• En #1926, les entraves à la migration tuaient déjà en Méditerranée

    Alors que la « #liberté_de_voyage » avait été reconnue aux « indigènes » par la loi du 15 juillet 1914, les #circulaires_Chautemps de 1924 établirent un nouveau régime de contrôle migratoire entre les départements d’#Algérie et la métropole. Les promesses d’égalité formulées à la fin de la Première Guerre mondiale s’estompant, les arguments des partisans d’un contrôle des déplacements furent entendus.

    Les « #Algériens_musulmans » furent les seuls passagers ciblés par la mise en place d’autorisations de traversée, officiellement destinées aux personnes embarquant en 3e ou 4e classe. Jusqu’à la suppression (provisoire) de ces dispositions à l’été 1936, une partie des voyageurs les contournèrent en embarquant clandestinement à fond de cale, périples qui prirent parfois un tour dramatique rappelant que la #létalité des #contrôles_migratoires doit être réinscrite dans une histoire longue des prétentions à entraver les circulations humaines.

    Un « drame » médiatisé

    Il reste peu de traces de ces traversées macabres de la Méditerranée mais la presse de l’époque se fit un large écho de « l’horrible drame du #Sidi_Ferruch ». Le 27 avril 1926, à la suite d’une dénonciation, onze Marocains embarqués clandestinement à Alger furent découverts asphyxiés dans les cales du bateau éponyme qui faisait escale à Marseille. Comme le décrivent des rapports de police conservés aux Archives des Bouches-du-Rhône, ils avaient été cachés « dans les ballasts du navire, sous les machines » où la température pouvait monter jusqu’à 70 degrés. Dix-neuf autres « passagers » furent retrouvés sains et saufs dans la soute à charbon, mais une inconnue demeura à propos du sort d’éventuelles autres victimes qui auraient pu être ensevelies sous les 285 tonnes de combustible entreposées dans les cales du bateau.

    Le Sidi Ferruch repartit en effet vers Bougie (actuelle Bejaïa, sur la côte à l’est d’Alger) sans qu’une fouille complète ait pu être effectuée, tandis que les survivants, après avoir été interrogés, étaient refoulés vers Alger d’où ils avaient embarqué. Quatre matelots corses, désignés comme ayant procédé à l’embarquement, furent placés sous mandat de dépôt et des suspects (« marocains », « algériens » ou « européens ») ayant opéré depuis Alger, comme rabatteurs ou organisateurs du trafic, furent recherchés, apparemment sans succès. Hormis la désignation d’un juge d’instruction, les suites judiciaires de l’affaire ne nous sont d’ailleurs pas connues.

    L’écho donné à la « #tragédie_du_Sidi_Ferruch » permit d’apprendre que ces cas de morts en migration n’étaient pas isolés : ainsi, le 9 avril 1926, le vapeur #Anfa, un courrier parti de Casablanca, avait lui aussi été au centre d’une affaire d’embarquements clandestins nécessitant plus d’investigations que le simple #refoulement des « indigènes » découverts à leur arrivée. Alors qu’une douzaine de clandestins cachés dans des canots avaient été débarqués à Tanger, ceux dissimulés à fond de cale ne furent découverts qu’en haute mer. Deux d’entre eux étaient morts par asphyxie. Le timonier dénoncé par les survivants aurait fait des aveux immédiats et se serait suicidé avec son arme personnelle.

    Incidemment, et sans faire état d’une quelconque surprise ou volonté d’enquêter, le commissaire spécial de Marseille rapporta alors à ses supérieurs de la Sûreté générale que trois corps avaient été « immergés » avant l’arrivée dans le port de la cité phocéenne. On imagine avec quelle facilité il pouvait être possible pour les capitaines de navires, véritables « maîtres à bord », de faire disparaître des cadavres de clandestins sans que personne ne s’en inquiète.

    Des victimes sans noms

    Dans ce cas, comme dans celui du Sidi Ferruch, l’identité des victimes ne fut jamais établie : l’absence de papiers suffisait à justifier cet anonymat, sans qu’aucune autre forme d’attestation soit recherchée, y compris auprès des survivants promptement refoulés vers leur port d’embarquement. Selon toute probabilité, les cadavres qui n’avaient pas été immergés faisaient l’objet d’une « inhumation administrative » (enterrement « sous X » dans une fosse commune réservée aux indigents) dans un cimetière de Marseille.

    Il est donc impossible d’établir la moindre estimation du nombre des « morts en Méditerranée » provoqués par l’introduction d’un « #délit_d’embarquement_clandestin » (loi du 30 mai 1923) et de #restrictions_à_la_circulation entre le #Maroc (1922) – puis l’Algérie (1924) – et la métropole. Le « drame du Sidi Ferruch » ne peut cependant être considéré comme un événement isolé, même s’il fut le seul à attirer l’attention de la grande presse. Ainsi, au cours des mois suivants, des militants du secrétariat colonial de la CGTU dénoncèrent la répétition de ces événements : la brochure L’indigénat, code d’esclavage (1928) rappelle plusieurs cas d’Algériens sortis « agonisants » ou de Nord-africains descendus de bateau « dans un état de santé alarmant ». Surtout, elle signale que pour échapper aux contrôles, ces clandestins évitaient les grands ports et pouvaient s’entasser dans de simples voiliers : quatre morts par dénutrition, après 23 jours de voyage, furent ainsi découverts le 25 février 1927, à Port-la-Nouvelle (Aude).

    Dix ans plus tard, Saïd Faci suggérait dans L’Algérie sous l’égide de la France (1936) que les morts à fond de cale étaient bien plus nombreux que les seuls cas recensés : « qu’importe que les indigènes meurent pourvu que les colons algériens aient de la main-d’œuvre à bon marché », écrivait-il, afin de dénoncer les funestes conséquences des restrictions à la libre circulation entre l’Algérie et la métropole.

    Il est vrai qu’avant même que la relative émotion suscitée par les cadavres du Sidi Ferruch ne retombe, les réactions officielles avaient été sans surprise : Octave Depont qui faisait alors figure de principal expert en « émigration nord-africaine » fit ainsi savoir dans la presse que « l’indigène sans papiers devait être renvoyé en Algérie ». L’objectif affiché était « de tarir l’#émigration_clandestine qui, ces derniers temps, a pris un développement redoutable », tout en évitant « les centaines de morts » en mer qu’Octave Depont évoquait sans plus de précisions (Le Petit Versaillais, mai 1926). Son appel à une répression plus sévère fut entendu et les peines relatives à la loi du 30 mai 1923 qui avait défini le délit d’embarquement clandestin furent alourdies (loi du 17 décembre 1926).

    Contourner les #contrôles_migratoires

    Les #contournements des contrôles ne semblent pas avoir diminué dans les années suivantes, même si la plupart des candidats au départ cherchaient à éviter les modes opératoires les plus périlleux, en particulier les embarquements à fond de cale. Un certain nombre de Marocains, passés par Oran sans avoir pu réunir les faux documents et autres autorisations achetées qui auraient pu leur donner l’apparence d’Algériens en règle, devaient cependant s’y résoudre. Des Algériens munis de faux papiers étaient aussi interpellés à Marseille et immédiatement refoulés, mais la plupart de ces migrants clandestins, ou #harragas, bénéficiaient de complicités qui leur permettaient d’échapper aux contrôles à l’arrivée.

