• Un interprète qui travaille pour #Frontex affirme qu’en septembre, des gardes-frontières grecs l’ont pris pour un demandeur d’asile, l’ont agressé et l’ont ensuite forcé à traverser la frontière vers la Turquie avec des dizaines de migrants. Selon les fonctionnaires européens chargés de son dossier, il a fourni à l’agence des preuves à l’appui de ses allégations. Il a déposé plainte contre Frontex. Ylva Johansson, commissaire européenne chargée des migrations, a déclaré qu’après une conversation avec lui, elle avait été « extrêmement préoccupée par son récit »

    E.U. Interpreter Says Greece Expelled Him to Turkey in Migrant Roundup

    The man’s story echoes complaints from human-rights groups that Greek authorities often expel asylum seekers indiscriminately and violently.

    For years, Greek officials have denied complaints from human rights groups that the country’s border agents have brutalized migrants and forcibly pushed them back into Turkey. They have dismissed the allegations as fake news or Turkish propaganda.

    Now a single case may force a reckoning.

    A European Union interpreter says that in September, Greek border guards mistook him for an asylum seeker, assaulted him and then forced him across the border into Turkey alongside dozens of migrants.

    His allegation is particularly problematic for Greek officials because he is a legal European Union resident employed by the E.U. border agency, Frontex. And he has turned over evidence to the agency to support his claims of abuse, according to European officials dealing with his case.

    The European Union, which has mostly looked the other way on abuses of migrants, is now being forced to confront the problem.

    Surfacing in the wake of an acute border crisis with Belarus over migrants, the case has commanded the attention of senior European leaders for weeks. Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for migration, said she called the interpreter on Friday to discuss his accusations.

    “After direct, in-depth discussion with the person on Nov. 25, I was extremely concerned by his account,” Ms. Johansson said. “In addition to his personal story, his assertion that this was not an isolated case is a serious issue,” she added, saying he told her he had witnessed at least 100 migrants who were pushed over the border and sometimes roughed up

    However, a Greek government ministry statement cast doubt on his account, saying initial inquiries suggested “the facts are not as presented.”

    The interpreter told The New York Times that he had filed a complaint with Frontex, and European officials confirmed this. They said the complaint was being treated as credible because of the man’s position and the documentation he provided, including audio and video recordings.

    The man asked not to be identified out of concern for his safety and his livelihood. Two European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case with reporters, confirmed his identity.

    He said that he and many of the migrants he was detained with were beaten and stripped, and that the police seized their phones, money and documents. His attempts to tell the police who he was were met with laughter and beatings, he said. He said he was taken to a remote warehouse where he was kept with at least 100 others, including women and children. They were then put on dinghies and pushed across the Evros River into Turkish territory.

    His accusations were similar to those from human-rights groups, along with mounting evidence gathered by migrants and reporters, all claiming that Greek authorities routinely round up and expel migrants without permitting them to complete asylum requests — often in an indiscriminate and violent way. Greek authorities have also been accused of pushing back migrants in flimsy dinghies in the Aegean Sea, sometimes disabling the engines and leaving the migrants to drift back into Turkish waters. Greece has denied the accusations.

    The man’s story came to light at a critical moment in Europe’s reckoning with its practices in dealing with migrants, which have drawn renewed scrutiny after a standoff at the Belarus-Poland border that left 12 migrants dead. In a bid to put pressure on the European Union over a geopolitical standoff, Belarus lured migrants into its territory, left them in a frigid forest and encouraged them to cross into E.U. countries, including Poland. Polish authorities repelled them, sometimes violently.

    That crisis, together with a similar standoff between Greece and Turkey last year with asylum seekers caught in the middle, has laid bare a growing gulf between European laws and norms in treating asylum seekers, and the reality on the ground.

    Public opinion toward immigration soured after the Syrian war brought more than one million refugees to Europe in 2015-16. Still, in much of the European Union, politicians and citizens oppose inhumane and illegal practices such as rounding up migrants and expelling them without due process.

    But governments at Europe’s frontiers, such as Greece, view migration laws and procedures as out of date and out of step with the current climate, contending that they were designed before the mass population displacements seen in recent years.

    Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece, in remarks this month, rejected accusations of abuses against migrants by the Greek authorities. He called his migration policy “tough, but fair.”

    Ms. Johansson said she had spoken on Monday with the Greek minister for citizen protection, Takis Theodorikakos, and he promised to investigate the interpreter’s claims.

    “The independent National Transparency Authority will conduct an investigation and will be open about its findings as always, but preliminary inquiries in this case appear to suggest the facts are not as presented,” the ministry’s media office said in a statement.

    Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, said the interpreter’s allegations were part of a pattern of growing E.U. brutality toward migrants and asylum seekers.

    “With tens of thousands of victims who drowned in the Mediterranean, thousands languishing in what has been described as concentration camps in Libya, the misery in the camps on the Greek islands for so many years, people drowning in the Channel or freezing to death on the border between Belarus and the E.U., the European Commission cannot claim anymore that these are incidents, accidents, exceptions,” she said.

    “It is not a policy failure,” she added. “It is policy.”

    Greece, one of the main gateways into the European Union for migrants, has long maintained that it is being asked to rescue, process and host too many people arriving from Turkey, a hostile neighbor that often encourages asylum seekers to go to Greece to provoke the government there and to press its demands with the European Union.

    Under Greek and E.U. laws, the Greek authorities are required to assess asylum requests for all who seek protection, to house asylum seekers in humane conditions and, if they are rejected, to repatriate them safely.

    Efforts to more fairly distribute asylum seekers across the European Union have stalled, as many member countries prefer to send funding to Greece and other frontier nations to host asylum seekers, and keep them away from their territories.

    Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office pay and deploy hundreds of employees to ensure that the bloc’s external borders are guarded while human rights laws are upheld.

    The interpreter, who is originally from Afghanistan, has lived for years as a legal resident in Italy. He was employed by Frontex as a member of an E.U.-funded team of experts deployed to help the border guards communicate with asylum seekers.

    He had been working in the border region of Evros alongside Greek and E.U. guards, and was on his way to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, for a break when the police pulled him and a number of migrants off a bus, he said.

    After they were beaten, detained and forced into Turkey, the interpreter said, he managed to reach Istanbul, where he received consular assistance from the Italian authorities, and was eventually repatriated to Italy on Sept. 18.

    The Italian foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    A Frontex spokesman said the agency was investigating the report and could not comment further as long as the investigation continues.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/world/europe/greece-migrants-interpreter-expelled.html

    #plainte #témoignage #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Grèce #frontières #refoulement #push-back #interprète #Evros #Turquie

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Afghans fleeing the Taliban face death, deportation and push-backs in Turkey

    With financial support from the EU, Turkey has toughened up its migration policies – putting hundreds of thousands at risk.

    As the US continues withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, and the Taliban increases its control in the country, around 1,000 Afghans have been arriving to Turkey’s eastern border with Iran every day.

    According to an aid provider for refugees in Eastern Turkey who wishes to remain anonymous, local authorities are exposing the arriving migrants to harsh controls as they struggle to process all those in need of safety. To avoid detection by state authorities and potential mistreatment, many migrants must rely on smugglers and use dangerous routes that can sometimes end in death.

    When walking in the #Seyrantepe cemetery in #Van, in eastern Turkey, one might stumble across a large area at the end, lined with headstones without names. The gravestones are marked either by numbers or nationalities. Most are Afghans who tried to cross from Iran to Turkey before attempting to travel to Istanbul and finally to the European Union.

    “The majority of refugees die during the smuggling accidents,” the local gravedigger, a Kurdish man in his late forties, explained while walking around the cemetery. “Smugglers put too many people in small fishing boats when trying to transport them across the Van Lake, which results in boat accidents and drownings.

    “Refugees are also driven very fast through army road checks, drivers lose control and kill the passengers,” he added.

    Residents say they find dozens of dead bodies in the mountains when the snow melts every spring. These are refugees who try to cross the border in the winter and either freeze to death, are attacked by wild animals or are shot by the Iranian army.

    Who crosses the Iran-Turkey border?

    Turkey’s eastern border with Iran has served as the main transit point for Afghans since the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s. The Afghans I met at this border were mostly Hazara Shia Muslims, LGBTIQ+ individuals and former soldiers or translators for the US Army. All were particularly vulnerable to the recent increase in Taliban control.

    I also met Iranian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Iraqi, Syrian and Nigerian nationals crossing Turkey’s eastern border in search of an alternative transit route to safety after Turkey’s southern border with Syria was sealed with a wall in 2018.

    Since refugees lack access to legal routes to safety, most move without authorisation and rely on smugglers. The Turkish Ministry of Interior estimates that almost half a million ‘illegal’ migrants entered Turkey prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and around 62,000 in 2021. However, it is likely that the real numbers are much higher due to the clandestine nature of this movement.

    Toughening up migration policies in Turkey

    Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, with more than four million refugees. Since the country retains geographical limitation to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, only people fleeing events in Europe can be given refugee status there. Yet, the majority of refugees in Turkey are Syrian nationals granted special status of temporary protection.

    Those who are non-Syrian and non-European, including Afghans, are not entitled to seek asylum in the country but must instead ask for international protection, and if successful, wait for a third country to resettle them, explains Mahmut Kaçan, a lawyer from the Bar Van Association.

    “I registered five years ago, but no one has even asked me for an interview to be resettled. We are losing hope to be resettled,” says Taimur, a refugee from Afghanistan currently residing in Van.

    Turkey has recently toughened up its migration policies, which numerous people I spoke to considered to be driven by the government’s fear that migrants will overstay in Turkey.

    My friend was crossing with a large group from Iran to Turkey. When the Iranian police saw them, they started shooting

    In 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gave its responsibility for determining a person’s international protection status in Turkey to the Directorate General Migration Management (DGMM), which acts under the Turkish Ministry of Interior. This centralization had a catastrophic impact on non-Syrian refugees in Turkey. The DGMM gave positive international protection status to only 5,449 applicants in 2019, compared to 72,961 successful applications in 2018 under UNHCR mandate: a 92.5% drop.

    At the same time, the number of removal centers, where people are accommodated before being deported, increased in Turkey from ten to 28 since the 2016 EU-Turkey Agreement. The European Commission gave €60m to Turkey for the management, reception and hosting of migrants, some of which was spent on the construction and refurbishment of these facilities. This boom of removal centers goes hand in hand with an increase in the number of deportations of Afghans from Turkey from 10,000 in 2017 to 33,000 in 2018 and 40,000 in 2019, according to an internal presentation allegedly from a Turkish government meeting, which was sent to the Afghanistan Analyst Network (AAN). While return flights mostly stopped in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ANN reports that still more than 9,000 Afghans were deported from Turkey during the last year.
    Navigating the local military conflict and push-backs

    Migration in eastern Turkey takes place under the shadow of Turkey’s fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a military struggle that has been ongoing since the 1980s.

    Although the fighting has calmed down over the past five years, a large Turkish military presence and military operations continue across the region, marked by killings and arrests of PKK suspects.

    Civilians are also subjected to military surveillance and anti-terror operations, including Kurdish people who are economically dependent on the smuggling of goods (e.g., tobacco, petrol, food) or refugees across the border.

    “You can be killed on the spot if you cross the border through a military area,” explained Muge, a member of the Hayatadestek (‘Support to Life’), a humanitarian organization helping disaster-affected communities and refugees in Turkey.

    The European Commission has criticised Turkish authorities for detaining, persecuting and convicting journalists, students, lawyers, opposition political parties and activists mostly on overly broad terrorism-related charges, which concern particularly populations in eastern Turkey. However, at the same time, the commission has dedicated extensive funds and support for military projects in eastern Turkey with the aim to stop onward ‘illegal’ migration to the European Union.

    These involve millions of euros for walls and the construction of barbed-wire fences, as well as delivery of surveillance vehicles, communication and surveillance masts, thermal cameras, and hardware and software equipment, as well as training of border patrols along the Iran-Turkey border.

    Outsourcing borders

    What this approach does is push the borders of the European Union much further away, and outsource anti-migration measures to authoritarian governments who apply local anti-terror policies to exclude border crossers.

    “My brother keeps trying to enter Turkey from Iran. He tried to cross six times recently but was beaten up by Turkish army each time, and then pushed back to Iran. The army was shooting at him,” Amir, another Afghan living in Van, told me.

    The experience of Amir’s brother is an example of ‘push-backs’: the illegal procedure by which people are forced back over a border without consideration of their individual circumstances. Push-backs by EU state authorities and Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, have been reported to take place in Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and other places along the EU’s physical borders.

    A soldier from the Turkish Gendarmerie General Command, who agreed to provide commentary as long as he remains anonymous, confirmed the regular practice of push-backs from Turkey to Iran. “The [national] police told the gendarmerie [serving at the Iran-Turkey border] not to take all migrants for registration, because it is a financial burden to accommodate them all in removal centers, feed them, and legally process all of them,” he explains. “So, the gendarmerie was told to push some migrants back.”

    People who are pushed back are often trapped in the rough mountainous terrain between Turkey and Iran and face harsh treatment by the Iranian state authorities, as Ali, an Afghan in his late twenties, recalls while drinking tea in a café in Van: “My friend was crossing with a large group of people from Iran to Turkey. When the Iranian police saw them, they started shooting. They killed 14 people. My friend was shot in his leg but survived.”

    While these tough border measures have been deployed to stop onward ‘illegal’ migration, they paradoxically push refugees to flee further from Turkey without authorization. “If we do not get resettled from Turkey in a few years, our family will try to cross into Europe by ourselves,” says Taimur while holding his young son on his lap in a small flat in Van.

    Those arriving in Eastern Turkey often do not stay long in the country for fear of push-backs and rapid deportations. Instead, they place their money and lives in the hands of more smugglers and wish to move on.

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/north-africa-west-asia/afghans-fleeing-taliban-face-death-deportation-and-push-backs-turkey

    #Iran #Turquie #frontières #décès #morts #cimetière #externalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #montagne #réfugiés_afghans #refoulements #push-backs

    ping @isskein

  • Exils sans fin - Chantages anti-migratoires le long de la route des Balkans

    Depuis plus de 20 ans, l’UE développe une coopération avec des pays non-membres (dits « tiers ») pour externaliser le contrôle de ses frontières. Identifiés comme des pays de départ puis comme des pays de transit des migrations à destination de l’UE, les pays des Balkans ont été rapidement intégrés au cœur de cette stratégie d’externalisation. Ce, particulièrement depuis la malnommée « crise migratoire » de l’année 2015 lors de laquelle près d’un million de personnes venues principalement du Moyen-Orient ont été compatibilisées le long de la route des Balkans, itinéraire reliant la Grèce à des pays de l’UE situés plus à l’Ouest, et notamment l’Allemagne.

    Prétendant résoudre une crise que l’UE a elle-même engendrée, les politiques migratoires européennes dans la région sont celles de pompiers pyromanes. Zone tampon ou zone de « sécurité migratoire », cela fait plusieurs décennies que la région des Balkans est utilisée par l’UE pour la sous-traitance du contrôle de ses frontières, au détriment tant de la population locale que des personnes exilées. Sommés de s’ériger en gardes-frontières et en véritables « #hotspots » au service de l’UE, les pays des Balkans sont aujourd’hui le théâtre d’une multitude de violations de droits et de #violences exercées à l’encontre des personnes exilées.

    Fruit d’un travail in situ réalisé entre janvier et avril 2021 pour le réseau Migreurop, le présent rapport documente ce processus d’externalisation des frontières européennes dans la région des Balkans. Il s’appuie sur des observations de terrain et plus d’une centaine d’entretiens réalisés avec des personnes exilées, des représentant·e·s d’ONG locales et internationales, des chercheurs et des chercheuses, des militant·e·s, des avocat·e·s, des journalistes, ainsi que des actrices et acteurs institutionnels.

    Le rapport se décompose en trois parties. La première examine la manière dont les dirigeant·e·s européen·ne·s instrumentalisent le processus d’adhésion des pays des Balkans à des fins de contrôle migratoire. La deuxième s’intéresse à la transformation de ces pays en véritables « chiens de garde » des frontières de l’UE, en accordant une attention particulière aux pratiques de #refoulements et aux violences comme outils normalisés de gestion des frontières. La troisième partie documente la mise en place de « l’approche hotspot » dans la région.

    https://migreurop.org/article3069.html
    #externalisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #contrôles_frontaliers #zone_tampon #pays_tiers #push-backs #rapport #Migreurop #refoulements #violence

  • European Court of Human Rights: Bulgaria’s pushback practice violates human rights

    Bulgaria’s systematic expulsion of refugees and migrants to Turkey without an individual examination of the risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment violates the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled today.

    In the case D v. Bulgaria, the Court unanimously found that the applicant, a Turkish journalist, was forcibly returned to Turkey. The Bulgarian authorities had failed to carry out an assessment of the risk he faced there, and deprived him of the possibility to challenge his removal, breaching articles 3 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court found. He was supported in the proceedings by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, The Center for Legal Aid - Voice in Bulgaria and Foundation PRO ASYL.

    “The ECtHR’s decision provides belated but important satisfaction for the applicant. It sets a strong counterpoint to Bulgaria’s longstanding practice of denying refugees protection from persecution and handing them straight back to their persecutors,” says attorney Carsten Gericke, D’s counsel. “This is a clear signal to Bulgaria that pushbacks, as carried out along the EU’s external borders, must come to an end and access to human rights and to asylum must be guaranteed.”

    After many years working as a journalist in Turkey, D was compelled to leave the country due to increasing state repression in the aftermath of the attempted coup d’état in July 2016. Together with eight other refugees from Turkey and Syria, he was apprehended in a truck at the Bulgarian-Romanian border on October 14, 2016. Despite expressing his fear of return to Turkey, at no point did the Bulgarian authorities assess the risk of torture, mistreatment and further political persecution faced by the applicant in Turkey. He was not allowed access to a lawyer or interpreter and was returned to Turkey within less than 24 hours.

    “This is a breakthrough decision for guaranteeing the right to asylum procedures and protecting asylum seekers from removal to the country where they face persecution,” adds Diana Radoslavova from the Center for Legal Aid - Voice in Bulgaria.

    Upon arrival in Turkey, D was immediately detained, and later, in December 2019, sentenced to seven and a half years of imprisonment for membership of a terrorist organization FETÖ. The verdict against him was largely based on the fact that he had the messenger application, ’Bylock’, on his cell phone. Following the Turkish government’s assertion that the app is used by the Gülen movement, which it declared a terrorist organization, Turkish courts have viewed the use of the app as sufficient proof of affiliation to the group.

    “The right to asylum is under attack. Today’s ruling has once again clarified that the protection from refoulement is absolute. The fight against pushbacks and violence at the EU’s borders continues - with new tailwind from Strasbourg,” says Karl Kopp from PRO ASYL.

    NGOs have consistently reported on pushbacks at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, documenting how Turkish nationals in particular are denied access to asylum. In 2018, the Council of Europe’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, Tomáš Boček, criticized the lack of respect for the principle of non-refoulement and urged for the individual examination of personal risk refugees/applicants might face when they are deported back to Turkey.

    https://www.ecchr.eu/pressemitteilung/european-court-of-human-rights-bulgarias-pushback-practice-violates-human-righ

    #CourEDH #CEDH #Bulgarie #push-backs #renvois #refoulements #Turquie #expulsions #justice #condamnation #risques #réfugiés_turques

    ping @isskein

  • À la frontière franco-espagnole, le renforcement des contrôles conduit les migrants à prendre toujours plus de #risques

    Au #Pays_basque, après que trois Algériens sont morts fauchés par un train à Saint-Jean-de-Luz/Ciboure le 12 octobre, associations et militants dénoncent le « #harcèlement » subi par les migrants tentant de traverser la frontière franco-espagnole. Face à l’inaction de l’État, des réseaux citoyens se mobilisent pour « sécuriser » leur parcours et éviter de nouveaux drames.

    Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques).– Attablés en terrasse d’un café, mardi 26 octobre, sous un ciel gris prêt à déverser son crachin, Line et Peio peinent toujours à y croire. « On n’imagine pas le niveau de fatigue, l’épuisement moral, l’état de détresse dans lequel ils devaient se trouver pour décider de se reposer là un moment », constatent-ils les sourcils froncés, comme pour marquer leur peine.

    Le 12 octobre dernier, trois migrants algériens étaient fauchés par un train, au petit matin, à 500 mètres de la gare de Saint-Jean-de-Luz/Ciboure. Un quatrième homme, blessé mais désormais hors de danger, a confirmé aux enquêteurs que le groupe avait privilégié la voie ferrée pour éviter les contrôles de police, puis s’était arrêté pour se reposer, avant de s’assoupir.

    Un cinquième homme, dont les documents d’identité avaient été retrouvés sur les lieux, avait pris la fuite avant d’être retrouvé deux jours plus tard à Bayonne.

    « Ceux qui partent de nuit tentent de passer la frontière vers 23 heures et arrivent ici à 3 ou 4 heures du matin. La #voie_ferrée est une voie logique quand on sait que les contrôles de police sont quasi quotidiens aux ronds-points entre #Hendaye et #Saint-Jean-de-Luz », souligne Line, qui préside l’association #Elkartasuna_Larruna (Solidarité autour de la Rhune, en basque) créée en 2018 pour accompagner et « sécuriser » l’arrivée importante de migrants subsahariens dans la région.

    Peio Etcheverry-Ainchart, qui a participé à la création de l’association, est depuis élu, dans l’opposition, à Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Pour lui, le drame reflète la réalité du quotidien des migrants au Pays basque. « Ils n’iraient pas sur la voie ferrée s’ils se sentaient en sécurité dans les transports ou sur les axes routiers », dénonce-t-il en pointant du doigt le manque d’action politique au niveau local.

    « Ils continueront à passer par là car ils n’ont pas le choix et ce genre de drame va se reproduire. La #responsabilité politique des élus de la majorité est immense, c’est une honte. » Trois cents personnes se sont réunies au lendemain du drame pour rendre hommage aux victimes, sans la présence du maire de Saint-Jean-de-Luz. « La ville refuse toutes nos demandes de subvention, peste Line. Pour la majorité, les migrants ne passent pas par ici et le centre d’accueil créé à #Bayonne, #Pausa, est suffisant. »

    Un manque de soutien, à la fois moral et financier, qui n’encourage pas, selon elle, les locaux à se mobiliser auprès de l’association, qui compte une trentaine de bénévoles. Son inquiétude ? « Que les gens s’habituent à ce que des jeunes meurent et que l’on n’en parle plus, comme à Calais ou à la frontière franco-italienne. Il faut faire de la résistance. »

    Samedi dernier, j’en ai récupéré deux tard le soir, épuisés et frigorifiés

    Guillaume, un « aidant »

    Ce mardi midi à Saint-Jean-de-Luz, un migrant marocain avance d’un pas sûr vers la halte routière, puis se met en retrait, en gardant un œil sur l’arrêt de bus. Dix minutes plus tard, le bus en direction de Bayonne s’arrête et le trentenaire court pour s’y engouffrer avant que les portes ne se referment.

    Guillaume, qui travaille dans le quartier de la gare, fait partie de ces « aidants » qui refusent de laisser porte close. « Samedi dernier, j’en ai récupéré deux tard le soir, qui étaient arrivés à Saint-Jean en fin d’après-midi. Ils étaient épuisés et frigorifiés. » Après les avoir accueillis et leur avoir offert à manger, il les achemine ensuite jusqu’à Pausa à 2 heures du matin, où il constate qu’il n’est pas le seul à avoir fait la navette.

    La semaine dernière, un chauffeur de bus a même appelé la police quand des migrants sont montés à bord

    Guillaume, un citoyen vivant à Saint-Jean-de-Luz

    « Il m’est arrivé de gérer 10 ou 40 personnes d’un coup. Des femmes avec des bébés, des enfants, des jeunes qui avaient marché des heures et me racontaient leur périple. J’allais parfois m’isoler pour pleurer avant de m’occuper d’eux », confie celui qui ne cache pas sa tristesse face à tant d’« inhumanité ». Chaque jour, rapporte-t-il, la police sillonne les alentours, procède à des #contrôles_au_faciès à l’arrêt de bus en direction de Bayonne et embarque les migrants, comme en témoigne cette vidéo publiée sur Facebook en août 2019 (https://www.facebook.com/100000553678281/posts/2871341412894286/?d=n).

    « La semaine dernière, un #chauffeur_de_bus a même appelé la #police quand des migrants sont montés à bord. Ça rappelle une époque à vomir. » Face à ce « harcèlement » et cette « pression folle », Guillaume n’est pas étonné que les Algériens aient pris le risque de longer la voie ferrée. « Les habitants et commerçants voient régulièrement des personnes passer par là. Les gens sont prêts à tout. »

    À la frontière franco-espagnole aussi, en gare de Hendaye, la police est partout. Un véhicule se gare, deux agents en rejoignent un autre, situé à l’entrée du « topo » (train régional qui relie Hendaye à la ville espagnole de Saint-Sébastien), qui leur tend des documents. Il leur remet un jeune homme, arabophone, qu’ils embarquent.

