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.

      These agreements make it possible for Frontex to undertake operations on those other states’ territories. Signed in accordance with the agency’s 2016 Regulation, all five agreements allow the agency to carry out joint operations and rapid border interventions on the states’ borders, where those borders are coterminous with those of an EU member state or states. Frontex can also assist those states with deportation operations from EU member states to those countries. Since the entry into force of Frontex’s 2019 mandate, the EU can now also make such agreements with states that do not border EU territory.

      The contents of the status agreements, all based on a template document produced by the Commission, are very similar, with small but important differences emerging from the negotiation procedures with each state, explored below.

      The first agreements in context

      The five Balkan states targeted for the first agreements make up what is seen by officials as a “buffer zone” between Greece and other Schengen states, and they have long been embroiled in the bloc’s border policies. Through long negotiations over accession to the Union (https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire), Western Balkan states are at various stages of approximating domestic law with the EU’s legal ‘acquis’, involving substantial amendments to migration and asylum systems.

      In theory, these systems must match up to EU legal and fundamental rights standards in order to allow accession, though violence against migrants is well documented on both sides of these “coterminous borders”. The so-called Balkan Route is the site of well-documented abuses (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/january/eu-the-black-book-of-pushbacks-testimonies-of-pushbacks-affecting-over-1) suffered by people on the move, recently compiled and published in a ‘Black Book of pushbacks’ which detail violence perpetrated by border agents, member state police and soldiers. Pushbacks from Croatia (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2020/november/european-commission-plans-to-visit-croatia-in-light-of-human-rights-viol) and Hungary are particularly notorious, with Frontex finally withdrawing its support for operations in Hungary (https://www.statewatch.org/statewatch-database/frontex-suspends-operations-in-hungary) in January this year due to the state’s violation of a European Court of Justice ruling against pushbacks into Serbia.

      The agency had long-insisted that its presence discouraged fundamental rights violations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) - a far less credible claim in the wake of allegations (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/february/frontex-management-board-pushes-back-against-secrecy-proposals-in-prelim) of Frontex complicity in serious incidents in the Aegean, including possible pushbacks.

      Frontex expands external operations while future agreements remain on hold

      Following deployment of officers to Montenegro’s border with Croatia in July, Frontex launched a second operation in Montenegro in October. The third executive operation outside the EU (and the second in Montenegro), the aim of this activity is “to tackle cross-border crime at the country’s sea borders, including the smuggling of drugs and weapons, smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings and terrorism”.

      The agency says it will provide aerial surveillance, deploy officers from EU member states, and provide technical and operational assistance with coast guard functions in international waters, “including search and rescue support, fisheries control and environmental protection”.

      The agreement with Serbia was approved by the European Parliament in February this year, along with the agreement with Montenegro. Three presidential entities need to sign the agreement in order for it to be ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government; the Serb entity has so far refused to do so.

      Meanwhile, the agreement with North Macedonia was due to be tabled in the European Parliament this autumn, but negotiations have been held up, in part by Bulgaria’s objection to the language in which it is written. According to the site European Western Balkans, “Bulgaria does not recognise the language of North Macedonia as ‘Macedonian’”, but “as a dialect of Bulgarian”. It will apparently take “a change in terminology regarding Macedonian language in order to allow progress in drafting a final negotiating framework”. While negotiations are stalled, the agreement cannot be considered by the European Parliament.

      Once the status agreements are in force, Frontex operations are launched in accordance with an operational plan agreed with each state. These plans include the circumstances under which Frontex staff can use executive powers and other details of the operations not available elsewhere. These plans are not systematically made public and although it is possible for the public to request their release, Frontex can refuse access to them. These non-public documents contain important provisions on fundamental rights and data protection, as well as details on the aims and objectives of the agency’s operations.

      Fundamental rights

      Under article 8 of the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina (article 9 of the other agreements) all parties are obliged to:

      “[H]ave a complaint mechanism to deal with allegations of a breach of fundamental rights committed by its staff in the exercise of their official functions in the course of a joint operation, rapid border intervention or return operation performed under this agreement”.

      Both Frontex and the host state must operate such a complaints mechanism, to handle allegations against their own team members. Frontex’s complaint mechanism is currently the subject of an Ombudsman inquiry, following years of research showing it up as inaccessible and ineffective. Details of updates bringing the mechanism into line with Frontex’s 2019 Regulation have not yet been made public, although the rules set out in that Regulation have problems of their own. It is noteworthy that the agreements do not explicitly require an independent complaints mechanism.

      On the question of parallel complaints mechanisms for Frontex officers and host country officers, a Frontex spokesperson explained:

      “The complaints team within Frontex Fundamental Rights Office has been working since 2019 on the concept of how to deal with complaints concerning Frontex activities in [Albania]. For that purpose, the FRO team met with competent national authorities in Albania in October 2019. Both parties agreed on the draft of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the purpose of which is a coordination between both complaints mechanisms. The MoU draft proposal was shared with Albanian authorities for their consideration on September 2020 and finalization of the modalities.

      The draft of this MoU will serve as basis for other third countries arrangements on the coexistence of complaints mechanisms, such as the case for Montenegro.”

      An extra article 3

      The agreements with Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia contain an article not included in the agreements with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. From article 3, on launching an action:

      “The Agency may propose launching an action to the competent authorities of [the host state].

      The competent authorities of [the host state] may also request the Agency to consider launching an action.”

      The launching of any action requires the consent of competent authorities of the host-state and of Frontex (Article 3(2) of the status agreements), while any disputes over the content of the status agreements shall be resolved between the non-EU state in question and the European Commission (Article 11).

      Privileges and immunities of the members of the team

      Members of teams deployed in each of the host states shall enjoy immunity from the criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the host state, for all acts carried out in the exercise of official functions, where these are committed in the course of actions contained in the operational plan (articles 6 or 7). It is at the discretion of the executive director of Frontex (currently Fabrice Leggeri) to determine whether acts were committed in the course of actions following the operational plan. This immunity may be waived by the team members’ home state – that is to say, the state of nationality of a Frontex team member, such as Spain or Germany.

      While the agreements with Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia include the provision that the executive director’s decision will be binding upon the authorities of the host state, no such article is found in the agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

      A further difficulty with this article was highlighted earlier this year in an internal Frontex report: Protocol No 7 annexed to the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and to the TFEU, under which the privileges and immunities Agency and its statutory staff are covered, is not applicable outside of the EU. The Commission has not yet responded to a request for comment on an investigation said to be underway into this issue.

      Acting on behalf of the host non-EU state

      Across the status agreements, members of the teams are limited to performing tasks and exercising powers in the host territory in the presence and under instructions of the host state’s border guards or other relevant authorities. The host state may authorise members of teams to act on its behalf, taking into consideration the views of the agency via its coordinating officer. The agreement with Serbia contains extra emphasis (article 5):

      “the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia may authorise members of the teams to act on its behalf as long as the overall responsibility and command and control functions remain with the border guards or other police officers of the Republic of Serbia present at all times.”

      This agreement also emphasises that “the members of the team referred to in paragraphs 1 and 3 to 6 do not include agency staff”.

      Members of teams shall be authorised to use force, including service weapons as permitted by the host state, home state, and Frontex. Each host state may authorise members of the team to use force in the absence of border guards or other relevant staff under article 4 (6) – Albania and Bosnia and Herzegoviina – or 5 (6) – Montenegro,

      Access to databases

      The agreements with Albania and Montenegro allow the host state to authorise members of the team to consult national databases if necessary for the operational aims or for return operations. Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s status agreements are more cautious, allowing certain data from national databases to be shared at the request of a member of the team, provided it is needed to fulfil operational aims as outlined in the operational plan. The agreement with Serbia contains, once more, additional provisions: “members of the team may be communicated only information concerning relevant facts which is necessary for performing their tasks and exercising their powers”, though it also includes in the subsequent paragraph:

      “For the purposes of fulfilling operational aims specified in the operation plan and the implementing actions, the competent authority of the Republic of Serbia and members of the team may exchange other information and findings”.

      Language on discrimination

      The agreement with Serbia once again follows slightly different wording to the others in terms of the prohibition of discrimination. The agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia recite:

      “While performing their tasks and exercising their powers, they shall not arbitrarily discriminate against persons on any grounds including sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

      However, the agreement with Serbia does not include (https://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/july/eu-frontex-in-the-balkans-serbian-government-rejects-eu-s-criminal-immun) any reference to gender identity.

      Obligation to give evidence as witnesses in criminal proceedings

      Under each of the agreements with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia, members of the team shall not be obliged to give evidence as witnesses. Not only does the agreement with Montenegro omit this provision, it also outlines:

      “Members of the team who are witnesses may be obliged by the competent authorities of Montenegro, while respecting paragraphs 3 and 4, to provide evidence through a statement and in accordance with the procedural law of Montenegro.”

      Frontex and home state obligation not to jeopardise criminal proceedings

      The agreement with Serbia is the only agreement not to include an obligation on the agency and home state of a team member to “refrain from taking any measure likely to jeopardise possible subsequent criminal prosecution of the member of the team by the competent authorities” of the host non-EU state.

      Lingering uncertainty

      On top of uncertainty over when the agreements with North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina might be completed, questions remain regarding the accessibility of complaints mechanisms and the application of rules governing privileges and immunity of team members, even in Albania and Montenegro, where operations have been launched already.

      Additionally, since the entry into force of its new regulation in 2019 and the removal of provisions limiting Frontex’s extra-EU operations only to neighbouring states, the EU can now conclude status agreements with countries not bordering the EU. The implementation of these agreements, as well as their contents, will likely set a precedent for negotiations and operations further afield.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/briefing-external-action-frontex-operations-outside-the-eu
      #Albanie #Monténégro #Serbie #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine #buffer-zone #zone-tampon

    • Albania: dealing with a new migration framework on the edge of the empire

      In 2014, Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership to the EU. The country is aiming to approximate its domestic law with the EU legal ’acquis’ within the next two years, prompting big changes in the country’s immigration and asylum system - at least on paper. Currently, those systems cannot be said to meet fundamental rights or EU legal standards, but given conditions within the EU itself - notably in Greece - it remains to be seen whether this will be a barrier to Albania joining the bloc.

      Background

      In the 1990s Albania, a small country in the middle of the Balkans, was just emerging from a harsh communist dictatorship. In 1991, a new era in Europe began for the country, as it opened diplomatic relationships with the then-European Community. But it was not until 2014 that Albania was formally accepted as a candidate for membership of the EU, following the endorsement of the European Council.[1]

      In that time, the European Community had evolved into the fortress of the European Union, its borders and expansion reminiscent of the spread of the Roman Empire. Speaking of the EU’s borders, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has even commented, “big empires go down if the external borders are not well-protected”.[2] Since 2014, Albania has been racing to fulfil all the requirements needed to be accepted among the fabulous 27, making major changes in the five main areas identified by the EU: public administration, rule of law, tackling corruption, organised crime and fundamental rights.

      In February 2018, the European Commission declared that further enlargement to encompass the states of the ‘Western Balkans’ (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) would be “an investment in the EU’s security, economic growth and influence and in its ability to protect its citizens”.[3] In short, the EU was presenting a so-called win-win agreement, where all sides stand to gain.

      In March 2020 – following a limping reform of the justice system, some destabilizing stop-and-go of talks between the EU and Albania, a gloomy summer election crisis in 2019, German concerns, a temporary French veto and a devastating earthquake in November 2019 – the EU finally said ‘I do’ and committed to opening accession negotiations with Albania, in a statement that underscored the need to ‘keep an eye’ on the country:

      “The Council further invites the Commission to continue to monitor the progress and compliance in all areas related to the opening of negotiations and to carry out and complete the process of analytical examination of the EU acquis with the country, starting with the fundamentals’ cluster”.[4]

      Aligning Albania with the EU’s “area of freedom, security and justice”

      The current ‘Project Plan for European integration 2020-2022’[5] lists all the legislative reforms and changes required to align Albanian and EU law. The full approximation of Albanian law with that of the European Union, and its full and effective implementation, is one of the criteria for membership. Indeed, the process of membership negotiations is in itself that process of approximation.

      The process involves the following steps: analysis of EU legislation; identification of deficiencies or contradictory acts of Albanian law; drafting or reviewing of the approximated Albanian acts; and monitoring the implementation of approximated legislation. The 24th chapter of the plan, on “justice, freedom and security”, focuses on: border control; visas; external migration; asylum; police cooperation; the fight against organised crime and terrorism; cooperation on drugs issues; customs; and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters.

      Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the area of Freedom, Security and Justice is regulated in Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, running from Article 67 to Article 89.[6] This covers secondary legislation on: border checks, asylum and immigration; police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters; judicial cooperation in civil matters; and police cooperation. Primary and secondary legislation is complemented by a large body of jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU, whose primacy is a cornerstone principle of EU law. The acquis inherited by Albania for this specific chapter consists of a volume of 392 acts, divided into a “hard acquis” (which derives from binding acts such as treaties, directives, regulations, etc.) and a “soft acquis” (which derives from standards, principles and recommendations of EU or other relevant international organizations).

      Updating the laws on immigration and borders

      The government affirms to have completed and adopted a comprehensive national cross-sectoral migration strategy, included a new strategy on the diaspora for the period 2018-2024.[7] The government also says it has updated a contingency plan for a possible massive influx of migrants and asylum seekers, expected to be approved soon. But the other side of the coin is that Albania, as the project plan admits, is largely unprepared to host and protect migrants on its territory. Albania currently has one reception centre for irregular migrants in Karreç, with a capacity of only 150 beds. The centre was visited in September 2019 by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which found it to be inadequate in many respects.[8] Even more concerning is the lack of facilities for unaccompanied minors.