    Une fois passée la flambée politico-médiatique suscitée par l’affaire du Sidi Ferruch, la question des trafics de pièces d’identité et des « #embarquements_clandestins » resurgit périodiquement, en fonction notamment des mobilisations en faveur d’un durcissement des contrôles. Cette #politisation rend d’autant plus délicate toute évaluation du poids et des conséquences de « l’émigration clandestine ». Les #refoulements depuis Marseille étaient relativement peu nombreux (de l’ordre de quelques dizaines par mois), mais les capitaines de navire avaient tout intérêt à faire débarquer discrètement les clandestins découverts en mer plutôt qu’à les dénoncer, au risque de devoir prendre en charge leur voyage retour.

    Les plus lucides des policiers reconnaissaient d’ailleurs que le nombre des « clandestins » et les risques qu’ils étaient prêts à encourir dépendaient avant tout de la rigueur de la législation et des contrôles en vigueur. Ces constats furent cependant peu mobilisés au service d’argumentaires en faveur de la liberté de voyage, sinon par les militants anticolonialistes qui voyaient dans ces contrôles et leurs dramatiques conséquences humaines une des déclinaisons de « l’odieux #Code_de_l’indigénat ».

    https://theconversation.com/en-1926-les-entraves-a-la-migration-tuaient-deja-en-mediterranee-16

    #histoire #Méditerranée #migrations #frontières #fermeture_des_frontières #morts #décès #mourir_en_mer #France
    #Emmanuel_Blanchard

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • #Algérie - #Niger : la réouverture de la frontière fait craindre davantage d’expulsions

    Après un an de fermeture, le passage entre les deux pays est de nouveau autorisé. Ce qui pourrait augmenter, encore un peu plus, le nombre d’expulsions illégales de migrants d’Algérie vers le Niger.

    Après plus d’un an de fermeture pour cause de coronavirus, la frontière entre l’Algérie et le Niger est de nouveau ouverte. L’annonce a été faite par le président algérien Abdelmadjid Tebboune lors d’un point de presse conjoint avec son homologue nigérien Mohamed Bazoum, en visite à Alger. Selon le chef d’état algérien, cette réouverture autorise "l’exportation des produits algériens vers le Niger et l’importation des produits nigériens".

    Mais force est de constater qu’elle remet aussi en lumière la question des migrants. Car l’endroit voit aussi passer, quotidiennement, de nombreux exilés expulsés illégalement d’Algérie. Selon les Nations unies, le pays - qui ne dispose pas de législation en matière d’asile malgré son attachement à la Convention de Genève sur le statut de réfugié - a depuis 2014, renvoyé des dizaines de milliers de migrants en situation irrégulière de l’autre côté de sa frontière.
    "Toujours autant de camions" pendant la pandémie

    Sa fermeture, actée le 17 mars 2020, n’y a rien fait : "le #refoulement systématique des migrants depuis l’Algérie vers le Niger n’a pas cessé", déplore Médecins sans frontières (MSF) dans un communiqué. Entre janvier et avril 2021, près de 4 370 personnes ont été emmenées par les forces de l’ordre algériennes jusqu’au "Point Zéro", en plein désert, à proximité de la région nigérienne d’Agadez.

    "Pendant la crise sanitaire, les ONG présentes sur place ont vu toujours autant de camions traverser la frontière en direction du Niger, chargés de migrants expulsés. Des hommes, des femmes, mais aussi des mineurs, de toute origine, ", confirme Lauren Seibert, chercheuse spécialiste des migrants et des réfugiés au sein de Human Rights Watch (HRW).

    Sans aucun moyen de localisation ni personne pour les guider, les migrants sont abandonnés là par les autorités algériennes et doivent parcourir, à pied et souvent la nuit, les 15 kilomètres qui les séparent de la petite ville nigérienne d’#Assamaka. Avec pour certains, une issue fatale.

    Abdul, originaire de Sirerra Leone, a eu, lui, la chance d’arriver sain et sauf. "Ils nous ont emmenés dans le désert et nous ont laissés là en nous disant ‘la route vers le Niger, c’est cette direction’ », raconte-t-il à HRW. "Je n’avais pas de chaussures. J’ai marché pieds nus. Ça nous a pris cinq à six heures [pour arriver au Niger]."

    Selon un recensement effectué par MSF, en 2020, plus de 23 175 migrants sont arrivés à Assamaka, qui compte un millier d’habitants permanents.

    Avec la réouverture officielle de la frontière, le nombre d’expulsions pourrait "augmenter drastiquement dans les mois à venir", s’inquiète Lauren Seibert. Malgré un an de pandémie, et les nombreuses critiques dont elle est la cible, "l’Algérie n’a jusqu’à maintenant fait aucun effort pour remédier à cette situation". Et ce, "malgré la pression internationale et celle de la société civile, déplore-t-elle. On s’attend donc à ce que la situation soit encore pire maintenant".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msZtXPeCIP0&feature=emb_logo

    Des pratiques illégales

    Pourtant, en agissant ainsi, l’Algérie trahit ses engagements légaux. Car le pays est "signataire des conventions des Nations unies et de l’Afrique sur les réfugiés et de la convention contre la torture", rappelle un rapport de HRW. Les autorités sont donc tenues "de respecter le principe de non-refoulement, qui interdit le retour forcé de toute personne vers des pays où elle pourrait être soumise à la torture ou à des menaces contre sa vie ou sa liberté".

    L’article 12 de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples, que l’Algérie a ratifié, lui interdit également toute expulsion visant des groupes nationaux, raciaux, ethniques ou religieux.

    Des dispositions renforcées par la loi nationale N 08-11, validée en 2008. Si la mesure admet que l’expulsion peut être prononcée contre les étrangers irréguliers, elle les autorise, aussi, à contester la décision devant un juge. "Au regard des faits, force est de constater le non-respect de ces dispositions", admet Boubakar A. Mahamadou dans un article publié par Alarm Phone Sahara : https://alarmephonesahara.info/fr/blog/posts/expulsions-massives-de-migrants-par-l-algerie-vers-le-niger-que-

    Pour le juriste nigérien, "les états ont le droit de restreindre la liberté de circulation des personnes. Mais il n’en demeure pas moins que cela doit s’effectuer dans le respect des règles établies". L’Algérie ne semble pas, jusqu’ici, en avoir pris conscience.

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/33753/algerie-niger-la-reouverture-de-la-frontiere-fait-craindre-davantage-d

    #frontières #asile #migrations #réfugiés #expulsions #renvois #ouverture_des_frontières

    ping @isskein @karine4 @_kg_ @rhoumour

  • #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

  • #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

  • Les mammifères peuvent respirer par l’anus en cas d’urgence, conclut une étude très sérieuse qui, si elle prête à sourire, pourrait un jour aider les humains en état de détresse respiratoire
    https://twitter.com/le_Parisien/status/1393563146498060292
    www.leparisien.fr/societe/sante/les-mammiferes-peuvent-respirer-par-lanus-en-cas-durgence-revele-une-etude-japonaise-15-05-2021

    J’ai souvent eu la tête dans le cul mais je ne connaissais pas cette technique.
    https://seenthis.net/messages/772278


    https://keskejefouici.tumblr.com
    #refouler_du_goulot

    • Que ce soit sous forme gazeuse ou par lavement, l’article ne décrit pas vraiment comment il est possible d’apporter de l’oxygène de façon continue.