    « Ils vont le laisser de l’autre côté du pont. Ils font tout le temps ça, soupire Miren*, qui observe la scène sans pouvoir intervenir. Les policiers connaissent les horaires d’arrivée du topo et des trains venant d’#Irun (côté espagnol). Ils viennent donc dix minutes avant et se postent ici pour faire du contrôle au faciès. » Depuis près de trois ans, le réseau citoyen auquel elle appartient, Bidasoa Etorkinekin, accueille et accompagne les personnes en migration qui ont réussi à passer la frontière, en les acheminant jusqu’à Bayonne.

    La bénévole monte à bord de sa voiture en direction des entrepôts de la SNCF. Là, un pont flambant neuf, barricadé, apparaît. « Il a été fermé peu après son inauguration pour empêcher les migrants de passer. » Des #grilles ont été disposées, tel un château de cartes, d’autres ont été ajoutées sur les côtés. En contrebas, des promeneurs marchent le long de la baie.

    Miren observe le pont de Santiago et le petit chapiteau blanc marquant le #barrage_de_police à la frontière entre Hendaye et #Irun. « Par définition, un #pont est censé faire le lien, pas séparer... » Selon un militant, il y aurait à ce pont et au pont de #Behobia « quatre fois plus de forces de l’ordre » qu’avant. Chaque bus est arrêté et les passagers contrôlés. « C’est cela qui pousse les personnes à prendre toujours plus de risques », estime-t-il, à l’instar de #Yaya_Karamoko, mort noyé dans la Bidassoa en mai dernier.

    On ne peut pas en même temps organiser l’accueil des personnes à Bayonne et mettre des moyens énormes pour faire cette chasse aux sorcières

    Eñaut, responsable de la section nord du syndicat basque LAB

    Le 12 juin, à l’initiative du #LAB, syndicat socio-politique basque, une manifestation s’est tenue entre Irun et Hendaye pour dénoncer la « militarisation » de la frontière dans ce qui a « toujours été une terre d’accueil ». « Ça s’est inscrit dans une démarche de #désobéissance_civile et on a décidé de faire entrer six migrants parmi une centaine de manifestants, revendique Eñaut, responsable du Pays basque nord. On ne peut pas en même temps organiser l’accueil des personnes à Bayonne et mettre des moyens énormes pour faire cette #chasse_aux_sorcières, avec les morts que cela engendre. L’accident de Saint-Jean-de-Luz est le résultat d’une politique migratoire raciste. » L’organisation syndicale espère, en développant l’action sociale, sensibiliser toutes les branches de la société – patronat, salariés, État – à la question migratoire.

    Des citoyens mobilisés pour « sécuriser » le parcours des migrants

    À 22 heures mardi, côté espagnol, Maite, Arantza et Jaiona approchent lentement de l’arrêt de bus de la gare routière d’Irun. Toutes trois sont volontaires auprès du réseau citoyen #Gau_Txori (les « Oiseaux de nuit »). Depuis plus de trois ans, lorsque les cars se vident le soir, elles repèrent d’éventuels exilés désorientés en vue de les acheminer au centre d’accueil géré par la Cruz Roja (Croix-Rouge espagnole), situé à deux kilomètres de là. En journée, des marques de pas, dessinées sur le sol à intervalle régulier et accompagnées d’une croix rouge, doivent guider les migrants tout juste arrivés à Irun. Mais, à la nuit tombée, difficile de les distinguer sur le bitume et de s’orienter.

    « En hiver, c’est terrible, souffle Arantza. Cette gare est désolante. Il n’y a rien, pas même les horaires de bus. On leur vient en aide parce qu’on ne supporte pas l’injustice. On ne peut pas rester sans rien faire en sachant ce qu’il se passe. » Et Maite d’enchaîner : « Pour moi, tout le monde devrait pouvoir passer au nom de la liberté de la circulation. » « La semaine dernière, il y avait beaucoup de migrants dans les rues d’Irun. La Croix-Rouge était dépassée. Déjà, en temps normal, le centre ne peut accueillir que 100 personnes pour une durée maximale de trois jours. Quand on leur ramène des gens, il arrive que certains restent à la porte et qu’on doive les installer dans des tentes à l’extérieur », rapporte, blasée, Jaiona.

    À mesure qu’elles dénoncent les effets mortifères des politiques migratoires européennes, un bus s’arrête, puis un second. « Je crois que ce soir, on n’aura personne », sourit Arantza. Le trio se dirige vers le dernier bus, qui stationne en gare à 23 h 10. Un homme extirpe ses bagages et ceux d’une jeune fille des entrailles du car. Les bénévoles tournent les talons, pensant qu’ils sont ensemble. C’est Jaiona, restée en arrière-plan, qui comprend combien l’adolescente a le regard perdu, désespérée de voir les seules femmes présentes s’éloigner. « Cruz Roja ? », chuchote l’une des volontaires à l’oreille de Mariem, qui hoche la tête, apaisée de comprendre que ces inconnues sont là pour elle.

    Ni une ni deux, Maite la soulage d’un sac et lui indique le véhicule garé un peu plus loin. « No te preocupes, somos voluntarios » (« Ne t’inquiète pas, nous sommes des bénévoles »), lui dit Jaiona en espagnol. « On ne te veut aucun mal. On t’emmène à la Croix-Rouge et on attendra d’être sûres que tu aies une place avant de partir », ajoute Maite dans un français torturé.

    Visage juvénile, yeux en amande, Mariem n’a que 15 ans. Elle arrive de Madrid, un bonnet à pompon sur la tête, où elle a passé un mois après avoir été transférée par avion de Fuerteventura (îles Canaries) dans l’Espagne continentale, comme beaucoup d’autres ces dernières semaines, qui ont ensuite poursuivi leur route vers le nord. Les bénévoles toquent à la porte de la Cruz Roja, un agent prend en charge Mariem. Au-dehors, les phares de la voiture illuminent deux tentes servant d’abris à des exilés non admis.

    J’avais réussi à passer la frontière mais la police m’a arrêtée dans le #bus et m’a renvoyée en Espagne

    Fatima*, une exilée subsaharienne refoulée après avoir franchi la frontière

    Le lendemain matin, dès 9 heures, plusieurs exilés occupent les bancs de la place de la mairie à Irun. Chaque jour, entre 10 heures et midi, c’est ici que le réseau citoyen Irungo Harrera Sarea les accueille pour leur donner des conseils. « Qui veut rester en Espagne ici ? », demande Ion, l’un des membres du collectif. Aucune main ne se lève. Ion s’y attendait. Fatima*, la seule femme parmi les 10 exilés, a passé la nuit dehors, ignorant l’existence du centre d’accueil. « J’avais réussi à passer la frontière mais la police m’a arrêtée dans le bus et m’a renvoyée en Espagne », relate-t-elle, vêtue d’une tenue de sport, un sac de couchage déplié sur les genoux. Le « record », selon Ion, est détenu par un homme qui a tenté de passer à huit reprises et a été refoulé à chaque fois. « Il a fini par réussir. »

    Éviter de se déplacer en groupe, ne pas être trop repérable. « Vous êtes noirs », leur lance-t-il, pragmatique, les rappelant à une triste réalité : la frontière est une passoire pour quiconque a la peau suffisamment claire pour ne pas être contrôlé. « La migration n’est pas une honte, il n’y a pas de raison de la cacher », clame-t-il pour justifier le fait de s’être installés en plein centre-ville.

    Ion voit une majorité de Subsahariens. Peu de Marocains et d’Algériens, qui auraient « leurs propres réseaux d’entraide ». « On dit aux gens de ne pas traverser la Bidassoa ou longer la voie ferrée. On fait le sale boulot en les aidant à poursuivre leur chemin, ce qui arrange la municipalité d’Irun et le gouvernement basque car on les débarrasse des migrants, regrette-t-il. En voulant les empêcher de passer, les États ne font que garantir leur souffrance et nourrir les trafiquants. »

    L’un des exilés se lève et suit une bénévole, avant de s’infiltrer, à quelques mètres de là, dans un immeuble de la vieille ville. Il est invité par Karmele, une retraitée aux cheveux grisonnants, à entrer dans une pièce dont les murs sont fournis d’étagères à vêtements.

    Dans ce vestiaire solidaire, tout a été pensé pour faire vite et bien : Karmele scrute la morphologie du jeune homme, puis pioche dans l’une des rangées, où le linge, selon sa nature – doudounes, pulls, polaires, pantalons – est soigneusement plié. « Tu es long [grand], ça devrait t’aller, ça », dit-elle en lui tendant une veste. À sa droite, une affiche placardée sous des cartons étiquetés « bébé » vient rappeler aux Africaines qu’elles sont des « femmes de pouvoir ».

    Le groupe d’exilés retourne au centre d’accueil pour se reposer avant de tenter le passage dans la journée. Mariem, l’adolescente, a choisi de ne pas se rendre place de la mairie à 10 heures, influencée par des camarades du centre. « On m’a dit qu’un homme pouvait nous faire passer, qu’on le paierait à notre arrivée à Bayonne. Mais je suis à la frontière et il ne répond pas au téléphone. Il nous a dit plus tôt qu’il y avait trop de contrôles et qu’on ne pourrait pas passer pour l’instant », confie-t-elle, dépitée, en fin de matinée. Elle restera bloquée jusqu’en fin d’après-midi à Behobia, le deuxième pont, avant de se résoudre à retourner à la Cruz Roja pour la nuit.

    L’exil nous détruit, je me dis des fois qu’on aurait mieux fait de rester auprès des nôtres

    Mokhtar*, un migrant algérien

    Au même moment, sur le parking précédant le pont de Santiago, de jeunes Maghrébins tuent le temps, allongés dans l’herbe ou assis sur un banc. Tous ont des parcours de vie en pointillés, bousillés par « el ghorba » (« l’exil »), qui n’a pas eu pitié d’eux, passés par différents pays européens sans parvenir à s’établir. « Huit ans que je suis en Europe et je n’ai toujours pas les papiers », lâche Younes*, un jeune Marocain vivant depuis un mois dans un foyer à Irun. Mokhtar*, un harraga (migrant parti clandestinement depuis les côtes algériennes) originaire d’Oran, abonde : « L’exil nous détruit, je me dis des fois qu’on aurait mieux fait de rester auprès des nôtres. Mais aujourd’hui, c’est impossible de rentrer sans avoir construit quelque chose... » La notion « d’échec », le regard des autres seraient insoutenables.

    Chaque jour, Mokhtar et ses amis voient des dizaines de migrants tenter le passage du pont qui matérialise la frontière. « Les Algériens qui sont morts étaient passés par ici. Ils sont même restés un temps dans notre foyer. Avant qu’ils ne passent la frontière, je leur ai filé quatre cigarettes. Ils sont partis de nuit, en longeant les rails de train depuis cet endroit, pointe-t-il du doigt au loin. Paix à leur âme. Cette frontière est l’une des plus difficiles à franchir en Europe. » L’autre drame humain est celui des proches des victimes, ravagés par l’incertitude faute d’informations émanant des autorités françaises.
    Les proches des victimes plongés dans l’incertitude

    « Les familles ne sont pas prévenues, c’est de la torture. On a des certitudes sur deux personnes. La mère de l’un des garçons a appelé l’hôpital, le commissariat… Sans obtenir d’informations. Or elle n’a plus de nouvelles depuis le jour du drame et les amis qui l’ont connu sont sûrs d’eux », expliquait une militante vendredi 22 octobre. Selon le procureur de Bayonne, contacté cette semaine par Mediapart, les victimes ont depuis été identifiées, à la fois grâce à l’enquête ouverte mais aussi grâce aux proches qui se sont signalés.

    La mosquée d’Irun a également joué un rôle primordial pour remonter la trace des harragas décédés. « On a été plusieurs à participer, dont des associations. J’ai été en contact avec les familles des victimes et le consulat d’Algérie, qui a presque tout géré. Les corps ont été rapatriés en Algérie samedi 30 octobre, le rescapé tient le coup moralement », détaille Mohamed, un membre actif du lieu de culte. Dès le 18 octobre, la page Facebook Les Algériens en France dévoilait le nom de deux des trois victimes, Faisal Hamdouche, 23 ans, et Mohamed Kamal, 21 ans.

    À quelques mètres de Mokhtar, sur un banc, deux jeunes Syriens se sont vu notifier un refus d’entrée, au motif qu’ils n’avaient pas de documents d’identité : « Ça fait quatre fois qu’on essaie de passer et qu’on nous refoule », s’époumone l’aîné, 20 ans, quatre tickets de « topo » à la main. Son petit frère, âgé de 14 ans, ne cesse de l’interroger. « On ne va pas pouvoir passer ? » Leur mère et leur sœur, toutes deux réfugiées, les attendent à Paris depuis deux ans ; l’impatience les gagne.

    Jeudi midi, les Syriens, mais aussi le groupe d’exilés renseignés par Irungo Harrera Sarea, sont tous à Pausa, à Bayonne. Certains se reposent, d’autres se détendent dans la cour du lieu d’accueil, où le soleil cogne. « C’était un peu difficile mais on a réussi, confie Fofana, un jeune Ivoirien, devant le portail, quai de Lesseps. Ça me fait tellement bizarre de voir les gens circuler librement, alors que nous, on doit faire attention. Je préfère en rire plutôt qu’en pleurer. »

    Si les exilés ont le droit de sortir, ils ne doivent pas s’éloigner pour éviter d’être contrôlés par la police. « On attend le car pour aller à Paris ce soir », ajoute M., le Syrien, tandis que son petit frère se cache derrière le parcmètre pour jouer, à l’abri du soleil, sur un téléphone. Une dernière étape, qui comporte elle aussi son lot de risques : certains chauffeurs des cars « Macron » réclament un document d’identité à la montée, d’autres pas.

    https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/311021/la-frontiere-franco-espagnole-le-renforcement-des-controles-conduit-les-mi

    #frontières #migrations #réfugiés #France #Espagne #Pyrénées #contrôles_frontaliers #frontières #délation #morts #morts_aux_frontières #mourir_aux_frontières #décès #militarisation_de_la_frontière #refoulements #push-backs #solidarité

    –—

    voir aussi :
    #métaliste sur les personnes en migration décédées à la frontière entre l’#Espagne et la #France, #Pays_basque :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/932889

  • Le #sauvetage_en_mer au défi de la sécurisation des #frontières : le cas de la #Manche

    Cinq ans après le démantèlement de la « Jungle », en octobre 2016, Calais se trouve, une fois encore, au centre de l’attention politique et médiatique, en France et au Royaume-Uni. À l’aune de l’essor des traversées sur des petites embarcations surchargées, le terme de « crise » a fait sa réapparition. Si ces embarcations ne sont pas pour autant devenues l’unique mode d’accès à l’Angleterre, comme l’a sombrement rappelé le décès de Yasser, jeune soudanais mort après avoir été percuté par un camion, la maritimisation des migrations dans cette zone de l’Europe suscite de vives réactions.

    Jusqu’à présent, le sauvetage rapide des embarcations en difficulté demeure la norme en Manche. Pourra-t-il le rester, dans un contexte européen de sécurisation des frontières ?
    Faire frontière

    « Rendre la Manche impraticable pour les traversées de petites embarcations » : telle est l’intention de Priti Patel, Ministre de l’Intérieur du Royaume-Uni. Afin de préserver la vie humaine, l’enjeu serait de réaffirmer l’existence des frontières, de dissuader les entrées irrégulières en les criminalisant.

    Le projet de loi Nationality and Borders de la ministre prévoit ainsi que les entrées irrégulières, par embarcation par exemple, soient passibles de quatre ans d’emprisonnement.

    Malgré tout, les traversées continuent à augmenter : durant le mois de septembre 2021, ce sont 4 638 personnes qui ont réussi à traverser la Manche, sur quelque 160 embarcations surchargées. À la fin de ce même mois, le nombre de personnes arrivées par bateau sur les côtes anglaises depuis le début de l’année 2021 a déjà atteint le double du total de l’année précédente. Au-delà de cette hausse rapide, les zones de départ des traversées semblent, en 2021, s’être davantage étalées le long du littoral, comme en témoignent les interventions de secours au nord de Dieppe, dans la baie de Somme, ou autour du Touquet, entre autres.
    Pourquoi ce mode de franchissement s’est-il tant intensifié, depuis fin 2018 ? Pour les acteurs associatifs locaux, comme pour le gouvernement français, la sécurisation progressivement mise en place dans le Calaisis – largement financée par le Royaume-Uni, qui investit depuis plusieurs années dans ce contrôle aux frontières extra-territorialisé – est en partie responsable.
    Une « scène de théâtre politique idéale »

    À Calais, les accès aux ports, au site de l’Eurotunnel et à la rocade sont clôturés, hérissés de barbelés et vidéosurveillés. Et depuis 2019, un équipement high-tech est déployé pour surveiller cette partie du littoral : les patrouilles sont dotées de drones à caméras thermiques, de lunettes infrarouges, de remorques éclairantes… Ce renforcement des moyens de surveillance rend plus difficiles, d’une part, les passages clandestins par camions et ferries, et d’autre part, toute forme de départ de Calais.

    Paradoxalement, ces mesures de sécurisation destinées à faire disparaître les traversées irrégulières ont participé à une visibilité accrue des passages de frontière : contrairement aux passages en ferries et camions, les arrivées en embarcations de plus en plus surchargées se déroulent à ciel ouvert.

    Investi par des groupes et individus prônant, les uns le rejet des personnes arrivant, les autres des voies de passage sûres, le littoral britannique réincarne une « scène de théâtre politique idéale ». Et face aux arrivées qui se multiplient, la promesse du Brexit de « reprendre le contrôle des frontières » est mise à l’épreuve.

    Ainsi, les récents exercices de refoulement (push-backs) pratiqués par les forces frontalières britanniques, documentés et diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux par l’association Channel Rescue, semblent être un énième ressort de spectacularisation d’une frontière qui se veut ferme, et fermée.
    Des sauvetages aux « push-backs » et « pull-backs » ?

    Repousser des embarcations précaires et non adaptées à la navigation en Manche mettrait gravement en danger les personnes à bord. De plus, les sauvetages des embarcations de personnes migrantes (qui pour certaines, souhaitent demander l’asile) sont régis par un double cadre légal rendant les refoulements difficilement justifiables juridiquement.

    Ces interventions sont régulées à la fois par des accords bilatéraux – le Manche Plan de 1978 prévoit les procédures de coopération lors des opérations SAR (search and rescue) – et par des conventions internationales, qui affirment d’une part l’obligation de porter assistance aux personnes en danger en mer, et d’autre part la responsabilité des États côtiers dans la coordination des interventions de sauvetage.

    Et si, en mer, le droit des personnes réfugiées évolue dans un « vacuum juridique », les demandeurs d’asile se trouvant sous la juridiction d’un État sont, selon la CEDH et l’arrêt Hirsi Jamaa, protégés contre tout refoulement. Ainsi, en cas de sinistre impliquant des personnes migrantes dans les eaux territoriales françaises ou britanniques, les pays sont tenus de coordonner des sauvetages en faisant appel aux moyens maritimes disponibles, et ne peuvent procéder à des refoulements collectifs.

    Pour comprendre la multiplicité des acteurs impliqués dans les sauvetages en Manche, l’exemple d’une intervention, le 24 septembre, est édifiant. L’association Utopia 56, présente à Calais depuis 2016, reçoit, dans la nuit, un appel d’un bateau « sur le point de couler ». « Une soixantaine de personnes » serait à bord, à proximité de Dunkerque. Informé, le CROSS Gris-Nez engage les navires de la Douane, des Affaires maritimes, de la station SNSM de Dunkerque, mais également un hélicoptère de l’Armée belge : plusieurs personnes sont tombées à la mer. Certaines rejoignent les côtes par leurs propres moyens, tandis que deux sont hélitreuillées.

    C’est finalement le moyen britannique qui porte assistance aux personnes restées à bord de l’embarcation, qui a continué sa trajectoire. Ainsi, une unique embarcation a transporté des personnes dont certaines ont réussi et d’autres ont échoué à traverser. L’intervention déclenchée a par ailleurs mobilisé des acteurs d’organisations différentes, de trois pays.
    Un rôle ambivalent

    Parmi ces acteurs, l’un occupe une position particulière : la Société nationale de sauvetage en mer (SNSM) qui, contrairement à ce que son nom pourrait indiquer, ne dépend pas directement de ministères nationaux. Alors que les navires de la Douane, de la Marine et de la Gendarmerie nationale mènent des actions de surveillance, qui peuvent se transformer en sauvetage en cas de péril imminent, l’intervention de la SNSM, association composée de bénévoles mais reconnue d’utilité publique et assurant une mission de service public, est strictement limitée aux sauvetages.

    Or, les bénévoles voient dans certaines de leurs interventions une participation aux « opérations de police en mer », comme l’a expliqué récemment à la revue Le Chasse-Marée le président de la station dunkerquoise. Certains des bénévoles des stations de Berck-sur-Mer, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Gravelines et Dunkerque affirmaient ainsi au magazine Sauvetage la position ambivalente des équipiers, face à des personnes migrantes pour lesquelles un sauvetage dans les eaux françaises correspond aussi à un échec de leur tentative de traversée.

    Ces bénévoles pourraient-ils être amenés à terme, à réaliser des actions d’empêchement des traversées, en retenant les bateaux du côté des eaux territoriales françaises (pull-backs) ? Sous pression britannique, les moyens maritimes français ont-ils vocation à réaliser des interceptions telles que le font déjà certains pays voisins de l’Europe ?
    La Manche dans l’Europe

    Il est en effet difficile de s’intéresser aux enjeux du sauvetage en Manche sans les resituer dans le contexte européen de politique migratoire. D’autant plus que des liens directs entre les situations à Calais et en Mer Méditerranée sont établis par les responsables politiques eux-mêmes : en 2014, le Premier ministre français rapportait ainsi que les sauvetages en Méditerranée avaient contribué à créer des « points de fixation » dans le nord de la France.

    En 2019, le ministre de l’Intérieur énonçait en retour que si la France laissait des campements s’installer, des « migrants irréguliers » seraient attirés sur le littoral français. Tour à tour, les actions de la France et des pays européens sont ainsi présentées comme pouvant créer des « appels d’air ».

    Ces liens se retrouvent également dans les partages de pratiques et de moyens : Gérald Darmanin a promis l’intervention en Manche de moyens aériens de Frontex, l’agence européenne de garde-côtes, objet de nombreuses controverses, d’ici « la fin de l’année ». Son homologue britannique s’est quant à elle récemment rendue en Grèce pour discuter de « défis communs » et observer les méthodes de prévention des traversées mises en œuvre.
    Des perspectives d’évolution inquiétantes

    D’un point de vue comparatif, la situation en Mer Égée est particulièrement intéressante. Comme en Manche, les traversées entre la Grèce et la Turquie se déroulent dans les eaux territoriales de deux pays considérés comme sûrs, sur des distances relativement peu étendues. Mais alors que Priti Patel explore des solutions pour garantir l’immunité des forces frontalières en cas de décès de personnes migrantes en mer, il apparaît crucial d’alerter sur une transposition en Manche du recours systématique à la violence qui a pu être observé en Mer Égée.

    De nombreux rapports, de médias et d’ONG documentent depuis plusieurs mois les refoulements menés par les garde-côtes turques, grecs et européens. Refoulements réalisés dans l’illégalité, parfois par des personnes masquées, et accompagnés de démonstrations de force violentes et humiliantes (voir le rapport de l’ONG Mare Liberum).

    Dans un contexte de violence systématisée, comment le rôle des bénévoles de la SNSM pourrait-il évoluer ? De l’autre côté de la Méditerranée, le cas des garde-côtes espagnols montre comment en quelques années, une institution civile, non-militarisée, la SASEMAR, a pu être contrainte à passer d’une mission de sauvetage à une logique de gestion des frontières.

    Comme l’écrit la chercheuse Luna Vives, les contentieux politiques autour de la Manche et du sauvetage confirment le rôle des frontières en tant qu’« espace critique de ré-articulation de la souveraineté ». Ceci aux dépens des acteurs associatifs locaux, mais surtout des personnes tentant les traversées. Ainsi, il semble que nous assistions ici à un tournant. En dépit du droit international et dans un objectif de performance de frontières fermes, les actions de sauvetage en Manche risquent de ne plus être considérées comme un devoir, mais comme un « acte de charité », susceptible d’être suspendu.

    https://theconversation.com/le-sauvetage-en-mer-au-defi-de-la-securisation-des-frontieres-le-ca
    #La_Manche #UK #Angleterre #France #sécurité #contrôles_frontaliers
    #migrations #asile #réfugiés

    via @isskein

  • Poland passes law allowing migrants to be pushed back at border

    Poland’s parliament on Thursday (14 October) passed a legal amendment allowing migrants to be pushed back at the border and for asylum claims made by those who entered illegally to be ignored.