      According to a footnote in a 2016 law,[9] Albania’s border control legislation has been aligned with the Schengen Borders Code.[10] However, it appears that the wider legal framework for managing Albania’s external borders is not yet fully in line with EU standards. The government reports that the implementation of the integrated border management strategy and action plan is proceeding: the reconstruction of the two border crossing points Hani i Hotit and Morina has been completed; the country has signed a protocol with Montenegro on the establishment of joint checkpoints; the trilateral centre in Plav (in Northern Macedonia) has become operational; an agreement with Kosovo on the joint border crossing point in Morina has been concluded; anti-corruption preventive measures have been implemented at border crossing points through the installation of cameras; and cooperation between agencies and neighbouring countries has improved.

      Frontex: already on the scene

      The section of the government’s report on regular and irregular immigration states that the agreement with the EU permitting the deployment of Frontex officials on Albanian territory was finalised in February 2019.[11] The deployment began on 22 May 2019, for an indefinite period.[12]

      The joint operation – Frontex’s first outside the EU – deploys 50 EU officers in Albania to “help Albanian authorities with border surveillance and border checks… They will also assist their Albanian counterparts in screening of migrants”.[13] This is not the first time that an EU presence has been active on Albanian territory – an Italian operation in 1997 sought to prevent migration, and there have also been monitoring missions. However, the Frontex presence is an executive mission, marking a more active departure from the monitoring exercises of the past.[14]

      The Albanian Minister of Internal Affairs, Sander Lleshaj, has described the operation as “really effective, very collaborative… crucial in the way to EU integration”.[15] The Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has said the operation makes Albania a contributor to the EU in countering illegal migration and organised crime.[16] The Albanian press has so far expressed an uncritical view of the Frontex mission. In a state where many are supportive of EU accession, appetite for critical investigation is possibly low.

      And asylum?

      Albania reports that its Asylum Law is partially in line with the EU acquis. The country has the necessary institutions and procedures to handle asylum applications. Complaints can be filed with the National Commission for Refugees and Asylum, which was established in 2017 and reopened in 2019. All relevant national legislation should be publicly available on the government website,[17] but the information available does not clarify if complaints related to the application process are admissible, or if the word “complaints” refers to appeals related to unsuccessful applications. Regarding the asylum procedure, applications are registered by the Border and Migration Police by filling out the pre-screening forms, then reported to the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship to proceed with the status determination procedures.

      Although the number of asylum seekers increased significantly in 2018, with 5,730 arrivals, the authorities say they have responded to the large number of asylum applications. According to UNHCR asylum applications that year increased to 4,378, a 14-fold increase compared to 2017.[18] Albania’s official Gazette outlined in March 2020 that the number of people applying for asylum was at its highest in 2018, and 40 times higher than it had been in 2015.[19] According to the Project Plan for European integration, an asylum database has been functioning since April 2019; it serves as an integral data centre between the Directorate of Asylum and Citizenship, the Directorate of Border and Migration and the National Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, exchanging information in real time between these institutions and enabling the completion of procedures as well as the issuance of statistics.

      The government also says it tripled its reception capacity for asylum seekers in October 2017. Total reception capacity, including the national reception centre in Tirana and the temporary accommodation centres in Gjirokastra and Korça, reaches almost 380 places. In October 2019, a new centre with a reception capacity of 60 beds was inaugurated to cope with the expected increase of people needing temporary housing in Kapshticë/Korça,[20] which has the same parameters as the transit centre in Gërhot of Gjirokastra.

      Summary

      Both Albania and the EU have undergone a transformative thirty years, with talks of accession beginning six years ago. The EU sees Albania’s incorporation into the bloc as a way of contributing to the economic growth and strengthened security; a different understanding of “expanding the fortress”. Accession negotiations were reinvigorated in March 2020, and the current goal is for Albania to approximate its law to the EU acquis, and implement those measures, within two years. This includes legislation on immigration and borders, which have been updated on paper. Though conditions for asylum seekers and migrants in Albania are not in line with fundamental rights law or the EU acquis, nor are those in EU member states – most notably the Greek island hotspots. The deployment of the EU’s border agency in Albania, unlikely to be criticised locally, represents further step in the EU’s mission to control migration across a wider terrain.

      Sara Ianovitz, Ph.D. in International Law

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2020/albania-dealing-with-a-new-migration-framework-on-the-edge-of-the-empire

      #Albanie

    • Foreign agents and violence against migrants at the Greek-Macedonian border

      An increasing number of reports of violent pushbacks at the Greek-Macedonian border have been collected by volunteers in recent years. Some reports allege the presence of Frontex, but bilateral policing deals in place may also explain the presence of foreign officers in Macedonia. The violence underpins a long-standing plan to close the ‘Balkan Route’ and keep people out of ‘core’ EU territory. Whoever is behind the violence, there is no shortage of border guards to mete it out – but justice is in short supply.

      Midnight in Macedonia

      Around midnight on 14 August last year, a group of some 20 people were intercepted by border police just north of the Greek-Macedonian border, near the small town of Gevgelija. What happened next, according to the testimony of one member of the group, makes for grim reading.

      “[T]he police officers approached the group and became physically violent. The officers struck various group-members with their batons. Others were pepper-sprayed, including the women and children. After this, the officers loaded the group into a van and left them there without any air conditioning, jammed, soaking in sweat for around two hours, while going about to catch more transit groups. In the end, they squashed around 40 people in a van for fit for ten persons.”[1]

      Macedonian officials were not the only ones involved in the operation. The testimony also recounts “foreign officers wearing uniforms with the European Union flags on their shoulders,” the distinctive mark of EU border agency Frontex.

      Foreign agents

      The testimony is one of five reports gathered by Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), altogether involving some 130 people, that describe violence being meted out in the presence of, or even by, border guards allegedly deployed by Frontex on North Macedonian territory. A further 10 reports gathered by the network, encompassing some 123 people, recount the use of violence by foreign border guards and police officers operating in North Macedonia, but do not mention uniforms bearing the EU flag.[2]

      Statewatch and Border Violence Monitoring Network have written to Frontex to demand an investigation into the allegations recounted in this article. Read more here.

      The violence recounted in those testimonies is shocking. According to the report on the 14 August incident, after cramming people into the van, the police drove them to the banks of the Vardar river. There, they threw peoples’ possessions into the water, took their phones and money, and “the group was beaten brutally with metal electroshock batons and some people were thrown into the river by the police. One person was thrown in despite crying and begging not to be thrown in.” They were subsequently taken back to the border and pushed through a gate leading to the Greek side, while police beat them with electroshock batons.

      In that incident, the witness said that officials with uniforms bearing EU flags were present, but did not directly participate in the violence. But a report from the same area, concerning an incident less than a week later, refers to officials in uniforms bearing Croatian, Slovenian, Czech and EU flags, who bound a group of four men with zip ties and beat three of them with batons (one of the group, who was a minor, was spared the beating).[3] Reports of other incidents allege the presence of Italian, German and Austrian officials.

      No reports at Frontex

      While BVMN volunteers have gathered multiple testimonies that allege Frontex’s presence or involvement in violence in North Macedonia, the agency itself says it has received no reports of any such incidents. The agency also denies any presence in the country – in May, a press officer told Statewatch that “Frontex does not have any operational activities at the land border from the North Macedonian side,” and “is only present on the Greek side of the border.”

      In December 2020, Frontex responded to an access to documents request filed by Statewatch some months earlier. The request sought copies of all serious incident reports (SIRs) concerning the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian land border from 1 January 2020 onwards. SIRs are supposed to be filed by officials deployed on Frontex operations for a variety of reasons, including in case of “suspected violations of fundamental rights or international protection obligations.”[4]

      In its response, the agency said that it did not hold any SIRs concerning the geographic area and time period covered by the request. This does not mean, however, that the incidents recorded by BVMN did not take place – it may simply be that nobody is reporting them.

      A working group set up by Frontex’s own Management Board, in response to allegations of involvement in pushbacks in Greece, found numerous problems with the agency’s reporting system. It noted that there was no way of monitoring the quality of reports submitted, and there were no confidential avenues for team members to report rights violations by their colleagues.

      The report also called for “a newly introduced culture,” suggesting that the existing ambience at the agency is not one in which the rights of migrants and refugees are at the forefront of officials’ minds. The working group said that the agency needed “awareness of and sensitiveness towards possible misconduct,”[5] a call it repeated in its final report.[6]

      Not even numbers

      Serious incident reports may not exist, but the request from Statewatch to Frontex also sought to establish the scale of the agency’s activities at the Greek-Macedonian border through another means – by requesting data on the number of migrants and migrant smugglers apprehended at the Greek-Macedonian border over the same period (1 January 2020 onwards).

      This data, argued Frontex, could not be released – doing so “would jeopardize the work of law enforcement officials and pose a hazard to the course of ongoing and future operations aimed at curtailing the activities of such networks,” despite the request seeking nothing more than figures that Frontex itself has published in previous reports.

      A public evaluation of the tongue-twistingly titled ‘Joint Operation Flexible Operational Activities 2018 Land on Border Surveillance’ (JO FOA Land) says that in 2018, 16,337 migrants and 313 smugglers were apprehended in the area covered by the operation – “the ‘green borders’ of Greece with Turkey, the North Macedonia [sic] and Albania, Bulgaria with Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia.”[7] Yet for reasons known only to Frontex, providing a breakdown of these figures for the Greek-Macedonian border would apparently undermine public security.

      A significant presence

      According to Frontex’s evaluation report, 25 member states took part in operations at land borders in south-eastern Europe in 2018, along with 47 officers acting as observers from six different “third countries”, namely Georgia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine. Over 1,800 officials were deployed by Frontex over the course of the year. The operations recorded 2,011 “incidents”.

      A substantial Frontex presence at the border between Greece and North Macedonia has been in place since then. In a response to a parliamentary question from German MEP Özlem Demirel, the European Commission said last June that at Greece’s land borders with Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Turkey, 71 officials, 24 patrols and three “thermo-vision vans” were deployed as part of the 2020 edition of JO FOA Land. Thirteen different member states were providing contributions to the operation: Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.[8]

      While Frontex denies any physical presence on North Macedonia territory, the testimonies gathered by BVMN that allege the presence or participation of Frontex officials in violent acts raise serious questions for the agency. All the testimonies concern incidents that took place in North Macedonia, where the agency has no legal basis to operate. An agreement between the EU and North Macedonia that would permit Frontex deployments, similar to those currently in place with Montenegro and Albania, is facing hold-ups due to objections from the Bulgarian authorities.[9]

      Bilateral agreements

      Frontex operations are not the only deployments of foreign officials in North Macedonia. As noted above, nine of the 15 reports gathered by BVMN describing the involvement of non-Macedonian officers in pushbacks to Greece make no mention of Frontex at all. There are, however, multiple references to violence being meted out by officials in uniforms bearing the flags of Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Serbia.

      The presence of some of these officials in the country is made possible by bilateral border control agreements. North Macedonia has cooperation agreements with eight other states in the region (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia), who provide the Macedonian authorities “with assistance from foreign police officers in patrolling the south border with Greece and in performing their daily duties.”[10] The agreement with Austria, Hungary and Serbia has come in for particular criticism, as it is a memorandum of understanding rather than a formal agreement, and therefore has faced no parliamentary scrutiny in Macedonia.[11] Germany, meanwhile, does not appear to have such a formal agreement with North Macedonia at the federal level – which makes the allegations of the presence of German officers puzzling – but the EU’s largest state has provided a ready supply of equipment, including vehicles, mobile thermal imaging cameras, boots and torches.[12]

      The Croatian and Czech governments have made extensive deployments under these agreements. Between December 2015 (when Croatia and North Macedonia signed a police cooperation deal) and February 2019 “over 560 Croatian police… intercepted almost 6,000 illegal migrants in North Macedonia.”[13] The Czech deployments have been even larger – by December 2019, “1,147 police officers [had] been sent to North Macedonia” to police the border with Greece, according to the Czech government.[14]

      High-level police coordination preceded the signing of many of these agreements. In July 2016, the police chiefs of 12 states said that “the deployment of foreign police officers along borders which are strongly affected by irregular migration conveys a strong message that the countries concerned are resolute in jointly coping with the migration crisis.”[15] Under the agreements with Macedonia, foreign officials can “use technical equipment and vehicles with symbols, wear uniforms, carry weapons and other means of coercion”.[16] In some instances, it seems coercion tips over into outright violence.

      An incident dating from 16 August 2020, recorded by BVMN volunteers, refers to officers “with black ski masks over their faces” and “Croatian and Czech flags emblazoned on their uniforms.” The interviewees said that “these officers were violent with them – kicking the group, destroying their mobile phones, taking their money, insulting them, pushing their faces on the ground with tied hands behind the back. One of the respondents was also attacked by a dog, while the officers [were] laughing at him.”[17] As far back as March 2016, an activist supporting refugees at the increasingly well-guarded Greek-Macedonian border told the newspaper Lidovky that, in Macedonia, “the Czech police are known for violence and unprofessionalism.”[18]

      Buffer states in the Balkans

      Bilateral cooperation between EU states and North Macedonia extends far beyond these police cooperation agreements. In September 2020, the German Presidency of the Council of the EU described the region stretching from Turkey to Hungary (known in official jargon as the “Eastern Mediterranean/Western Balkans”) as being “of great strategic importance for the EU in terms of migration management.”[19] Significant attention is therefore being given to reinforcing the ability of states in the region to control peoples’ movements (an issue highlighted in another recent Statewatch report).