      Question bête, en effet, l’oxygénation suppose un apport constant donc un flux entrant régulier ? J’imagine qu’il faut mettre en place un cycle alternatif avec le flux sortant. Les mots inspiration et expiration ne me semblent pas vraiment adaptés…

      Après tout, on trouve bien des branchies anales ou rectales (p. ex. chez les larves de libellules…)
      Bonus, ça leur permet de se déplacer ;-)

      INSECTES32bis
      http://aramel.free.fr/INSECTES32bis.shtml


      "Corbeille branchiale" de larve d’Anisoptère (d’après J.Blot)
      (tv=troncs ventraux, td=troncs dorsaux, l=lamelles)

      Chez ces larves d’Anisoptères, il y 5 appendices abdominaux courts formant un appareil valvulaire se rapprochant en pyramide ou s’ouvrant en calice ce qui ouvre ou ferme la chambre respiratoire rectale (en forme de tonnelet) dont les parois internes présentent des organes branchiaux spécialisés : des capillaires trachéens venus de troncs longitudinaux ventraux et dorsaux s’y épanouissent pour permettre les échanges gazeux (A=Vue dorsale ; B=Coupe transversale) ; l’ensemble forme une « corbeille branchiale » entre l’eau et l’atmosphère interne des trachées ; le rejet du liquide de la chambre rectale par contraction provoque la propulsion !
      L’appareil respiratoire est donc situé à l’intérieur du rectum

  • 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

  • À la frontière franco-espagnole, la police « #traque » les migrants

    Depuis environ un mois, les contrôles à la frontière franco-espagnole se sont intensifiés. Selon les associations, les migrants, « traqués par la police », prennent de plus en plus de #risques pour atteindre la France. Les humanitaires redoutent un drame, d’autant que certains exilés tentent désormais de rejoindre l’Hexagone en traversant la #rivière #Bidassoa à la nage.

    « #Refoulements illégaux », « traque », « #chasse_à_l'homme », « violation des droits »... Les mots utilisés par les associations locales pour décrire la situation à la frontière franco-espagnole sont forts. Depuis un mois, les humanitaires observent une présence de plus en plus importante des #forces_de_l'ordre. « Il y a toujours eu des contrôles mais à ce point-là, jamais ! On a même vu des #militaires déambuler dans les villages », raconte Lucie Bortaitu de l’association bayonnaise Diakité.

    Début novembre, lors d’une visite dans les Pyrénées, le président Emmanuel Macron avait annoncé le doublement des effectifs aux frontières françaises pour lutter contre la menace terroriste, les trafics et l’immigration illégale.

    À cela s’ajoute la fermeture, début janvier, de 15 points de passage sur les 650 kilomètres de frontière qui séparent l’Espagne de la France pour contenir la pandémie de Covid-19. Cette #surveillance renforcée 24h/24 mobilise 230 #policiers et #militaires.

    Mais pour les associations, le principal enjeu est de limiter l’arrivée de migrants dans l’Hexagone. « Les autorités françaises utilisent l’excuse de la crise sanitaire mais en fait le but premier est le #contrôle_migratoire », estime Ion Aranguren, de l’association espagnole Irungo Harrera Sarea, active du côté d’Irun. « C’est clairement pour lutter contre l’immigration illégale : seuls les Noirs sont constamment contrôlés par les policiers », renchérit Lucie Bortaitu.

    Des refoulements quotidiens

    Depuis plusieurs semaines, selon les humanitaires, les migrants sont « traqués » sur la route, dans les trains et dans la rue. À #Hendaye, les #gendarmes sont même entrés dans le jardin d’un particulier pour y extraire un exilé venu se cacher de la police, rapportent les bénévoles. Des migrants ont aussi été arrêtés au-delà des #20_kilomètres de la frontière, un rayon dans lequel les contrôles d’entrée sur le territoire sont autorisés. Plusieurs personnes ont ainsi été interpellées à #Bordeaux à leur descente du train et expulsées en Espagne.

    D’autres migrants racontent avoir été interpellés, puis envoyés dans les locaux de police avant d’être expulsés à la frontière au beau milieu de la nuit. « L’autre jour, on a appris que cinq femmes avaient été déposées à #Behobia [ville espagnole frontalière située à quelques kilomètres d’#Irun, ndlr] tard le soir. On les lâche là au milieu de nulle part, loin des associations et alors qu’un couvre-feu est aussi en vigueur en Espagne », souffle Lucie Bortaitu. D’autres encore ont été laissés par la police française à #Ibardin, en plein cœur des Pyrénées, du côté espagnol.

    Ce genre de témoignages de refoulement sont recueillis quotidiennement par les associations, françaises et espagnoles. Certains exilés ont déjà tenté six, sept voire huit fois le passage.

    Les mineurs non plus n’échappent pas à ces renvois, malgré la possession d’acte de naissance pour certains, synonyme d’une évaluation de leur minorité et d’une prise en charge par le département.

    Atteindre la France par la rivière

    Ces refoulements, de plus en plus fréquents, inquiètent les humanitaires et les avocats. « Ces #expulsions, qui sont devenues la norme, se font en dehors de tout cadre légal. Ce sont purement et simplement des renvois expéditifs illégaux », signale Me Francisco Sanchez Rodriguez, avocat en droits des étrangers au barreau de Bayonne. Les exilés n’ont en effet pas la possibilité de déposer l’asile, et aucun document de renvoi ne leur est délivré par un juge, comme le prévoit la loi. « On n’avait jamais vu cela à cette frontière », assure l’avocat.

    Malgré la pression policière et les violations de leurs droits, les migrants restent déterminés à continuer leur route. Résultat : ils prennent de plus en plus de risques pour échapper aux forces de l’ordre. Quelques-uns ont même tenté d’atteindre la France en traversant la frontière Bidassoa, qui sépare les deux pays. Un itinéraire jusque-là jamais emprunté par les exilés.

    Tom Dubois-Robin, un habitant d’Hendaye, voit depuis environ un mois des migrants essayer de « passer en France à la nage », en dépit des dangers. Samedi 13 mars, alors qu’il est assis au bord de l’eau avec des amis, il porte secours à un jeune homme venu de l’autre côté de la rivière. Quelques jours plus tard, Tom Dubois-Robin ramasse une doudoune dans l’eau. Dans les poches, il trouve des effets de la Croix-Rouge, dont le centre à Irun accueille des exilés. « Il a dû tenter la traversée et a jeté sa doudoune car elle était trop lourde », pense l’Hendayais.

    Les associations et les citoyens du #Pays_basque redoutent un drame, et se battent pour empêcher que leur rivière ne devienne un cimetière. Tom Dubois-Robin partage ce combat. Cet ancien policier, qui a lâché son uniforme en 2018 en raison justement de ces renvois à répétition, a écrit aux élus de sa région pour « qu’ils tapent du point sur la table et qu’on évite le pire ». Las qu’il est depuis plusieurs années de « ce ping-pong incessant » qui consiste à « renvoyer à la frontière des familles avec enfants ».

    https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/31024/a-la-frontiere-franco-espagnole-la-police-traque-les-migrants

    #traque_policière #frontières #migrations #asile #réfugiés #Pyrénées #France #Espagne #contrôles_frontaliers #militarisation_des_frontières #armée #police

    ping @isskein @karine4

  • Malta pushback claims ’may’ form part of Frontex misconduct probe

    MEPs are looking into claims migrants were unlawfully pushed back.