    Lawmakers also gave the green light to a government plan to build a wall to prevent migrants from crossing the border from Belarus, a project estimated to cost €353 million.

    Thousands of migrants, most of them from the Middle East, have sought in recent months to cross from Belarus into Poland or fellow EU member states Latvia and Lithuania.

    Under the newly amended law, a foreigner stopped after crossing the Polish border illegally will be obliged to leave Polish territory and will be temporarily banned from entering the country for a period ranging from “six months to three years”.

    The Polish authorities will also have the right “to leave unexamined” an asylum application filed by a foreigner who is stopped immediately after illegally entering, unless they have arrived from a country where their “life and freedom are threatened”.

    Rights groups have already accused Poland of stopping migrants at the border and pushing them back into Belarus.

    Numerous NGOs have criticised Poland for imposing a state of emergency at the border, which prevents humanitarian organisations from helping migrants and prohibits access to all non-residents, including journalists.

    The law change came two days after a landmark ruling from Poland’s Constitutional Court challenged the primacy of European Union law — a key tenet of EU membership — by declaring important articles in the EU treaties “incompatible” with the Polish constitution.

    The ruling on a case brought by Poland’s right-wing populist government could threaten EU funding for Poland and is being seen as a possible first step to Poland leaving the European Union.

    Earlier Thursday Polish police said that another migrant had been found dead on the border with Belarus, bringing the number of people who have died along the European Union’s eastern border in recent months to seven.

    The European Union accuses Belarus of deliberately orchestrating the influx in retaliation against EU sanctions over the Moscow-backed regime’s crackdown on dissent.

    Last month the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration said they were “shocked and dismayed” by the migrant deaths.

    “Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services,” they said in a statement.

    In August Christine Goyer, UNHCR representative in Poland, reminded Warsaw that “according to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Poland is signatory, people seeking asylum should never be penalised, even for irregular border crossing”.

    Polish PM berates EU

    In the meantime, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused EU institutions on Thursday of infringing on the rights of member states, as he prepared to present Warsaw’s position in a row over the rule of law next week before the European Parliament.

    “We are at a crucial moment, you could say at a crossroads in the EU’s history,” Morawiecki told the Polish parliament. “Democracy is being tested – how far will European nations retreat before this usurpation by some EU institutions.”

    Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said Morawiecki would attend the European Parliament session in Strasbourg next Tuesday to present Poland’s position in the rule of law dispute.

    https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/poland-passes-law-allowing-migrants-to-be-pushed-back-at-border

    #Pologne #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #refoulement #refoulements #push-backs #loi #amendement #Biélorussie #Mateusz_Morawiecki #Morawiecki

    –-
    voir aussi la métaliste sur la situation à la frontière entre la #Pologne et la #Biélorussie (2021) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/935860

    • Et il y a eu ce weekend une chasse aux migrants autour de la ville de Guben (Allemagne).
      « La ville de Guben est située dans la région de Basse-Lusace ; elle est traversée par la rivière Neisse et c’est la partie allemande de la ville historique ; l’autre partie est polonaise (Gubin). »

  • La frontière de l’Evros, un no man’s land grec ultra-militarisé où « personne n’a accès aux migrants »

    Échaudée par l’afflux de milliers de migrants venus de Turquie via la rivière Evros à l’extrême est du pays en mars 2020, la Grèce a hautement militarisé la zone. Des exilés continuent toutefois de traverser cette frontière greco-turque sous contrôle exclusif de l’armée. Ils ne reçoivent l’aide d’aucune ONG, d’aucun habitant, interdits dans la zone.

    C’est une rivière inapprochable à l’extrême pointe de l’Union européenne. Les 500 kilomètres de cours d’eau de l’Evros, frontière naturelle qui sépare la Grèce de la Turquie sur le continent, sont, depuis des années, sous contrôle exclusif de l’armée grecque.

    En longeant la frontière, la zone est déserte et fortement boisée. Des ronces, des buissons touffus, des arbres empêchent le tout-venant de s’approcher du secteur militarisé et du cours d’eau. « Il y a des caméras partout. Faites attention, ne vous avancez pas trop », prévient Tzamalidis Stavros, le chef du village de Kastanies, dans le nord du pays, en marchant le long d’une voie ferrée - en activité - pour nous montrer la frontière. Au loin, à environ deux kilomètres de là, des barbelés se dessinent. Malgré la distance, Tzamilidis Stavros reste vigilant. « Ils ont un équipement ultra-moderne. Ils vont nous repérer très vite ».

    Cette zone interdite d’accès n’est pourtant pas désertée par les migrants. Depuis de nombreuses années, les populations sur la route de l’exil traversent l’Evros depuis les rives turques pour entrer en Union européenne. Mais la crise migratoire de mars 2020, pendant laquelle des dizaines de milliers de migrants sont arrivés en Grèce via Kastanies après l’ouverture des frontières turques, a tout aggravé.

    https://gw.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/37bd2ebd7dd3e2d0fec91247b63ec001a70a884f.jpeg

    En un an, la Grèce - et l’UE - ont investi des millions d’euros pour construire une forteresse frontalière : des murs de barbelés ont vu le jour le long de la rivière, des canons sonores ont été mis en place, des équipements militaires ultra-performants (drones, caméras…). Tout pour empêcher un nouvel afflux de migrants par l’Evros.

    « Nous avons aujourd’hui 850 militaires le long de l’Evros », déclare un garde-frontière de la région, en poste dans le village de Tychero. « Frontex est présent avec nous. Les barbelés posés récemment
    nous aident énormément ».

    « Black-out »

    Ces installations ont contribué à faire baisser le nombre de passages. « A Kastanies, avant, il y avait au moins cinq personnes par jour qui traversaient la frontière. Aujourd’hui, c’est fini. Presque plus personne ne passe », affirme le chef du village qui se dit « soulagé ». « La clôture a tout arrêté ». Mais à d’autres endroits, « là où il y a moins de patrouilles, moins de surveillance, moins de barbelés », des migrants continuent de passer, selon l’association Border violence, qui surveille les mouvements aux frontières européennes.

    Combien sont-ils ? La réponse semble impossible à obtenir. Les médias sont tenus à l’écart, le ministère des Affaires étrangères grec évoquant des raisons de « sécurité nationale ». Les autorités grecques ne communiquent pas, les garde-frontières déployés dans la région restent flous et renvoient la balle à leurs supérieurs hiérarchiques, et les associations sont absentes de la zone.

    C’est ce « black-out » de la zone qui inquiète les ONG. « Des migrants arrivent à venir jusqu’à Thessalonique et ils nous racontent leur traversée. Mais il faut 25 jours à pied depuis l’Evros jusqu’ici. Nous avons donc les infos avec trois semaines de retard », explique une militante de Border Violence, à Thessalonique.

    Les migrants arrêtés par les garde-frontières grecs dans la zone ne peuvent pas non plus témoigner des conditions de leur interpellation. Ils sont directement transférés dans le hotspot de Fylakio, le seul camp de la région situé à quelques km de la Turquie. Entouré de barbelés, Fylakio fait partie des sept centres fermés du pays où les migrants ne peuvent pas sortir. Et où les médias ne peuvent pas entrer.

    « J’ai traversé l’Evros il y a un mois et demi et je suis bloqué ici depuis », nous crie un jeune Syrien de 14 ans depuis le camp. « On a passé 9 jours dans la région d’Evros et nous avons été arrêtés avec un groupe de mon village, nous venons de Deir-Ezzor ». Nous n’en saurons pas plus, un militaire s’approche.
    Des milliers de pushbacks, selon les associations

    La principale préoccupation des associations comme Border violence – mais aussi du Haut commissariat de l’ONU aux réfugiés (HCR) – restent de savoir si les droits fondamentaux des demandeurs d’asile sont respectés à la frontière de l’Evros. « Là-bas, personne n’a accès aux migrants. La politique frontalière est devenue complètement dingue ! Nous, les militants, nous n’allons même pas dans la région ! On a peur d’être arrêté et mis en prison ».

    La semaine dernière, le ministre des Migrations, Notis Mtarakis a officiellement rejeté l’instauration d’un « mécanisme de surveillance » à ses frontières, réclamé par l’ONU et la Commission européenne, déclarant que cela « portait atteinte à la souveraineté du pays ».

    Margaritis Petritzikis, à la tête du HCR dans le hotspot de Fylakio, reconnaît que ce qu’il se passe dans l’Evros est opaque. « La frontière doit être mieux surveillée », explique-t-il, en faisant référence à demi mot aux pushbacks, ces renvois illégaux entre deux Etats voisins.

    Si les autorités grecques nient les pratiquer, ces pushbacks seraient nombreux et réguliers dans cette partie du pays. « Evidemment, qu’il y a des renvois vers la Turquie », assure un ancien policier à la retraite sous couvert d’anonymat qui nous reçoit dans sa maison à moins de 5 km de la Turquie. « J’ai moi-même conduit pendant des années des bateaux pour ramener des migrants vers la Turquie à la tombée de la nuit ».

    Selon Border violence, environ 4 000 personnes ont été refoulées illégalement depuis le début de l’année. « Il y en a certainement beaucoup plus, mais de nombreuses personnes ne parlent pas. Elles ont peur ».
    38 morts dans l’Evros depuis le début de l’année

    Au-delà des refoulements illégaux, la question des violences inquiète les associations. Selon le New York Times, des centres de détention secrets, appelés « black sites », seraient présents dans la région. Sans observateurs extérieurs, la zone suscite énormément de fantasmes. « Des migrants nous ont parlé de tortures dans ces centres cachés en Grèce, de chocs électriques, de simulacres de noyades. Nous ne pouvons pas vérifier », continue la militante de Border violence.

    Et comment recenser les victimes, celles et ceux qui se sont noyés en tentant la traversée ? Sans accès à la zone, « nous ne pouvons même pas parler de morts mais de personnes disparues », déplore-t-elle. « Nous considérons qu’au bout d’un mois sans nouvelles d’un migrant dans la zone, celui-ci est présumé décédé ».

    Selon Pavlos Pavlidis, un des médecins-légistes de l’hôpital d’Alexandropoulis, le chef-lieu de la région, déjà 38 personnes sont mortes cette année.

    « Beaucoup se sont noyés dans l’Evros, d’autres sont morts d’hypothermie. Surtout l’hiver. Ils traversent la rivière, ils sont trempés. Personne n’est là pour les aider, alors ils meurent de froid. Leurs corps sont parfois trouvés 20 jours plus tard par la police et amenés à l’hôpital », explique-t-il.

    Y a-t-il des victimes non recensées ? « Peut-être », répond-t-il. Mais sans maraudes, impossible de surveiller la zone et de venir en aide à des blessés potentiels. « C’est triste de mourir ainsi », conclut-il, « loin des siens et loin de tout ».

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/35496/la-frontiere-de-levros-un-no-mans-land-grec-ultramilitarise-ou-personn
    #Evros #région_de_l'Evros #migrations #asile #réfugiés #frontières #militarisation_des_frontières
    #décès #morts #mourir_aux_frontières #morts_aux_frontières #statistiques #chiffres #2021
    #push-backs #refoulements #Pavlos_Pavlidis #Turquie #Grèce
    #murs #barbelés #barrières_frontalières #Kastanies #clôture #surveillance #fermeture_des_frontières #Fylakio #black_sites #torture

    C’est comme un déjà-vu pour moi... une répétition de ce qui se passait en 2012, quand j’étais sur place avec Alberto...
    Dans la région de l’Evros, un mur inutile sur la frontière greco-turque (2/4)
    https://visionscarto.net/evros-mur-inutile

    • Un médecin légiste grec veut redonner une identité aux migrants morts dans l’Evros

      Médecin légiste depuis les années 2000, Pavlos Pavlidis autopsie tous les corps de migrants trouvés dans la région de l’Evros, frontalière avec la Turquie. A l’hôpital d’Alexandropoulis où il travaille, il tente de collecter un maximum d’informations sur chacun d’eux - et garde dans des classeurs tous leurs effets personnels - pour leur redonner un nom et une dignité.

      Pavlos Pavlidis fume cigarette sur cigarette. Dans son bureau de l’hôpital d’Alexandropoulis, les cendriers sont pleins et l’odeur de tabac envahit toute la pièce. Le médecin légiste d’une cinquantaine d’années, lunettes sur le nez, n’a visiblement pas l’intention d’ouvrir les fenêtres. « On fume beaucoup ici », se contente-t-il de dire. Pavlos Pavlidis parle peu mais répond de manière méthodique.

      « Je travaille ici depuis l’an 2000. C’est cette année-là que j’ai commencé à recevoir les premiers corps de migrants non-identifiés », explique-t-il, le nez rivé sur son ordinateur. Alexandropoulis est le chef-lieu de la région de l’Evros, à quelques kilomètres seulement de la frontière turque. C’est là-bas, en tentant d’entrer en Union européenne via la rivière du même nom, que les migrants prennent le plus de risques.

      « Depuis le début de l’année, 38 corps sont arrivés à l’hôpital dans mon service, 34 étaient des hommes et 4 étaient des femmes », continue le légiste. « Beaucoup de ces personnes traversent l’Evros en hiver. L’eau monte, les courants sont forts, il y a énormément de branchages. Ils se noient », résume-t-il sobrement. « L’année dernière, ce sont 36 corps qui ont été amenés ici. Les chiffres de 2021 peuvent donc encore augmenter. L’hiver n’a même pas commencé. »

      Des corps retrouvés 20 jours après leur mort

      Au fond de la pièce, sur un grand écran, des corps de migrants défilent. Ils sont en état de décomposition avancé. Les regards se détournent rapidement. Pavlos Pavlidis s’excuse. Les corps abîmés sont son quotidien.

      « Je prends tout en photo. C’est mon métier. En ce qui concerne les migrants, les cadavres sont particulièrement détériorés parce qu’ils sont parfois retrouvés 20 jours après leur mort », explique-t-il. Densément boisée, la région de l’Evros, sous contrôle de l’armée, est désertée par les habitants. Sans civils dans les parages, « on ne retrouve pas tout de suite les victimes ». Et puis, il y a les noyés. « L’eau abîme tout. Elle déforme les visages très vite ».

      Tous les corps non-identifiés retrouvés à la frontière ou dans la région sont amenés dans le service de Pavlos Pavlidis. « Le protocole est toujours le même : la police m’appelle quand elle trouve un corps et envoie le cadavre à l’hôpital. Nous ne travaillons pas seuls, nous collaborons avec les autorités. Nous échangeons des données pour l’enquête : premières constatations, présence de documents sur le cadavre, heure de la découverte… »

      Les causes de décès de la plupart des corps qui finissent sous son scalpel sont souvent les mêmes : la noyade, donc, mais aussi l’hypothermie et les accidents de la route. « Ceux qui arrivent à faire la traversée de l’Evros en ressortent trempés. Ils se perdent ensuite dans les montagnes alentours. Ils se cachent des forces de l’ordre. Ils meurent de froid ».
      Cicatrices, tatouages…

      Sur sa table d’autopsie, Pavlos sait que le visage qu’il regarde n’a plus rien à voir avec la personne de son vivant. « Alors je photographie des éléments spécifiques, des cicatrices, des tatouages... » Le légiste répertorie tout ; les montres, les colliers, les portables, les bagues... « Je n’ai rien, je ne sais pas qui ils sont, d’où ils viennent. Ces indices ne leur rendent pas un nom mais les rendent unique. »

      Mettant peu d’affect dans son travail – « Je fais ce que j’ai à faire., c’est mon métier » – Pavlos Pavlidis cache sous sa froideur une impressionnante humanité. Loin de simplement autopsier des corps, le médecin s’acharne à vouloir leur rendre une identité.

      Il garde les cadavres plus longtemps que nécessaire : entre 6 mois et un an. « Cela donne du temps aux familles pour se manifester », explique-t-il. « Ils doivent chercher le disparu, trouver des indices et arriver jusqu’à Alexandropoulis. Je leur donne ce temps-là ». En ce moment, 25 corps patientent dans un conteneur réfrigéré de l’hôpital.

      Chaque semaine, il reçoit des mails de familles désespérées. Il prend le temps de répondre à chacun d’eux. « Docteur, je cherche mon frère qui s’est sûrement noyé dans l’Evros, le 22 aout 2021. Vous m’avez dit le 7 septembre qu’un seul corps avait été retrouvé. Y en a-t-il d’autres depuis ? », peut-on lire sur le mail de l’un d’eux, envoyé le 3 octobre. « Je vous remercie infiniment et vous supplie de m’aider à retrouver mon frère pour que nous puissions l’enterrer dignement ».

      « Je n’ai pas de données sur les corps retrouvés côté turc »

      Dans le meilleur des scénario, Pavlos Pavlidis obtient un nom. « Je peux rendre le corps à une famille ». Mais ce cas de figure reste rare.

      Qu’importe, à chaque corps, la même procédure s’enclenche : il stocke de l’ADN, classe chaque objet dans des enveloppes rangées dans des dossiers, selon un protocole précis. Il note chaque élément retrouvé dans un registre, recense tous les morts et actualise ses chiffres.

      Le médecin regrette le manque de coopération avec les autorités turques. « Je n’ai pas de chiffres précis puisque je n’ai pas le décompte des cadavres trouvés de l’autre côte de la frontière. Je n’ai que ceux trouvés du côté grec. Combien sont morts sur l’autre rive ? Je ne le saurai pas », déplore-t-il. Ces 20 dernières années, le médecin légiste dit avoir autopsié 500 personnes.

      Les corps non-identifiés et non réclamés sont envoyés dans un cimetière de migrants anonymes, dans un petit village à 50 km de là. Perdu dans les collines, il compte environ 200 tombes, toutes marquées d’une pierre blanche.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/35534/un-medecin-legiste-grec-veut-redonner-une-identite-aux-migrants-morts-

      –—

      Portrait de @albertocampiphoto de Pavlos Pavlidis accompagné de mon texte pour @vivre (c’était 2012) :

      Pavlos Pavlidis | Médecin et gardien des morts

      Pavlos Pavlidis nous accueille dans son bureau, au sous-sol de l’hôpital d’Alexandroupoli. Sa jeune assistante, Valeria, est également présente pour l’aider dans la traduction anglaise. Pavlidis est calme. Sa voix est rauque, modelée par la fumée de cigarettes.

      Il s’occupe de trouver la cause de la mort des personnes vivant dans la région de l’Evros, mais également de donner une identité aux cadavres de migrants récupérés dans le fleuve. Une cinquantaine par année, il nous avoue. Déjà 24 depuis le début de l’année, dont un dixième ont un nom et un prénom.

      Après seulement 2 minutes d’entretien, Pavlidis nous demande si on veut regarder les photos des cadavres. Il dit que c’est important que nous les voyions, pour que nous nous rendions compte de l’état dans lequel le corps se trouve. Il allume son vieil ordinateur et nous montre les photos. Il les fait défiler. Les cadavres se succèdent et nous comprenons vite les raisons de faire systématiquement une analyse ADN.

      Pavlidis, en nous montrant les images, nous informe sur la cause de la mort : « Cette dame s’est noyée », dit-il. « Cette dame est morte d’hypothermie ». Ceux qui meurent d’hypothermie sont plus facilement identifiables : « Cet homme était d’Erythrée et on a retrouvé son nom grâce à ses habits et à son visage ». Le visage était reconnaissable, le froid l’ayant conservé presque intact.

      « Celle-ci, c’est une femme noire ». Elle s’est noyée après l’hiver. Pavlidis ne peut en dire de plus. Nous voyons sur la photo qu’elle porte un bracelet. Nous lui posons des questions, sur ce bracelet. Alors il ouvre un tiroir. Il y a des enveloppes, sur les enveloppes la date écrite à la main de la découverte du corps et des détails qui pourraient être important pour donner à ce corps une identité. Dans les enveloppes, il y les objets personnels. Il n’y a que ces objets qui restent intacts. Le corps, lui, subit le passage du temps.

      Pavlidis nous montre ensuite un grigri. C’est un homme qui le portait. Il restera dans l’enveloppe encore longtemps ; jusqu’à ce qu’un cousin, une mère, un ami vienne frapper à la porte de Pavlidis pour dire que c’est peut-être le grigri de son cousin, de son fils, de son ami. Et alors l’ADN servira à effacer les doutes.

      Les cadavres, quand personne ne les réclame, restent dans les réfrigérateurs de l’hôpital pendant 3 mois. Puis, ils sont amenés dans le cimetière musulman du village de Sidiro, où un mufti s’occupe de les enterrer. Ils sont tous là, les corps sans nom, sur une colline proche du village. Ils sont 400, pour l’instant. 450, l’année prochaine. Le mufti prie pour eux, qu’ils soient chrétiens ou musulmans. La distinction est difficile à faire et le fait de les enterrer tous au même endroit permet à Pavlidis de savoir où ils sont. Et là, au moins, il y a quelqu’un qui s’occupe d’eux. Si un jour, la famille vient frapper à la porte du médecin, il saura où est le corps et, ensemble, ils pourront au moins lui donner un nom. Et le restituer à sa famille.

      https://asile.ch/2012/11/09/gardien-des-morts-dans-le-sous-sol-de-lhopital-dalexandropouli

      #identification #Pavlos_Pavlidis

    • http://Evros-news.gr reports that according to info from villagers at the 🇬🇷🇧🇬 border in the Rhodopi & Xanthi prefecture, army special forces (commandos) have been deployed specifically for migration control. They’ve reported in the past the same happens in Evros.

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1460326699661414408

      –-

      ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΗ: Ειδικές δυνάμεις, μετά τον Έβρο, επιτηρούν τα ελληνοβουλγαρικά σύνορα για λαθρομετανάστες σε Ροδόπη, Ξάνθη

      Ειδικές Δυνάμεις (Καταδρομείς) μετά τον Έβρο, ανέλαβαν δράση στα ελληνοβουλγαρικά σύνορα για έλεγχο και αποτροπή της εισόδου λαθρομεταναστών και στους νομούς Ροδόπης και Ξάνθης, εδώ και λίγες ημέρες.

      Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες που έφτασαν στο Evros-news.gr από κατοίκους των ορεινών περιοχών των δύο γειτονικών στον Έβρο νομών, οι οποίοι έχουν διαπιστώσει ότι υπάρχει παρουσία στρατιωτικών τμημάτων που ανήκουν στις Ειδικές Δυνάμεις και περιπολούν μέρα-νύχτα στην ελληνοβουλγαρική συνοριογραμμή, από τον έλεγχο που έχουν υποστεί κάθε ώρα της ημέρας αλλά και νύχτας. Είναι άλλωστε γνωστό, πως από εκεί, όπως και την αντίστοιχη του Έβρου, μπαίνει σημαντικός αριθμός λαθρομεταναστών, που με την βοήθεια Βούλγαρων διακινητών μπαίνουν στο έδαφος της γειτονικής χώρας από την Τουρκία και στη συνέχεια… βγαίνουν στην Ροδόπη ή την Ξάνθη, για να συνεχίσουν από εκεί προς Θεσσαλονίκη, Αθήνα.

      Όπως είχαμε ΑΠΟΚΑΛΥΨΕΙ τον περασμένο Αύγουστο, άνδρες των Ειδικών Δυνάμεων και συγκεκριμένα Καταδρομείς, ανέλαβαν τον έλεγχο της λαθρομετανάστευσης στα ελλην0οβουλγαρκά σύνορα του Έβρου, προκειμένου να “σφραγιστεί” από το Ορμένιο ως τον ορεινό όγκο του Σουφλίου στα όρια με το νομό Ροδόπης. Εγκαταστάθηκαν στο Επιτηρητικό Φυλάκιο 30 του Ορμενίου στο Τρίγωνο Ορεστιάδας και στο Σουφλί. Τόσο εκείνη η απόφαση όσο και η πρόσφατη για επέκταση της παρουσίας Ειδικών Δυνάμεων, πάρθηκε από τον Αρχηγό ΓΕΕΘΑ Αντιστράτηγο Κωνσταντίνο Φλώρο και ανέλαβε την υλοποίηση της το Δ’ Σώμα Στρατού.