      As of May 2020, 15 EU member states were providing bilateral “support” on migration issues to states in the Western Balkans through a total of 228 activities, according to a survey carried out by the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The majority of that support was focused on control measures, “namely border management and combating the smuggling of migrants (over 50% of all MS activities),” said a summary produced by the Presidency. More than 50% of the 228 activities were taking place in Serbia and North Macedonia, both of which border EU territory.[20]

      The Croatian Presidency highlighted the “geopolitical importance” of those two countries, given that “Member States’ focus is on the prevention of irregular migratory movements to the EU.” This was “both expected and understandable, but may contribute to strengthening the Western Balkan partners’ self-perception as a transit region, which poses a challenge for the further improvement of all aspects of their migration capacities.” Rather than a transit region, the plan is to provide ‘capacity-building’ and technical assistance to develop buffer states that can keep people out of the ‘core’ of the EU after they depart from Greece.

      This is, of course, not a new plan. In February and March 2016, as the EU-Turkey deal was heading for agreement and in the wake of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people travelling by foot, road and rail to the ‘core’ of the EU, the ‘Balkan Route’ was declared closed by EU leaders. Initially done on the crude, discriminatory basis of nationality,[21] exclusion measures were extended to apply to all those crossing borders in the region. That process of closure continues today, and violence is a longstanding component of the strategy.[22] Indeed, it is a prerequisite for it to work effectively, and has been denounced repeatedly over the years by NGOs and international organisations. In March 2016, the Macedonian authorities sought supplies of pepper spray, tasers, rubber bullets, “special bomb (shock, with rubber balls)” and “acoustic device to break the mob.”[23] The concern now may be with smaller groups of people attempting to pass through the country, rather than with “the mob”, but the violence is no less brutal.

      https://www.statewatch.org/analyses/2021/foreign-agents-and-violence-against-migrants-at-the-greek-macedonian-bor

  • Le camp de migrants de #Lipa, en #Bosnie, ravagé par un #incendie

    Le camp de Lipa, dans le nord-ouest de la Bosnie, ravagé par les flammes. Un violent incendie s’est déclaré ce mercredi dans ce camp de migrants situé dans la région de #Bihac, près de la frontière avec la Croatie. 1 200 personnes y étaient hébergées. Aucune victime n’est à déplorer. Selon des témoins, le sinistre a démarré dans une installation de stockage de combustibles. Il s’est rapidement propagé.

    Selon la directrice du camp, Natasa Omerovic, ce sont d’anciens résidents qui l’ont déclenché à un moment où le camp était fermé pour être déplacé.

    Selon Peter Van der Auweraert, coordinateur de la mission de l’Organisation internationale pour les Migration (OIM) en Bosnie-Herzégovine, la plupart des infrastructures ont été détruites. L’#OIM, qui gérait ce centre d’accueil, a récemment annoncé son retrait en raison de mauvaises conditions.


    https://twitter.com/PeterAuweraert/status/1341721207939448833

    Début décembre, ce camp de #tentes avait fait l’objet de vives critiques. Etabli comme une réponse #provisoire pour faire face à la #pandémie de #coronavirus, il n’était pas équipé pour des conditions hivernales. Le camps incendié n’était pas équipé de chauffage et n’avait jamais été branché sur le réseau électrique.

    L’Organisation internationale pour les migrations et la Commission européenne exhortaient les autorités locales à trouver une solution pour héberger ailleurs les résidents du camp de Lipa, ainsi que quelque 2 000 autres migrants dépourvus de logement dans la région de Bihac, près de la frontière de l’Union européenne.

    Les autorités municipales et cantonales de Bihac refusent de permettre à l’OIM de rouvrir l’ancien centre d’accueil à Bihac, dans les halles d’une ancienne usine, malgré une instruction du gouvernement fédéral en ce sens. Il a été fermé peu avant les élections municipales de novembre, pour répondre à une pression croissante des habitants.

    « Les autorités compétentes doivent coopérer et agir dans la plus grande urgence pour répondre aux besoins des réfugiés et des migrants sans abris et sauver les vies », a insisté lundi la Commission européenne dans un communiqué.

    https://fr.euronews.com/2020/12/23/le-camp-de-migrants-de-lipa-en-bosnie-ravage-par-un-incendie

    #Bosnie-Herzégovine #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #feu #asile #migrations #réfugiés #camps_de_réfugiés

    –—

    Ajouté à la métaliste sur les incendies dans des camps de réfugiés (principalement en Grèce, mais du coup, élargissement à la route des Balkans) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/851143#message892911

    • Bosnie : le camp de Lipa ravagé par un incendie, 1 300 migrants à la rue

      Le camp de Lipa, dans le nord-ouest de la Bosnie, a été complètement détruit mercredi par un incendie probablement « criminel », ont indiqué les autorités. Environ 1 300 migrants, qui y étaient hébergés, se retrouvent désormais à la rue en pleine hiver avec des températures glaciales.

      « Jour terrible » pour le camp de Lipa. Dans un tweet, Peter Van der Auweraert, le représentant de l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM) en Bosnie-Herzégovine, ne cache pas son désespoir.

      Le camp de migrants, situé dans le nord-ouest du pays, vient de partir en fumée, ce mercredi 23 décembre. Environ 1 300 migrants y étaient hébergés dans des conditions dramatiques.


      https://twitter.com/PeterAuweraert/status/1341704305125027840

      « L’incendie s’est déclaré à 11h. Les pompiers ont réussi à l’éteindre, mais les quatre grandes tentes dans lesquelles les migrants dormaient ont brulé », a déclaré à l’AFP un porte-parole de la police, Ale Siljdedic, précisant qu’il n’y avait pas eu de blessés.
      « Un acte criminel »

      « Nous supposons qu’il s’agit d’un acte criminel et que des résidents du camp en sont à l’origine », a-t-il poursuivi. Peter Van der Auweraert évoque lui d’"anciens résidents [qui] ont mis le feu à trois tentes et aux conteneurs après que la plupart des migrants ont quitté le camp".

      https://twitter.com/PeterAuweraert/status/1341721207939448833

      Les exilés auraient agi en signe de protestation : mis en place en avril dans ce village près de Bihac, le site avait été installé comme une solution temporaire, rien n’étaient prévu pour que ses résidents y passent l’hiver. Le camp incendié n’était pas équipé d’électricité et de chauffage, alors que le pays connaît actuellement une vague de froid.

      « Désastre après désastre », a encore déploré Peter Van der Auweraert de l’OIM.
      Des milliers de personnes à la rue

      L’agence onusienne, qui gérait ce centre d’accueil, avait récemment annoncé son retrait de la structure en raison des mauvaises conditions de vie des exilés. L’OIM et la Commission européenne exhortaient depuis début décembre les autorités locales à trouver une solution pour héberger ailleurs ces 1 300 personnes, ainsi que quelque 2 000 autres migrants dépourvus de logement dans la région de Bihac, près de la frontière de l’Union européenne.

      Avec cet incendie, les résidents se retrouvent à la rue, en plein hiver et alors qu’est prévue une forte baisse de température dans les prochains jours. « Ils vont probablement se diriger vers Bihac (à 30 km au nord-ouest de Lipa, ndlr) et vont occuper des bâtiments abandonnés », a déclaré Ale Siljdedic.

      Les autorités municipales et cantonales de Bihac refusent que l’OIM rouvre l’ancien centre d’accueil à Bihac, dans les halles d’une ancienne usine, malgré une instruction du gouvernement fédéral en ce sens. Il a été fermé peu avant les élections municipales de novembre, pour répondre à une pression croissante des habitants.

      « Les autorités compétentes doivent coopérer et agir dans la plus grande urgence pour répondre aux besoins des réfugiés et des migrants sans abris et sauver des vies », a insisté lundi la Commission européenne dans un communiqué.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/29292/bosnie-le-camp-de-lipa-ravage-par-un-incendie-1-300-migrants-a-la-rue

      #SDF

    • Thousands of refugees without shelter after Bosnia camp burns

      Dozens spend the night at a damaged metal container near the site of the fire, where only a ghostly steel construction remained.

      More than a thousand refugees and migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa were left to sleep in the cold after their camp in northwestern Bosnia burned down amid a dispute among Bosnian politicians over where to house them.

      On Wednesday, a fire destroyed the camp in Lipa housing about 1,200 people. Police and United Nations officials have said the blaze was probably started by people unhappy at the temporary closure of the camp, scheduled for the same day, and uncertainty about where they would be relocated in Bosnia.

      Dozens of men spent the night at a damaged metal container near the site of the fire, where only a ghostly steel construction remained. Smoke was still rising from some burned patches of ground on Thursday morning.

      Others tried to erect nylon tents and slept fully dressed on the frozen ground. Most of them walked through the woods towards the town of Bihac, near the Croatian border, avoiding areas marked with warnings about landmines remaining from the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

      About 10,000 refugees and migrants from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are stuck in Bosnia, hoping to reach wealthier countries in the European Union.

      “I couldn’t sleep last night, I sat all night,” said Bylal from Pakistan, adding that he would wait to see if the government would provide them with a new shelter.

      The Lipa camp, which was opened last spring as a temporary shelter for the summer months 25 km away from Bihac, was set to be shut on Wednesday for winter refurbishing. But Bosnia’s authorities failed to find alternative accommodation for residents.

      The central government wanted the refugees and migrants to temporarily return to the Bira camp in Bihac, which was shut down in October, but local authorities disagreed, saying that other parts of Bosnia should also share the burden of the migrant crisis.

      “Please open the Bira camp so everybody goes there, it’s very good there,” said Yasin, also from Pakistan. “Here it’s cold, we can’t stay here, we don’t have food, we are hungry.”

      The European Union, which had supported Bosnia with 60 million euros to manage the refugee crisis and pledged 25 million euros more, has repeatedly asked the authorities to find an alternative to the unsuitable Lipa camp, warning of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

      “We urge … the authorities to rise above political considerations and temporarily reopen the centre Bira in Bihac,” the EU said in a statement on Wednesday

      https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/24/thousands-of-refugees-without-shelter-after-bosnia-camp-burns

    • Bosnie : après l’incendie du camp de Lipa, des centaines de migrants prisonniers du #froid et de la #neige

      Dans le nord de la Bosnie-Herzégovine, des centaines de migrants sont toujours sans solution d’hébergement depuis l’incendie du camp de Lipa le 23 décembre. La situation est extrêmement inquiétante alors que des chutes de neige et des températures glaciales se sont abattues sur la région ce week-end.

      La situation était déjà compliquée dans le camp de Lipa, elle est devenue catastrophique. Dans le nord-ouest de la Bosnie, plusieurs centaines de migrants sont contraints de vivre dans le froid et la neige après l’incendie de ce camp le 23 décembre.

      Ces hommes – originaires d’Afghanistan et du Bangladesh pour la plupart – tentaient samedi de se protéger du froid et du vent en s’enveloppant dans des couvertures et des sacs de couchage, ont observé des journaliste des l’agence Associated Press (AP).

      La Croix-Rouge de Bosnie a distribué des repas aux exilés qui ne survivent que grâce à ces colis alimentaires. La police ne les autorise pas à quitter le site, les empêchant de se rendre dans la ville voisine de Bihac pour acheter quelques denrées alimentaires.

      « Lipa est devenue une prison hivernale », a dénoncé sur Twitter Peter Van der Auweraert, représentant de l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations en Bosnie-Herzégovine. « Les migrants ne sont pas autorisés à quitter le site de Lipa et doivent maintenant faire du feu dans les tentes restantes pour se tenir chaud […] C’est une tragédie totalement inutile », ajoute-t-il.


      https://twitter.com/PeterAuweraert/status/1343267176321585154

      Dans la grande tente qui a survécu à l’incendie et où dorment désormais les migrants, le toit commence à ployer sous le poids de la neige, met par ailleurs en garde Peter Van der Auweraert, pointant un « terrible accident qui n’attend que de se produire ».
      « Nous vivons comme des animaux »

      L’association No Name Kitchen a indiqué, de son côté, « faire de son mieux pour procurer des vêtements chauds et de la nourriture aux personnes ». « La police a bloqué la route et plus de 1000 personnes se trouvent dans la forêt autour du camp de Lipa », précise l’organisation.


      https://twitter.com/NoNameKitchen1/status/1342890272221523969

      « Nous vivons comme des animaux. Même les animaux vivent mieux que nous ! » a déclaré un Pakistanais à AP qui ne s’est identifié que par son prénom, Kasim. « S’ils ne nous aident pas, nous mourrons, alors aidez-nous s’il vous plaît. »


      https://twitter.com/PeterAuweraert/status/1342775470899781638

      « Ce n’est pas ainsi que quiconque devrait vivre », a également pointé Peter Van der Auweraert, appelant la classe politique bosnienne au « courage » et à l’"action" pour débloquer la situation et autoriser l’ouverture d’un nouveau centre d’hébergement.

      La capitaine de navire allemande Carola Rackete a également alerté sur les réseaux sociaux sur l’urgence de la situation dans le nord de la Bosnie et appelé à soutenir les associations qui viennent en aide aux exilés.

      https://twitter.com/CaroRackete/status/1343181760167866368

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/29320/bosnie-apres-l-incendie-du-camp-de-lipa-des-centaines-de-migrants-pris

  • Rapporti di monitoraggio

    Sin dal 2016 il progetto ha pubblicato report di approfondimento giuridico sulle situazioni di violazione riscontrate presso le diverse frontiere oggetto delle attività di monitoraggio. Ciascun report affronta questioni ed aspetti contingenti e particolarmente interessanti al fine di sviluppare azioni di contenzioso strategico.