    MEPs probing claims of misconduct by the EU’s border agency have not excluded investigating reports of migrant pushbacks by Malta.

    European Parliament vice-president and Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola on Friday said that the door was not shut on investigating whether Malta had indeed pushed migrants back to Libya using private fishing vessels last year, and whether border agency Frontex was complicit in this.

    Metsola was selected to chair an investigative committee tasked with looking into allegations of misconduct made about the EU’s border agency.

    The agency has come under scrutiny following allegations of harassment and misconduct as well as claims that it facilitated the pushback of migrants - a violation of international law.

    EU anti-fraud agency OLAF opened its own investigation into the agency earlier this year and the EU Ombudsman is also investigating.

    Frontex has rebutted claims of misconduct.

    “What we want out of this process is to give answers to the questions being asked and come up with suggestions to improve the way things are done,” Metsola told a press briefing organised by the European Parliament.

    In April last year Times of Malta reported how a private fishing boat picked up a group of migrants stranded at sea and returned them to war-torn Libya, with high level sources saying the vessel was commissioned by Maltese authorities to provide ’help’.

    Asked about the incident and whether it fell within the scope of the committee’s work, Metsola told Times of Malta that the matter had already been discussed in one of the EP’s civil liberties committee meetings.

    “Of course all political groups have put forward ideas for scrutiny on different matters in this regard across a number of member states. The door has not been closed to look into any concerns, and we are open to all points including this issue,” Metsola said.

    The MEP added that the group’s remit was rather broad, but it would certainly be taking a look at the Mediterranean.

    The internal scrutiny began after German news outlet Der Spiegel published reports alleging Frontex was unlawfully returning asylum seekers to the places they were fleeing.

    The investigative committee, which is made up of 14 MEPs, will report back to parliament within four months.

    https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/malta-pushback-claims-may-form-part-of-frontex-misconduct-probe.855988

    #refoulement #refoulements #push-back #push-backs #Malte #Frontex #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières

  • Exilée irakienne dans le Nord-Pas-de-Calais, elle perd son bébé après une intervention policière – Libération
    https://www.liberation.fr/societe/exilee-irakienne-dans-le-nord-pas-de-calais-elle-perd-son-bebe-apres-une-

    Un bébé mort trois jours après sa naissance, à la suite d’une nuit passée dehors, sous surveillance policière, « hors de tout cadre légal », estime Me Julie Gommeaux, l’avocate de la famille, des Kurdes irakiens en exil. Les faits se seraient déroulés à Oye-Plage, entre Calais (Pas-de-Calais) et Dunkerque (Nord), dans la nuit du 1er au 2 septembre. Hajar et Rupak, enceinte de 8 mois, avec leurs deux enfants de 10 et 2 ans, tentaient de passer en Grande-Bretagne par la mer. Lors de leur interpellation, Rupak a perdu les eaux, et n’a jamais été emmenée à l’hôpital, malgré ses demandes répétées, explique-t-elle. La plainte a été déposée le 25 février auprès du procureur de la République de Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais), pour violences volontaires.

    Mais c’est pas possible ce cauchemar. Y’a vraiment aucune limite a la barbarie de notre pays...

  • ’Pushbacks’ in the French Alps : Migrants report immediate deportations to Italy

    Many migrants complain that they have not been able to apply for asylum when they cross the border into France. According to them, the French border police (PAF) refuse to take their asylum applications and immediately send them back to neighboring Italy.

    Paul*, a young 24-year-old Cameroonian, remembers every moment of a long night in February, when he was lost somewhere in the Alps near Montgenèvre. The young man was trying to enter France from neighboring Italy when border police officers stopped him.

    “I saw policemen coming towards me and they stopped me. It was my first attempt crossing the border. When I saw them, I immediately said ’asylum, asylum’. They said, ’No, you can’t ask for asylum’. And they sent me straight back to Italy.”

    Paul was not deterred. A few days later, he tried to cross the Alps again and this time managed to enter France without being stopped. “I’d like to settle in Brittany,” confides the Cameroonian. “I’m going to file my asylum application in the next few days and if everything goes well, I’ll make my new home there.”

    This type of behavior by French police - who turn some migrants back without letting them apply for asylum - is reportedly frequent according to the migrants InfoMigrants interviewed.

    “This pushback from France to Italy, we all know about it before we even try to make the crossing, that’s why we are so afraid of meeting police in the mountains. Because they won’t listen to anything we say,” explains Mohamed*, a Tunisian, InfoMigrants met at the Refuge Solidaire in Briançon.

    Unlike Paul, Mohamed succeeded and crossed the Alps on his first attempt, without encountering PAF or any marauders (the name used by volunteers who roam the Alpine border to help those in need). “We were lucky. We walked for 8 hours and everything went well despite the cold. We could see the police cars passing, but we were well hidden, so they didn’t see us.”

    ’Very frequent refusals’

    PAF’s refusal to respect the right to asylum is loudly denounced by the members of the association Tous Migrants. “Refusals are very frequent here [...] What usually happens is that the police arrest migrants in the mountains in France, take them to the PAF office in Montgenèvre and give them OQTF (official orders to leave France). Then they call the Italian police who come to bring the migrants back to Italy [...] All this takes place in less than 5 hours,” sums up Pâquerette Forest, the co-president of the association.

    According to law, border police are authorised to check the papers of people entering French territory, and can therefore expel any person in an irregular situation. This is referred to as “non-admittance.” However, they cannot expel a foreigner who is applying for asylum. In this specific case, they must register the asylum application and transmit the file to the Minister of the Interior, who is the only one in the position to accept or refuse entry into France, on the advice of OFPRA.

    https://gw.infomigrants.net/media/resize/my_image_big/6d68e39854af6f16750a94ceac03740d6aa512bc.jpeg

    “There is a real denial of rights here,” Forest continues, although she does qualify her remarks. “It’s important to add that not all policemen behave like this. There are those who let migrants cross through so that they can apply for asylum, but there are those who are relentless.”

    According to her, “those who are persistent” are “rare” but their behavior has serious consequences. “There have been reports of police officers tearing up migrants’ official documents, such as their birth certificates,” documents that are crucial to beginning any administrative procedures in France.
    ’Pushbacks don’t discourage anyone’

    “As a result of the fear of pushbacks, migrants are now taking more and more risks,” says Juliette, one of the association’s marauders, who knows the mountains and their dangers very well. “Migrants are going up steeper and steeper paths, getting more and more remote,” she says.

    “PAF has to stop thinking that pushbacks discourage them. They don’t discourage anyone. We’re talking about migrants who have been turned back to Bosnia, to Croatia as many as 10 times, even 20 times before managing to get through! It’s not the Alps and these policemen who are going to stop them!”

    Approached by InfoMigrants, PAF refused to let us enter their premises in Montgenèvre, less than 5 kilometers from Italy, and they refused to answer any questions.

    The Prefecture of the Hautes-Alpes region also refused to answer our requests, but they did give us some statistics. In 2020, there were 80 refusals of residence and OQTF in the Hautes-Alpes. A total of 1576 people were “not admitted” into French territory in that period.