      Στόχος είναι ο περιορισμός της εισόδου λαθρομεταναστών και μέσω Βουλγαρίας από τους τρεις νομούς της Θράκης, αφού εκεί δεν μπορεί να δημιουργηθεί φράχτης, όπως έχει γίνει στα δυο σημεία της ελληνοτουρκικής συνοριογραμμής, στις Καστανιές και τις Φέρες, αφού η Βουλγαρία είναι χώρα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης και κάτι τέτοιο δεν επιτρέπεται. Επειδή όμως είναι γνωστό πως υπήρχαν παράπονα και αναφορές όχι μόνο κατοίκων αλλά και θεσμικών εκπροσώπων της Ροδόπης και της Ξάνθης για πρόβλημα στις ορεινές τους περιοχές όπου υπάρχουν τα σύνορα με την Βουλγαρία, πάρθηκε η συγκεκριμένη απόφαση προκειμένου να “σφραγιστούν” όσο είναι δυνατόν, οι περιοχές αυτές με την παρουσία των Ειδικών Δυνάμεων. Κι επειδή είναι γνωστό ότι υπήρχαν και παλαιότερα τμήματα τους στους δυο νομούς, να επισημάνουμε ότι οι Καταδρομείς που τοποθετήθηκαν πρόσφατα, προστέθηκαν στις υπάρχουσες δυνάμεις και έχουν μοναδικό αντικείμενο την επιτήρηση της ελληνοβουλγαρικής μεθορίου.

      https://t.co/jzXylBaGUW?amp=1

    • 114 of the 280 vehicles recently acquired by the police will be used for border control in Evros, including:
      80 police cars
      30 pick-up trucks
      4 SUVs
      (this is probably why they need a new police building in Alexandroupoli, parking is an issue)

      https://twitter.com/lk2015r/status/1464287124824506370

      Έρχονται στον Έβρο 114 νέα αστυνομικά οχήματα για την φύλαξη των συνόρων


      https://t.co/qajuhOwPWW?amp=1

  • A #Chypre, la #détresse de migrants syriens séparés de leurs enfants

    « Je suis dévastée, ma famille aussi ». Kawthar, une jeune Syrienne, berce son nourrisson dans un camp pour migrants à Chypre, où elle a été emmenée par les autorités après avoir été séparée en pleine mer de son mari et ses jeunes enfants.

    Avec des dizaines d’autres migrants syriens, Kawthar Raslan a quitté Beyrouth le 22 août sur une embarcation pour rallier clandestinement l’île méditerranéenne, située à quelque 160 kilomètres de là.

    Cette femme de 25 ans qui voyage avec son mari et ses deux enfants, âgés d’un et trois ans, est alors sur le point d’accoucher. A une dizaine de kilomètres des côtes chypriotes, l’embarcation est encerclée par des garde-côtes, venus renvoyer le bateau vers le Liban.

    Sur une vidéo filmée à bord et visionnée par l’AFP, on entend des passagers crier « Aidez-nous ! ».

    Voyant l’état de Kawthar, les garde-côtes l’emmènent avec eux mais laissent le reste de la famille dans l’embarcation, contrainte de repartir vers le Liban, où plus d’un million de Syriens ayant fui la guerre ont trouvé refuge.

    Le Liban étant plongé dans une grave crise économique, des centaines de Syriens ont tenté depuis un an la traversée vers Chypre. Mais ce pays de l’Union européenne, avec le plus grand nombre de primo-demandeurs d’asile par habitant, a signé en 2020 un accord avec le Liban pour renvoyer tout clandestin essayant d’atteindre l’île par bateau.

    – « Ni au Liban, ni en Syrie » -

    « J’ai failli mourir quand j’ai appris le renvoi de ma famille vers le Liban », raconte à l’AFP Kawthar, qui vit dans un préfabriqué dans le camp de Kofinou (sud).

    « Les (garde-côtes) savaient que mon mari et mes enfants m’accompagnaient et ils les ont empêchés de me suivre », dit la jeune femme, qui accouché le lendemain de son arrivée à Chypre. Son bébé dort paisiblement à côté d’elle dans un berceau.

    Originaire d’Idleb, dans le nord-ouest de la Syrie, Kawthar exhorte Chypre d’accepter sa demande de regroupement familial, affirmant ne pouvoir « vivre ni au Liban ni en Syrie ».

    Selon la loi chypriote, seuls les migrants ayant le statut de réfugié ont droit au regroupement familial. Mais, sur les quelque 7.700 demandeurs d’asile syriens arrivés sur l’île depuis 2018, moins de 2% ont obtenu ce statut, indique l’Agence de l’ONU pour les réfugiés (UNHCR).

    « Les enfants sont traumatisés, ils répètent sans fin :+Maman+ », confie le mari de Kawthar, Hassan al-Ali, rencontré par l’AFP à Aïn El-Tefaha, un village près de Beyrouth, où il loue une chambre.

    Et de se rappeler la tragique journée du 22 août, quand le bateau est resté immobilisé « des heures » lors de l’intervention des garde-côtes. « Il y avait un soleil de plomb, les enfants avaient très soif (...) Ma fille ne bougeait plus, je pensais qu’elle allait mourir », dit-il, la voix brisée par l’émotion.

    Issa Chamma, un autre Syrien dans l’embarcation, se trouve aussi à Kofinou. Comme Kawthar, il a été séparé de sa famille après avoir perdu connaissance sur le bateau.

    Originaire d’Alep, ce migrant de 37 ans qui souffre de problèmes pulmonaires affirme à l’AFP que sa femme et ses trois enfants, âgés de deux à onze ans, ont « passé deux jours en prison à leur retour à Beyrouth ».

    – « Des vies en danger » -

    Selon l’UNHCR, le refoulement des migrants en mer est contraire aux lois internationales. « Cette pratique doit cesser parce qu’elle met des vies en danger », souligne Emilia Strovolidou, porte-parole de l’UNHCR à Chypre, appelant les autorités à réunir les familles de Kawthar et de Issa.

    EuroMed Droits, un réseau de 65 organisations méditerranéennes de défense des droits humains, lancera d’ailleurs lundi une campagne pour sensibiliser sur cette affaire, appelant l’UE à « enquêter sur les violations commises par les forces frontalières chypriotes ».

    Le 21 septembre, lors d’une audience au Parlement chypriote, plusieurs députés ont critiqué la politique migratoire de leur pays : « Le gouvernement doit appliquer les lois internationales et réunir Kawthar avec sa famille maintenant », a dit à l’AFP la députée Alexandra Attalides, du Parti vert.

    Le ministre de l’Intérieur, Nicos Nouris, qui n’a pas répondu aux sollicitations de l’AFP, avait argué récemment que son pays était « en droit de refuser l’arrivée illégale de migrants ».

    En visite fin août à Nicosie, la Commissaire européenne aux Affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, a toutefois affirmé que cette opération de refoulement « pos(ait) question ».

    En attendant, Kawthar dit « penser constamment » à ses deux autres enfants : « Je ne fais que pleurer (...) Rien ne peut compenser leur absence ».

    https://information.tv5monde.com/info/chypre-la-detresse-de-migrants-syriens-separes-de-leurs-enfant

    #réfugiés_syriens #migrations #asile #réfugiés

    • Cyprus: no to #pushbacks, yes to family reunification!

      EuroMed Rights, KISA, Access Centre for Human Rights, the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights and 12 other partner organisations call on the Republic of Cyprus to immediately end the practice of pushbacks, to facilitate family reunification procedures and increases legal pathways and humanitarian corridors through the use of humanitarian visas. We also call on the Lebanese authorities to immediately halt all deportations of refugees to Syria. We also call upon the European Union to investigate the misconducts perpetrated by Cypriot police and border forces. 

      Another tragic story in the East Mediterranean

      On 22 August 2021, a boat left Lebanon for Cyprus with 69 refugees on board. The Access Centre for Human Rights and KISA interviewed witnesses and it is their testimony which this press statement relies upon. According to these witnesses, Cypriot coast guards forcefully stopped the boat by throwing an item on its engine and for several hours denied food and water to refugees – including a man with serious health problems, children and a pregnant woman close to her due date.  

      After the destruction of the boat’s engine, several refugees jumped into the sea to swim towards the Cypriot shore. Two of them tried for several hours to avoid the police speedboats that were trying to force them to return back to the boat. One of them was lost at sea and to this day is still missing.

      After the Cypriot coast guards pulled the immobilised boat far away from the coast, they transferred the pregnant woman to a police boat and she was taken to hospital. The police refused to take along with the woman her two children (aged 1.5 and 3 years old) and her husband. At the hospital doctors did not admit her since in their assessment she was not ready to give birth. The police then transferred her to a port and gave her a plastic chair. She spent the night laying down on wooden pallets at the port. The next morning, she was transferred back to hospital where she gave birth. 

      On the same day, 23 August, the Cypriot coastguards placed all the individuals on a boat and sent them back to Lebanon – this included the woman’s husband and children. Three other people on the boat were later deported from Lebanon to Syria where they were held in detention.  

      Violations in chain

      Since March 2020, under a controversial agreement with Lebanon which is still to be signed by the Lebanese Parliament, the Cypriot authorities have repeatedly resorted to pushing back boats to Lebanon and have denied individuals access to the asylum procedure. By refusing to offer basic care to refugees, denying  them entry and pushing  them back illegally to Lebanon, Cyprus is violating several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, thus contributing to the chain refoulement of Syrian refugees to Syria, and putting them at risk of torture, ill-treatment, detention, enforced disappearance and death.  This practice must end immediately.

       Please direct any questions or requests for interview to: Maxence Salendre, Communication Team Coordinator – msa@euromedrights.net

      https://euromedrights.org/publication/cyprus-no-to-pushbacks-yes-to-family-reunification%e2%80%af%e2%80%af
      #push-backs #refoulement

  • #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

    • Violenze e respingimenti: la “stretta” della Slovenia sui migranti. Con l’aiuto dell’Italia

      Solo a settembre oltre 100 persone in transito sono state respinte a catena in Bosnia ed Erzegovina. Molte di loro sono state fermate a pochi chilometri dal confine italiano. I pattugliamenti misti della polizia italiana e slovena potrebbero spiegare l’aumento delle persone rintracciate. La denuncia del Border violence monitoring network

      Otto casi di respingimenti a catena dalla Slovenia alla Bosnia ed Erzegovina nel mese di settembre 2021. Più di cento persone coinvolte, in prevalenza cittadini afghani e pakistani, che denunciano violenze da parte della polizia slovena. Molte di loro (almeno 34) sono state fermate a “un passo” dal confine italiano: la “stretta” del governo di Lubiana sul controllo del territorio, in collaborazione con la polizia italiana, sembra dare i primi risultati.

      La denuncia arriva dalla rete Border violence monitoring network (Bvmn) che monitora il rispetto dei diritti delle persone in transito nei Paesi balcanici: “Non si hanno testimonianze dirette di poliziotti italiani coinvolti ma si presume che l’aumento nella sorveglianza del territorio e l’alto numero di persone arrestate nel nord della Slovenia sia una conseguenza dell’accordo tra Roma e Lubiana” spiega Simon Campbell, coordinatore delle attività della rete. Il ruolo dell’Italia resta così di primo piano nonostante le riammissioni al confine siano formalmente interrotte dal gennaio 2021.

      Nel report di Bvmn di settembre 2021 vengono ricostruite dettagliatamente numerose operazioni di respingimento che “partono” dal territorio sloveno. Intorno alle sette e trenta di sera del 7 settembre 2021 un gruppo di quattro cittadini afghani, tra cui un minore, viene fermato vicino alla città di Rodik, nel Nord-Ovest della Slovenia a circa cinque chilometri dal confine con l’Italia. Il gruppo di persone in transito viene bloccato da due agenti della polizia di frontiera slovena e trasferito in un centro per richiedenti asilo. Ma è solo un’illusione. Quarantotto ore dopo, il 9 settembre verso le 17, i quattro si ritroveranno a Gradina, nel Nord della Bosnia ed Erzegovina: nonostante abbiano espresso più volte la volontà di richiedere asilo le forze di polizia slovena le hanno consegnate a quelle croate che hanno provveduto a portarle nuovamente al di fuori dell’Ue. Una decina di giorni dopo, il 19 settembre, un gruppo di otto persone, di età compresa tra i 16 e i 21 anni, riesce a raggiungere la zona confinaria tra Slovenia e Italia ma durante l’attraversamento dell’autostrada A1, all’uscita di una zona boscosa, interviene la polizia. All’appello “mancano” due persone che camminavano più avanti e sono riuscite a raggiungere Trieste: le guardie di frontiera lo sanno. L’intervistato, un cittadino afghano di 21 anni, sospetta che “una sorta di videocamera con sensori li aveva ha individuati mentre camminavano nella foresta”. O forse uno dei 55 droni acquistati dal ministro dell’Interno sloveno per controllare il territorio di confine. A quel punto le forze speciali slovene chiedono rinforzi per rintracciare i “fuggitivi” e nel frattempo sequestrano scarpe, telefoni cellulari, power bank e soldi ai membri del gruppo identificati che dopo circa mezz’ora sono costretti a entrare nel retro di un furgone. “Non c’era ossigeno perché era sovraffollato e la polizia ha acceso l’aria condizionata a temperature elevate. Due persone sono svenute durante il viaggio” spiega il 21enne. Verso le 12 la polizia croata prende il controllo del furgone: il gruppo resta prigioniero nel veicolo, con le porte chiuse e senza cibo e acqua, per il resto della giornata. Alle due del mattino verranno rilasciati vicino a Bihać, nel cantone bosniaco di Una Sana.

      Sono solo due esempi delle numerose testimonianze raccolte dal Border violence. I numeri dei respingimenti a catena sono in forte aumento: da gennaio a agosto 2021 in totale erano state 143 le persone coinvolte, solo nel mese di settembre 104. Un dato importante che coinvolge anche l’Italia. Le operazioni di riammissione dall’Italia alla Slovenia sono formalmente interrotte -anche se la rete segnala due casi, uno a marzo e uno a maggio, di persone che nonostante avessero già raggiunto il territorio italiano sono state respinte a catena fino in Bosnia- ma il governo italiano fornisce supporto tecnico e operativo al governo sloveno per il controllo del territorio grazie a un’intesa di polizia tra Roma e Lubiana di cui non si conoscono i contenuti.

      Sono ripresi infatti nel mese di luglio 2021 i pattugliamenti misti al confine nelle zone di Gorizia e Trieste. “Al momento dobbiamo approfondire l’effettivo funzionamento dell’accordo: non abbiamo testimonianze dirette di poliziotti italiani coinvolti -continua Campbell-. Presumiamo però che l’alto livello di sorveglianza del territorio e il numero di persone che vengono catturate in quella zona dimostra che l’intesa sui pattugliamenti assume un ruolo importante nei respingimenti a catena verso la Bosnia”. Paese in cui la “malagestione” del fenomeno migratorio da parte del governo di Sarajevo si traduce in una sistematica violazione dei diritti delle persone in transito e in cui le forze di polizia sotto accusa del Consiglio d’Europa per i metodi violenti che utilizza. Elementi che il Viminale non può considerare solo come “collaterali” delle politiche con cui tenta di esternalizzare i confini.

      La particolarità dei respingimenti da parte delle autorità slovene è che sono realizzati alla luce del sole. “La caratteristica di queste operazioni consiste nel fatto che i migranti vengono consegnati ‘ufficialmente’ alle autorità croate dagli ufficiali sloveni ai valichi di frontiera sia stradali che ferroviari -spiegano gli attivisti-. Prendendo come esempio la Croazia la maggior parte dei gruppi vengono allontanati da agenti che eseguono le operazioni con maschere, in zone di confine remote”. In Slovenia, invece, spesso vengono rilasciate tracce di documenti firmati per giustificare l’attività di riammissione. “Nonostante questa procedura sia la Corte amministrativa che la Corte suprema slovena hanno ritenuto che queste pratiche violano la legge sull’asilo perché espongono le persone al rischio di tortura in Croazia”.

      Una violenza denunciata, a inizio ottobre 2021, da un’importate inchiesta giornalistica di cui abbiamo parlato anche su Altreconomia. I pushaback sloveni, a differenza di quelli “diretti” che si verificano in Croazia e in Bosnia ed Erzegovina, sono più elaborati perché “richiedono più passaggi e quindi possono durare più giorni”. “Siamo rimasti tre giorni in prigione. Non abbiamo potuto contattare nessun avvocato, non ci hanno fornito un traduttore. Ci hanno dato solo una bottiglia di acqua al giorno e del pane” racconta uno dei cittadini afghani intervistati. Oltre al cattivo trattamento in detenzione, diverse testimonianze parlano di “violenze e maltrattamenti anche all’interno delle stazioni di polizia slovene” e anche al di fuori, con perquisizioni violente: in una testimonianza raccolta dalla Ong No name kitchen, un cittadino afghano ha denunciato una “perquisizione intensiva dei genitali”. I maggiori controlli sul territorio sloveno, possibili anche grazie alla polizia italiana, rischiano così di far ricadere le persone in transito in una spirale di violenza e negazione dei diritti fondamentali.

      https://altreconomia.it/violenze-e-respingimenti-la-stretta-della-slovenia-sui-migranti-con-lai

    • “They were told by the officers that they would be taken to Serbia.... at 12am they were dropped at the Bosnia-Croatia border, near the town of Velika Kladuša”

      Date and time: September 24, 2021 00:00
      Location: Velika Kladuša, Bosnia and Herzegovina
      Coordinates: 45.1778695699, 16.025619131638
      Pushback from: Croatia, Slovenia
      Pushback to: Bosnia, Croatia
      Demographics: 11 person(s), age: 17-22 , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan
      Minors involved? No
      Violence used: kicking, insulting, theft of personal belongings
      Police involved: 2 Slovenian officers wearing blue uniforms, 2 Croatian officers wearing light blue uniforms, 2 police vans
      Taken to a police station?: yes
      Treatment at police station or other place of detention: detention, personal information taken, papers signed, denial of food/water, forced to pay fee
      Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
      Reported by: No Name Kitchen

      Original Report

      On 20th September 2021, 6 Afghan males between the ages of 17 and 22 attempted to cross the border from Slovenia into Italy near the city of Trieste. They had been traveling for 3 days from Serbia before reaching this point. They walked for 4 hours to the border with another group, but the weather was cold and raining so they decided to try taking a taxi instead. As they were hidden in the taxi they did not have enough space for their bags, and so during this ride they had no water or food.

      The two groups set off in two different taxis. The first made it across the border, but as the second one was approaching it after a 40-minute journey, a police car began chasing them. The driver of the taxi stopped on a small bridge and escaped on foot, but the men in the car were arrested by two Slovenian police officers. The officers have been described as one young man and one old man, both wearing blue short-sleeved tops. The men were then taken to a police station near the Italian border. Here they spent 1 night. The respondents remarked that they were treated well, that the police cooperated and did not try to scare them, and that they were given food, water, and blankets. However, it was cold, and a few of the group became ill. The police tried to interview them about their attempt across the border, but after receiving no response told them to rest and take their food.

      On the morning of 21 September, the group was all given a COVID test and taken to a quarantine facility. Here they spent 3 nights. Again, the respondent stated that they were treated well. They were allowed to use their mobile phones for 2 hours per day and were given good quality food and medical care from a nurse/doctor. The group stated that they intended to claim asylum except for one that was going to Germany because he had a brother there. They also filled out a form stating that they faced threat in Afghanistan. Communication was initially made in English, but a Pashtu-speaking interpreter from Pakistan was provided for the interview. One of the group, the 6th member, was allowed to stay in Slovenia as he was 17.

      On the morning of 24 September the group of 5, all Afghan males between the age of 18 and 22, were given all of their belongings and driven to a small checkpoint on the Croatian border. The checkpoint was described as a two-sided road with a container on each side. Here they were handed over to two Croatian officers, which the Slovenian officers spoke with. The Croatian officers have been described as one woman around 40-45 years old and one man around 50, with both wearing light blue short-sleeved shirts consistent with the uniform of the Croatian Granicna Policija (border police), and one wearing a jacket. Here the respondents remarked that the good treatment ended and that the Croatian officers began acting “insane”. They were driven to a police station near the Croatia-Slovenia border. Here their sim cards were all taken, meaning the group could not access their phones or location services anymore. In the station, there was also a group of 7 Pakistani men. Initially, the two groups were held in separate rooms, but when another detainee arrived at the station all 11 men were put in the same room. The respondents described the room as 2x2m, designed for 1 person, and smelling very bad.

      The two groups were kept in these conditions from 10 am-7 pm, with no food or water. They asked for these repeatedly and were eventually given something to eat after paying with their own money. One of the group of 5 was kicked twice for no apparent reason. The group stated their intention to claim asylum, and again filled out a form stating that they faced threat in Afghanistan. In response, the woman officer asked: “why did you leave Afghanistan? If there was war you should fight not leave”. The group remarked that they refused to engage, stating that “she doesn’t know politics, doesn’t know when someone should stay or leave, there is different reasons”.

      At around 8 pm all 11 men were given their belongings back, minus their sim cards. As the belongings were jumbled and all given at once, some things were lost or potentially stolen. They were then ordered to get in a van which was driven by the same two officers. The group of 5 asked to be returned to Serbia as they had contacts there and had spent time there. They also had Serbian refugee camp ID cards. They were told by the officers that they would be taken to Serbia. The officers then began driving slowly, stopping often and parking to pass the time. The groups asked for something to drink and gave money in return for cola and water. At 12am they were dropped at the Bosnia-Croatia border, near the town of Velika Kladuša.

      The group walked into Velika Kladuša. They spent all night outside with no blankets, sleeping bags, or comfortable places to sleep. The weather was freezing. They tried to enter a restaurant at 7am but were not allowed in. After 2 nights in the cold weather, the group of 5 decided to return to Serbia. The return cost between €500-600. They crossed the border into Serbia at a bridge, where the group remarked that there was no police in sight.

      https://www.borderviolence.eu/violence-reports/september-24-2021-0000-velika-kladusa-bosnia-and-herzegovina

  • #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

  • Mediterranean carcerality and acts of escape

    In recent years, migrants seeking refuge in Europe have faced capture and containment in the Mediterranean – the result of experimentation by EU institutions and member states.

    About two years ago, in June 2019, a group of 75 people found themselves stranded in the central Mediterranean Sea. The migrant group had tried to escape from Libya in order to reach Europe but was adrift at sea after running out of fuel. Monitored by European aerial assets, they saw a vessel on the horizon slowly moving toward them. When they were eventually rescued by the Maridive 601, an offshore supply vessel, they did not know that it would become their floating prison for nearly three weeks. Malta and Italy refused to allocate a port of safety in Europe, and, at first, the Tunisian authorities were equally unwilling to allow them to land.

    Over 19 days, the supply vessel turned from a floating refuge into an offshore carceral space in which the situation for the rescued deteriorated over time. Food and water were scarce, untreated injuries worsened, scabies spread, as did the desperation on board. The 75 people, among them 64 Bangladeshi migrants and dozens of minors, staged a protest on board, chanting: “We don’t need food, we don’t want to stay here, we want to go to Europe.”

    Reaching Europe, however, seemed increasingly unlikely, with Italy and Malta rejecting any responsibility for their disembarkation. Instead, the Tunisian authorities, the Bangladeshi embassy, and the #International_Organisation_for_Migration (#IOM) arranged not only their landing in Tunisia, but also the removal of most of them to their countries of origin. Shortly after disembarkation in the harbour of Zarzis, dozens of the migrants were taken to the runways of Tunis airport and flown out.

    In a recently published article in the journal Political Geography, I have traced the story of this particular migrant group and their zig-zagging trajectories that led many from remote Bangladeshi villages, via Dubai, Istanbul or Alexandria, to Libya, and eventually onto a supply vessel off the Tunisian coast. Although their situation was certainly unique, it also exemplified the ways in which the Mediterranean has turned into a ‘carceral seascape’, a space where people precariously on the move are to be captured and contained in order to prevent them from reaching European shores.

    While forms of migrant capture and containment have, of course, a much longer history in the European context, the past ten years have seen particularly dramatic transformations in the central Mediterranean Sea. When the Arab Uprisings ‘re-opened’ this maritime corridor in and after 2011, crossings started to increase significantly – about 156,000 people crossed to Europe on average every year between 2014 and 2017. Since then, crossings have dropped sharply. The annual average between 2018 and 2020 was around 25,000 people – a figure resembling annual arrivals in the period before the Arab Uprisings.

    One significant reason for this steep decrease in arrivals is the refoulement industry that EU institutions and member states have created, together with third-country allies. The capture of people seeking to escape to Europe has become a cruel trade, of which a range of actors profit. Although ‘refouling’ people on the move – thus returning them to places where they are at risk of facing torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – violates international human rights laws and refugee conventions, these practices have become systemic and largely normalised, not least as the COVID pandemic has come to serve as a suitable justification to deter potential ‘Corona-spreaders’ and keep them contained elsewhere.

    That migrants face capture and containment in the Mediterranean is the result of years of experimentation on part of EU institutions and member states. Especially since 2018, Europe has largely withdrawn maritime assets from the deadliest areas but reinforced its aerial presence instead, including through the recent deployment of drones. In this way, European assets do not face the ‘risk’ of being forced into rescue operations any longer but can still monitor the sea from above and guide North African, in particular Libyan, speed boats to chase after escaping migrant boats. In consequence, tens of thousands have faced violent returns to places they sought to flee from.

    Just in 2021 alone, about 16,000 people have been caught at sea and forcibly returned to Libya in this way, already more than in the whole of 2020. In mid-June, a ‘push-back by proxy’ occurred, when the merchant vessel Vos Triton handed over 170 migrants to a Libyan coastguard vessel that then returned them to Tripoli, where they were imprisoned in a camp known for its horrendous conditions.