    Elenco dei rapporti pubblicati in ordine cronologico:

    “Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri a Ventimiglia (giugno 2015): profili di illegittimità“

    Il report è stato redatto nel giugno del 2015 è costituisce una prima analisi delle principali criticità riscontrabili alla frontiera italo-francese verosimilmente sulla base dell’Accordo bilaterale fra il Governo della Repubblica italiana e il Governo della Repubblica francese sulla cooperazione transfrontaliera in materia di polizia e dogana (Accordo di Chambery)
    #Vintimille #Ventimiglia #frontière_sud-alpine #Alpes #Menton #accord_bilatéral #Accord_de_Chambéry #réadmissions

    Ajouté à la #métaliste de liens autour d’#accords_de_réadmission entre pays européens...
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091
    Et plus précisément ici:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091#message887941

    –---

    “Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri alla frontiera di Chiasso: profili di illegittimità”

    Il report è stato redatto nell’estate del 2016 per evidenziare la situazione critica che si era venuta a creare in seguito al massiccio afflusso di cittadini stranieri in Italia attraverso la rotta balcanica scatenata dalla crisi siriana. La frontiera italo-svizzera è stata particolarmente interessata da numerosi tentativi di attraversamento del confine nei pressi di Como e il presente documento fornisce una analisi giuridica delle criticità riscontrate.

    Ajouté à la #métaliste de liens autour d’#accords_de_réadmission entre pays européens...
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091
    Et plus précisément ici:
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091#message887940

    –-----

    “Lungo la rotta del Brennero”

    Il report, redatto con la collaborazione della associazione Antenne Migranti e il contributo della fondazione Alex Langer nel 2017, analizza le dinamiche della frontiera altoatesina e sviluppa una parte di approfondimento sulle violazioni relative al diritto all’accoglienza per richiedenti asilo e minori, alle violazioni all’accesso alla procedura di asilo e ad una analisi delle modalità di attuazione delle riammissioni alla frontiera.

    #Brenner #Autriche

    –---

    “Attività di monitoraggio ai confini interni italiani – Periodo giugno 2018 – giugno 2019”

    Report analitico che riporta i dati raccolti e le prassi di interesse alle frontiere italo-francesi, italo-svizzere, italo-austriache e italo slovene. Contiene inoltre un approfondimento sui trasferimenti di cittadini di paesi terzi dalle zone di frontiera indicate all’#hotspot di #Taranto e centri di accoglienza del sud Italia.

    #Italie_du_Sud

    –------

    “Report interno sopralluogo Bosnia 27-31 ottobre 2019”

    Report descrittivo a seguito del sopralluogo effettuato da soci coinvolti nel progetto Medea dal 27 al 31 ottobre sulla condizione delle persone in transito in Bosnia. Il rapporto si concentra sulla descrizione delle strutture di accoglienza presenti nel paese, sull’accesso alla procedura di protezione internazionale e sulle strategie di intervento future.

    #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine

    –---

    “Report attività frontiere interne terrestri, porti adriatici e Bosnia”

    Rapporto di analisi dettagliata sulle progettualità sviluppate nel corso del periodo luglio 2019 – luglio 2020 sulle diverse frontiere coinvolte (in particolare la frontiera italo-francese, italo-slovena, la frontiera adriatica e le frontiere coinvolte nella rotta balcanica). Le novità progettuali più interessanti riguardano proprio l’espansione delle progettualità rivolte ai paesi della rotta balcanica e alla Grecia coinvolta nelle riammissioni dall’Italia. Nel periodo ad oggetto del rapporto il lavoro ha avuto un focus principale legato ad iniziative di monitoraggio, costituzione della rete ed azioni di advocacy.

    #Slovénie #mer_Adriatique #Adriatique

    https://medea.asgi.it/rapporti

    #rapport #monitoring #medea #ASGI
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières
    #frontières_internes #frontières_intérieures #Balkans #route_des_balkans

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • La via della vergogna Sulla rotta balcanica delle migrazioni

    Il viaggio disperato lungo la rotta dei Balcani, tra violenze e torture inaudite da parte della polizia Centinaia di profughi con diritto alla protezione respinti dall’Italia

    È la schiena curva e livida dei respinti a dire le sprangate. Sono le gambe sanguinanti a raccontare la disperata corsa giù dal valico. A piedi nudi, con le caviglie spezzate dalle bastonate e i cani dell’esercito croato che azzannano gli ultimi della fila. È l’umiliato silenzio di alcuni ragazzi visitati dai medici volontari nel campo bosniaco di #Bihac per le cure e il referto: stuprati e seviziati dalla polizia con dei rami raccolti nella boscaglia. I meno sfortunati se la sono cavata con il marchio di una spranga incandescente, a perenne memoria dell’ingresso indesiderato nell’Unione Europea.

    Gli orrori avvengono alla luce del sole. Affinché gli altri, i recidivi degli attraversamenti e quelli che dalle retrovie attendono notizie, battano in ritirata. Velika Kladuša e il valico della paura. Di qua è Croazia, Europa. Di la è Bosnia, fuori dalla cortina Ue. Di qua si proclamano i diritti, ma si usa il bastone. Oramai tra i profughi della rotta balcanica lo sanno tutti che con gli agenti sloveni e gli sbirri croati non si scherza.

    «Siamo stati consegnati dalla polizia slovena alla polizia croata. Siamo stati picchiati, bastonati, ci hanno tolto le scarpe, preso i soldi e i telefoni. Poi ci hanno spinto fino al confine con la Bosnia, a piedi scalzi. Tanti piangevano per il dolore e per essere stati respinti». Sono le parole di chi aveva finalmente visto i cartelli stradali in italiano, ma è stato rimandato indietro, lungo una filiera del respingimento come non se ne vedeva dalla guerra nella ex Jugoslavia. Certi metodi non sembrano poi cambiati di molto.

    Tre Paesi e tre trattamenti. I militari italiani non alzano le mani, ma sono al corrente di cosa accadrà una volta rimandati indietro i migranti intercettati a Trieste come a Gorizia. Più si torna al punto di partenza, e peggio andranno le cose. Le testimonianze consegnate ad Avvenire dai profughi, dalle organizzazioni umanitarie, dai gruppi di avvocati lungo tutta la rotta balcanica, sembrano arrivare da un’altra epoca.

    Le foto non mentono. Un uomo si è visto quasi strappare il tendine del ginocchio destro da uno dei mastini delle guardie di confine croate. Quasi tutti hanno il torso attraversato da ematomi, cicatrici, escoriazioni. C’è chi adesso è immobile nella tendopoli di Bihac con la gamba ingessata, chi con il volto completamente bendato, ragazzini con le braccia bloccate dai tutori in attesa che le ossa tornino al loro posto. I segni degli scarponi schiacciati contro la faccia, le costole incrinate, i calci sui genitali. Un ragazzo pachistano mostra una profonda e larga ferita sul naso, il cuoio capelluto malridotto, mentre un infermiere volontario gli pratica le quotidiane medicazioni. Un afghano appena maggiorenne ha l’orecchio destro interamente ricucito con i punti a zigzag. Centinaia raccontano di essere stati allontanati dal suolo italiano.

    Una pratica, quella dei respingimenti a ritroso dal confine triestino fino agli accampamenti nel fango della Bosnia, non più episodica. «Solo nei primi otto mesi del 2020 sono state riammesse alla frontiera italo-slovena oltre 900 persone, con una eccezionale impennata nel trimestre estivo, periodo nel quale il fenomeno era già noto al mondo politico che è però rimasto del tutto inerte », lamenta Gianfranco Schiavone, triestino e vicepresidente di Asgi, l’associazione di giuristi specializzati nei diritti umani. «Tra le cittadinanze degli stranieri riammessi in Slovenia il primo posto va agli afghani (811 persone), seguiti da pachistani, iracheni, iraniani, siriani e altre nazionalità, la maggior parte delle quali – precisa Schiavone – relative a Paesi da cui provengono persone con diritto alla protezione ». A ridosso del territorio italiano arriva in realtà solo chi riesce a sfuggire alla caccia all’uomo fino ai tornanti che precedono la prima bandiera tricolore. Per lasciarsi alle spalle quei trecento chilometri da Bihac a Trieste possono volerci due settimane.

    Secondo il Danish Refugee Council, che nei Paesi coinvolti ha inviato numerosi osservatori incaricati di raccogliere testimonianze dirette, nel 2019 sono tornate nel solo campo di bosniaco di Bihac 14.444 persone, 1.646 solo nel giugno di quest’anno.

    I dati a uso interno del Viminale e visionati da Avvenire confermano l’incremento delle “restituzioni” direttamente alla polizia slovena. Nel secondo semestre del 2019 le riammissioni attive verso Zagabria sono state 107: 39 da Gorizia e 78 da Trieste. Il resto, circa 800 casi, si concentra tutto nel 2020. Il “Border violence monitoring”, una rete che riunisce lungo tutta la dorsale balcanica una dozzina di organizzazioni, tra cui medici legali e avvocati, ha documentato con criteri legali (testimonianze, foto, referti medici) 904 casi di violazione dei diritti umani. Lungo i sentieri sul Carso, tra i cespugli nei fitti boschi in cima ai dirupi, si trovano i tesserini identificativi rilasciati con i timbri dell’Alto commissariato Onu per i rifugiati o dall’Agenzia Onu per le migrazioni. I migranti li abbandonano lì. Testimoniano di come a decine avessero ottenuto la registrazione nei campi allestiti a ridosso del confine balcanico dell’Unione Europea.

    Quel documento, che un tempo sarebbe stato considerato un prezioso salvacondotto per invocare poi la protezione internazionale, oggi può essere una condanna. Perché averlo addosso conferma di provenire dalla Bosnia e dunque facilita la “riconsegna” alla polizia slovena. Anche per questo lo chiamano “game”.

    Un “gioco” puoi vincere una domanda d’asilo in Italia o in un’altro Paese dell’Ue, o un’altra tornata nell’inferno dei respingimenti. «Quando eravamo nascosti in mezzo ai boschi, la polizia slovena – racconta un altro dei respinti – era anche accompagnata dai cani. Qualcuno si era accucciato nel bosco e non era stato inizialmente visto, ma quattro o cinque cani li hanno scovati e quando hanno provato a scappare sono stati rincorsi dai cani e catturati».

    https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/lorrore-alle-porte-delleuropa

    #photographie #témoignage #images #violence #violences #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #torture #Croatie #game #the_game #viols #Velika_Kladuša #Velika_Kladusa #Bosnie #Slovénie #refoulements_en_chaîne #push-backs #refoulements #réadmission #chiens

    • Violenza sui migranti, in un video le prove dalla Croazia

      Impugnano una spranga da cui pende una corda. Stanno per spaccare ginocchia, frustare sulla schiena, lanciare sassi mirando alla testa dei profughi. Sono soldati croati...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tacXXCD8UL8&feature=emb_logo

      Non è per il freddo delle gelate balcaniche che gli uomini appostati nella radura indossano un passamontagna. Il branco è lì per un’imboscata. Impugnano una spranga da cui pende una corda. Stanno per spaccare ginocchia, frustare sulla schiena, lanciare sassi mirando alla testa dei profughi. Sono soldati croati. E stavolta Zagabria non potrà più dire che non ci sono prove.

      Ora c’è un video che conferma le accuse di questi anni. Nei giorni scorsi, dopo la ricostruzione di Avvenire e la pubblicazione di immagini e testimonianze di alcune tra le migliaia di persone seviziate dai gendarmi, era intervenuta la commissaria agli Affari Interni dell’Ue, Ylva Johansson. «Abbiamo sentito di respingimenti dagli Stati membri e non è accettabile». Nessun accenno, però, alla violenza. Il governo di Zagabria, infatti, ha sempre respinto le accuse dei profughi respinti a catena da Italia, Slovenia e Croazia. «Nonostante i report lo Stato croato ha negato, mettendo in dubbio la credibilità dei migranti, degli attivisti e dei giornalisti – ricordano i legali del “Border violence monitoring” – citando la mancanza di prove fotografiche». Ora quelle prove ci sono.

      I fotogrammi e i video raccolti sul campo non lasciano spazio a dubbi. La frusta schiocca i primi colpi. Un uomo viene atterrato dopo che l’aggressore lo ha quasi azzoppato. Neanche il tempo di stramazzare tra i rovi che viene centrato in pieno volto. Poco distante, in un fossato che segna il confine con la Bosnia Erzegovina, altri due uomini a volto coperto, entrambi con divise blu scure, afferrano dei grossi sassi e li scagliano contro alcuni ragazzi che corrono per riguadagnare il confine bosniaco, a meno di 30 metri, dove gli aggressori croati sanno di non potere addentrarsi.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtEDbuDbqzU&feature=youtu.be

      Le sequenze sono raccapriccianti. Le urla spezzano il fiato. I militari infieriscono ripetutamente su persone inermi. A tutti sono state tolte le scarpe, i telefoni, il denaro, gli zainetti con gli unici ricordi delle propRie origini. Un uomo piange. Il volto gonfio, una gamba dolorante, alcune ferite alla testa, il labbro superiore sanguinante. Nella sua lingua biascica la più universale delle invocazioni: «Mamma mia».

      Le immagini,che risalgono alla fine di marzo, sono state analizzate per mesi da legali e periti di vari Paesi per conto del “Border violence monitoring”, il network di organizzazioni di volontariato attivo in tutti i Balcani. Nel video integrale (sintetizzato da Avvenire in una versione di 4 minuti in questo articolo) si possono vedere i filmati con le ricostruzioni forensi. Oltre alle identità dei feriti è stato possibile riconoscere anche i corpi di appartenenza dei picchiatori: guardie di confine, nuclei speciali della polizia e militari dell’esercito.