    *First names have been changed

    https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/30195/pushbacks-in-the-french-alps-migrants-report-immediate-deportations-to

    #Hautes-Alpes #Briançon #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #frontière_sud-alpine #France #Italie #secours #harcèlement_policier #montagne #Alpes #Italie #push-backs #renvois #expulsions #refoulements

    –—

    Ajouté à la métaliste sur les Hautes-Alpes :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/733721#message886920

  • L’Etat français renvoie illégalement un enfant à la frontière franco-espagnole

    Le mercredi 3 février 2021, vers 12h, le jeune Tidane (prénom d’emprunt) a été interpellé par les forces de l’ordre françaises en gare de #Bayonne. Né en 2005, sa minorité n’a pas été contestée par les autorités françaises. Pourtant, un #arrêté_de_réadmission [1] vers l’Espagne lui a directement été notifié sans indication des délais et voies de recours. Il a immédiatement été remis aux autorités espagnoles, à #Irun, où, après plusieurs heures au poste de police, il a été laissé dans la rue, seul.

    Cette situation est alarmante car un mineur isolé doit faire l’objet d’une prise en charge et de mesures de protection par l’administration française dès lors qu’il est présent sur son territoire. Au lieu d’une réadmission, c’est sa protection qui aurait dû primer dans le respect de son « #intérêt_supérieur », tel que prévu par la Convention internationale des droits de l’enfant, dont la France est signataire.

    Agé de 16 ans, Tidane vient donc allonger la liste des nombreuses personnes qui, chaque jour, sont victimes de l’#illégalité des pratiques des autorités françaises aux frontières, notamment à la frontière franco-espagnole. Ces pratiques de l’administration française ont notamment pour conséquence de mettre en danger des enfants, à l’image de Tidane.

    Plus largement, cette situation interpelle, une fois de plus, sur les conséquences des contrôles aux frontières intérieures de la France. Instaurés en 2015 et constamment renouvelés, ces contrôles ont pour première conséquence des pratiques illégales de la part des forces de l’ordre aux frontières (contrôles au faciès, procédures irrégulières, violation du droit d’asile, absence de protection des mineurs…), mettant en danger la vie de plusieurs personnes, chaque jour, dont des enfants.

    Une fois de plus, nos associations dénoncent les conséquences de ces #pratiques_illégales qui violent les droits des personnes en migration aux frontières et demandent à ce que les autorités françaises protègent enfin les enfants au lieu de les refouler vers leurs Etats voisins.

    [1] Un arrêté de réadmission est un acte administratif permettant à un État membre de l’espace Schengen de renvoyer une personne étrangère vers un autre État membre de l’espace Schengen, cette personne y étant soit légalement admissible, soit étant en provenance directe de cet État. L’#accord_de_Malaga signé le 26 novembre 2002 entre la France et l’Espagne permet aux deux pays de faire des réadmissions simplifiées pour les personnes qui seraient en provenance directe de l’autre État.

    http://www.anafe.org/spip.php?article591

    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #refoulements #Espagne #France #push-backs #réadmission #MNA #mineurs_non_accompagnés #enfants #enfance

    ping @isskein @karine4

    –—

    ajouté à la liste métaliste sur les accords de réadmission en Europe :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/736091

  • L’oublieuse mémoire coloniale italienne

    Commencée avant le fascisme, galvanisée par Mussolini, la colonisation par l’Italie de la Libye, de la Somalie et de l’Ethiopie fut marquée par de nombreuses atrocités,loin du mythe d’une occupation douce. Longtemps refoulés, ces souvenirs commencent à ressurgir

    Tout commence dans le centre de Rome, sur l’Esquilin, la plus haute des sept collines antiques. Plus précisément dans la cage d’escalier d’un immeuble sans ascenseur, situé à deux pas de la piazza Vittorio. Dans ce quartier à deux pas de la gare Termini, les prix de l’immobilier sont beaucoup plus modestes que dans le reste du centre, si bien que l’Esquilin est devenu, depuis une vingtaine d’années, un lieu de concentration de l’immigration africaine et asiatique, ce qui n’est pas sans provoquer des tensions le squat, occupé depuis 2003 par les militants néofascistes de CasaPound, est juste à côté.

    C’est donc là, en rentrant chez elle, épuisée, dans la touffeur d’une après-midi de fin d’été 2010, qu’Ilaria Profeti se retrouve nez à nez avec un jeune homme arrivé d’Ethiopie par la route des migrants. Dans un italien presque sans accent, celui-ci lui assure, documents à l’appui, qu’il est le petit-fils de son père, Attilio, un homme de 95 ans qui est resté, sa longue vie durant, plus que discret sur ses jeunes années de « chemise noire » fasciste, en Abyssinie.

    Levons toute ambiguïté : la scène qui vient d’être décrite est tout à fait vraisemblable, mais elle est issue d’une oeuvre de fiction. Il s’agit en réalité des premières pages d’un roman, le superbe Tous, sauf moi (Sangue giusto), de Francesca Melandri (Gallimard, 2019), qui dépeint avec une infinie subtilité les angles morts de la mémoire coloniale italienne. Le fil conducteur de la narration est le parcours sinueux d’un vieil homme dont le destin finalement assez ordinaire a valeur d’archétype.

    Issu d’un milieu plutôt modeste, Attilio Profeti a su construire à sa famille une position plutôt enviable, en traversant le mieux possible les différents mouvements du XXe siècle. Fasciste durant sa jeunesse, comme l’immense majorité des Italiens de son âge, il est parti pour l’Ethiopie, au nom de la grandeur impériale. Après la chute de Mussolini et la fin de la guerre, il parviendra aisément à se faire une place au soleil dans l’Italie du miracle économique, jouant de son physique avantageux et de ses amitiés haut placées, et enfouissant au plus profond de sa mémoire le moindre souvenir de ses années africaines, les viols, les massacres, les attaques chimiques. C’est ce passé, refoulé avec une certaine désinvolture, qui revient hanter ses enfants, trois quarts de siècle plus tard, sous les traits d’un jeune homme d’une vingtaine d’années, arrivé à Rome après une interminable traversée.

    Comme l’héroïne de Tous, sauf moi, Francesca Melandri vit sur l’Esquilin, au dernier étage d’un immeuble à la population mélangée. Et à l’image d’Ilaria, c’est sur le tard qu’elle a découvert ce pan escamoté de l’histoire italienne. « Quand j’étais à l’école, on ne parlait pas du tout de ce sujet-là, confie-t-elle depuis sa terrasse dominant les toits de la ville. Aujourd’hui ça a changé, il y a eu une prise de conscience, et de nombreux travaux universitaires. Pourtant cette histoire n’est jamais rappelée par les médias. Lorsqu’on parle du dernier attentat à la bombe à Mogadiscio, qui se souvient des liens entre Italie et Somalie ? Quand des bateaux remplis de migrants érythréens sont secourus ou coulent avant d’être sauvés, qui rappelle que l’Erythrée, nous l’appelions "l’aînée des colonies" ? »

    Le plus étrange est qu’à Rome, les traces du passé colonial sont légion, sans que personne n’ait jamais pensé à les effacer. Des stèles près desquelles personne ne s’arrête, des bâtiments anonymes, des noms de rue... rien de tout cela n’est explicité, mais tout est à portée de main.