    The refoulment industry, and Mediterranean carcerality more generally, are underpinned by a constant flow of finances, technologies, equipment, discourses, and know-how, which entangles European and Libyan actors to a degree that it might make more sense to think of them as a collective Euro-Libyan border force.

    To legitimise war-torn and politically divided Libya as a ‘competent’ sovereign actor, able to govern the maritime expanse outside its territorial waters, the European Commission funded, and the Italian coastguard implemented, a feasibility study in 2017 to assess “the Libyan capacity in the area of Search and Rescue” (SAR). Shortly after, the Libyan ‘unity government’ declared its extensive Libyan SAR zone, a zone over which it would hold ‘geographical competence’. When the Libyan authorities briefly suspended the establishment of its SAR zone, given its inability to operate a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), an Italian navy vessel was stationed within Tripoli harbour, carrying out the functions of the Libyan MRCC.

    Since 2017, €57.2m from the EU Trust Fund for Africa has funded Libya’s ‘integrated border management’, on top of which hundreds of millions of euros were transferred by EU member states to Libyan authorities through bilateral agreements. Besides such financial support, EU member states have donated speed boats and surveillance technologies to control the Libyan SAR zone while officers from EU military project Operation Sophia and from European Border Agency Frontex have repeatedly provided training to the Libyan coastguards. When out to search for escaping migrants, the Libyan speed boats have relied on Europe’s ‘eyes in the sky’, the aerial assets of Frontex and EU member states. Migrant sightings from the sky would then be relayed to the Libyan assets at sea, also via WhatsApp chats in which Frontex personnel and Libyan officers exchange.

    Thinking of the Mediterranean as a carceral space highlights these myriad Euro-Libyan entanglements that often take place with impunity and little public scrutiny. It also shows how maritime carcerality is “often underscored by mobilities”. Indeed, systematic forms of migrant capture depend on the collaboration of a range of mobile actors at sea, on land, and in the sky. Despite their incessant movements and the fact that surveillance and interception operations are predominantly characterised as rescue operations, thousands of people have lost their lives at sea over recent years. Many have been left abandoned even in situations where their whereabouts were long known to European and North African authorities, often in cases when migrant boats were already adrift and thus unable to reach Europe on their own accord.

    At the same time, even in the violent and carceral Mediterranean Sea, a range of interventions have occurred that have prevented both deaths at sea and the smooth operation of the refoulment industry. NGO rescuers, activists, fishermen and, at times, merchant vessel crews have conducted mass rescues over recent years, despite being harassed, threatened and criminalised by Euro-Libyan authorities at every turn. Through their presence, they have documented and repeatedly ruptured the operations of the Euro-Libyan border force, shedding light on what is meant to remain hidden.

    Maybe most importantly, the Mediterranean’s carceral condition has not erased the possibility of migratory acts of escape. Indeed, tactics of border subversion adapt to changing carceral techniques, with many migrant boats seeking to cross the sea without being detected and to reach European coasts autonomously. As the UNHCR notes in reference to the maritime arrival of 34,000 people in Italy and Malta in 2020: “Only approximately 4,500 of those arriving by sea in 2020 had been rescued by authorities or NGOs on the high seas: the others were intercepted by the authorities close to shore or arrived undetected.”

    While most of those stuck on the Maridive supply vessel off Tunisia’s coast in 2019 were returned to countries of origin, some tried to cross again and eventually escaped Mediterranean carcerality. Despite Euro-North African attempts to capture and contain them, they moved on stubbornly, and landed their boats in Lampedusa.

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/mediterranean-carcerality-and-acts-escape

    #enfermement #Méditerranée #mer_Méditerranée #migrations #asile #réfugiés #frontières #expérimentation #OIM #Tunisie #Zarzis #externalisation #migrerrance #carcéralité #refoulement #push-backs #Libye #Vos_Triton #EU_Trust_Fund_for_Africa #Trust_Fund #carceral_space

    via @isskein

  • Deux demandeurs d’asile portent plainte contre Frontex après des renvois illégaux

    Refoulés en mer Egée, ils accusent l’agence européenne de complicité de violations des droits de l’homme. La #Cour_de_justice de l’UE est saisie de l’affaire dont « Libération » a pu consulter des documents.

    #Jeancy_Kimbenga parle d’une voix calme. Son débit est posé. Sous la pluie battante d’Istanbul, ce vendredi 21 mai, le jeune homme s’abrite dans un magasin dont on entend les jingles incessants dans son téléphone. « Il n’y a pas de réseau à l’hôtel », explique-t-il. Le demandeur d’asile congolais de 17 ans est toujours coincé en Turquie, pays où il a été contraint de s’établir après un périple migratoire tourmenté : une escale en Ethiopie, un changement d’avion puis direction la Turquie et les rivages de la mer Egée, l’eldorado pour de nombreux migrants qui rêvent d’Europe.

    Par trois fois, Jeancy, qui a fui son pays après avoir subi la torture de son propre oncle, un colonel de l’armée, a tenté de rallier les côtes grecques dans un canot pneumatique. Aujourd’hui, il vit à Istanbul dans l’attente de réunir la somme nécessaire à une nouvelle traversée. Le 28 novembre 2020, il a même touché au but : son petit bateau a accosté à #Kratigou, à 10 kilomètres au sud de #Mytilène, la principale ville de la petite île grecque de Lesbos. Là, Jeancy et ses camarades se sont cachés toute une nuit avant de sortir au petit matin.

    C’était compter sans les policiers grecs qui l’arrêtent, selon son récit à Libération, avant de l’emmener en mer où il est abandonné à la merci des flots dans un bateau gonflable. Un renvoi illégal, ou « pushback ». Quelques heures plus tard, le gamin et ses compagnons d’infortune sont interceptés par les gardes-côtes turques qui les ramènent en Turquie. Sur son téléphone, Jeancy garde précieusement les preuves de son cheminement en terre hellène : des vidéos, des photos, des localisations GPS qu’il a partagées immédiatement sur Whatsapp avec amis et membres d’ONGs : « Je me suis dit qu’il pourrait se passer quelque chose. Je n’avais pas confiance. »

    Première plainte de ce genre

    Ces éléments sont la base d’une plainte que le jeune homme a déposée le vendredi 21 mai 2021, devant la cour de justice de l’Union Européenne (CJUE) contre Frontex, aux côtés d’une demandeuse d’asile burundaise, elle aussi victime de deux pushbacks. C’est la première du genre. « Je veux porter cette voix pour que cela puisse cesser. C’est vraiment très grave ce qu’il se passe ». Ils exigent le retrait de Frontex de la région.

    Les deux exilés ont été épaulés pour l’occasion par Omer Shatz et Iftach Cohen, deux avocats spécialisés en droit international, qui avaient déjà intenté une action préliminaire contre la super agence de garde-frontières et de garde-côtes au nom de #Front-lex, structure créée spécialement pour ce contentieux. « C’est la première fois que Frontex est face au tribunal pour des violations des droits de l’homme, assure Omer Shatz : nous allons faire respecter le droit au frontière extérieure de l’union Européenne ».

    Dans un réquisitoire long d’une soixantaine de pages que Libération a pu consulter, l’équipe d’avocats (complétée par Loica Lambert et Mieke Van den Broeck pour l’ONG Progress Law Network, et soutenu par l’ONG Greek Helsinki Monitor) s’attarde sur les récits des violations des droits de l’homme ainsi que sur le manque de mécanismes de contrôle de l’agence européenne de garde-côtes. Aux frontières extérieures de l’UE, Frontex, censé être le garant du respect des traités, ne remplit pas son rôle. Selon Omer Shatz, c’est sous sa responsabilité que des violences, à l’instar des « pushbacks » subis par Jeancy, se déroulent : « Non seulement la Grèce n’aurait pas pu mettre en place cette politique sans Frontex. Mais qui plus est, légalement parlant, tout cela fait partie d’une opération conjointe entre l’agence et le gouvernement grec. »

    Contestation en interne

    Selon sa régulation interne (et son article 46), Frontex a pourtant l’obligation de faire cesser, séance tenante, toute action qui irait à l’encontre du respect des droits de l’homme. Dès lors, la demande des avocats est simple : Frontex doit retirer ses moyens (avions, bateaux, hélicoptères ou drones) qui patrouillent dans la zone. A la Cour de trancher. Du côté de la direction de l’agence, le leitmotiv est toujours le même. Le directeur français, Fabrice Leggeri, affirme tantôt que les agissements des Grecs ne sont pas établis. Tantôt qu’ils ne constituent pas une violation claire des droits de l’homme. Et ce en dépit des nombreuses preuves amassées tant par les médias que par des ONGs.

    De surcroît, les positions du directeur sont depuis peu contestées en interne. Des documents internes à Frontex, que Libération, ses partenaires du média d’investigation Lighthouse Reports et du Spiegel ont pu consulter, en attestent. Les preuves de ces renvois sont « solides » est-il écrit dans un rapport de Frontex, daté de janvier 2021 et rédigé par le bureau des droits fondamentaux, un organe interne de contrôle. « Cette note est une compilation de sources disponibles en ligne. Elle a été écrite avant même deux enquêtes internes, qui n’ont trouvé aucune preuve de violations des droits de l’homme lors d’activités de Frontex », oppose le porte-parole de l’agence, joint par Libération.

    La politique de l’agence est de plus en plus remise en question par ses propres employés. Le 30 octobre 2020, un bateau grec, avec une trentaine de migrants à son bord, vogue vers les eaux territoriales turques, sous les yeux de policiers suédois, en mission pour Frontex. « Ce qui m’a surpris, c’est que les garde-côtes grecs n’ont pas escorté le bateau vers le port, mais dans la direction opposée », explique l’une d’entre elles, interrogée dans le cadre d’une enquête interne le 8 décembre 2020, dans un procès-verbal consulté par Libération. « Avez-vous considéré cette manœuvre comme étant un pushback ? », relance l’enquêteur. La réponse est sans appel : « Oui, c’était un pushback. »

    https://www.liberation.fr/international/info-libe-deux-demandeurs-dasile-portent-plainte-contre-frontex-apres-des-pushbacks-20210525_X5OL2DRRZFCDNKRAFRL4EHJXF4/?redirected=1

    #CJUE #justice #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #Mer_Egée #Egée #Grèce

    –—

    Sur les push-backs en Mer Egée :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/882952

    Plus sur Front-Lex et ses actions légales :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/902069

    ping @isskein @karine4

    • — Communiqué de presse —

      Pour la première fois dans l’histoire de l’agence, une #action_légale pour violations des droits de l’Homme a été intentée contre FRONTEX auprès de la Cour de justice de l’UE.

      FRONTEX n’a pas mis fin à ses opérations en Grèce en dépit de violations graves, systématiques et étendues des droits fondamentaux garantis par le droit de l’UE.

      Les avocats #Omer_Shatz et #Iftach_Cohen de front-LEX, les avocats #Loica_Lambert et #Mieke_Van_den_Broeck du #Progress_Lawyers_Network, avec l’appui de Monsieur Panayote Dimitras et de Madame Leonie Scheffenbichler du Greek Helsinki Monitor, ainsi que Monsieur Gabriel Green de front-LEX ont intenté une action légale sans précédent contre l’agence Frontex devant la Cour de justice de l’Union Européenne. L’affaire a été déposée au nom de deux demandeurs d’asile, un mineur non accompagné et une femme. Pendant qu’ils cherchaient asile sur le territoire de l’UE (Lesbos), les deux victimes ont été violemment encerclées, agressées, volées, enlevées, détenues et transférées vers la mer pour être expulsées collectivement et finalement abandonnées sur des radeaux, sans moteur, ni eau, ni nourriture. En plus des violences subies, les deux requérants ont été victimes d’autres opérations de « push-back » alors qu’ils cherchaient une protection dans l’UE.

      En dépit de faits avérés et de preuves manifestes quant à des violations graves et persistantes des droits fondamentaux, FRONTEX et son directeur exécutif Fabrice Leggeri n’ont pas mis fin aux activités de l’agence en Mer Égée, en infraction patente au droit européen, en particulier à la Charte des droits fondamentaux de l’UE, au Traité sur le fonctionnement de l’UE, et au règlement de l’agence Frontex elle-même. En accord avec les autorités politiques de la Grèce, Frontex a pour objectif d’arrêter la « migration » à tout prix. Ces attaques systématiques et étendues contre les demandeurs d’asile constituent une violation du droit d’asile, des interdictions de refoulement et d’expulsions collectives, et constituent également des crimes contre l’humanité, notamment la déportation. Pour la première fois depuis le début de ses opérations il y a 17 ans, l’agence FRONTEX est poursuivie en justice pour des violations des droits de l’Homme. Nous demandons des comptes à l’UE. Nous entendons rétablir le droit aux frontières de l’UE.

      Omer Shatz and Iftach Cohen de Front-LEX déclarent : « Nous avons visionné des vidéos montrant les pires crimes que l’humanité ait imaginés. Nous avons entendu le Directeur de Frontex affirmer devant le Parlement européen et devant la Commission de l’UE que ce que nous voyons dans ces vidéos ne correspond pas à la réalité. Néanmoins, 10 000 victimes l’attestent : ces crimes sont commis, quotidiennement, sur le territoire de l’UE, par une agence de l’UE. La Cour de justice de l’UE a la responsabilité de protéger la législation des droits fondamentaux de l’UE. À ce jour, la Cour n’a jamais examiné les pratiques de Frontex ni offert de recours à ses innombrables victimes. Nous faisons confiance à la Cour pour entendre les victimes, pour voir ce que tout le monde voit, pour demander des comptes à l’agence européenne des frontières et pour rétablir l’État de droit sur les espaces terrestres et maritimes de l’UE. »

      https://www.front-lex.eu/fr/2021/05/25/action-en-justice-contre-frontex-soumise

    • L’action légale de Front-lex contre Frontex jugée #recevable par la Cour Générale de l’UE

      en grec :
      Ιστορική δίκη κατά της Frontex

      Στο Δικαστήριο της Ε.Ε. εισάγεται προσφυγή ολλανδικής ΜΚΟ για λογαριασμό δύο προσφύγων που έπεσαν θύματα βίαιης συμπεριφοράς και επαναπροώθησης στη Λέσβο ● Παραδεκτή κρίθηκε η προσφυγή, « αδειάζοντας » τη Frontex που απαξίωνε τη νομική της υπόσταση ● Πρώτη φορά στα 17 χρόνια λειτουργίας της η Ευρωπαϊκή Συνοροφυλακή παραπέμπεται στο Ευρωδικαστήριο, σε μια υπόθεση που εκθέτει και την Ελλάδα και την πολιτική της κυβέρνησης

      Για πρώτη φορά στα 17 χρόνια λειτουργίας της, η FRONTEX παραπέμπεται στο Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο για προσβολή των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων, εξαιτίας της αποστολής της στην Ελλάδα. Η υπόθεση εκθέτει τη χώρα μας και την κυβέρνηση Μητσοτάκη για τις συστηματικές επαναπροωθήσεις προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο.

      Το Γενικό Δικαστήριο της Ε.Ε. έκρινε παραδεκτή υπόθεση που κατέθεσε ολλανδική ΜΚΟ εκ μέρους δύο αιτούντων άσυλο, οι οποίοι καταγγέλλουν ότι υπήρξαν θύματα βάναυσης συμπεριφοράς στη Λέσβο. Η εισαγωγή της προσφυγής στο Δικαστήριο « αδειάζει » την Frontex, εκπρόσωπος της οποίας, όταν είχε γίνει γνωστή η κατάθεση της προσφυγής, είχε κάνει λόγο για « ακτιβιστική ατζέντα που προσποιείται τη νομική υπόθεση, με σκοπό να υπονομεύσει την αποφασιστικότητα της Ε.Ε. να προστατεύσει τα σύνορά της ». Η « Εφ.Συν. » είχε γράψει αναλυτικά για την υπόθεση (31/5/2021 « Εμποδίζουν καταθέσεις για τις επαναπροωθήσεις της Frontex »).

      Η προσφυγή κατατέθηκε με την υποστήριξη της μη κερδοσκοπικής οργάνωσης νομικής βοήθειας Front-Lex, με έδρα το Αμστερνταμ, για λογαριασμό ενός ασυνόδευτου ανηλίκου και μιας γυναίκας. Καταγγέλλουν ότι, ενώ ζητούσαν άσυλο στο έδαφος της Ε.Ε., στη Λέσβο, συνελήφθησαν βίαια, κακοποιήθηκαν, ληστεύτηκαν, απήχθησαν, κρατήθηκαν, μεταφέρθηκαν βίαια πίσω στη θάλασσα, απελάθηκαν συλλογικά και τελικά εγκαταλείφθηκαν σε σχεδίες χωρίς πλοήγηση, φαγητό ή νερό. Οι αιτούντες άσυλο ήταν θύματα και άλλων επιχειρήσεων επαναπροώθησης στην προσπάθεια να βρουν προστασία στην Ε.Ε.

      Το Δικαστήριο καλείται να κρίνει ότι η παράλειψη της Frontex να ενεργήσει με τρόπο που προστατεύει τα θεμελιώδη δικαιώματα συνιστά παράβαση των Συνθηκών (άρθρο 265 της Συνθήκης για τη Λειτουργία της Ε.Ε.).

      Η προσφυγή τεκμηριώνεται σε τρεις νομικούς λόγους :

      ● Πρώτον, στην ύπαρξη σοβαρών και συνεχών παραβιάσεων θεμελιωδών δικαιωμάτων και παραβιάσεων υποχρεώσεων διεθνούς προστασίας στην περιοχή του Αιγαίου, σχετιζόμενων με τις δραστηριότητες της Frontex. Σύμφωνα με τους προσφεύγοντες, ο εκτελεστικός διευθυντής του Οργανισμού είχε την υποχρέωση να αναστείλει ή να τερματίσει τις εν λόγω δραστηριότητες, σύμφωνα με το άρθρο 46 του κανονισμού για την Ευρωπαϊκή Συνοριοφυλακή και Ακτοφυλακή. Κατά τους προσφεύγοντες, η « νέα τακτική » που εφαρμόζεται στο πλαίσιο των επιχειρήσεων ελέγχου των συνόρων στο Αιγαίο, η οποία εγκαινιάσθηκε τον Μάρτιο του 2020, ισοδυναμεί με πολιτική συστηματικής και εκτεταμένης επίθεσης, τόσο σε επίπεδο κράτους (Ελλάδα) όσο και σε επίπεδο οργανισμού (Frontex), εναντίον πολιτών οι οποίοι ζητούν άσυλο στην Ε.Ε., πράγμα που συνιστά, μεταξύ άλλων, προσβολή του δικαιώματος στη ζωή, παραβίαση της απαγόρευσης της συλλογικής απέλασης, παραβίαση της αρχής της μη επαναπροωθήσεως και προσβολή του δικαιώματος ασύλου. Η υποχρέωση της Frontex να εξετάσει την αναστολή ή τον τερματισμό της παρουσίας της στην Ελλάδα επισημάνθηκε και στο πρόσφατο πόρισμα του Ευρωκοινοβουλίου που εξέτασε τον ρόλο της Frontex στις επαναπροωθήσεις των ελληνικών αρχών, ενώ σχετικό αίτημα έχει υιοθετήσει και η Διεθνής Αμνηστία σε πρόσφατη σχετική έκθεσή της.

      ● Δεύτερον, οι προσφεύγοντες προβάλλουν ότι η Frontex δεν εκπλήρωσε τις υποχρεώσεις της βάσει του Χάρτη Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων όσον αφορά την πρόληψη και αποτροπή παραβιάσεων των δικαιωμάτων αυτών στην περιοχή του Αιγαίου, στο πλαίσιο της λειτουργίας της.

      ● Τρίτον, υποστηρίζουν ότι η παράλειψη της Frontex να ενεργήσει στο πλαίσιο του άρθρου 265 ΣΛΕΕ τους αφορά άμεσα και ατομικά, αφού η κατάστασή τους έχει ήδη επηρεαστεί πολλαπλώς από τη νέα πολιτική συστηματικών και εκτεταμένων πρακτικών, τόσο σε επίπεδο κράτους όσο και σε επίπεδο οργανισμού. Πρακτικών που περιλαμβάνουν απαγωγές από το έδαφος της Ε.Ε. και βίαιη επαναφορά στη θάλασσα, αναχαιτίσεις ή εγκατάλειψη στη θάλασσα σε επικίνδυνα σκάφη που θέτουν τη ζωή σε σοβαρό κίνδυνο, παράνομες επαναπροωθήσεις, συλλογικές απελάσεις και παρεμπόδιση της πρόσβασης στο άσυλο.

      « Οι δύο πρόσφυγες έχουν φτάσει στη Λέσβο περισσότερες από μία φορές, συναντήθηκαν με τοπικό πανεπιστημιακό, έχουν φωτογραφηθεί σε γνωστούς δρόμους του νησιού. Ωστόσο, οι ελληνικές δυνάμεις τούς απέλασαν βίαια από το νησί με επίβλεψη της Frontex, όπως ισχυρίζεται η Ελλάδα. Τα προσφεύγοντα άτομα δεν θα δικαιωθούν στην Ελλάδα, όπου δεν υπάρχει κράτος δικαίου. Αξίζουν να δικαιωθούν στην Ευρώπη, εάν η τελευταία θέλει να ισχυρίζεται ότι σέβεται το κράτος δικαίου », σχολίασαν ο Παναγιώτης Δημητράς και η Λεονί Σεφενμπίχλερ από το Ελληνικό Παρατηρητήριο των Συμφωνιών του Ελσίνκι, που συμμετέχει στην προσφυγή, όπως και η ομάδα Progress Lawyers Network.

      « Στην Ε.Ε. και στα σύνορά της, οι μετανάστες και οι άνθρωποι που τους βοηθούν διώκονται ποινικά άδικα. Ταυτόχρονα και στα ίδια σύνορα, η Frontex διαπράττει σοβαρές παραβιάσεις του διεθνούς και του ευρωπαϊκού δικαίου εδώ και χρόνια, αποφεύγοντας τη δίωξη. Είναι καιρός η Frontex να λογοδοτήσει για τα εγκλήματα που διαπράττει εναντίον ανθρώπων που ζητούν προστασία και που αναγκάζονται να διακινδυνεύσουν τη ζωή τους στη θάλασσα λόγω έλλειψης ασφαλών και νόμιμων διόδων μετανάστευσης », τόνισαν οι δικηγόροι Λόικα Λάμπερντ και Μίκε Βαν Ντεν Μπρουκ από το Progress Lawyers Network.

      https://www.efsyn.gr/kosmos/eyropi/303601_istoriki-diki-kata-tis-frontex

      Traduction reçue via la mailing-list Migreurop :

      L’action légale introduite par Front-lex contre Frontex a été jugée recevable par la Cour Générale de l’UE

      Pour la première fois en 17 ans d’existence, FRONTEX est déféré devant la Cour européenne pour violation des droits de l’homme pendant sa mission en Grèce. L’affaire expose la Grèce et le gouvernement Mitsotakis pour les refoulements systématiques des réfugiés en la mer Égée.

      Le Tribunal de l’UE a jugé recevable un dossier déposé par une ONG néerlandaise au nom de deux demandeurs d’asile, qui se plaignent d’avoir été victimes de comportements brutaux à Lesbos. Le dépôt de l’action en justice devant la Cour est un camouflet pour Frontex, dont le représentant, lors du dépôt de l’action en justice, avait déclaré qu’il s’agissait d’un "agenda activiste qui se prétend légal, afin de saper la détermination de l’UE" de protéger ses frontières ».

  • Push back of responsibility: Human Rights Violations as a Welcome Treatment at Europe’s Borders

    In a new report, DRC in partnership with six civil society organisations across six countries, have collected records of thousands of illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees trying to cross Europe’s borders. Testimonies also reveal unofficial cooperation between authorities in different countries to transfer vulnerable people across borders to avoid responsibility.

    During only three months, authorities illegally prevented 2,162 men, women and children from seeking protection. The instances of illegal pushbacks were recorded from January to April 2021 at different border crossings in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-and-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Hungary. More than a third of the documented pushbacks involved rights violations such as denial of access to asylum procedure, physical abuse and assault, theft, extortion and destruction of property, at the hands of national border police and law enforcement officials.

    Further, the report (https://drc.ngo/media/mnglzsro/prab-report-january-may-2021-_final_10052021.pdf) documents 176 cases of so-called “chain-pushbacks” where refugees and migrants were forcefully sent across multiple borders via informal cooperation between states to circumvent their responsibility and push unwanted groups outside of the EU. This could be from Italy or Austria through countries like Slovenia and Croatia to a third country such as Bosnia-and- Herzegovina.

    https://drc.ngo/about-us/for-the-media/press-releases/2021/5/prab-2-en
    #droits_humains #asile #migrations #réfugiés #responsabilité #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #rapport #DRC #statistiques #chiffres #2021 #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #frontière_sud-alpine #Italie #France #refoulements_en_chaîne

    Pour télécharger le rapport:
    https://drc.ngo/media/mnglzsro/prab-report-january-may-2021-_final_10052021.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ping @isskein

  • How Frontex Helps Haul Migrants Back To Libyan Torture Camps

    Refugees are being detained, tortured and killed at camps in Libya. Investigative reporting by DER SPIEGEL and its partners has uncovered how close the European Union’s border agency Frontex works together with the Libyan coast guard.