      Le forze di sicurezza, come sempre, avevano pensato a impedire che le testimonianze potessero trovare riscontri fotografici. Questa volta, però, un ragazzo afghano è riuscito a beffarli. Poco prima del respingimento altri agenti in un posto di polizia avevano rubato denaro, telefoni ed effetti personali. Con le scarpe e i vestiti avevano fatto un falò. Nella concitazione, da uno degli zainetti è scivolato un telefono. Il ragazzo ha fatto in tempo a nasconderlo nelle mutande. Per consegnarci le immagini della vergogna all’interno dell’Unone europea.

      Dopo una corsa disperata, inseguito dalle sprangate e dalle scudisciate, una volta superato il fossato ha riacceso il cellulare danneggiato durante l’aggressione. C’era ancora abbastanza batteria. Si sente anche la sua voce mentre non riesce a tener ferme le mani: «Mi fa male una gamba, ho troppo dolore». Un altro accanto a lui comprende l’importanza di quegli istanti: «Ti tengo io, devi continuare a riprendere».

      Pochi giorni prima The Guardian aveva pubblicato un inchiesta di Lorenzo Tondo: la polizia croata veniva accusata di segnare i migranti islamici con una croce sulla testa, ma ancora una volta Zagabria aveva negato.

      Le riammissioni a catena, con cui dal confine italo–sloveno «si deportano illegalmente i rifugiati fino in Bosnia, hanno l’effetto di esporre le persone a condizioni inumane e a un rischio di morte: vanno pertanto immediatamente fermate», chiede il Consorzio italiano di solidarietà (Ics). Anche in Bosnia vengono denunciati episodi di violenza ed uso eccessivo della forza da parte della polizia.

      L’11 dicembre, sei giorni dopo la pubblicazione della prima puntata dell’inchiesta di Avvenire (LEGGI QUI), è intervenuta la Commissaria ai diritti umani del Consiglio d’Europa, il consesso che ha dato vita alla Corte europea dei diritti dell’Uomo. In una lettera la bosniaca Dunja Mijatovic parla delle «segnalazioni di gruppi di vigilantes locali che attaccano i migranti e distruggono i loro beni personali», esprimendo preoccupazione «per le segnalazioni di attacchi e minacce contro i difensori dei diritti umani che aiutano i migranti, tra cui una campagna diffamatoria e minacce di morte».

      E non sarà certo la prima neve a fermare le traversate.

      Ieri la polizia serba ha bloccato 300 persone in due distinte operazioni: 170 sono stati trovati nella zona di Kikinda, lungo un sentiero sul confine con la Romania; altri 140 sono stati vicino al valico di Horgos, alla frontiera con l’Ungheria. Sperano così di aggirare la sbirraglia.

      Nicola Bay, direttore in Bosnia del “Danish refugee council” spiega di avere identificato con la sua organizzazione «14.500 casi di respingimenti dalla Croazia alla Bosnia dall’inizio del 2020. Nel solo mese di ottobre, i casi sono stati 1.934, tra cui 189 episodi in cui migranti sono stati soggetti a brutale violenza, e in due episodi anche violenza sessuale, da parte di uomini in uniformi nere, con i volti mascherati». Perciò «non è accettabile che i respingimenti violenti siano utilizzati, di fatto, come strumento per il controllo dei confini dagli stati europei. È giunto il momento di esigere, da parte della Commissione Europea e degli stati membri della Ue, inclusa l’Italia, il pieno rispetto delle più basilari norme del diritto comunitario e internazionale».

      E non è escluso che grazie a queste immagini si apra finalmente una inchiesta giudiziaria per individuare i responsabili, i loro superiori e fermare i crimini contro gli esseri umani commessi nell’Unione Europea.

      https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/torture-su-migranti-al-confine-tra-croazia-e-bosnia-vide-scavo

    • L’inchiesta. Abusi sui migranti della rotta balcanica, scende in campo l’Ue

      Dopo le denunce su violenze e respingimenti, l’Agenzia Ue per i diritti umani: monitorare i comportamenti della polizia. Zagabria: violenze presunte. A Trieste con i volontari che curano le ferite

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

      La lavanda dei piedi comincia all’ora del vespro. È il quotidiano rito dei volontari che ogni sera, nel piccolo parco tra la stazione e il vecchio porto, dai loro zaini da studente estraggono garze, cerotti, unguenti. Passano da lì gli impavidi del game, i superstiti della roulette russa dei respingimenti a catena, e a bastonate, verso la Bosnia. Cacciati fuori dai confini Ue.

      Dopo le nuove denunce di queste settimane, qualcosa tra Bruxelles e Zagabria si muove. L’agenzia Ue per i diritti fondamentali è pronta a monitorare i comportamenti delle polizie lungo i confini. Ma manca una data per l’avvio del piano di prevenzione degli abusi.

      Pochi giorni fa a Bruxelles hanno chiuso un rapporto che racconta di vicende sfuggite alle principali cronache internazionali. Sono ancora in corso le indagini per episodi ch si ripetono da anni senza che mai si arrivi a individuare delle responsabilità. Nel novembre 2017 «una bambina afghana di sei anni, Madina Hosseini, è stata uccisa da un treno in transito al confine tra Croazia e Serbia» si legge nel dossier, che precisa: «Secondo il rapporto del difensore civico croato, Madina e la sua famiglia erano arrivate in Croazia e avevano chiesto asilo, quando è stato detto loro di tornare in Serbia». Una violazione delle norme sul diritto d’asilo finita in dramma. La famiglia è stata trasferita «in un veicolo della polizia vicino alla ferrovia e istruita a seguire i binari fino alla Serbia. Poco dopo, la bambina di sei anni è stata uccisa da un treno». D allora non molto è cambiato in meglio.

      Da Kabul a Trieste sono 4mila chilometri. Da qui il villaggio di casa è lontano, la guerra anche. C’è chi l’ultimo tratto lo ha percorso cinque volte. Perché acciuffato dagli agenti sloveni, infine riportato in Bosnia dopo una lezione della polizia croata. E c’è chi a Trieste invece c’era quasi arrivato, ma è stato colto dalla polizia italiana sulla fascia di confine, e poco dopo «riammesso» in Slovenia, come prevede un vecchio accordo tra Roma e Lubiana siglato quando implodeva la ex Jugoslavia.

      Scarpe sfondate, vestiti rotti, le caviglie gonfie e gli occhi troppo stanchi di chi l’ultima volta che s’è accucciato su un materasso era in un qualche posto di polizia. Per Gianfranco Schiavone, vicepresidente dell’Associazione per gli studi giuridici sull’immigrazione (Asgi), è più che «anomalo che la riammissione possa avvenire senza l’emanazione di un provvedimento amministrativo». Anche perché «è indiscutibile che l’azione posta in essere dalla pubblica sicurezza attraverso l’accompagnamento forzato in Slovenia produce effetti rilevantissimi – aggiunge – sulla situazione giuridica dei soggetti interessati».

      Ricacciati indietro senza neanche poter presentare la domanda di protezione, molti passano per le mani delle guardie croate. Anche qui, però, il compatto muro di omertà tra uomini in divisa comincia a incrinarsi. La diffusione di immagini e filmati che documentano la presenza di gendarmi tra i picchiatori di migranti sta convincendo diversi agenti a denunciare anche i loro superiori. Gli ordini, infatti, arrivano dall’alto. Il merito è dell’Ufficio per la protezione dei diritti umani di Zagabria, dotato di poteri investigativi che stanno aprendo la strada a indagini della magistratura, garantendo l’anonimato ai poliziotti che collaborano con le indagini. Il ministero dell’Interno di Zagabria respinge le accuse arrivate nelle ultime settimane da testate come Der Spiegel, The Guardian e Avvenire, riguardo le violenze commesse dalle autorità lungo i confini. Foto e filmati mostrano uomini in divisa armati di spranghe e fruste. «Non si può confermare con certezza che siano membri regolari della polizia croata», si legge in una nota. «La polizia croata protegge il confine dalla migrazione illegale, lo protegge dalle azioni illegali e dai pericoli – aggiunge – che possono portare con sé persone senza documenti e senza identità, e lo fa per fornire pace e sicurezza al popolo croato». Tuttavia «non tolleriamo alcuna violenza nella protezione delle frontiere né (la violenza) è parte integrante delle nostre azioni». Riguardo al filmato e alla ricostruzione di Border Violence Monitoring «concludiamo che non abbiamo registrato azioni in base alla data e al luogo dichiarati nell’annuncio». Quali indagini siano state condotte non è però dato saperlo. «Controlleremo accuratamente i presunti eventi».

      Mentre dal Carso i primi refoli della sera si scontrano con quelli che soffiano dal mare, i volontari appostati nei dintorni della statua della principessa Sissi si preparano a un’altra serata con dolori da alleviare e lamenti da ascoltare. Lorena Fornasier, 67 anni, psicoterapeuta, e suo marito Gian Andrea Franchi, 83 anni, professore di filosofia in pensione, passano spesso di qua. Raccolgono quelli messi peggio. Lo fanno da anni, senza clamore, e si devono a loro le prime denunce sui maltrattamenti subiti dove finiscono i Balcani e comincia la Mitteleuropa.

      «Bisogna portare in tribunale dei casi individuali con l’intento di definire un precedente che sia valido per tutti, per attivare dei cambiamenti normativi che permettano un maggiore rispetto dei diritti fondamentali», osserva Giulia Spagna, direttrice per l’Italia del Danish refugee council, le cui squadre continuano a raccogliere prove di abusi lungo tutta la dorsale balcanica. «Da una parte – aggiunge – si devono offrire soluzioni concrete alle persone che hanno subito soprusi, attraverso supporto legale, oltre che medico e psicologico. Dall’altra usare questi episodi per influenzare le politiche europee e nazionali».

      https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/a-trieste-tra-chi-cura-le-ferite-reportage-migranti

  • L’Union européenne exhorte la Bosnie à loger plus de 3 300 migrants qui subissent le #froid et la #neige

    L’Union européenne a exhorté mercredi la Bosnie à loger au chaud plus de 3 300 migrants menacés par des températures glaciales, alors que le pays connait une vague de froid. L’UE met en garde les autorités contre une « crise humanitaire ».

    « La crise humanitaire devient une réalité en raison du manque d’action (...). Nous exhortons les autorités à agir d’urgence pour sauver des vies. » Par ces mots, la délégation de l’Union européenne (UE) en Bosnie hausse le ton contre les autorités du pays.

    Dans la région de #Bihac, à la frontière avec la Croatie, où la plupart des migrants sont massés dans l’espoir d’entrer sur le territoire européen, la température descendra à 0°C dans les prochains jours, selon les prévisions météorologiques. Le froid, accompagné de neige, met « sérieusement en danger la vie de plus de 2 000 personnes qui dorment dehors, dans des conditions désastreuses », insiste la délégation dans un communiqué publié mercredi 9 décembre : http://europa.ba/?p=70989

    Ces personnes vivent soit en #forêt, sous des #tentes, soit dans des #abris_de_fortune, des #bâtiments_abandonnés et des #squats.

    « Rien n’a été prévu pour l’hiver »

    Par ailleurs, 1 300 migrants sont logés dans un centre d’accueil à #Lipa, près de Bihac, qui n’a pas été préparé pour les conditions hivernales, selon la même source. Le site n’est équipé ni d’électricité, ni d’eau courante.

    « Le camp de tentes a été construit pour le printemps et l’été en réponse au Covid-19. Rien n’a été prévu pour l’hiver », signalait déjà fin novembre sur Twitter Peter Van der Auweraert, coordinateur de la mission de l’Organisation internationale pour les Migration (OIM) en Bosnie-Herzégovine. « Une solution alternative est nécessaire rapidement », réclamait-il.


    https://twitter.com/PeterAuweraert/status/1329927548264964097

    La délégation, qui affirme que les moyens de l’Union européenne mis à la disposition des autorités locales existent, appelle le gouvernement à loger de nouveau un certain nombre de migrants dans un centre d’accueil de #Bira, non loin de la ville de Bihac.

    Ce centre a été fermé fin septembre par les autorités locales, un mois et demi avant les élections municipales, pour répondre à une pression croissante des habitants. Deux migrants avaient été tués dans des affrontements entre des exilés afghans et pakistanais lors du démantèlement du camp de Bira.

    Une baisse de près de 50% des arrivées cette année

    La construction d’un autre centre d’accueil, envisagé à un moment dans la région de #Tuzla (nord-est), est également nécessaire afin de loger tout le monde, selon la délégation.

    Le ministère bosnien de la sécurité avait indiqué début décembre que plus de 6 600 migrants étaient logés dans plusieurs centres d’accueil, dans la région de Bihac, de Sarajevo et de Mostar (sud).

    Depuis 2018, la Bosnie est traversée chaque année par des milliers de migrants fuyant les guerres et la pauvreté dans leurs pays au Proche-Orient, en Asie et en Afrique. Selon les statistiques du ministère de la sécurité, environ 15 000 migrants ont été enregistrés à leur arrivée dans le pays depuis le début de l’année, soit une baisse de près de 50% par rapport à la même période en 2019.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/29020/l-union-europeenne-exhorte-la-bosnie-a-loger-plus-de-3-300-migrants-qu

    #hypocrisie #UE #EU #Union_européenne #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #route_des_balkans #Bosnie #logement #hébergement #hiver

    • EU in BiH statement on migration: Authorities need to act with the utmost urgency

      The EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina expresses concern about the migration situation in the country. The humanitarian crisis is becoming a reality because of the lack of action of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

      The current weather conditions seriously put at risk the lives of over 2,000 persons sleeping outside in dire conditions and of the 1,300 persons located at the temporary Lipa facility, which is unsuitable for winter as the authorities failed to ensure that the necessary conditions are in place.