    Comprendre les raisons de cette occultation impose de revenir sur les conditions dans lesquelles l’ « Empire » italien s’est formé. Création récente et n’ayant achevé son unité qu’en 1870, alors que la plus grande partie du monde était déjà partagée en zones d’influence, le royaume d’Italie s’est lancé avec du retard dans la « course » coloniale. De plus, il ne disposait pas, comme l’Allemagne qui s’engage dans le mouvement à la même époque, d’une puissance industrielle et militaire susceptible d’appuyer ses prétentions.

    Visées impérialistes

    Malgré ces obstacles, l’entreprise coloniale est considérée par de nombreux responsables politiques comme une nécessité absolue, à même d’assurer une fois pour toutes à l’Italie un statut de grande puissance, tout en achevant le processus d’unification du pays nombre des principaux avocats de la colonisation viennent de la partie méridionale du pays. Les visées impérialistes se dirigent vers deux espaces différents, où la carte n’est pas encore tout à fait figée : la Méditerranée, qui faisait figure de champ naturel d’épanouissement de l’italianité, et la Corne de l’Afrique, plus lointaine et plus exotique.

    En Afrique du Nord, elle se heurta vite à l’influence française, déjà solidement établie en Algérie. Ses prétentions sur la Tunisie, fondées sur la proximité de la Sicile et la présence sur place d’une importante communauté italienne, n’empêcheront pas l’établissement d’un protectorat français, en 1881. Placé devant le fait accompli, le jeune royaume d’Italie considérera l’initiative française comme un véritable acte de guerre, et la décennie suivante sera marquée par une profonde hostilité entre Paris et Rome, qui poussera le royaume d’Italie à s’allier avec les grands empires centraux d’Allemagne et d’Autriche-Hongrie plutôt qu’avec sa « soeur latine .

    Sur les bords de la mer Rouge, en revanche, la concurrence est plus faible. La première tête de pont remonte à 1869, avec l’acquisition de la baie d’Assab (dans l’actuelle Erythrée) par un armateur privé, pour le compte de la couronne d’Italie. Cette présence s’accentue au cours des années 1880, à mesure du recul de l’influence égyptienne dans la zone. En 1889, est fondée la colonie d’Erythrée, tandis que se structure au même moment la Somalie italienne. Mais l’objectif ultime des Italiens est la conquête du my thique royaume d’Abyssinie, qui s’avère plus difficile que prévu.

    En 1887, à Dogali, plusieurs centaines de soldats italiens meurent dans une embuscade menée par un chef abyssin, le ras Alula Engida. Cette défaite marque les esprits, mais ce n’est rien à côté de la déconfiture des forces italiennes lors de la bataille d’Adoua, le 1er mars 1896, qui porte un coup d’arrêt durable aux tentatives italiennes de conquête.

    Seul pays africain indépendant (avec le Liberia), l’Ethiopie peut désormais se targuer de devoir sa liberté à une victoire militaire. Le négus Menelik II y gagne un prestige considérable. Côté italien, en revanche, cette défaite est un électrochoc. Ressentie comme une honte nationale, la déroute des troupes italiennes entraîne la chute du gouvernement Crispi et freine durablement l’im périalisme italien.

    Adoua est un tournant. L’historien et ancien sénateur de gauche Miguel Gotor est l’auteur d’une remarquable synthèse sur le XXe siècle italien, L’Italia nel Novecento. Dalla sconfitta di Adua alla vittoria di Amazon (« L’Italie du XIXe siècle. De la défaite d’Adoua à la victoire d’Amazon » Einaudi, 2019, non traduit). Pour lui, c’est là-bas, sur les hauteurs de la région du Tigré, par cette humiliation retentissante, que le XXe siècle italien a commencé.

    L’aventure coloniale italienne s’est ouverte de façon peu concluante, mais l’aspiration à l’empire n’a pas disparu. La décomposition de l’Empire ottoman offrira à Rome une occasion en or, en lui permettant, en 1911-1912, de s’implanter solidement en Cyrénaïque et en Tripolitaine. « Souvent la conquête de ce qui allait devenir la Libye est évacuée un peu vite, mais c’est un moment très important. Pour l’armée italienne, c’est une répétition, un peu comme a pu l’être la guerre d’Espagne, juste avant la seconde guerre mondiale », souligne Miguel Gotor. Ainsi, le 1er novembre 1911, un aviateur italien lâche quatre grenades sur des soldats ottomans, réalisant ainsi le premier bombardement aérien de l’histoire mondiale.

    « La conquête des côtes d’Afrique du Nord est importante, certes, mais la Libye est juste en face de la Sicile, au fond c’est du "colonialisme frontalier". La colonie au sens le plus "pur", celle qui symboliserait le mieux l’idée d’empire, ça reste l’Abyssinie », souligne Miguel Gotor. Aussi les milieux nationalistes italiens, frustrés de ne pas avoir obtenu l’ensemble de leurs revendications territoriales au sortir de la première guerre mondiale, continueront à nourrir le rêve de venger l’humiliation d’Adoua.

    Le fascisme naissant ne se privera pas d’y faire référence, et d’entretenir le souvenir : les responsables locaux du parti se feront appeler « ras », comme les chefs éthiopiens. A partir de la fin des années 1920, une fois le pouvoir de Mussolini solidement établi, les prétentions coloniales deviendront un leitmotiv des discours officiels.

    Aussi la guerre de conquête déclenchée contre l’Ethiopie en 1935 est-elle massi vement soutenue. L’effort est considérable : plus de 500 000 hommes sont mobilisés. Face à un tel adversaire, le négus Haïlé Sélassié ne peut résister frontalement. Le 5 mai 1936, les soldats italiens entrent dans la capitale, Addis-Abeba, et hissent le drapeau tricolore. Quatre jours plus tard, à la nuit tombée, depuis le balcon du Palazzo Venezia, en plein coeur de Rome, Mussolini proclame « la réapparition de l’Empire sur les collines fatales de Rome » devant une foule de plusieurs centaines de milliers de personnes.

    « C’est bien simple, à ce moment-là, en Italie, il est à peu près impossible d’être anti fasciste », résume Miguel Gotor. Dans la foulée de ce succès, le roi Victor-Emmanuel III est proclamé empereur d’Ethiopie ; Benito Mussolini peut désormais se targuer d’avoir bâti un empire. La faillite d’Adoua avait été causée par un régime parle mentaire inefficace et désorganisé ? La victoire de 1936 est due, elle, aux vertus d’une Italie rajeunie et revigorée par le fascisme. La machine de propagande tourne à plein régime, l’assentiment populaire est à son sommet. « Ce moment-là est une sorte d’apogée, et à partir de là, la situation du pays se dégrade, analyse Miguel Gotor. Ar rivent les lois raciales, l’entrée en guerre... tout est réuni pour nourrir une certaine nostalgie de l’épopée éthiopienne. »

    Mécanisme de refoulement

    Le rêve impérial sera bref : il ne survivra pas à la défaite militaire et à la chute du fascisme. L’Ethiopie est perdue en 1941, la Libye quelques mois plus tard... Le traité de Paris, conclu en 1947, met officiellement un terme à une colonisation qui, dans les faits, avait déjà cessé d’exister depuis plusieurs années. Tandis que l’Ethiopie indépendante récupère l’Erythrée, la Libye est placée sous la tutelle de la France et du Royaume-Uni. Rome gardera seulement une vague tutelle sur la Somalie, de 1949 à 1960.