    At sunrise, Alek Musa was still in good spirits. On the morning of June 25, 2020, he crowded onto an inflatable boat with 69 other people seeking asylum. Most of the refugees were Sudanese like him. They had left the Libyan coastal city of Garabulli the night before. Their destination: the island of Lampedusa in Italy. Musa wanted to escape the horrors of Libya, where migrants like him are captured, tortured and killed by militias.

    The route across the central Mediterranean is one of the world’s most dangerous for migrants. Just last week, another 100 people died as they tried to reach Europe from Libya. Musa was confident, nonetheless. The sea was calm and there was plenty of fuel in the boat’s tank.

    But then, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., Musa saw a small white plane in the sky. He shared his story by phone. There is much to suggest that the aircraft was a patrol of the European border protection agency Frontex. Flight data shows that a Frontex pilot had been circling in the immediate vicinity of the boat at the time.

    However, it appears that Frontex officials didn’t instruct any of the nearby cargo ships to help the refugees – and neither did the sea rescue coordination centers. Instead, hours later, Musa spotted the Ras Al Jadar on the horizon, a Libyan coast guard vessel.

    With none of them wanting to be hauled back to Libya, the migrants panicked. "We tried to leave as quickly as possible,” says Musa, who won’t give his real name out of fear of retaliation.

    Musa claims the Libyans rammed the dinghy with their ship. And that four men had gone overboard. Images from an aircraft belonging to the private rescue organization Sea-Watch show people fighting for their lives in the water. At least two refugees are believed to have died in the operation. All the others were taken back to Libya.
    Frontex Has Turned the Libyans into Europe’s Interceptors

    The June 25 incident is emblematic of the Europeans’ policy in the Mediterranean: The EU member states ceased sea rescue operations entirely in 2019. Instead, they are harnessing the Libyan coast guard to keep people seeking protection out of Europe.

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled back in 2012 that refugees may not be brought back to Libya because they are threatened with torture and death there. But that’s exactly what Libyan border guards are doing. With the help of the Europeans, they are intercepting refugees and hauling them back to Libya. According to an internal EU document, 11,891 were intercepted and taken back ashore last year.

    The EU provides financing for the Libyan coast guard and has trained its members. To this day, though, it claims not to control their operations. “Frontex has never directly cooperated with the Libyan coast guard,” Fabrice Leggeri, the head of the border agency, told the European Parliament in March. He claimed that the Libyans alone were responsible for the controversial interceptions. Is that really the truth, though?

    Together with the media organization “Lighthouse Reports”, German public broadcaster ARD’s investigative magazine “Monitor” and the French daily “Libération”, DER SPIEGEL has investigated incidents in the central Mediterranean Sea over a period of months. The reporters collected position data from Frontex aircraft and cross-checked it with ship data and information from migrants and civilian rescue organizations. They examined confidential documents and spoke to survivors as well as nearly a dozen Libyan officers and Frontex staff.

    This research has exposed for the first time the extent of the cooperation between Frontex and the Libyan coast guard. Europe’s border protection agency is playing an active role in the interceptions conducted by the Libyans. The reporting showed that Frontex flew over migrant boats on at least 20 occasions since January 2020 before the Libyan coast guard hauled them back. At times, the Libyans drove deep in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone, an area over which the Europeans have jurisdiction.

    Some 91 refugees died in the interceptions or are considered missing – in part because the system the Europeans have established causes significant delays in the interceptions. In most cases, merchant ships or even those of aid organizations were in the vicinity. They would have reached the migrant boats more quickly, but they apparently weren’t alerted. Civilian sea rescue organizations have complained for years that they are hardly ever provided with alerts from Frontex.

    The revelations present a problem for Frontex head Leggeri. He is already having to answer for his agency’s involvement in the illegal repatriation of migrants in the Aegean Sea that are referred to as pushbacks. Now it appears that Frontex is also bending the law in operations in the central Mediterranean.

    An operation in March cast light on how the Libyans operate on the high seas. The captain of the Libyan vessel Fezzan, a coast guard officer, agreed to allow a reporter with DER SPIEGEL to conduct a ride-along on the ship. During the trip, he held a crumpled piece of paper with the coordinates of the boats he was to intercept. He didn’t have any internet access on the ship – indeed, the private sea rescuers are better equipped.

    The morning of the trip, the crew of the Fezzan had already pulled around 200 migrants from the water. The Libyans decided to leave an unpowered wooden boat with another 200 people at sea because the Fezzan was already too full. The rescued people huddled on deck, their clothes soaked and their eyes filled with fear. "Stay seated!” the Libyan officers yelled.

    Sheik Omar, a 16-year-old boy from Gambia squatted at the bow. He explained how, after the death of his father, he struggled as a worker in Libya. Then he just wanted to get away from there. He had already attempted to reach Europe five times. "I’m afraid,” he said. "I don’t know where they’re taking me. It probably won’t be a good place.”

    The conditions in the Libyan detention camps are catastrophic. Some are officially under the control of the authorities, but various militias are actually calling the shots. Migrants are a good business for the groups, and refugees from sub-Saharan countries, especially, are imprisoned and extorted by the thousands.

    Mohammad Salim was aware of what awaited him in jail. He’s originally from Somalia and didn’t want to give his real name. Last June, he and around 90 other migrants tried to flee Libya by boat, but a Frontex airplane did a flyover above them early in the morning. Several merchant ships that could have taken them to Europe passed by. But then the Libyan coast guard arrived several hours later.

    Once back on land, the Somali was sent to the Abu Issa detention center, which is controlled by a notorious militia. “There was hardly anything to eat,” Salim reported by phone. On good days, he ate 18 pieces of maccaroni pasta. On other days, he sucked on toothpaste. The women had been forced by the guards to strip naked. Salim was only able to buy his freedom a month later, when his family had paid $1,200.

    The EU is well aware of the conditions in the Libyan refugee prisons. German diplomats reported "concentration camp-like conditions” in 2017. A February report from the EU’s External Action described widespread "sexual violence, abduction for ransom, forced labor and unlawful killings.” The report states that the perpetrators include "government officials, members of armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and members of criminal gangs.”

    Supplies for the business are provided by the Libyan coast guard, which is itself partly made up of militiamen.

    In response to a request for comment from DER SPIEGEL, Frontex asserted that it is the agency’s duty to inform all internationally recognized sea rescue coordination centers in the region about refugee boats, including the Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC). The sea rescue coordination center reports to the Libyan Defense Ministry and is financed by the EU.

    According to official documents, the JRCC is located at the Tripoli airport. But members of the Libyan coast guard claim that the control center is only a small room at the Abu Sitta military base in Tripoli, with just two computers. They claim that it is actually officers with the Libyan coast guard who are on duty there. That the men there have no ability to monitor their stretch of coastline, meaning they would virtually be flying blind without the EU’s aerial surveillance. In the event of a shipping accident, they almost only notify their own colleagues, even though they currently only have two ships at their disposal. Even when their ships are closer, there are no efforts to inform NGOs or private shipping companies. Massoud Abdalsamad, the head of the JRCC and the commander of the coast guard even admits that, "The JRCC and the coast guard are one and the same, there is no difference.”

    WhatsApp Messages to the Coast Guard

    As such, experts are convinced that even the mere transfer of coordinates by Frontex to the JRCC is in violation of European law. "Frontex officials know that the Libyan coast guard is hauling refugees back to Libya and that people there face torture and inhumane treatment,” says Nora Markard, professor for international public law and international human rights at the University of Münster.

    In fact, it appears that Frontex employees are going one step further and sending the coordinates of the refugee boats directly to Libyan officers via WhatsApp. That claim has been made independently by three different members of the Libyan coast guard. DER SPIEGEL is in possession of screenshots indicating that the coast guard is regularly informed – and directly. One captain was sent a photo of a refugee boat taken by a Frontex plane. “This form of direct contact is a clear violation of European law,” says legal expert Markard.

    When confronted, Frontex no longer explicitly denied direct contact with the Libyan coast guard. The agency says it contacts everyone involved in emergency operations in order to save lives. And that form of emergency communication cannot be considered formal contact, a spokesman said.

    But officials at Frontex in Warsaw are conscious of the fact that their main objective is to help keep refugees from reaching Europe’s shores. They often watch on their screens in the situation center how boats capsize in the Mediterranean. It has already proven to be too much for some – they suffer from sleep disorders and psychological problems.

    https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/libya-how-frontex-helps-haul-migrants-back-to-libyan-torture-camps-a-d62c396

    #Libye #push-backs #refoulements #Frontex #complicité #milices #gardes-côtes_libyens #asile #migrations #réfugiés #externalisation #Ras_Al_Jadar #interception #Fezzan #Joint_Rescue_Coordination_Center (#JRCC) #WhatsApp #coordonnées_géographiques

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_ @i_s_

    • Frontex : l’agence européenne de garde-frontières au centre d’une nouvelle polémique

      Un consortium de médias européens, dont le magazine Der Spiegel et le journal Libération, a livré une nouvelle enquête accablante sur l’agence européenne des gardes-frontières. Frontex est accusée de refouler des bateaux de migrants en mer Méditerranée.

      Frontex, c’est quoi ?

      L’agence européenne des gardes-frontières et gardes-côtes a été créée en 2004 pour répondre à la demande d’aides des pays membres pour protéger les frontières extérieures de l’espace Schengen. Frontex a trois objectifs : réduire la vulnérabilité des frontières extérieures, garantir le bon fonctionnement et la sécurité aux frontières et maintenir les capacités du corps européen, recrutant chaque année près de 700 gardes-frontières et garde-côtes. Depuis la crise migratoire de 2015, le budget de l’agence, subventionné par l’Union Européen a explosé passant 142 à 460 millions d’euros en 2020.

      Nouvelles accusations

      Frontex est de nouveau au centre d’une polémique au sein de l’UE. En novembre 2020, et en janvier 2021 déjà, Der Spiegel avait fait part de plusieurs refoulements en mer de bateaux de demandeurs d’asile naviguant entre la Turquie et la Grèce et en Hongrie. Dans cette enquête le magazine allemand avait averti que les responsables de Frontex étaient"conscients des pratiques illégales des gardes-frontières grecs et impliqués dans les refoulements eux-mêmes" (https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-border-agency-frontex-complicit-in-greek-refugee-pushback-campaign-a-4b6c).

      A la fin de ce mois d’avril, de nouveaux éléments incriminants Frontex révélés par un consortium de médias vont dans le même sens : des agents de Frontex auraient donné aux gardes-côtes libyens les coordonnées de bateaux de réfugiés naviguant en mer Méditerranée pour qu’ils soient interceptés avant leurs arrivées sur le sol européen. C’est ce que l’on appelle un « pushback » : refouler illégalement des migrants après les avoir interceptés, violant le droit international et humanitaire. L’enquête des médias européens cite un responsable d’Amnesty International, Mateo de Bellis qui précise que « sans les informations de Frontex, les gardes-côtes libyens ne pourraient jamais intercepter autant de migrants ».

      Cet arrangement entre les autorités européennes et libyennes « constitue une violation manifeste du droit européen », a déclaré Nora Markard, experte en droit international de l’université de Münster, citée par Der Spiegel.

      Une politique migratoire trop stricte de l’UE ?

      En toile de fond, les détracteurs de Frontex visent également la ligne politique de l’UE en matière d’immigration, jugée trop stricte. Est-ce cela qui aurait généré le refoulement de ces bateaux ? La Commissaire européenne aux affaires intérieures, Ylva Johansson, s’en défendait en janvier dernier, alors que Frontex était déjà accusé d’avoir violé le droit international et le droit humanitaire en refoulant six migrants en mer Egée. « Ce que nous protégeons, lorsque nous protégeons nos frontières, c’est l’Union européenne basée sur des valeurs et nous devons respecter nos engagements à ces valeurs tout en protégeant nos frontières (...) Et c’est une des raisons pour lesquelles nous avons besoin de Frontex », expliquait la Commissaire à euronews.

      Pour Martin Martiniello, spécialiste migration à l’université de Liège, « l’idée de départ de l’Agence Frontex était de contrôler les frontières européennes avec l’espoir que cela soit accompagné d’une politique plus positive, plus proactive de l’immigration. Cet aspect-là ne s’est pas développé au cours des dernières années, mais on a construit cette notion de crise migratoire. Et cela renvoie une image d’une Europe assiégée, qui doit se débarrasser des migrants non souhaités. Ce genre de politique ne permet pas de rencontrer les défis globaux des déplacements de population à long terme ».

      Seulement trois jours avant la parution de l’enquête des médias européens incriminant Frontex, L’Union européenne avait avancé sa volonté d’accroître et de mieux encadrer les retours volontaires des personnes migrantes, tout en reconnaissant que cet axe politique migratoire était, depuis 2019, un échec. L’institution avait alors proposé à Frontex un nouveau mandat pour prendre en charge ces retours. Selon Martin Martiniello, « des montants de plus en plus élevés ont été proposés, pour financer Frontex. Même si le Parlement européen a refusé de voter ce budget, celui-ci comporte de la militarisation encore plus importante de l’espace méditerranéen, avec des drones et tout ce qui s’en suit. Et cela fait partie d’une politique européenne ».

      Les accusations de novembre et janvier derniers ont généré l’ouverture d’une enquête interne chez Frontex, mais aussi à l’Office européen de lutte antifraude (OLAF). Pour Catherine Woolard, directrice du Conseil européen des Réfugiés et Exilés (ECRE), « On voit tout le problème des structures de gouvernance de Frontex : ce sont les États membres qui font partie du conseil d’administration et de gestion de Frontex, et ces États membres ont fait une enquête préliminaire. Mais cette enquête ne peut pas être profonde et transparente, puisque ces États membres sont parties prenantes dans ce cas de figure ».

      Pour la directrice de l’ECRE, une enquête indépendante serait une solution pour comprendre et réparer les torts causés, et suggère une réforme du conseil d’administration de Frontex. « La décision du Parlement concernant le budget est importante. En plus des enquêtes internes, le Parlement a créé un groupe de travail pour reformer le scrutin au sein du conseil administratif de l’agence, ce qui est essentiel. Nous attendons le rapport de ce groupe de travail, qui permettra de rendre compte de la situation chez Frontex ».

      Certains députés européens ont demandé la démission du directeur exécutif de Frontex. « C’est un sujet sensible » souligne Catherine Woolard. « Dans le contexte de l’augmentation des ressources de Frontex, le recrutement d’agents de droits fondamentaux, ainsi que les mesures et mécanismes mentionnés, sont essentiels. Le Parlement européen insiste sur la création de ces postes et n’a toujours pas eu de réponse de la part du directeur de Frontex. Entretemps, l’agence a toujours l’obligation de faire un rapport sur les incidents où il y a une suspicion de violation du droit international et humanitaire ».

      https://www.levif.be/actualite/europe/frontex-l-agence-europeenne-de-garde-frontieres-au-centre-d-une-nouvelle-polemique/article-normal-1422403.html?cookie_check=1620307471

  • Europe’s Border Guards Are Illegally Expelling Refugees

    Border guards expelling Syrian refugees after they’ve already been granted asylum has shown the hollowness of European Union humanitarianism. An expansion of the EU-wide Frontex force will make things even worse.

    A young man known in public documents only as Fady has been fighting a battle far harder than anyone his age would normally imagine.

    He first came to Europe from Deir az-Zour, Syria, fleeing that country’s civil war. In 2015, German authorities recognized him as a legally protected refugee. Since then, Fady has used his German passport to look for his lost brother, who he believes to be stuck in Greece and who he wishes to bring to Germany.

    He has paid dearly for those wishes.

    According to information and quotes from Fady provided to Jacobin by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), which is representing him in front of international policymakers, Fady took a trip to Greece in November 2016, hoping to track down his brother. At that time just eleven years of age, his brother had fled recruitment by ISIS, and Fady hoped to find him in Greece.

    While searching for him at a bus station in that country’s Evros region, Fady says he was approached by police and asked about his ethnic origin. After responding that he was Syrian, he was taken into custody by the police, who drove him to an unknown location, despite his protestations that he was a documented German resident who was in the EU legally, with the papers to prove it. They allegedly took his ID, papers, and belongings away from him before handing him to a group of people he describes as “commandos,” who he told the Intercept spoke German and were armed, masked, and clad entirely in black.

    He said the commandos beat anyone who tried to speak to them as they took a group of detained people — some as young as one or two years old — across the river border with Turkey in a rubber boat. There they were dumped paperless, homeless, and stateless in a country that many of them had never resided in for more than a couple days. It took Fady three years to get back his papers and EU residency — a period during which he tried multiple times to get back into Greece in order to search for his brother. He has not found him.

    The ordeal to which Fady was subjected is the most extreme version of what is known as a “pushback” operation. In other forms, these operations can involve keeping people outside of the borders of the EU — denying them entry at sea, for example. GLAN is arguing in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council that the type of pushback operation Fady endured, in which identity papers are confiscated, goes beyond that, amounting to a forced disappearance, which is illegal under a clause of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Greece is a signatory. (Turning away refugees in general is also illegal under international law, but GLAN hopes to add weight to the potential HRC ruling by having the actions acknowledged as forced disappearances.)
    Frontex

    Such operations, many immigrant rights groups allege, are often led by Frontex, the EU’s border security agency, which coordinates national governments’ anti-immigration operations and is the fastest-growing agency in the EU. Headquartered in Warsaw, the organization is slated to grow from a relatively small current workforce to a staff likely to include a potential ten thousand border guards by 2027, in addition to national governments’ forces.

    I wanted to get detailed statements from the German government, the Greek government, and the Frontex bureaucracy about Fady’s incident, so I sent each group a list of several detailed questions.

    A spokesperson for the German government’s press office declined to answer the questions, sending back a short statement that read, “Within the framework of Frontex operations, the German Federal Police supports the Greek authorities to protect the Greek border. The German officers comply with German, European and international law.”

    A Frontex representative also declined to answer specific questions, stating that “Frontex is not aware of any such incident. Frontex officers deployed at the Greek land borders have not been involved in any such incidents. In addition, two investigations have found no evidence of any participation by Frontex in any alleged violations of human rights at the Greek sea borders.”

    The Greek government is keeping its silence about whether it was involved in Fady’s kidnapping. Five emails sent to the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum over the course of two weeks went unanswered.

    Dr Valentina Azarova of the Manchester International Law Centre and GLAN noted that Frontex’s assurances that it is not involved in violent pushbacks alongside Greek border forces are based on faulty information, citing a “dysfunctional reporting system” that was in place at the time of the alleged incident and that is under scrutiny as part of a recent wave of probes.

    While she says that Frontex’s reporting system was supposed to have improved since 2019 reforms went into place — three years after Fady says he was abducted and expelled — the scope of the current probes to the fact that there’s still a long way to go.

    “Frontex’s reporting practice is irregular and opaque,” she told me. “When it does report, it misrepresents illegal expulsions as ‘prevention of departure’ [from Turkey].”
    Driven From Home

    That euphemistic band-aid — an alleged way of trying to reverse an immigration journey that has already happened without getting caught doing so — is emblematic of the problems of this EU agency. For it is tasked with treating only the symptoms of a condition that European countries are guilty of helping to perpetuate, rather than taking on the root causes forcing people onto the move.

    The effects are felt across much of the Global South. By pulling the financial and governmental levers that control the global economy, leaders in industrialized and postindustrial countries have created what Dr Michael Yates — an economist, writer, editor, and editorial director of Monthly Review Press — calls a “complex brew” of austerity, land theft, and political oppression.

    As an addition to this brew of factors, European countries are often either silently complicit or actively encouraging of weapons sales to nearby conflict zones. For example, German manufacturers Hensoldt and Rheinmetall supplied arms to Saudi Arabia via South Africa for its war against Yemen, skirting an export ban, with full knowledge of the German government. And the French industrial giant Airbus dodged an arms embargo on Libya by routing planes through Turkey. This behavior is a logical outgrowth of late-stage capitalism, as weapon sales are one of the more profitable sectors that a business can enter, and as bought-and-paid-for politicians are told to look the other way when misbehavior occurs.

    Together, these factors — the austerity, the land theft, the political oppression, and the encouragement of violent civil conflicts — form a neocolonialist zone of low opportunity that pushes people from the Global South to the Global North.

    Not least among these sources of pressure is the Syrian civil war from which Fady and his brother fled. That conflict has now been going on for more than a decade, involving at least a half-dozen major belligerents, along with other minor parties. It has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

    Any left-wingers in the United States who had held onto hopes that the new Biden administration might introduce a more pacifist stance on Syria — perhaps removing one party from the bloody, multifaceted tragedy playing out between the Tigris and the Mediterranean — were severely disappointed. Immediately after taking office, Biden prioritized bombing that country over fulfilling his $15 minimum wage pledge. And so, the weapon sales continue, the conflict continues, and the Syrian refugees continue trying to find better lives elsewhere.

    Increasingly, those who would help the refugees are finding themselves the targets of government actions. As a Jacobin essayist documented last month, Italy’s new, supposedly centrist government has made some of its first actions a series of moves against groups that assist migrants braving the Mediterranean. On March 1, a hundred officers raided homes and offices all around Italy, seizing activists’ computers, telephones, and files. The accused are, as the essayist argued, “targeted under suspicion of the crime of saving lives.”

    Greece isn’t doing much better. As Jacobin reported last year, at least a thousand asylum seekers have been subjected to pushbacks at the hands of the Greek border authorities.
    Answering to No One

    It’s not just Greece and Italy doing dirty deeds either. Frontex is staffing up, and it is not accountable to the European Court of Human Rights, which only has jurisdiction over member states — not over the EU’s own continent-wide agencies.

    This unaccountability has emboldened Frontex, to the point where it’s comfortable flying an entire plane full of would-be refugees out of Greece to be left — as with Fady — in Turkey. As Melanie Fink wrote for the blog of the European Journal of International Law, it is “notoriously difficult to hold Frontex to account for failures” to uphold its obligations under international law, thanks to the way the bureaucracy is set up.

    And that bureaucracy just gave itself the power to carry weapons, even though, as the Frontex Files investigative website published by German broadcaster ZDF puts it, “no legal regulations permit members of an EU agency to carry firearms.” In other words, the member states never voted on these powers arming Frontex — they are fully an outgrowth of the EU unilaterally deciding that it wants a paramilitary border force to call its own.

    Either by accident or by design, Frontex has by some accounts become an opaque group of European security forces, with no one to answer to. Here there is a great risk of mission creep — for instance, if its agents join other border forces in pursuing or persecuting migrants’ rights activists or labor leaders who speak out for underpaid refugees. As the ongoing probes have affirmed, Azarova says, the whole Frontex system has been set up to be “highly unaccountable.”

    Azarova explains that both Frontex and the European Commission rely on Greece to conduct border operations in accordance with EU law but have not even considered the suspension of their extensive technical and financial assistance to Greece’s abusive border operations. Since EU institutions have done little to redress the illegal expulsions at the EU’s borders, GLAN has taken Fady’s case to the UN.

    Fady says that what he likes about Germany is that his life and work are now here. “I like Germany’s nice people and how kind they are. My work is good, and life is safe here,” he said. He’s even started supporting Bayern Munich.

    But he hopes to go back to the border areas, bringing cameras to document what governments are doing there.

    The authorities can ignore him — or kidnap him once more. While that could damage his life all over again, it will make little difference for them, as their actions will remain almost entirely futile: as long as instability, inequality, and wars encouraged by the Global North push residents of the Global South out of their homes, even ten thousand militarized, unaccountable border guards will not be enough to stop the flow. The people will keep coming.

    https://jacobinmag.com/2021/05/europe-syrian-refugees-greece-germany-frontex

    #push-backs #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #refoulement #réfugiés_syriens #Evros #Thraces #Grèce #Turquie #frontière_terrestre #Frontex

    –—

    ajouté à la métaliste sur les refoulements dans la région de l’Evros :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/914147

  • Annual Torture Report 2020

    Torture and pushbacks – an in depth analysis of practices in Greece and Croatia, and states participating in violent chain-pushbacks

    This special report analyses data from 286 first hand testimonies of violent pushbacks carried out by authorities in the Balkans, looking at the way practices of torture have become an established part of contemporary border policing. The report examines six typologies of violence and torture that have been identified during pushbacks from Croatia and Greece, and also during chain-pushbacks initiated by North Macedonia, Slovenia and Italy. Across the report, 30 victim testimonies of torture and inhuman treatment are presented which is further supplemented by a comprehensive legal analysis and overview of the States response to these allegations.