      This risks further impacting the overall security situation as well as the humanitarian crisis, in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Solutions exist and the EU is ready to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in the necessary actions.

      As an immediate priority, we urge the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina to temporarily relocate the refugees and migrants currently in Lipa to the EU-funded reception centre “Bira” in Bihać, which was unlawfully emptied by the Cantonal authorities on 30 September 2020 and which is ready to host them.

      In addition, the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina should fulfil their commitment to open an additional reception centre in Ciljuge near Tuzla in order to ensure shelter for all persons in need in the coming winter.

      The EU has provided considerable financial and technical support to Bosnia and Herzegovina to better manage migration and asylum and assist citizens in coping with the challenging situation.

      We urge the authorities to act with the utmost urgency to save lives. The EU will continue to stand by all citizens and support the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in coping with the challenging situation.

      http://europa.ba/?p=70989

  • Video Documents Illegal Refugee Pushbacks in Croatia

    For years, asylum-seekers have been claiming abuse at the hands of Croatian border police, with some reporting beatings, electric shocks and even having their toenails torn out. For the first time, videos in combination with reporting by DER SPIEGEL have confirmed some of these reports.

    Ibrahim had a hunch he knew what was coming when the Croatian police car stopped. The young Pakistani had set off from Kashmir two years earlier to reach Europe. But now, on a cold day at the end of March, the Croatian police dragged him and the other refugees out of the vehicle, Ibrahim recalls. More security forces were waiting outside. They wore black balaclavas to hide their faces.

    The men forced the refugees to take off their jackets, shoes and pants, and one by one, the hooded men lined up. One of the men in masks grabbed Ibrahim by the neck and dragged him toward the river, according to his recollection. The others beat him, aiming at Ibrahim’s back, arms and legs. "They were beating me like crazy,” he says. Out of fear, he asked that he not be identified by his last name in this article.

    Ibrahim recalls a long, thick branch that hurt especially bad when he was hit with it. Three other refugees say they were beaten with a metal rod and with a sling that had a heavy object attached to the end of it.

    The beatings lasted only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity to Ibrahim. The hooded men pushed him down to the Glina River, the natural border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the village of Poljana. The river is only a few meters wide there. "Fast, jump,” one of the masked men shouted in English, says Ibrahim. “Go back Bosnia!”

    The European Union closed the Balkan route to migrants in 2016, after it had already been used in previous months by hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and other countries as they made their way to Western Europe. Thousands of refugees have been camping in the forest and in old war ruins in northwest Bosnia-Herzegovina ever since. On the other side of the border, Croatian officials with night-vision goggles and firearms patrol the border. But that doesn’t stop the refugees from setting off each night. They have a name for their dangerous attempt to get past the border guards: "The Game.”

    Asylum seekers have been reporting for years of abuse at the hands of Croatian police and of being forced back to Bosnia. Photos from aid organizations show refugees with bleeding lacerations, broken arms, knocked-out teeth and dark red marks on their backs. Asylum-seekers speak of torture with stun guns, sexual abuse and even torn-out toenails. The focus of their reports is always the same: Masked police officers.
    Beatings Instead of Hearings

    NGOs, doctors and even the United Nations Refugee Agency have collected thousands of such testimonies. Sometimes, skin color alone is enough to become a target of the security forces. In winter 2019, Croatian border guards illegally deported two Nigerian table-tennis players who were only trying to take part in a university championship.

    Pushbacks, as they are called, violate not only Croatian asylum law but also European law and the Geneva Convention on Refugees. They make a mockery of the right to apply for asylum. Instead of being given a hearing, asylum-seekers are beaten.

    The Croatian authorities deny that officers use force at the border or that they illegally drag asylum seekers back across the border. The government has simply ignored video clips showing security forces leading asylum-seekers to the border. Government officials also claim that refugees have simply invented claims of violence. Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman recently said that his country denies "all accusations of incorrect behavior at the border.”

    But Ibrahim’s case makes Croatia’s claims of innocence all the more difficult to uphold.

    DER SPIEGEL spent months investigating his case together with the media organization Lighthouse Reports. The reporters spoke with three refugees who were traveling with Ibrahim. To the extent possible, they reconstructed the route they took. The refugees’ reports can only be partly independently verified, but their geodata does corroborate their statements. There is also a video that the NGO No Name Kitchen obtained when interviewing the refugees. DER SPIEGEL and Lighthouse Reports were able to verify its authenticity.

    The reporting clearly shows that it is not only in Greece that refugees are being pushed back forcibly. On the Bosnian-Croatian border, masked men are beating up refugees. The images reveal a disturbing level of violence that is increasingly becoming the norm at the EU’s external borders.

    Ibrahim, for his part, had already failed to get past the Croatian security forces dozens of times, but in March things went better than usual. He and three other migrants described to DER SPIEGEL how they, together with around 50 other refugees, some of them underage, set off that day for the EU. The men crossed the border near Šturlić, a village in Bosnia, before walking through the wilderness of the Croatian forests. It was cold, and at night they slept in cheap sleeping bags.

    After around seven days, the group reached the Kulpa River, which borders Slovenia, and the migrants spent the night there. They ate the last of their supplies, they recall, and finally waded through the river on their way to Western Europe. The group stopped in a patch of forest above the Slovenian village Kočevje. Smugglers were supposed to meet them there to take the men to Italy, but nobody showed up. "We held out for three or four days without food or anything to drink,” says Ibrahim. But then they finally gave up.

    Slovenian police intercepted the refugees as they left their hiding place. The refugees say the officers took them to a police station, questioned each individually and took photos and fingerprints. The migrants claim that each of them asked to be allowed to file an asylum application. But the answer they received, they say, was clear: “No asylum. You’re going back to Bosnia.”
    "I Have Never Been So Scared in My Life"

    When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, the Slovenian police confirmed that they had apprehended the refugees. They deny, however, that Ibrahim asked to apply for asylum, so they handed the men over to the Croatian authorities as part of a return agreement. Both the Croatian and the Slovenian officials certified the handover with their signatures.

    Things moved quickly once the they were in the hands of the Croatian police. The men say the officers drove the group to the border river, where the men wearing the balaclavas were already waiting for them. "I have never been so scared in my life,” says Ibrahim.

    The refugees’ geodata, stored in a Google Maps account, supports their statements. It includes data geolocating the group in Croatia and Slovenia. Shaky mobile phone images provide even more evidence. One of the refugees says that the images only exist because he was able to hide his mobile phone in his underwear.

    DER SPIEGEL

    The images show Ibrahim standing on the Bosnian side of the river, in wet pants and no shoes. The young Pakistani can be see crying, his face twisted in agony. "I have such pain in my leg!” he whimpers. Another refugee whose clothes are wet and also doesn’t have any shoes, can be seen supporting him.

    Four men can be seen in the background on Croatian soil with blue and olive-green clothing reminiscent of uniforms. Three are seen putting on black masks. The men carry a long pole with them, as well as a stick with rope that has a heavy object attached to it. One of the men can be seen wielding the homemade weapon.

    The hooded men lead another group of people to the border river. They beat one of the migrants with a stick or a pole. They then chase another a few seconds later, running toward the border. "Fuck your mother” rings out across the river.

    The metadata show that the video was taken on the afternoon of March 23. The buildings in the background prove that the events unfolded near Poljana on the Bosnian-Croatian border. The masked men can’t be clearly identified in the images. However, their presence at the closely guarded border suggests that the men are part of the Croatian security forces. It’s unlikely that masked men could operate in broad daylight without the knowledge of the authorities.

    "Some of the uniforms visible in the video seem to be all mixed up,” says Ranko Ostojić, a politician with the center-left social democrats in Croatia. He says he suspects the men in question are retired police officers who are now part of the reserves. "They used to be allowed to keep their uniforms, and now they are apparently carrying out pushbacks.”

    Ostojić was once Croatia’s director of police and interior minister. He spent years chairing the Domestic Affairs Committee in the Croatian national parliament. "The pushbacks are systematic,” he says. "Based on my experience, I am convinced that they are at least tolerated by the government.”

    When contacted by DER SPIEGEL, officials at the Croatian Interior Ministry said in a statement that they have no records of any operations on the date and location in question. They said they could not comment on the events described without further details. Croatia offers asylum seekers the opportunity to apply for asylum, the statement says, and goes on to claim that NGO reports on injured migrants almost completely ignore the conflicts between migrants in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The ministry claims that the migrants are injured in accidents or that they inflict injuries on each other and then blame Croatian border police.

    When Bosnian Milo Gujić hears shots or screams from the woods below his barn, he knows they are coming again. A short time later, bleeding, crying and half-naked men show up in his yard. Sometimes, he says, it happens daily.
    Fear of Retaliation

    Gujić and his wife have been experiencing the brutality of the Croatian border police up close for years now. Their property is located only a few hundred meters away from the EU’s external border. Gujić, who has a wiry build, has asked that we not use his real name for this story. He is afraid that Croatian security forces might retaliate against him.

    In March, Gujić opened up his home to Ibrahim and his companions. Gujic says he found the men standing at his door trembling and sobbing. When shown the video, he immediately recognizes them. He built a fire for them and brought dry clothes and food. "When I took the clothes off one of them, I saw his back. It looked like someone had stuck an iron bar into a fire and then hit him with it. That’s how deep red the marks from the blows were.”

    The Glina River along the border is a popular place for pushbacks. It is easily accessible from the Croatian side and only sparsely populated on the Bosnian side. Gujić says the Croatians recently paved the gravel road leading to the border, an omen, he believes, that the half-naked, injured men will keep coming. Gujić can’t understand the violence: “You don’t even hurt animals like that.”

    The EU pays Croatia millions of euros to secure the border. Croatia is also slated to join the Schengen Area soon, meaning its borders with other members of the area will no longer by controlled. Once that happens, the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina will become one of those places where decisions are made on how many asylum-seekers are actually allowed to reach Western Europe.

    In October 2019, the European Commission gave Croatia a positive evaluation in its progress toward accession into the Schengen Area, but said it would have to continue its work on "management of the external borders.” All Schengen member states must approve any country’s accession. But already, the Croatian government is effectively acting as one of Europe’s gatekeepers.

    So far, the EU has largely ignored these obvious violations of human rights. In Germany, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel have openly praised the work of the Croatian border police. EU border management agency Frontex, which monitors the border from the air, has reported hundreds of illegal border crossings, but no human rights violations.

    "The EU is turning a blind eye to pushbacks,” says former Croatian Interior Minister Ostojić. He says it appears EU officials don’t seem to care whether the border police act in accordance with international law. And their silence merely encourages the Croatian government.

    "The images are the clearest evidence yet that Croatia engages in violent pushbacks,” says Hanaa Hakiki, a lawyer with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based human rights organization that provides support to refugees facing court proceedings. She notes that the deportations did not take place at official border crossings and that some of the weapons used by the masked men were homemade. "In light of these terrible images, the EU should take immediate action,” she says.
    Schengen As a Means of Pressure?

    Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs responsible for EU borders, sent a letter to the Croatian Ministry of the Interior at the end of October and urged that the reports be investigated. “If proven true, what is shown there is of course unacceptable,” she now says after viewing the images. “People cannot be beaten up at the border. There must be consequences.”

    Meanwhile, the EU’s ombudswoman has also opened a probe. But real pressure on Croatia would probably only arise if the pushbacks were to put Croatia’s Schengen accession into question. “Violence at the border cannot continue,” Johansson says. “This will not help Croatia in its efforts to join the Schengen Area.”

    In the end, Ibrahim finally managed to win the "Game.” After another attempt, he managed to make it to Italy. He is currently living in a housing project in the north of the country and he was able to apply for asylum.

    But the months spent on the Croatian border took a massive toll on him. When he looks at the videos of himself on the Croatian border today, he bursts out in tears. He says he still suffers from headaches and the pain in his knee is also getting worse, especially now that the weather is getting colder. At night, he says, he sometimes has nightmares about the beatings by the Croatian policemen. One time, his roommates told him the next morning that he had been calling out for help. Again.

    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/croatia-video-documents-illegal-refugee-pushbacks-a-294b128d-4840-4d6b-9e96-

    #Croatie #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #violence #asile #migrations #réfugiés #push-backs #refoulements #frontières #Bosnie #Glina_river #Kulpa #Kulpa_river #Slovénie #Kolpa_river #frontière_sud-alpine #Kupa_river #rivière #Kočevje #Kocevje #Poljana #témoignage

  • Europe’s chain of migrant expulsion, from Italy to Bosnia

    ‘They pushed back Afghans, Syrians, people from Iraq, people in clear need of protection.’

    Italian authorities are drawing criticism from legal advocacy groups for returning asylum seekers and migrants across Italy’s northeastern land border to Slovenia, triggering a series of often violent pushbacks through the Balkans and out of the European Union.

    Several asylum seekers told The New Humanitarian that after being returned to Slovenia they were pushed back to Croatia, another EU member state. In turn, the Croatian authorities – accused of using systematic violence and abuse against migrants – expelled them to Bosnia, which is outside the EU.

    “Generally, in two days, the person disappears from Italy and appears again in Bosnia,” Gianfranco Schiavone, a legal expert at the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, or ASGI, an Italian NGO that provides legal aid to migrants and asylum seekers, told TNH.

    Advocacy groups say the returns are illegal because they block people from requesting asylum in Italy, and ultimately end with them being expelled from the EU without due process.

    The Balkans serve as a key part of the migration route from Turkey and Greece to Western and Northern Europe, and the UN’s migration agency, IOM, estimates that nearly 22,000* asylum seekers and migrants are currently stranded in the region.