    Le projet d’empire colonial en Méditerranée et en Afrique, qui fut un des ciments de l’assentiment des Italiens à Mussolini, devient associé pour la plupart des Italiens au régime fasciste. L’un et l’autre feront l’objet du même mécanisme de refoulement dans l’Italie de l’après-guerre. Les dirigeants de l’Italie républicaine font rapidement le choix de tourner la page, et ce choix est l’objet d’un profond consensus qui couvre tout le spectre politique (le premier décret d’amnistie des condamnations de l’après-guerre remonte à 1946, et il porte le nom du dirigeant historique du Parti communiste italien Palmiro Togliatti). Les scènes de liesse de la Piazza Venezia ne seront plus évoquées, et avec elles les faces les plus sombres de l’aventure coloniale. Même la gauche transalpine, qui prendra fait et cause pour les mouvements anticoloniaux africains (notamment le FLN algérien) n’insistera jamais sur le versant italien de cette histoire.

    « Cela n’est pas étonnant, la mémoire est un phénomène sélectif, et on choisit toujours, consciemment ou non, ce qu’on va dire à ses enfants ou ses petits-enfants », remarque le jeune historien Olindo De Napoli (université de Naples-Frédéric-II), spécialiste de la période coloniale. « Durant l’immédiat après-guerre, ce sont les témoins qui parlent, ce sont eux qui publient », remarque l’his torien. Ainsi de la collection d’ouvrages L’Italia in Africa éditée sous l’égide du ministère des affaires étrangères, emblématique de la période. « Ces volumes sont passionnants, mais il y a certains oublis, qui vont vite poser des problèmes. »

    Parmi ces « oublis », la question la plus centrale, qui fera le plus couler d’encre, est celle des massacres de civils et de l’usage de gaz de combat, malgré leur interdiction par les conventions de Genève, lors de la guerre d’Ethiopie. Dans les années 1960, les études pionnières d’Angelo Del Boca et Giorgio Rochat mettront en lumière, documents officiels à la clé, ce pan occulté de la guerre de 1935-1936. Ils se heurteront à l’hostilité générale des milieux conservateurs.

    Un homme prendra la tête du mouvement de contestation des travaux de Del Bocaet Rochat : c’est Indro Montanelli (1909-2001), considéré dans les années 1960 comme le journaliste le plus important de sa géné ration. Plume du Corriere della Sera (qu’il quittera pour fonder Il Giornale en 1974), écrivain d’essais historiques à l’immense succès, Montanelli était une figure tutélaire pour toute la droite libérale.

    Comme tant d’autres, il avait été un fasciste convaincu, qui s’était porté volontaire pour l’Ethiopie, et il n’a pris ses distances avec Mussolini qu’en 1943, alors que la défaite était apparue comme certaine. Ra contant « sa » guerre à la tête d’une troupe de soldats indigènes, Montanelli la décrit comme « de longues et belles vacances », et qualifie à plusieurs reprises d’ « anti-Italiens » ceux qui font état de massacres de civils et d’usage de gaz de combat. La polémique durera des années, et le journaliste sera bien obligé d’admettre, à la fin de sa vie, que les atrocités décrites par Rochat et Del Bocaavaient bien eu lieu, et avaient même été expressément ordonnées par le Duce.

    A sa manière, Montanelli incarne parfaitement la rhétorique du « bon Italien » (« Italia brava gente »), qui sera, pour toute une génération, une façon de disculper l’homme de la rue de toute forme de culpabilité collective face au fascisme. Selon ce schéma, contrairement à son allié allemand, le soldat italien ne perd pas son humanité en endossant l’uniforme, et il est incapable d’actes de barbarie. Ce discours atténuant la dureté du régime s’étend jusqu’à la personne de Mussolini, dépeint sous les traits d’un chef un peu rude mais bienveillant, dont le principal tort aura été de s’allier avec les nazis.

    Ce discours trouve dans l’aventure coloniale un terrain particulièrement favorable. « Au fond, on a laissé s’installer l’idée d’une sorte de colonisation débonnaire, analyse Olindo De Napoli, et ce genre de représentation laisse des traces. Pourtant la colonisation italienne a été extrêmement brutale, avant même le fascisme. En Ethiopie, l’armée italienne a utilisé des soldats libyens chargés des basses oeuvres, on a dressé des Africains contre d’autres Africains. Et il ne faut pas oublier non plus que les premières lois raciales, préfigurant celles qui seront appliquées en 1938 en Italie, ont été écrites pour l’Ethiopie... Il ne s’agit pas de faire en sorte que des enfants de 16 ans se sentent coupables de ce qu’ont fait leurs arrière-grands-pères, il est seulement question de vérité historique. »

    Désinvolture déconcertante

    Malgré les acquis de la recherche, pour le grand public, la colonisation italienne reste souvent vue comme une occupation « douce », par un peuple de jeunes travailleurs prolétaires, moins racistes que les Anglais, qui se mélangeaient volontiers avec les populations locales, jusqu’à fonder des familles. L’archétype du colon italien tombant amoureux de la belle Abyssine, entretenu par les mémoires familiales, a lui aussi mal vieilli. Là encore, le parcours d’Indro Montanelli est plus qu’éclairant. Car aujourd’hui, si sa défense de l’armée italienne apparaît comme parfaitement discréditée, ce n’est plus, le concernant, cet aspect de sa vie qui fait scandale.

    En effet, on peut facilement trouver, sur Internet, plusieurs extraits d’entretiens télévisés remontant aux années 1970 et 1980, dans lesquelles le journaliste raconte avec une désinvolture déconcertante comment, en Ethiopie, il a « acheté régulièrement » à son père, pour 350 lires, une jeune fille de 12 ans pour en faire sa femme à plusieurs reprises, il la qualifie même de « petit animal docile », devant un auditoire silencieux et appliqué.

    Célébré comme une gloire nationale de son vivant, Indro Montanelli a eu l’honneur, à sa mort et malgré ces déclarations sulfureuses, de se voir dédié à Milan un jardin public, au milieu duquel trône une statue de lui. Au printemps 2019, cette statue a été recouverte d’un vernis de couleur rose par un collectif féministe, pour rappeler cet épisode, et en juin 2020, la statue a de nouveau été recouverte de peinture rouge, en lointain écho au mouvement Black Lives Matter (« les vies noires comptent ») venu des Etats-Unis.

    Indro Montanelli mérite-t-il une statue dans l’Italie de 2021 ? La question a agité les journaux italiens plusieurs jours, au début de l’été, avant que la polémique ne s’éteigne d’elle-même. Pour fondée qu’elle soit, la question semble presque dérisoire eu égard au nombre de témoignages du passé colonial, rarement explicités, qui subsistent un peu partout dans le pays.

    Cette situation n’est nulle part plus visible qu’à Rome, que Mussolini rêvait en capitale d’un empire africain. L’écrivaine italienne Igiaba Scego, née en 1974 de parents réfugiés somaliens, y a dédié un passionnant ouvrage, illustré par les photographies de Rino Bianchi (Roma negata, Ediesse, réédition 2020, non traduit).