    The violations profiled include:

    - Excessive and disproportionate force
    - Electric discharge weapons
    - Forced undressing
    - Threats or violence with a firearm
    - Inhuman treatment inside a police vehicle
    - Inhuman treatment inside a detention facility

    –-

    Key Findings from Croatia:

    – In 2020, BVMN collected 124 pushback testimonies from Croatia, exposing the treatment of 1827 people
    - 87% of pushbacks carried out by Croatia authorities contained one or more forms of violence and abuse that we assert amounts to torture or inhuman treatment
    - Violent attacks by police officers against people-on-the-move lasting up to six hours
    - Unmuzzled police dogs being encouraged by officers to attack people who have been detained.
    - Food being rubbed into the open wounds of pushback victims
    - Forcing people naked, setting fire to their clothes and then pushing them back across borders in a complete state of undress

    Key Findings from Greece:

    – 89% of pushbacks carried out by Greek authorities contained one or more forms of violence and abuse that we assert amounts to torture or inhuman treatment
    - 52% of pushback groups subjected to torture or inhuman treatment by Greek authorities contained children and minors
    - Groups of up to 80 men, women and children all being forcibly stripped naked and detained within one room
    - People being detained and transported in freezer trucks
    - Brutal attacks by groups of Greek officers including incidents where they pin down and cut open the hands of people on the move or tied them to the bars of their detention cells and beat them.
    - Multiple cases where Greek officers beat and then threw people into the Evros with many incidents leading to people going missing, presumingly having drowned and died.

    https://www.borderviolence.eu/annual-torture-report-2020
    #rapport #2020 #Border_Violence_Monitoring-Network #BVMN
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #frontières #push-backs #refoulements #traitements_inhumains_et_dégradants #détention #centres_de_détention #armes #déshabillage_forcé #armes_à_feu #Croatie #Grèce #Evros #refoulements_en_chaîne #taser

    ping @isskein

  • Friends of the Traffickers Italy’s Anti-Mafia Directorate and the “Dirty Campaign” to Criminalize Migration

    Afana Dieudonne often says that he is not a superhero. That’s Dieudonne’s way of saying he’s done things he’s not proud of — just like anyone in his situation would, he says, in order to survive. From his home in Cameroon to Tunisia by air, then by car and foot into the desert, across the border into Libya, and onto a rubber boat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Dieudonne has done a lot of surviving.

    In Libya, Dieudonne remembers when the smugglers managing the safe house would ask him for favors. Dieudonne spoke a little English and didn’t want trouble. He said the smugglers were often high and always armed. Sometimes, when asked, Dieudonne would distribute food and water among the other migrants. Other times, he would inform on those who didn’t follow orders. He remembers the traffickers forcing him to inflict violence on his peers. It was either them or him, he reasoned.

    On September 30, 2014, the smugglers pushed Dieudonne and 91 others out to sea aboard a rubber boat. Buzzing through the pitch-black night, the group watched lights on the Libyan coast fade into darkness. After a day at sea, the overcrowded dinghy began taking on water. Its passengers were rescued by an NGO vessel and transferred to an Italian coast guard ship, where officers picked Dieudonne out of a crowd and led him into a room for questioning.

    At first, Dieudonne remembers the questioning to be quick, almost routine. His name, his age, his nationality. And then the questions turned: The officers said they wanted to know how the trafficking worked in Libya so they could arrest the people involved. They wanted to know who had driven the rubber boat and who had held the navigation compass.

    “So I explained everything to them, and I also showed who the ‘captain’ was — captain in quotes, because there is no captain,” said Dieudonne. The real traffickers stay in Libya, he added. “Even those who find themselves to be captains, they don’t do it by choice.”

    For the smugglers, Dieudonne explained, “we are the customers, and we are the goods.”

    For years, efforts by the Italian government and the European Union to address migration in the central Mediterranean have focused on the people in Libya — interchangeably called facilitators, smugglers, traffickers, or militia members, depending on which agency you’re speaking to — whose livelihoods come from helping others cross irregularly into Europe. People pay them a fare to organize a journey so dangerous it has taken tens of thousands of lives.

    The European effort to dismantle these smuggling networks has been driven by an unlikely actor: the Italian anti-mafia and anti-terrorism directorate, a niche police office in Rome that gained respect in the 1990s and early 2000s for dismantling large parts of the Mafia in Sicily and elsewhere in Italy. According to previously unpublished internal documents, the office — called the Direzione nazionale antimafia e antiterrorismo, or DNAA, in Italian — took a front-and-center role in the management of Europe’s southern sea borders, in direct coordination with the EU border agency Frontex and European military missions operating off the Libyan coast.

    In 2013, under the leadership of a longtime anti-mafia prosecutor named Franco Roberti, the directorate pioneered a strategy that was unique — or at least new for the border officers involved. They would start handling irregular migration to Europe like they had handled the mob. The approach would allow Italian and European police, coast guard agencies, and navies, obliged by international law to rescue stranded refugees at sea, to at least get some arrests and convictions along the way.

    The idea was to arrest low-level operators and use coercion and plea deals to get them to flip on their superiors. That way, the reasoning went, police investigators could work their way up the food chain and eventually dismantle the smuggling rings in Libya. With every boat that disembarked in Italy, police would make a handful of arrests. Anybody found to have played an active role during the crossing, from piloting to holding a compass to distributing water or bailing out a leak, could be arrested under a new legal directive written by Roberti’s anti-mafia directorate. Charges ranged from simple smuggling to transnational criminal conspiracy and — if people asphyxiated below deck or drowned when a boat capsized — even murder. Judicial sources estimate the number of people arrested since 2013 to be in the thousands.

    For the police, prosecutors, and politicians involved, the arrests were an important domestic political win. At the time, public opinion in Italy was turning against migration, and the mugshots of alleged smugglers regularly held space on front pages throughout the country.

    But according to the minutes of closed-door conversations among some of the very same actors directing these cases, which were obtained by The Intercept under Italy’s freedom of information law, most anti-mafia prosecutions only focused on low-level boat drivers, often migrants who had themselves paid for the trip across. Few, if any, smuggling bosses were ever convicted. Documents of over a dozen trials reviewed by The Intercept show prosecutions built on hasty investigations and coercive interrogations.

    In the years that followed, the anti-mafia directorate went to great lengths to keep the arrests coming. According to the internal documents, the office coordinated a series of criminal investigations into the civilian rescue NGOs working to save lives in the Mediterranean, accusing them of hampering police work. It also oversaw efforts to create and train a new coast guard in Libya, with full knowledge that some coast guard officers were colluding with the same smuggling networks that Italian and European leaders were supposed to be fighting.

    Since its inception, the anti-mafia directorate has wielded unparalleled investigative tools and served as a bridge between politicians and the courts. The documents reveal in meticulous detail how the agency, alongside Italian and European officials, capitalized on those powers to crack down on alleged smugglers, most of whom they knew to be desperate people fleeing poverty and violence with limited resources to defend themselves in court.

    Tragedy and Opportunity

    The anti-mafia directorate was born in the early 1990s after a decade of escalating Mafia violence. By then, hundreds of prosecutors, politicians, journalists, and police officers had been shot, blown up, or kidnapped, and many more extorted by organized crime families operating in Italy and beyond.

    In Palermo, the Sicilian capital, prosecutor Giovanni Falcone was a rising star in the Italian judiciary. Falcone had won unprecedented success with an approach to organized crime based on tracking financial flows, seizing assets, and centralizing evidence gathered by prosecutor’s offices across the island.

    But as the Mafia expanded its reach into the rest of Europe, Falcone’s work proved insufficient.

    In September 1990, a Mafia commando drove from Germany to Sicily to gun down a 37-year-old judge. Weeks later, at a police checkpoint in Naples, the Sicilian driver of a truck loaded with weapons, explosives, and drugs was found to be a resident of Germany. A month after the arrests, Falcone traveled to Germany to establish an information-sharing mechanism with authorities there. He brought along a younger colleague from Naples, Franco Roberti.

    “We faced a stone wall,” recalled Roberti, still bitter three decades later. He spoke to us outside a cafe in a plum neighborhood in Naples. Seventy-three years old and speaking with the rasp of a lifelong smoker, Roberti described Italy’s Mafia problem in blunt language. He bemoaned a lack of international cooperation that, he said, continues to this day. “They claimed that there was no need to investigate there,” Roberti said, “that it was up to us to investigate Italians in Germany who were occasional mafiosi.”

    As the prosecutors traveled back to Italy empty-handed, Roberti remembers Falcone telling him that they needed “a centralized national organ able to speak directly to foreign judicial authorities and coordinate investigations in Italy.”

    “That is how the idea of the anti-mafia directorate was born,” Roberti said. The two began building what would become Italy’s first national anti-mafia force.

    At the time, there was tough resistance to the project. Critics argued that Falcone and Roberti were creating “super-prosecutors” who would wield outsize powers over the courts, while also being subject to political pressures from the government in Rome. It was, they argued, a marriage of police and the judiciary, political interests and supposedly apolitical courts — convenient for getting Mafia convictions but dangerous for Italian democracy.

    Still, in January 1992, the project was approved in Parliament. But Falcone would never get to lead it: Months later, a bomb set by the Mafia killed him, his wife, and the three agents escorting them. The attack put to rest any remaining criticism of Falcone’s plan.

    The anti-mafia directorate went on to become one of Italy’s most important institutions, the national authority over all matters concerning organized crime and the agency responsible for partially freeing the country from its century-old crucible. In the decades after Falcone’s death, the directorate did what many in Italy thought impossible, dismantling large parts of the five main Italian crime families and almost halving the Mafia-related murder rate.

    And yet, by the time Roberti took control in 2013, it had been years since the last high-profile Mafia prosecution, and the organization’s influence was waning. At the same time, Italy was facing unprecedented numbers of migrants arriving by boat. Roberti had an idea: The anti-mafia directorate would start working on what he saw as a different kind of mafia. The organization set its sights on Libya.

    “We thought we had to do something more coordinated to combat this trafficking,” Roberti remembered, “so I put everyone around a table.”

    “The main objective was to save lives, seize ships, and capture smugglers,” Roberti said. “Which we did.”

    Our Sea

    Dieudonne made it to the Libyan port city of Zuwara in August 2014. One more step across the Mediterranean, and he’d be in Europe. The smugglers he paid to get him across the sea took all of his possessions and put him in an abandoned building that served as a safe house to wait for his turn.

    Dieudonne told his story from a small office in Bari, Italy, where he runs a cooperative that helps recent arrivals access local education. Dieudonne is fiery and charismatic. He is constantly moving: speaking, texting, calling, gesticulating. Every time he makes a point, he raps his knuckles on the table in a one-two pattern. Dieudonne insisted that we publish his real name. Others who made the journey more recently — still pending decisions on their residence permits or refugee status — were less willing to speak openly.

    Dieudonne remembers the safe house in Zuwara as a string of constant violence. The smugglers would come once a day to leave food. Every day, they would ask who hadn’t followed their orders. Those inside the abandoned building knew they were less likely to be discovered by police or rival smugglers, but at the same time, they were not free to leave.

    “They’ve put a guy in the refrigerator in front of all of us, to show how the next one who misbehaves will be treated,” Dieudonne remembered, indignant. He witnessed torture, shootings, rape. “The first time you see it, it hurts you. The second time it hurts you less. The third time,” he said with a shrug, “it becomes normal. Because that’s the only way to survive.”

    “That’s why arresting the person who pilots a boat and treating them like a trafficker makes me laugh,” Dieudonne said. Others who have made the journey to Italy report having been forced to drive at gunpoint. “You only do it to be sure you don’t die there,” he said.

    Two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s government, much of Libya’s northwest coast had become a staging ground for smugglers who organized sea crossings to Europe in large wooden fishing boats. When those ships — overcrowded, underpowered, and piloted by amateurs — inevitably capsized, the deaths were counted by the hundreds.

    In October 2013, two shipwrecks off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa took over 400 lives, sparking public outcry across Europe. In response, the Italian state mobilized two plans, one public and the other private.

    “There was a big shock when the Lampedusa tragedy happened,” remembered Italian Sen. Emma Bonino, then the country’s foreign minister. The prime minister “called an emergency meeting, and we decided to immediately launch this rescue program,” Bonino said. “Someone wanted to call the program ‘safe seas.’ I said no, not safe, because it’s sure we’ll have other tragedies. So let’s call it Mare Nostrum.”

    Mare Nostrum — “our sea” in Latin — was a rescue mission in international waters off the coast of Libya that ran for one year and rescued more than 150,000 people. The operation also brought Italian ships, airplanes, and submarines closer than ever to Libyan shores. Roberti, just two months into his job as head of the anti-mafia directorate, saw an opportunity to extend the country’s judicial reach and inflict a lethal blow to smuggling rings in Libya.

    Five days after the start of Mare Nostrum, Roberti launched the private plan: a series of coordination meetings among the highest echelons of the Italian police, navy, coast guard, and judiciary. Under Roberti, these meetings would run for four years and eventually involve representatives from Frontex, Europol, an EU military operation, and even Libya.

    The minutes of five of these meetings, which were presented by Roberti in a committee of the Italian Parliament and obtained by The Intercept, give an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the events on Europe’s southern borders since the Lampedusa shipwrecks.

    In the first meeting, held in October 2013, Roberti told participants that the anti-mafia offices in the Sicilian city of Catania had developed an innovative way to deal with migrant smuggling. By treating Libyan smugglers like they had treated the Italian Mafia, prosecutors could claim jurisdiction over international waters far beyond Italy’s borders. That, Roberti said, meant they could lawfully board and seize vessels on the high seas, conduct investigations there, and use the evidence in court.

    The Italian authorities have long recognized that, per international maritime law, they are obligated to rescue people fleeing Libya on overcrowded boats and transport them to a place of safety. As the number of people attempting the crossing increased, many Italian prosecutors and coast guard officials came to believe that smugglers were relying on these rescues to make their business model work; therefore, the anti-mafia reasoning went, anyone who acted as crew or made a distress call on a boat carrying migrants could be considered complicit in Libyan trafficking and subject to Italian jurisdiction. This new approach drew heavily from legal doctrines developed in the United States during the 1980s aimed at stopping drug smuggling.

    European leaders were scrambling to find a solution to what they saw as a looming migration crisis. Italian officials thought they had the answer and publicly justified their decisions as a way to prevent future drownings.

    But according to the minutes of the 2013 anti-mafia meeting, the new strategy predated the Lampedusa shipwrecks by at least a week. Sicilian prosecutors had already written the plan to crack down on migration across the Mediterranean but lacked both the tools and public will to put it into action. Following the Lampedusa tragedy and the creation of Mare Nostrum, they suddenly had both.

    State of Necessity

    In the international waters off the coast of Libya, Dieudonne and 91 others were rescued by a European NGO called Migrant Offshore Aid Station. They spent two days aboard MOAS’s ship before being transferred to an Italian coast guard ship, Nave Dattilo, to be taken to Europe.

    Aboard the Dattilo, coast guard officers asked Dieudonne why he had left his home in Cameroon. He remembers them showing him a photograph of the rubber boat taken from the air. “They asked me who was driving, the roles and everything,” he remembered. “Then they asked me if I could tell him how the trafficking in Libya works, and then, they said, they would give me residence documents.”

    Dieudonne said that he was reluctant to cooperate at first. He didn’t want to accuse any of his peers, but he was also concerned that he could become a suspect. After all, he had helped the driver at points throughout the voyage.

    “I thought that if I didn’t cooperate, they might hurt me,” Dieudonne said. “Not physically hurt, but they could consider me dishonest, like someone who was part of the trafficking.”

    To this day, Dieudonne says he can’t understand why Italy would punish people for fleeing poverty and political violence in West Africa. He rattled off a list of events from the last year alone: draught, famine, corruption, armed gunmen, attacks on schools. “And you try to convict someone for managing to escape that situation?”

    The coast guard ship disembarked in Vibo Valentia, a city in the Italian region of Calabria. During disembarkation, a local police officer explained to a journalist that they had arrested five people. The journalist asked how the police had identified the accused.

    “A lot has been done by the coast guard, who picked [the migrants] up two days ago and managed to spot [the alleged smugglers],” the officer explained. “Then we have witness statements and videos.”

    Cases like these, where arrests are made on the basis of photo or video evidence and statements by witnesses like Dieudonne, are common, said Gigi Modica, a judge in Sicily who has heard many immigration and asylum cases. “It’s usually the same story. They take three or four people, no more. They ask them two questions: who was driving the boat, and who was holding the compass,” Modica explained. “That’s it — they get the names and don’t care about the rest.”

    Modica was one of the first judges in Italy to acquit people charged for driving rubber boats — known as “scafisti,” or boat drivers, in Italian — on the grounds that they had been forced to do so. These “state of necessity” rulings have since become increasingly common. Modica rattled off a list of irregularities he’s seen in such cases: systemic racism, witness statements that migrants later say they didn’t make, interrogations with no translator or lawyer, and in some cases, people who report being encouraged by police to sign documents renouncing their right to apply for asylum.

    “So often these alleged smugglers — scafisti — are normal people who were compelled to pilot a boat by smugglers in Libya,” Modica said.

    Documents of over a dozen trials reviewed by The Intercept show prosecutions largely built on testimony from migrants who are promised a residence permit in exchange for their collaboration. At sea, witnesses are interviewed by the police hours after their rescue, often still in a state of shock after surviving a shipwreck.

    In many cases, identical statements, typos included, are attributed to several witnesses and copied and pasted across different police reports. Sometimes, these reports have been enough to secure decadeslong sentences. Other times, under cross-examination in court, witnesses have contradicted the statements recorded by police or denied giving any testimony at all.

    As early as 2015, attendees of the anti-mafia meetings were discussing problems with these prosecutions. In a meeting that February, Giovanni Salvi, then the prosecutor of Catania, acknowledged that smugglers often abandoned migrant boats in international waters. Still, Italian police were steaming ahead with the prosecutions of those left on board.

    These prosecutions were so important that in some cases, the Italian coast guard decided to delay rescue when boats were in distress in order to “allow for the arrival of institutional ships that can conduct arrests,” a coast guard commander explained at the meeting.

    When asked about the commander’s comments, the Italian coast guard said that “on no occasion” has the agency ever delayed a rescue operation. Delaying rescue for any reason goes against international and Italian law, and according to various human rights lawyers in Europe, could give rise to criminal liability.

    NGOs in the Crosshairs

    Italy canceled Mare Nostrum after one year, citing budget constraints and a lack of European collaboration. In its wake, the EU set up two new operations, one via Frontex and the other a military effort called Operation Sophia. These operations focused not on humanitarian rescue but on border security and people smuggling from Libya. Beginning in 2015, representatives from Frontex and Operation Sophia were included in the anti-mafia directorate meetings, where Italian prosecutors ensured that both abided by the new investigative strategy.

    Key to these investigations were photos from the rescues, like the aerial image that Dieudonne remembers the Italian coast guard showing him, which gave police another way to identify who piloted the boats and helped navigate.

    In the absence of government rescue ships, a fleet of civilian NGO vessels began taking on a large number of rescues in the international waters off the coast of Libya. These ships, while coordinated by the Italian coast guard rescue center in Rome, made evidence-gathering difficult for prosecutors and judicial police. According to the anti-mafia meeting minutes, some NGOs, including MOAS, routinely gave photos to Italian police and Frontex. Others refused, arguing that providing evidence for investigations into the people they saved would undermine their efficacy and neutrality.

    In the years following Mare Nostrum, the NGO fleet would come to account for more than one-third of all rescues in the central Mediterranean, according to estimates by Operation Sophia. A leaked status report from the operation noted that because NGOs did not collect information from rescued migrants for police, “information essential to enhance the understanding of the smuggling business model is not acquired.”

    In a subsequent anti-mafia meeting, six prosecutors echoed this concern. NGO rescues meant that police couldn’t interview migrants at sea, they said, and cases were getting thrown out for lack of evidence. A coast guard admiral explained the importance of conducting interviews just after a rescue, when “a moment of empathy has been established.”

    “It is not possible to carry out this task if the rescue intervention is carried out by ships of the NGOs,” the admiral told the group.

    The NGOs were causing problems for the DNAA strategy. At the meetings, Italian prosecutors and representatives from the coast guard, navy, and Interior Ministry discussed what they could do to rein in the humanitarian organizations. At the same time, various prosecutors were separately fixing their investigative sights on the NGOs themselves.

    In late 2016, an internal report from Frontex — later published in full by The Intercept — accused an NGO vessel of directly receiving migrants from Libyan smugglers, attributing the information to “Italian authorities.” The claim was contradicted by video evidence and the ship’s crew.

    Months later, Carmelo Zuccaro, the prosecutor of Catania, made public that he was investigating rescue NGOs. “Together with Frontex and the navy, we are trying to monitor all these NGOs that have shown that they have great financial resources,” Zuccaro told an Italian newspaper. The claim went viral in Italian and European media. “Friends of the traffickers” and “migrant taxi service” became common slurs used toward humanitarian NGOs by anti-immigration politicians and the Italian far right.

    Zuccaro would eventually walk back his claims, telling a parliamentary committee that he was working off a hypothesis at the time and had no evidence to back it up.

    In an interview with a German newspaper in February 2017, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, refrained from explicitly criticizing the work of rescue NGOs but did say they were hampering police investigations in the Mediterranean. As aid organizations assumed a larger percentage of rescues, Leggeri said, “it is becoming more difficult for the European security authorities to find out more about the smuggling networks through interviews with migrants.”

    “That smear campaign was very, very deep,” remembered Bonino, the former foreign minister. Referring to Marco Minniti, Italy’s interior minister at the time, she added, “I was trying to push Minniti not to be so obsessed with people coming, but to make a policy of integration in Italy. But he only focused on Libya and smuggling and criminalizing NGOs with the help of prosecutors.”

    Bonino explained that the action against NGOs was part of a larger plan to change European policy in the central Mediterranean. The first step was the shift away from humanitarian rescue and toward border security and smuggling. The second step “was blaming the NGOs or arresting them, a sort of dirty campaign against them,” she said. “The results of which after so many years have been no convictions, no penalties, no trials.”

    Finally, the third step was to build a new coast guard in Libya to do what the Europeans couldn’t, per international law: intercept people at sea and bring them back to Libya, the country from which they had just fled.

    At first, leaders at Frontex were cautious. “From Frontex’s point of view, we look at Libya with concern; there is no stable state there,” Leggeri said in the 2017 interview. “We are now helping to train 60 officers for a possible future Libyan coast guard. But this is at best a beginning.”

    Bonino saw this effort differently. “They started providing support for their so-called coast guard,” she said, “which were the same traffickers changing coats.”
    Rescued migrants disembarking from a Libyan coast guard ship in the town of Khoms, a town 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the capital on October 1, 2019.

    Same Uniforms, Same Ships

    Safe on land in Italy, Dieudonne was never called to testify in court. He hopes that none of his peers ended up in prison but said he would gladly testify against the traffickers if called. Aboard the coast guard ship, he remembers, “I gave the police contact information for the traffickers, I gave them names.”

    The smuggling operations in Libya happened out in the open, but Italian police could only go as far as international waters. Leaked documents from Operation Sophia describe years of efforts by European officials to get Libyan police to arrest smugglers. Behind closed doors, top Italian and EU officials admitted that these same smugglers were intertwined with the new Libyan coast guard that Europe was creating and that working with them would likely go against international law.

    As early as 2015, multiple officials at the anti-mafia meetings noted that some smugglers were uncomfortably close to members of the Libyan government. “Militias use the same uniforms and the same ships as the Libyan coast guard that the Italian navy itself is training,” Rear Adm. Enrico Credendino, then in charge of Operation Sophia, said in 2017. The head of the Libyan coast guard and the Libyan minister of defense, both allies of the Italian government, Credendino added, “have close relationships with some militia bosses.”

    One of the Libyan coast guard officers playing both sides was Abd al-Rahman Milad, also known as Bija. In 2019, the Italian newspaper Avvenire revealed that Bija participated in a May 2017 meeting in Sicily, alongside Italian border police and intelligence officials, that was aimed at stemming migration from Libya. A month later, he was condemned by the U.N. Security Council for his role as a top member of a powerful trafficking militia in the coastal town of Zawiya, and for, as the U.N. put it, “sinking migrant boats using firearms.”

    According to leaked documents from Operation Sophia, coast guard officers under Bija’s command were trained by the EU between 2016 and 2018.

    While the Italian government was prosecuting supposed smugglers in Italy, they were also working with people they knew to be smugglers in Libya. Minniti, Italy’s then-interior minister, justified the deals his government was making in Libya by saying that the prospect of mass migration from Africa made him “fear for the well-being of Italian democracy.”

    In one of the 2017 anti-mafia meetings, a representative of the Interior Ministry, Vittorio Pisani, outlined in clear terms a plan that provided for the direct coordination of the new Libyan coast guard. They would create “an operation room in Libya for the exchange of information with the Interior Ministry,” Pisani explained, “mainly on the position of NGO ships and their rescue operations, in order to employ the Libyan coast guard in its national waters.”