    The allegations of illegal returns from Italy come amidst increased scrutiny by watchdog groups, and growing concern on the part of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, over reports of widespread and frequently violent pushbacks at EU borders, especially in Greece and Croatia.

    Pushbacks violate EU law and are prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights.

    In July, Italy’s Interior Ministry told the Italian Parliament in a letter that the returns are taking place under a longstanding agreement between Italy and Slovenia and are within the bounds of the law because Slovenia is also an EU member state. Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese later backtracked on the position, saying that only irregular migrants were being returned – not asylum seekers.

    At the end of October, the governor of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, the Italian region bordering Slovenia, said 1,321 people had been returned to Slovenia this year. Last year, just 250 people were returned between January and September, according to the interior ministry.

    Civil society groups say the returns are being carried out so quickly there is no way Italian authorities are implementing a full legal process at the border to determine if someone is in need of international protection.

    “Under European law, [police are required to accept] asylum applications made on the border,” Schiavone said.

    Such returns are not new, but began to take place in larger numbers following an uptick in arrivals in Friuli Venezia-Giulia from Slovenia as the first round of coronavirus lockdowns ended in the spring.

    These arrivals fed into a charged political environment in Italy over migration during the pandemic and led Italy to increase its military presence along the Slovenian border to help “fight illegal migration”.

    In the first 10 months of 2020, local authorities in Friuli Venezia-Giulia counted 4,500 arrivals. By comparison, nearly 28,000 asylum seekers and migrants have arrived In Italy by sea so far this year.

    But it is difficult to know exactly how many people enter from Slovenia because local officials and international organisations do not regularly publish comprehensive data on land arrivals to Italy, and those crossing the border often try to steer clear of authorities to avoid being pushed back or having their fingerprints taken, which would subject them to the Dublin Protocol, requiring them to apply for asylum in the first EU country they entered.

    Much of the migration activity since May has been taking place in the city of Trieste – just four kilometres from the Slovenian border – and in the surrounding countryside.

    Trieste is a key transit point, and a destination that many migrants and asylum seekers see as offering some respite after the long and often dangerous trek through the mountainous Balkans.

    Those who reach Trieste without being returned are often in poor physical condition and find little official support.

    “Both the services and the response provided to people who arrive is not the most adequate. More should be done,” Chiara Cardoletti, the UN refugee agency’s representative in Italy, said following a visit to Trieste in October, adding: “Coronavirus is complicating the situation."
    The pushback chain

    Asylum seekers and migrants have nicknamed the journey across the Balkans “the game”, because to reach Italy they have to try over and over again, facing pushbacks and violence at each border along the way.

    For many, “the game” – if they are successful – sees them end up under the arches of an old, abandoned building close to Trieste’s train station.

    When TNH visited in October, voices echoed inside. Around 30 people – all recently arrived from Slovenia – were taking shelter on a rainy morning surrounded by worn out children’s shoes, piles of discarded clothes, rotting foam mattresses, and torn backpacks.

    Most were young men in their teens and early twenties from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Like others before them, they were resting for a couple of days before continuing on – they hoped – to Milan, France, or elsewhere in Europe.

    After crossing from Turkey to Greece, they had all reached a bottleneck in Bihać, a town in Bosnia close to the Croatian border where people often become stuck as they try repeatedly to enter the EU. Once they cross the border, it takes up to 20 days through the mountains of Croatia and Slovenia to reach Italy. Many paid thousands of dollars to smugglers to assist them along the way, but ended up with no food for days and only rainwater to drink. Most could barely walk on their battered feet.

    Umar, a 20-year-old from Pakistan who preferred not to use his real name, said he had tried to cross the Balkans nine times before landing up in Trieste. He said he had made it to Italy once before, in May.

    “[The] police caught us and put us somewhere in a [camouflage] tent with many people,” Umar said. “They took our fingerprints. I told the police we are staying here in Italy. We showed our foot injuries, but they said, ‘There is no camp. Go back’.”

    Umar said the Italian authorities handed him over the next morning to the Slovenian police, who passed the group he was with on to the Croatian police, who then put them in a small van and deposited them near the border with Bosnia. “There was no air inside,” he recalled. “The weather was hot.”

    Now back in Italy, Umar planned to travel further inland to the city of Udine, about 65 kilometres from Trieste, to apply for asylum. He was afraid to present himself to authorities in Trieste, believing it was too close to the border and that he might be pushed back again.

    Others in Trieste shared similar stories of reaching Italy on previous attempts only to end up back in Bosnia after being pushed back from one country to the next.

    Muhammed, a 21-year-old also from Pakistan, said he reached Italy on his third attempt crossing the Balkans, and he was taken to the same tent. “There was a translator, who told us, ‘you guys will be staying here in Italy’,” Muhammed said. “Despite that, we were pushed back.”

    Muhammed then described how the Slovenian authorities pushed his group back to Croatia. “The police in Croatia kicked us, punched us,” he recalled. “They… took our money and left us on the Bosnia border.”

    After making it back to Italy again on his fourth attempt, Muhammed said he had now managed to apply for asylum in Trieste.
    ‘It had become systematic’

    The pushbacks from Italy to Slovenia appear to be indiscriminate, according to Schiavone, from ASGI. “[They] have involved everybody, regardless of nationality,” he said. “They pushed back Afghans, Syrians, people from Iraq, people in clear need of protection.”

    Schiavone said the removal procedures appeared to be informal and people are not given the chance to apply for asylum before being returned to Slovenia.

    A spokesperson for the border police in Gorizia, an Italian border town in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, told TNH in a statement that the department was operating in accordance with Ministry of Interior directives, and that people belonging to “‘protected categories’ such as unaccompanied children and pregnant women or, in general, anyone in need of medical assistance”, were excluded from returns. “To safeguard each migrant’s individual circumstances, interviews take place with an interpreter… and multilingual information brochures are handed out,” the spokesperson added.

    The asylum seekers in Trieste told TNH that authorities took their fingerprints and gave them a slip of paper before sending them back to Slovenia.

    “It had become systematic,” Marco Albanese, the supervisor of a migration reception centre in Italy close to the Slovenian border, told TNH. “They were pushing back people who were unable to walk.”

    Those who are intercepted but not pushed back spend a quarantine period at a camp in the countryside before being transferred to a reception centre. Others manage to evade the authorities altogether.

    The job of providing basic services to asylum seekers and migrants not in the official system largely falls to volunteer groups.

    The square outside Trieste’s train station begins to fill with asylum seekers and migrants around 6 in the evening. The night TNH visited, around 30 to 40 people came in small groups, milled around, and sat on benches. Many had no shoes and their badly swollen feet were covered with blisters and cuts.

    Volunteers served hot meals and handed out warm clothes, and young doctors and nurses from an organisation called Strada Si.Cura – a play on the Italian words for safe streets and healing – checked people’s temperatures, performed basic medical screenings, and attended to injuries.

    Sharif, a 16-year-old Afghan whose name has been changed to protect his identity – waited in line to show an infected blister on his foot to one of the medical volunteers. He spent two years in Bosnia and said he was pushed back 15 or 16 times before finally reaching Trieste. Like nearly everyone, he had a story about Croatian police violence, recalling how he was stripped naked, beaten with a stick, and abandoned near the border with Bosnia.

    The thoughts of some in the square turned to people they had met along the way who hadn’t made it to Italy and now face harsh winters somewhere in the Balkans.

    “In our group, there were 80 people,” said Sami, a 23-year-old from Pakistan. “Other people [had] a lot of injuries, a lot of problems… So they stay in the forests in Croatia, in Slovenia, near Bosnia because the way is so hard.”

    https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2020/11/17/europe-italy-bosnia-slovenia-migration-pushbacks-expulsion

    #expulsions #refoulements #refoulements_en_chaîne #route_des_Balkans #Italie #Bosnie #Slovénie #Balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #push-backs #frontière_sud-alpine #Croatie #Game #The_Game

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • “They punched me because I asked to stop the hot air - pushback from Trieste to Bihac”

      Date and time: September 16, 2020 01:00
      Location: San Dorligo della Valle, TS, Italy
      Coordinates: 45.607175981734, 13.85383960105
      Push-back from: Croatia, Italy, Slovenia
      Push-back to: Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia
      Demographics: 6 person(s), age: 25-35 , from: Bangladesh, Algeria
      Minors involved? No
      Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other), exposure to air condition and extreme temperature during car ride, dog attacks, forcing to undress, destruction of personal belongings, theft of personal belongings
      Police involved: Italian Army officers, one army van and one army car; several Italian police officers, one police van; several Slovenian police officers, one police van and several Croatian police officers (masked), one german shepard,, one police van.
      Taken to a police station?: yes
      Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken, papers signed, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
      Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
      Reported by: Anonymous Partner

      Original Report

      The respondent, an Algerian man, left the city of Bihac (BiH) on 2nd September, 2020 in a group with five other Algerians, aged between 22 and 30 years old. After 12 days of travel they arrived in Trieste (ITA). They entered into Italy near the municipality of San Dorligo della Valle (45.607871, 13.857776), in the early morning on the 14th September. While the group was walking along a the SP12B road, they were tracked down by a military convoy, composed of a car and a van. The three military officers onboard stopped them at the side of the road and called the Italian police, who arrived shortly after with a van.

      The captured group were then transferred with the van to a police station in Fernetti [exact location], a site with a military tent erected for identification procedures of people on the move and asylum seekers. The respondent claims that he found himself together with many around 60 other people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, in addition to a person from Morocco. Many of the people held at the site, according to him, were minors or had been fingerprinted previously in Greece.

      The people detained in the tent were seperated by nationality. Each person of the transit group was questioned and processed individually in a separate, smaller tent, described as a small silo, the others had to wait in a small room which he describes as a “prison-room”. Personal data was gathered, fingerprints were recorded and photos of their faces were taken. The respondent clearly expressed the will to seek asylum in Italy.

      The assigned translator for the respondent and his group, of Moroccan origin, was already attending to one person from Morocco who was present when they arrived. The respondent overheard the translator suggesting to this person that he should declare himself as a minor. The police officers also searched him and confiscated his phone, a power bank and a watch, which were put inside a plastic bag. After that, the respondent had to sign 3 different documents, one of them – an identification and domicile paper – hidden and preserved by the respondent.

      When they deport you, they make you sign this paper so that they can say you accept it. And of course, you sign it. who care about you? They just say: ‘sign’ and you sign, because you don’t have power and there is no one listening to you.”

      The captured transit group remained in the police station from 08:00 until 17:00. The food was distributed collectively and due to a massive amount of people, some were left without. At some point the respondent requested to go to the
      toilet and he was taken outside, which allowed him to understand the area where he was. The respondent saw a reception center in front of him.

      At the end of the identification procedure, the police took five of the Algerians from the transit group. The sixth person was taken away however, the respondent stating this was because he had been fingerprinted in Greece. Some other Moroccans who were present in the tent were also kept there, which the respondent suggests was due to help from the translator in assisting their access to asylum.

      “Translator plays a big role. Maybe 80%”

      The remaining five people from Algeria were put inside a van. The respondent claims that he clearly saw the officers carrying the bag with his personal items, which he thought they would return to him once left at the next destination. The vehicle did not have either windows or light and the respondent described experiencing difficulties to breath during the ride. At this point the people-on-the-move received a small bottle of water and a small cracker for the first time since the apprehension.

      “They play with you. You just think just when is it finish.”

      Once they were sitting inside the van, the group realized that they were about to be deported to Slovenia and they asked what was going on. The police officers reassured them that they would stay in Trieste. The van then moved on: inside it was very hot and from the ventilation came out hot air. The respondent knocked on a window to attract the attention of the agents, who stopped the van, got out of the vehicle and opened the hatch to ask for explanations of why they were knocking on the window.

      There was a squabble, and one of the two officers punched the respondent, but was immediately stopped by his colleague who invited him to calm down. After the incident, they continued to drive and they arrived in an area, which was described as a road border crossing (likely Pesek-Kozina) between Italy and Slovenia. There, the group found a Slovenian police van with police officers waiting for them. They were transferred very quickly from the Italian police van to the Slovenian van: according to the respondent, officers were looking around with circumspection, as if they were worried about being noticed during the operation ongoing.

      Once the captured transit group were transferred to the Slovenian police van, they were taken in a police station, in Kozina, Slovenia. Here the respondent asked for his personal belongings, but the Slovenian police replied that the Italian police had not given them anything. The respondent doesn’t know if his belongings were kept by the Italian police officers or if the Slovenian police officers lied to him, keeping his belongings.

      In the station in Kozina, the officers took the prints of their thumbs of both hands, and realized that the respondent was already registered in the police database, due to previous entrance he had made into Slovenia (on this occasion he had also signed some documents). Later on, the group was transferred from Kozina to Ljubljana for a Covid-19 screening. After that, they returned to Kozina, where
      they spent the night detained. They stayed in this this location for what the respondent estimated to be a whole night. During this detention the group members could use the toilet and were handed another small bottle of water but were not provided with any food.

      The next morning (15th September) the group were transferred to Croatia, through the Socerga/Pozane border crossing. Here the Slovenian police photographed the documents that they had signed and threw them away in the garbage, before giving the group over to the regular Croatian police. The respondent, also in this occasion, managed to hide one Italian document, putting it inside his underwear (see previous photograph).

      The respondent identified the van that they were put in afterwards to be a Croatian police vehicle. Concerning the ride to Croatia he described that the driver was driving very bumpy, braking very sharply at any given moment.

      “you know, they really try to make you hate yourself. For what you have done and so you never try again to cross border to Croatia.”

      “If they deport you in the day you stay in the police car all day till it gets night. If they deport you in the night, they let you go directly.”

      In Croatia they had to wait for 15 hours, from 10:00 to 01:00 the next day (16th September) in the van. During this time they were not provided with any food or water and just left alone in the car. While they were waiting several other people-on-the-move were brought into the van by Croatian police officers, including a Bangladeshi man. Finally, at around 01:00 two Croatian police officers drove the van to the border of Bosnian territory, about 10 kilometers out of Bihac.

      When they arrived to this location, the respondent described that a Croatian officer wearing a dark uniform and a black ski-mask with a big German Shepherd told them to leave the van and line up in a file. The group-members were then told to get undressed to their boxers and a T-shirt. The officer took all of the clothes in a bin bag and set them on fire. Another officer was waiting behind the wheel of the vehicle during the procedure. The men then had to line up in a row, crowded closely together. The policeman yelled: “haide, go,go,go,go” and let the dog off the leash, which immediately snapped at the arm of the man in the last position in the row. The other men were able to run away in this way, but the last one apparently received a severe wound in his arm. The respondent then walked another 24 hours back to Velika Kladusa, where he started his journey.

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/violence-reports/deport-from-trieste

  • Inquiry launched into EU commission’s protection of migrants at Croatia border

    Investigation follows allegations of brutal pushbacks of refugees into Bosnia and lack of monitoring of border police

    An official inquiry has been launched into the European commission’s alleged failure to protect the rights of migrants and refugees said to have been robbed and abused by police at Croatia’s borders.

    The EU ombudsman is investigating the potential complicity of the EU’s executive branch in the maladministration of funds that should have been spent on supervising the behaviour of border officers working at the scene of some of the violence.

    There have been multiple allegations of aggressive pushbacks of migrants and refugees by Croatian police on the country’s border with Bosnia, including an incident in which a migrant was shot.

    Croatia has repeatedly denied allegations of violence by its border patrol and in October said it would launch an investigation with the goal of removing any doubt about police conduct.

    In June, the Guardian revealed that the commission had withheld from MEPs details of the Croatian government’s failure to spend EU money committed to the supervision the police officers on the border. One European commission official privately warned that disclosure of the underspend “will for sure be seen as a ‘scandal’”.

    The revelation highlighted the Croatian government’s human rights record and the apparent willingness of the EU’s executive branch to cover for Zagreb’s failure.

    Croatia is seeking to enter the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone – a move that requires compliance with European human rights standards.

    The ombudsman’s inquiry has been launched in response to a complaint by Amnesty International whose European institutions director Eve Geddie said: “Over the years, Amnesty and other organisations have documented numerous violations, including beatings and torture of migrants and asylum-seekers by Croatian police, whose salaries may have been paid for by EU funds.

    “Today’s announcement of an inquiry by the EU ombudsman into how the commission allowed the funds to continue to be used without ensuring compliance with human rights is a significant first step towards addressing these flagrant abuses and providing accountability.

    “By continuing to fund border operations and giving a green light for Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area, the commission abdicated its responsibilities to monitor how EU assistance is used and sent a dangerous signal that blatant human rights violations can continue with no questions asked.”

    The establishment of supervisory mechanisms to ensure the humane treatment of migrants at the border had been a condition of a €6.8m (£6.1m) cash injection announced in December 2018 to strengthen Croatia’s borders with non-EU countries.

    The mechanism was publicised by the European commission as a way to “ensure that all measures applied at the EU external borders are proportionate and are in full compliance with fundamental rights and EU asylum laws”.

    Croatian ministers claimed last year that the funds had been handed over to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Croatian Law Centre to establish the supervisory mechanism.

    But both organisations subsequently denied receiving the money. In January this year, the commission was asked by Clare Daly, an Irish MEP in the Independents 4 Change party, to account for the discrepancy.

    A commission official responded that the UNHCR and Croatian Law Centre had established the monitoring mechanism but from “their own funds” to ensure independence from the government.

    He added: “Hopefully [this] clarifies this matter once and for all”.

    But both organisations denied being involved in any monitoring project, clarifying that they had only been engaged in an earlier initiative involving the examination of police files.

    Beyond the apparent inaccuracy of the response to Daly, internal emails suggest the full facts of the “underspending” – as its known to the commission – were also withheld from MEPs.

    The European commission failed to inform Daly that the Croatian government had decided to ringfence only €102,000 of the €300,000 provided for the monitoring mechanism and that ultimately only €84,672 was actually spent: €17,469.87 was given to the interior ministry and €59,637.91 went to NGOs. A roundtable conference accounted for €1,703.16.

    “While we know that there has been underspending on the €300,000 … we thought that around €240,000 were nevertheless spent in the context of the monitoring mechanism,” an EU official wrote while discussing how to deal with the MEP’s questions. “Having spent only €102,000, will for sure be seen as a ‘scandal’.”

    In response to questions by this newspaper at the time, a spokesman for the commission said they had not provided the full information to MEPs as they had an “incomplete” account.

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/nov/10/inquiry-launched-into-eu-commissions-protection-of-migrants-at-croatia-

    #enquête #commission_européenne #Croatie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #route_des_balkans #violence #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Bosnie #police #violences_policières

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Bosnia Signs Deal with Pakistan to Send Back Migrants

    Bosnia and Herzegovina signed an agreement with Pakistan that opens up the possibility of repatriating some illegal Pakistani migrants who are currently in the Balkan country.

    Pakistani Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmed Shah and Bosnian Security Minister Selmo Cikotic signed an agreement and an accompanying protocol in Islamabad on Wednesday which should allow migrants to be returned to their home country.

    With the agreement, Pakistan committed itself to accept the return of its citizens who are currently living illegally in Bosnia and vice versa.

    According to the agreement, the competent authorities for receiving, submitting and processing readmission requests, as well as those for transit, will be the Bosnian Security Ministry and the Ministry of Interior for Pakistan.

    Readmission and reception of citizens of the two countries and the transit of foreigners will take place through the international airports in Sarajevo and Islamabad.

    The issue of Pakistani migrants in Bosnia has been the source of problems between the two countries that escalated when Fahrudin Radoncic, the former Bosnian security minister, accused Islamabad in April this year of not wanting to work with Sarajevo on the illegal migration issue.

    The dispute started when Radoncic ordered Bosnia’s Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, the SFA, to compile a list of an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 illegal migrants to be deported, excluding refugees from war-torn Syria.

    He claimed that there are around 3,000 illegal migrants from Pakistan among them and that that Pakistani embassy didn’t want to co-operate on identifying them.

    Radoncic went so far as to demand that the Pakistani ambassador to Sarajevo be declared persona non grata.

    However, Radoncic did not receive the support of either state presidency chairman Sefik Dzaferovic or Bisera Turkovic, the Bosnian foreign minister, which is why he resigned in early June.

    According to estimates by the International Organisation for Migration, Bosnian authorities and NGOs, there are currently about 10,000 illegal migrants in Bosnia, of whom a significant number are citizens of Pakistan.

    Slobodan Ujic, director of Bosnia’s Service for Foreigner’s Affairs, SFA, told BIRN earlier that establishing the identity of migrants had been a problem for years because the embassies of countries where migrants come from do not want to cooperate.

    https://balkaninsight.com/2020/11/04/bosnia-signs-deal-with-pakistan-to-send-back-migrants
    #Bosnie #accord_de_réadmission #asile #migrations #réfugiés #déboutés #renvois #expulsions #accord #Bosnie-Herzégovine

  • At the same conference, Birte Schorpion of the Danish Refugee Council presented the findings of border monitoring by the Danish Refugee Council on pushbacks and human rights violations, focusing on serious human rights violations of refugees and other migrants registered over the past 16 days at the borders of Croatia with Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the testimonies of doctors who intervened after the pushbacks and confirmed the serious injuries. Out of 75 cases recorded in the period from 12 to 16 October, 52 people needed medical aid and four were visibly underage. Additionally, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has published its monthly reports (https://drc.ngo/our-work/where-we-work/europe/bosnia-and-herzegovina) on the violent and illegal pushbacks of refugees and other migrants from Croatian territory. Since December 2019, the DRC has recorded 14,090 pushbacks, and in recent months there has been a rise in the number of pushbacks accompanied by violence, torture, confiscation and destruction of personal belongings. Out of 1,659 documented pushbacks last month, 84% included the destruction of personal belongings, 72% degrading treatment and 60% physical violence. These alarming figures are just one more thing in a series of reasons demonstrating the importance and urgency of establishing an independent border control mechanism!

    Reçu via la mailing-list Inicijativa Dobrodosli, mail du 04.11.2020

    #Croatie #Bosnie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #push-backs #refoulements #frontière #route_des_balkans #Balkans #violence
    ping @karine4

  • Pandemic heaps new fears and trauma on war-scarred Bosnians
    https://apnews.com/article/pandemics-virus-outbreak-health-bosnian-war-sarajevo-b755155a72515dd66f19722

    Women exercise during a therapy session in a park in Sarajevo, Bosnia Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. As coronavirus cases surge in Bosnia, the pandemic is heaping new trouble on an impoverished nation that has never recovered economically or psychologically from a war in the 1990s. Bosnian health authorities estimate that nearly half of the Balkan nation’s nearly 3.5 million people have suffered some degree of trauma resulting from the war.
    The 58-year-old unemployed woman attends group therapy sessions to work through the trauma of the 1992-95 conflict. As a young woman in Sarajevo, she endured bombardment, hunger, electricity shortages and was forced to break off her university studies for good. Today she sometimes has to be reminded to see the novel virus as a serious risk.
    “The war was my most difficult experience in life,” she said after a recent therapy session that included painting pinecones and exercising in a Sarajevo park with others.
    “As for the pandemic, the world survived plague and cholera and those are now just water under the bridge.” As coronavirus cases surge in Bosnia, the pandemic is heaping more trouble on an impoverished nation that has never recovered economically or psychologically from a war that killed 100,000 people and forced 2.2 million from their homes.Bosnian health authorities estimate that about half of the the Balkan nation’s nearly 3.5 million people have suffered some degree of trauma resulting from the war.
    Mental health professionals fear that the pandemic will now exacerbate mental health problems and other health risks, and are speaking of a surge of new patients coming into their practices in recent months.
    Tihana Mjstorovic, a Sarajevo psychologist who led the pinecone-painting session, said the war experience was leading some Bosnians to downplay the threat of the pandemic, increasing the risk of its spread.
    “People who survived the war perceive danger differently. Often, if they are not hungry, cold or have mortars exploding over their heads, they do not feel they are in danger,” said Majstorovic, who works for Menssana, a non-governmental mental health group in Sarajevo.It has made them prone to “downplaying the threat, to behaving less responsibly than they should,” Majstorovic said. “It is not at all a healthy mechanism for adapting to a world threatened by an invisible virus.”Remzija Setic, a clinical psychologist, said he, too, sees war survivors “recklesslessly” downplaying the risks of the virus. But he also has patients who are suffering from heightened anxiety because some aspects of living through this pandemic are reminiscent of the war: being trapped indoors, seeing public spaces as dangerous, concern over getting food and separation from family and friends

    #Covid-19#migrant#migration#bosnie#sante#santementale#conflit#mémoire#trauma#pandemie#risque#personnedeplacee

  • Croatia stopped 16,000 migrant border crossings since January

    Croatia claims to have stopped just over 16,000 attempts by migrants without visas to cross the border with Bosnia since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Bosnia says it has halted close to 9,000 illegal migrant entrances so far this year.
    Since the beginning of the year, Croatian border police have halted just over 16,000 attempts to enter the country by migrants without proper papers arriving from Bosnia, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said Wednesday.

    Some 374 people were arrested on human trafficking charges in police operations, the minister said, most of whom were allegedly members of criminal organizations.

    Bosnian border crossings

    Meanwhile, Bosnian border police stopped almost 9,000 illegal attempts to cross into Bosnia and Herzegovina since the beginning of the year, border police director Zoran Galic said on September 12.

    There were 8,463 attempted entrances in total. In 7,376 of these cases, the migrants reportedly had been previously stopped and identified in Bosnia and had documents with them in which they declared their intention to request asylum in the country.

    Galic said that in the past eight months, some 11 migrant trafficking crimes had been discovered in the Zvornik area along the border with Serbia alone.

    Migrants still on Balkan Route

    Countries along the so-called Balkan Route have fortified their borders and increased border patrols in recent years. But there are still tens of thousands of migrants who are trying to cross through eastern European countries such as Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia to Western Europe.

    In recent weeks, border authorities discovered numerous migrants trying to clandestinely cross borders in the Balkan region.

    In Slovenia, in the 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, police from the Capodistria district reportedly stopped 35 migrants from entering Croatia. According to a police statement, most of them were from Afghanistan (23) or Morocco (6).

    Migrants hiding on trucks

    On September 15, Serbian customs officials stationed along the border between Hungary and Croatia discovered 14 migrants hiding in various trucks. They were allegedly trying to reach EU countries in Western Europe. Serbian media report that six migrants had been discovered at the Horgos crossing on the Hungarian border on a Macedonian truck carrying tires from Turkey to the Czech Republic.

    Four migrants were discovered on two Serbian trucks that were carrying women’s hosiery and headed for Italy. The migrants, two on each truck, were discovered during a customs check on the border with Croatia. Also on the Serbian-Croatian border, four migrants were found on a truck carrying olives from Greece to the Netherlands.

    In another incident along the border between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday morning, three migrants were reportedly rescued in #Zvornik while they were trying to cross the #Drina river. The three had been stuck at the point where the river is deepest for hours, grasping large stone blocks to not be swept away from the current. Passers-by saw the migrants, who were then rescued by the border police and firefighters.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/27384/croatia-stopped-16-000-migrant-border-crossings-since-january
    #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Croatie #statistiques #chiffres #Bosnie #Bosnie-Herzégovine