    And with that, the third step of the plan was set in motion. At the end of the meeting, Roberti suggested that the group invite representatives from the Libyan police to their next meeting. In an interview with The Intercept, Roberti confirmed that Libyan representatives attended at least two anti-mafia meetings and that he himself met Bija at a meeting in Libya, one month after the U.N. Security Council report was published. The following year, the Security Council committee on Libya sanctioned Bija, freezing his assets and banning him from international travel.

    “We needed to have the participation of Libyan institutions. But they did nothing, because they were taking money from the traffickers,” Roberti told us from the cafe in Naples. “They themselves were the traffickers.”
    A Place of Safety

    Roberti retired from the anti-mafia directorate in 2017. He said that under his leadership, the organization was able to create a basis for handling migration throughout Europe. Still, Roberti admits that his expansion of the DNAA into migration issues has had mixed results. Like his trip to Germany in the ’90s with Giovanni Falcone, Roberti said the anti-mafia strategy faltered because of a lack of collaboration: with the NGOs, with other European governments, and with Libya.

    “On a European level, the cooperation does not work,” Roberti said. Regarding Libya, he added, “We tried — I believe it was right, the agreements [the government] made. But it turned out to be a failure in the end.”

    The DNAA has since expanded its operations. Between 2017 and 2019, the Italian government passed two bills that put the anti-mafia directorate in charge of virtually all illegal immigration matters. Since 2017, five Sicilian prosecutors, all of whom attended at least one anti-mafia coordination meeting, have initiated 15 separate legal proceedings against humanitarian NGO workers. So far there have been no convictions: Three cases have been thrown out in court, and the rest are ongoing.

    Earlier this month, news broke that Sicilian prosecutors had wiretapped journalists and human rights lawyers as part of one of these investigations, listening in on legally protected conversations with sources and clients. The Italian justice ministry has opened an investigation into the incident, which could amount to criminal behavior, according to Italian legal experts. The prosecutor who approved the wiretaps attended at least one DNAA coordination meeting, where investigations against NGOs were discussed at length.

    As the DNAA has extended its reach, key actors from the anti-mafia coordination meetings have risen through the ranks of Italian and European institutions. One prosecutor, Federico Cafiero de Raho, now runs the anti-mafia directorate. Salvi, the former prosecutor of Catania, is the equivalent of Italy’s attorney general. Pisani, the former Interior Ministry representative, is deputy head of the Italian intelligence services. And Roberti is a member of the European Parliament.

    Cafiero de Raho stands by the investigations and arrests that the anti-mafia directorate has made over the years. He said the coordination meetings were an essential tool for prosecutors and police during difficult times.

    When asked about his specific comments during the meetings — particularly statements that humanitarian NGOs needed to be regulated and multiple admissions that members of the new Libyan coast guard were involved in smuggling activities — Cafiero de Raho said that his remarks should be placed in context, a time when Italy and the EU were working to build a coast guard in a part of Libya that was largely ruled by local militias. He said his ultimate goal was what, in the DNAA coordination meetings, he called the “extrajudicial solution”: attempts to prove the existence of crimes against humanity in Libya so that “the United Nation sends troops to Libya to dismantle migrants camps set up by traffickers … and retake control of that territory.”

    A spokesperson for the EU’s foreign policy arm, which ran Operation Sophia, refused to directly address evidence that leaders of the European military operation knew that parts of the new Libyan coast guard were also involved in smuggling activities, only noting that Bija himself wasn’t trained by the EU. A Frontex spokesperson stated that the agency “was not involved in the selection of officers to be trained.”

    In 2019, the European migration strategy changed again. Now, the vast majority of departures are intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and brought back to Libya. In March of that year, Operation Sophia removed all of its ships from the rescue area and has since focused on using aerial patrols to direct and coordinate the Libyan coast guard. Human rights lawyers in Europe have filed six legal actions against Italy and the EU as a result, calling the practice refoulement by proxy: facilitating the return of migrants to dangerous circumstances in violation of international law.

    Indeed, throughout four years of coordination meetings, Italy and the EU were admitting privately that returning people to Libya would be illegal. “Fundamental human rights violations in Libya make it impossible to push migrants back to the Libyan coast,” Pisani explained in 2015. Two years later, he outlined the beginnings of a plan that would do exactly that.

    The Result of Mere Chance

    Dieudonne knows he was lucky. The line that separates suspect and victim can be entirely up to police officers’ first impressions in the minutes or hours following a rescue. According to police reports used in prosecutions, physical attributes like having “a clearer skin tone” or behavior aboard the ship, including scrutinizing police movements “with strange interest,” were enough to rouse suspicion.

    In a 2019 ruling that acquitted seven alleged smugglers after three years of pretrial detention, judges wrote that “the selection of the suspects on one side, and the witnesses on the other, with the only exception of the driver, has almost been the result of mere chance.”

    Carrying out work for their Libyan captors has cost other migrants in Italy lengthy prison sentences. In September 2019, a 22-year-old Guinean nicknamed Suarez was arrested upon his arrival to Italy. Four witnesses told police he had collaborated with prison guards in Zawiya, at the immigrant detention center managed by the infamous Bija.

    “Suarez was also a prisoner, who then took on a job,” one of the witnesses told the court. Handing out meals or taking care of security is what those who can’t afford to pay their ransom often do in order to get out, explained another. “Unfortunately, you would have to be there to understand the situation,” the first witness said. Suarez was sentenced to 20 years in prison, recently reduced to 12 years on appeal.

    Dieudonne remembered his journey at sea vividly, but with surprising cool. When the boat began taking on water, he tried to help. “One must give help where it is needed.” At his office in Bari, Dieudonne bent over and moved his arms in a low scooping motion, like he was bailing water out of a boat.

    “Should they condemn me too?” he asked. He finds it ironic that it was the Libyans who eventually arrested Bija on human trafficking charges this past October. The Italians and Europeans, he said with a laugh, were too busy working with the corrupt coast guard commander. (In April, Bija was released from prison after a Libyan court absolved him of all charges. He was promoted within the coast guard and put back on the job.)

    Dieudonne thinks often about the people he identified aboard the coast guard ship in the middle of the sea. “I told the police the truth. But if that collaboration ends with the conviction of an innocent person, it’s not good,” he said. “Because I know that person did nothing. On the contrary, he saved our lives by driving that raft.”

    https://theintercept.com/2021/04/30/italy-anti-mafia-migrant-rescue-smuggling

    #Méditerranée #Italie #Libye #ONG #criminalisation_de_la_solidarité #solidarité #secours #mer_Méditerranée #asile #migrations #réfugiés #violence #passeurs #Méditerranée_centrale #anti-mafia #anti-terrorisme #Direzione_nazionale_antimafia_e_antiterrorismo #DNAA #Frontex #Franco_Roberti #justice #politique #Zuwara #torture #viol #Mare_Nostrum #Europol #eaux_internationales #droit_de_la_mer #droit_maritime #juridiction_italienne #arrestations #Gigi_Modica #scafista #scafisti #état_de_nécessité #Giovanni_Salvi #NGO #Operation_Sophia #MOAS #DNA #Carmelo_Zuccaro #Zuccaro #Fabrice_Leggeri #Leggeri #Marco_Minniti #Minniti #campagne #gardes-côtes_libyens #milices #Enrico_Credendino #Abd_al-Rahman_Milad #Bija ##Abdurhaman_al-Milad #Al_Bija #Zawiya #Vittorio_Pisani #Federico_Cafiero_de_Raho #solution_extrajudiciaire #pull-back #refoulement_by_proxy #refoulement #push-back #Suarez

    ping @karine4 @isskein @rhoumour

  • 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

  • Réfugiés : contourner la #Croatie par le « #triangle » #Serbie - #Roumanie - #Hongrie

    Une nouvelle route migratoire s’est ouverte dans les Balkans : en Serbie, de plus en plus d’exilés tentent de contourner les barbelés barrant la #Hongrie en faisant un crochet par la Roumanie, avant d’espérer rejoindre les pays riches de l’Union européenne. Un chemin plus long et pas moins risqué, conséquence des politiques sécuritaires imposées par les 27.

    Il est 18h30, le jour commence à baisser sur la plaine de #Voïvodine. Un groupe d’une cinquantaine de jeunes hommes, sacs sur le dos et duvets en bandoulière, marche d’un pas décidé le long de la petite route de campagne qui relie les villages serbes de #Majdan et de #Rabe. Deux frontières de l’Union européenne (UE) se trouvent à quelques kilomètres de là : celle de la Hongrie, barrée depuis la fin 2015 d’une immense clôture barbelée, et celle de la Roumanie, moins surveillée pour le moment.

    Tous s’apprêtent à tenter le « #game », ce « jeu » qui consiste à échapper à la police et à pénétrer dans l’UE, en passant par « le triangle ». Le triangle, c’est cette nouvelle route migratoire à trois côtés qui permet de rejoindre la Hongrie, l’entrée de l’espace Schengen, depuis la Serbie, en faisant un crochet par la Roumanie. « Nous avons été contraints de prendre de nouvelles dispositions devant les signes clairs de l’augmentation du nombre de personnes traversant illégalement depuis la Serbie », explique #Frontex, l’Agence européenne de protection des frontières. Aujourd’hui, 87 de ses fonctionnaires patrouillent au côté de la police roumaine.

    Depuis l’automne 2020, le nombre de passages par cet itinéraire, plus long, est en effet en forte hausse. Les #statistiques des passages illégaux étant impossibles à tenir, l’indicateur le plus parlant reste l’analyse des demandes d’asiles, qui ont explosé en Roumanie l’année dernière, passant de 2626 à 6156, soit une hausse de 137%, avec un pic brutal à partir du mois d’octobre. Selon les chiffres de l’Inspectoratul General pentru Imigrări, les services d’immigrations roumains, 92% de ces demandeurs d’asile étaient entrés depuis la Serbie.

    “La Roumanie et la Hongrie, c’est mieux que la Croatie.”

    Beaucoup de ceux qui espèrent passer par le « triangle » ont d’abord tenté leur chance via la Bosnie-Herzégovine et la Croatie avant de rebrousser chemin. « C’est difficile là-bas », raconte Ahmed, un Algérien d’une trentaine d’années, qui squatte une maison abandonnée de Majdan avec cinq de ses compatriotes. « Il y a des policiers qui patrouillent cagoulés. Ils te frappent et te prennent tout : ton argent, ton téléphone et tes vêtements. Je connais des gens qui ont dû être emmenés à l’hôpital. » Pour lui, pas de doutes, « la Roumanie et la Hongrie, c’est mieux ».

    La route du « triangle » a commencé à devenir plus fréquentée dès la fin de l’été 2020, au moment où la situation virait au chaos dans le canton bosnien d’#Una_Sana et que les violences de la police croate s’exacerbaient encore un peu plus. Quelques semaines plus tard, les multiples alertes des organisations humanitaires ont fini par faire réagir la Commission européenne. Ylva Johansson, la Commissaire suédoise en charge des affaires intérieures a même dénoncé des « traitements inhumains et dégradants » commis contre les exilés à la frontière croato-bosnienne, promettant une « discussion approfondie » avec les autorités de Zagreb. De son côté, le Conseil de l’Europe appelait les autorités croates à mettre fin aux actes de tortures contre les migrants et à punir les policiers responsables. Depuis, sur le terrain, rien n’a changé.

    Pire, l’incendie du camp de #Lipa, près de #Bihać, fin décembre, a encore aggravé la crise. Pendant que les autorités bosniennes se renvoyaient la balle et que des centaines de personnes grelottaient sans toit sous la neige, les arrivées se sont multipliées dans le Nord de la Serbie. « Rien que dans les villages de Majdan et Rabe, il y avait en permanence plus de 300 personnes cet hiver », estime Jeremy Ristord, le coordinateur de Médecins sans frontières (MSF) en Serbie. La plupart squattent les nombreuses maisons abandonnées. Dans cette zone frontalière, beaucoup d’habitants appartiennent aux minorités hongroise et roumaine, et Budapest comme Bucarest leur ont généreusement délivré des passeports après leur intégration dans l’UE. Munis de ces précieux sésames européens, les plus jeunes sont massivement partis chercher fortune ailleurs dès la fin des années 2000.

    Siri, un Palestinien dont la famille était réfugiée dans un camp de Syrie depuis les années 1960, squatte une masure défoncée à l’entrée de Rabe. En tout, ils sont neuf, dont trois filles. Cela fait de longs mois que le jeune homme de 27 ans est coincé en Serbie. Keffieh sur la tête, il tente de garder le sourire en racontant son interminable odyssée entamée voilà bientôt dix ans. Dès les premiers combats en 2011, il a fui avec sa famille vers la Jordanie, puis le Liban avant de se retrouver en Turquie. Finalement, il a pris la route des Balkans l’an dernier, avec l’espoir de rejoindre une partie des siens, installés en Allemagne, près de Stuttgart.

    “La police m’a arrêté, tabassé et on m’a renvoyé ici. Sans rien.”

    Il y a quelques jours, Siri à réussi à arriver jusqu’à #Szeged, dans le sud de la Hongrie, via la Roumanie. « La #police m’a arrêté, tabassé et on m’a renvoyé ici. Sans rien », souffle-t-il. À côté de lui, un téléphone crachote la mélodie de Get up, Stand up, l’hymne reggae de Bob Marley appelant les opprimés à se battre pour leurs droits. « On a de quoi s’acheter un peu de vivres et des cigarettes. On remplit des bidons d’eau pour nous laver dans ce qui reste de la salle de bains », raconte une des filles, assise sur un des matelas qui recouvrent le sol de la seule petite pièce habitable, chauffée par un poêle à bois décati.

    De rares organisations humanitaires viennent en aide à ces exilés massés aux portes de l’Union européennes. Basé à Belgrade, le petit collectif #Klikaktiv y passe chaque semaine, pour de l’assistance juridique et du soutien psychosocial. « Ils préfèrent être ici, tout près de la #frontière, plutôt que de rester dans les camps officiels du gouvernement serbe », explique Milica Švabić, la juriste de l’organisation. Malgré la précarité et l’#hostilité grandissante des populations locales. « Le discours a changé ces dernières années en Serbie. On ne parle plus de ’réfugiés’, mais de ’migrants’ venus islamiser la Serbie et l’Europe », regrette son collègue Vuk Vučković. Des #milices d’extrême-droite patrouillent même depuis un an pour « nettoyer » le pays de ces « détritus ».

    « La centaine d’habitants qui restent dans les villages de Rabe et de Majdan sont méfiants et plutôt rudes avec les réfugiés », confirme Abraham Rudolf. Ce sexagénaire à la retraite habite une modeste bâtisse à l’entrée de Majdan, adossée à une ruine squattée par des candidats à l’exil. « C’est vrai qu’ils ont fait beaucoup de #dégâts et qu’il n’y a personne pour dédommager. Ils brûlent les charpentes des toits pour se chauffer. Leurs conditions d’hygiène sont terribles. » Tant pis si de temps en temps, ils lui volent quelques légumes dans son potager. « Je me mets à leur place, il fait froid et ils ont faim. Au vrai, ils ne font de mal à personne et ils font même vivre l’épicerie du village. »

    Si le « triangle » reste a priori moins dangereux que l’itinéraire via la Croatie, les #violences_policières contre les sans papiers y sont pourtant monnaie courante. « Plus de 13 000 témoignages de #refoulements irréguliers depuis la Roumanie ont été recueillis durant l’année 2020 », avance l’ONG Save the Children.

    “C’est dur, mais on n’a pas le choix. Mon mari a déserté l’armée de Bachar. S’il rentre, il sera condamné à mort.”

    Ces violences répétées ont d’ailleurs conduit MSF à réévaluer sa mission en Serbie et à la concentrer sur une assistance à ces victimes. « Plus de 30% de nos consultations concernent des #traumatismes physiques », précise Jérémy Ristor. « Une moitié sont liés à des violences intentionnelles, dont l’immense majorité sont perpétrées lors des #push-backs. L’autre moitié sont liés à des #accidents : fractures, entorses ou plaies ouvertes. Ce sont les conséquences directes de la sécurisation des frontières de l’UE. »

    Hanan est tombée sur le dos en sautant de la clôture hongroise et n’a jamais été soignée. Depuis, cette Syrienne de 33 ans souffre dès qu’elle marche. Mais pas question pour elle de renoncer à son objectif : gagner l’Allemagne, avec son mari et leur neveu, dont les parents ont été tués dans les combats à Alep. « On a essayé toutes les routes », raconte l’ancienne étudiante en littérature anglaise, dans un français impeccable. « On a traversé deux fois le Danube vers la Roumanie. Ici, par le triangle, on a tenté douze fois et par les frontières de la Croatie et de la Hongrie, sept fois. » Cette fois encore, la police roumaine les a expulsés vers le poste-frontière de Rabe, officiellement fermé à cause du coronavirus. « C’est dur, mais on n’a pas le choix. Mon mari a déserté l’armée de Bachar avec son arme. S’il rentre, il sera condamné à mort. »

    Qu’importe la hauteur des murs placés sur leur route et la terrible #répression_policière, les exilés du nord de la Serbie finiront tôt ou tard par passer. Comme le déplore les humanitaires, la politique ultra-sécuritaire de l’UE ne fait qu’exacerber leur #vulnérabilité face aux trafiquants et leur précarité, tant pécuniaire que sanitaire. La seule question est celle du prix qu’ils auront à paieront pour réussir le « game ». Ces derniers mois, les prix se sont remis à flamber : entrer dans l’Union européenne via la Serbie se monnaierait jusqu’à 2000 euros.

    https://www.courrierdesbalkans.fr/Refugies-contourner-la-Croatie-par-le-triangle-Serbie-Roumanie-Ho
    #routes_migratoires #migrations #Balkans #route_des_Balkans #asile #migrations #réfugiés #contournement #Bihac #frontières #the_game

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • ‘They can see us in the dark’: migrants grapple with hi-tech fortress EU

    A powerful battery of drones, thermal cameras and heartbeat detectors are being deployed to exclude asylum seekers

    Khaled has been playing “the game” for a year now. A former law student, he left Afghanistan in 2018, driven by precarious economic circumstances and fear for his security, as the Taliban were increasingly targeting Kabul.

    But when he reached Europe, he realised the chances at winning the game were stacked against him. Getting to Europe’s borders was easy compared with actually crossing into the EU, he says, and there were more than physical obstacles preventing him from getting to Germany, where his uncle and girlfriend live.

    On a cold December evening in the Serbian village of Horgoš, near the Hungarian border, where he had spent a month squatting in an abandoned farm building, he and six other Afghan asylum seekers were having dinner together – a raw onion and a loaf of bread they passed around – their faces lit up by the glow of a fire.

    The previous night, they had all had another go at “the game” – the name migrants give to crossing attempts. But almost immediately the Hungarian border police stopped them and pushed them back into Serbia. They believe the speed of the response can be explained by the use of thermal cameras and surveillance drones, which they had seen during previous attempts to cross.

    “They can see us in the dark – you just walk, and they find you,” said Khaled, adding that drones had been seen flying over their squat. “Sometimes they send them in this area to watch who is here.”

    Drones, thermal-vision cameras and devices that can detect a heartbeat are among the new technological tools being increasingly used by European police to stop migrants from crossing borders, or to push them back when they do.

    The often violent removal of migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum is illegal under EU law, which obliges authorities to process asylum requests whether or not migrants possess identification documents or entered the country legally.

    “Routes are getting harder and harder to navigate. Corridors [in the Balkans are] really intensively surveyed by these technologies,” says Simon Campbell, field coordinator for the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), a migrant rights group in the region.

    The militarisation of Europe’s borders has been increasing steadily since 2015, when the influx of migrants reached its peak. A populist turn in politics and fear whipped up around the issue have fuelled the use of new technologies. The EU has invested in fortifying borders, earmarking €34.9bn (£30bn) in funding for border and migration management for the 2021-27 budget, while sidelining the creation of safe passages and fair asylum processes.

    Osman, a Syrian refugee now living in Serbia, crossed several borders in the southern Balkans in 2014. “At the time, I didn’t see any type of technology,” he says, “but now there’s drones, thermal cameras and all sorts of other stuff.”

    When the Hungarian police caught him trying to cross the Serbian border before the pandemic hit last year, they boasted about the equipment they used – including what Osman recalls as “a huge drone with a big camera”. He says they told him: “We are watching you everywhere.”

    Upgrading of surveillance technology, as witnessed by Khaled and Osman, has coincided with increased funding for Frontex – the EU’s Border and Coast Guard Agency. Between 2005 and 2016, Frontex’s budget grew from €6.3m to €238.7m, and it now stands at €420.6m. Technology at the EU’s Balkan borders have been largely funded with EU money, with Frontex providing operational support.

    Between 2014 and 2017, with EU funding, Croatia bought 13 thermal-imaging devices for €117,338 that can detect people more than a mile away and vehicles from two miles away.

    In 2019, the Croatian interior ministry acquired four eRIS-III long-range drones for €2.3m. They identify people up to six miles away in daylight and just under two miles in darkness, they fly at 80mph and climb to an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,400ft), while transmitting real-time data. Croatia has infrared cameras that can detect people at up to six miles away and equipment that picks upheartbeats.

    Romania now has heartbeat detection devices, alongside 117 thermo-vision cameras. Last spring, it added 24 vehicles with thermo-vision capabilities to its border security force at a cost of more than €13m.

    Hungary’s investment in migration-management technology is shielded from public scrutiny by a 2017 legal amendment but its lack of transparency and practice of pushing migrants back have been criticised by other EU nations and the European court of justice, leading to Frontex suspending operations in Hungary in January.

    It means migrants can no longer use the cover of darkness for their crossing attempts. Around the fire in Horgoš, Khaled and his fellow asylum-seekers decide to try crossing instead in the early morning, when they believe thermal cameras are less effective.

    A 2021 report by BVMN claims that enhanced border control technologies have led to increased violence as police in the Balkans weaponise new equipment against people on the move. Technology used in pushing back migrants has “contributed to the ease with which racist and repressive procedures are carried out”, the report says.

    BVMN highlighted the 2019 case of an 18-year-old Algerian who reported being beaten and strangled with his own shirt by police while attempting a night crossing from Bosnia to Croatia. “You cannot cross the border during the night because when the police catch you in the night, they beat you a lot. They break you,” says the teenager, who reported seeing surveillance drones.

    Ali, 19, an Iranian asylum-seeker who lives in a migrant camp in Belgrade, says that the Croatian and Romanian police have been violent and ignored his appeals for asylum during his crossing attempts. “When they catch us, they don’t respect us, they insult us, they beat us,” says Ali. “We said ‘we want asylum’, but they weren’t listening.”

    BVMN’s website archives hundreds of reports of violence. In February last year, eight Romanian border officers beat two Iraqi families with batons, administering electric shocks to two men, one of whom was holding his 11-month-old child. They stole their money and destroyed their phones, before taking them back to Serbia, blasting ice-cold air in the police van until they reached their destination.

    “There’s been some very, very severe beatings lately,” says Campbell. “Since the spring of 2018, there has been excessive use of firearms, beatings with batons, Tasers and knives.”

    Responding to questions via email, Frontex denies any link between its increased funding of new technologies and the violent pushbacks in the Balkans. It attributes the rise in reports to other factors, such as increased illegal migration and the proliferation of mobile phones making it easier to record incidents.

    Petra Molnar, associate director of Refugee Law Lab, believes the over-emphasis on technologies can alienate and dehumanise migrants.

    “There’s this alluring solution to really complex problems,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to sell a bunch of drones or a lot of automated technology, instead of dealing with the drivers that force people to migrate … or making the process more humane.”

    Despite the increasingly sophisticated technologies that have been preventing them from crossing Europe’s borders, Khaled and his friends from the squat managed to cross into Hungary in late December. He is living in a camp in Germany and has begun the process of applying for asylum.

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/mar/26/eu-borders-migrants-hitech-surveillance-asylum-seekers

    #Balkans #complexe_militaro-industriel #route_des_Balkans #technologie #asile #migrations #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #caméras_thermiques #militarisation_des_frontières #drones #détecteurs_de_battements_de_coeur #Horgos #Horgoš #Serbie #the_game #game #surveillance_frontalière #Hongrie #Frontex #Croatie #Roumanie #nuit #violence #refoulements #push-backs #déshumanisation

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Turkey’s return policies to Syria & their impacts on migrants and refugees’ human rights

    –-> Chapitre 7 de ce rapport intitulé « Return Mania. Mapping Policies and Practices in the EuroMed Region » :

    https://euromedrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/EN_Chapter-7-Turkey_Report_Migration.pdf

    #renvois #expulsions #Turquie #réfugiés #asile #migrations #réfugiés_syriens #retour_au_pays #droits_humains #rapport #EuroMed_Rights

    –—

    ajouté à la métaliste sur les « retours au pays » des réfugiés syriens :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/904710

    ping @isskein @karine4 @rhoumour @_kg_

  • 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