    Passant par la stèle laissée à l’abandon de la piazza dei Cinquecento, face à la gare Termini, dont la plupart des Romains ignorent qu’elle a été baptisée ainsi en mémoire des 500 victimes italiennes de l’embuscade de Dogali, ou l’ancien cinéma Impero, aujourd’hui désaffecté, afin d’y évoquer l’architecture Art déco qui valut à la capitale érythréenne, Asmara, d’être classée au patrimoine de l’Unesco, la romancière fait une station prolongée devant le siège romain de la FAO (l’Organisation des Nations unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture), construit pour abriter le siège du puissant ministère de l’Afrique italienne.

    Devant ce bâtiment tout entier dédié à l’entreprise coloniale, Benito Mussolini avait fait ériger en 1937 un obélisque haut de 24 mètres et vieux d’environ seize siècles, ramassé sur site d’Axoum, en Ethiopie. Il s’agissait, rappelle Igiaba Scego, de faire de ce lieu « le centre de la liturgie impériale .

    La république née sur les ruines du fascisme s’était engagée à restituer cette prise de guerre à la suite des traités de 1947, mais après d’innombrables vicissitudes, le monument est resté en place jusqu’en 2003, où le gouvernement Berlusconi choisit de le démonter en trois morceaux avant de le renvoyer à Axoum, à ses frais.

    En 2009, la mairie de Rome a fait installer sur la même place, à deux pas de cet espace vide, une stèle commémorative afin « de ne pas oublier le passé . Mais curieusement, celle-ci a été dédiée... à la mémoire des attentats du 11-Septembre. Comme s’il fallait enfouir le plus profondément possible ce souvenir du rêve impérial et de la défaite, la ville a choisi de faire de ce lieu le symbole d’une autre tragédie. « Pourquoi remuer ces his toires horribles ? Pensons plutôt aux tragédies des autres. Le 11-Septembre était parfait », note, sarcastique, Igiaba Scego.

    A une quinzaine de kilomètres de là, dans le décor grandiose et écrasant du Musée de la civilisation romaine, en plein centre de ce quartier de l’EUR où la mémoire du fascisme est omniprésente, l’ethno-anthropologue Gaia Delpino est confrontée à un autre chantier sensible, où s’entrechoquent les mémoires. Depuis 2017, elle travaille à fusionner en un même lieu les collections du vieux musée ethnologique de Rome (Musée Pigorini) et du sulfureux Musée colonial inauguré en 1923, dont les collections dormaient dans des caisses depuis un demi-siècle.

    D’une fascinante complexité

    Lorsqu’on lui parle de l’odyssée de l’obélisque d’Axoum, elle nous arrête tout de suite : « C’est bien simple : ce qui a été réalisé là-bas, c’est exactement l’inverse de ce qu’on veut faire. » Restituer ces collections dans leur contexte historique tout en articulant un message pour l’Italie d’aujourd’hui, permettre à toutes les narrations et à toutes les représentations de s’exprimer dans leur diversité... L’entreprise est d’une fascinante complexité.

    « Les collections du MuséePigorini ont vieilli bien sûr, comme tous ces musées ethnographiques du XIXe siècle qui véhiculaient l’idée d’une supériorité de la civilisation occidentale. Le Musée colonial, lui, pose d’autres problèmes, plus singuliers. Il n’a jamais été pensé comme autre chose qu’un moyen de propagande, montrant à la fois les ressources coloniales et tout ce qu’on pourrait en tirer. Les objets qui constituent les collections n’ont pas vu leur origine enregistrée, et on a mis l’accent sur la quantité plus que sur la qualité des pièces », expliqueGaia Delpino.

    Sur des centaines de mètres de rayonnages, on croise pêle-mêle des maquettes de navires, des chaussures, des outils et des objets liturgiques... L’accumulation donne le vertige. « Et ce n’est pas fini, nous recevons tous les jours des appels de personnes qui veulent offrir des objets ayant appartenu à leur père ou à leur grand-père, qu’ils veulent nous confier comme une réparation ou pour faire un peu de place », admet l’anthropologue dans un sourire.

    Alors que le travail des historiens peine à se diffuser dans le grand public, où les représentations caricaturales du système colonial, parfois instrumentalisées par la politique, n’ont pas disparu, le futur musée, dont la date d’ouverture reste incertaine pour cause de pandémie, risque d’être investi d’un rôle crucial, d’autant qu’il s’adressera en premier lieu à un public scolaire. « Ce qu’il ne faut pas oublier, c’est que parallèlement à ce difficile travail de mémoire, la population change. Aujourd’hui, dans nos écoles, il y a aussi des descendants de victimes de la colonisation, italienne ou autre. Nous devons aussi penser à eux », précise Gaia Delpino.

    Retournons maintenant au centre de Rome. En 2022, à mi-chemin du Colisée et de la basilique Saint-Jean-de-Latran, une nouvelle station de métro doit ouvrir, dans le cadre du prolongement de la ligne C. Depuis le début du projet, il était prévu que celle-ci soit baptisée « Amba Aradam », du nom de la large artère qui en accueillera l’entrée, appelée ainsi en souvenir de la plus éclatante des victoires italiennes en Ethiopie.

    Ce nom était-il opportun, alors que les historiens ont établi que cette victoire écrasante de l’armée fasciste avait été obtenue au prix de 10 000 à 20 000 morts, dont de nombreux civils, et que les troupes italiennes avaient obtenu la victoire en faisant usage d’ypérite (gaz moutarde), interdit par les conventions de Genève ? Le 1er août 2020, la mairie a finalement fait savoir que la station serait dédiée à la mémoire de Giorgio Marincola.

    Pour le journaliste Massimiliano Coccia, qui a lancé cette proposition avec le soutien de collectifs se réclamant du mouvement Black Lives Matter, « revenir sur notre passé, ce n’est pas détruire ou incendier, mais enrichir historiquement notre cité . Et on peut choisir de célébrer la mémoire d’un résistant italo-somalien tué par les nazis plutôt que celle d’une des pages les plus sombres de l’histoire coloniale italienne.

    https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2021/02/05/libye-somalie-ethiopie-l-oublieuse-memoire-coloniale-italienne_6068846_3232.

    #Italie #colonialisme #colonisation #Mussolini #fascisme #Libye #Somalie #Ethiopie #atrocités #occupation_douce #mémoire #mémoire_coloniale #occultation #impérialisme #Corne_de_l'Afrique #baie_d'Assab #royaume_d'Abyssinie #Alula_Engida #bataille_d'Adoua #Menelik_II #Crispi #Adoua #Tigré #Cyrénaïque #Tripolitaine #colonialisme_frontalier #Abyssinie #Haïlé_Sélassié #propagande #traité_de_Paris #refoulement #mémoire #massacres #gaz #Indro_Montanelli #gaz_de_combat #bon_Italien #Italia_brava_gente #barbarie #humanité #lois_raciales #vérité_historique #culpabilité #viol #culture_du_viol #passé_colonial #Igiaba_Scego #monuments #toponymie #toponymie_politique #Axoum #stèle #Musée_Pigorini #musée #Musée_colonial #Amba_Aradam #ypérite #gaz_moutarde #armes_chimiques #Giorgio_Marincola #Black_Lives_Matter

    L’article parle notamment du #livre de #Francesca_Melandri, « #sangue_giusto » (traduit en français par « Tous, sauf moi »
    https://seenthis.net/messages/883118

    ajouté à la métaliste sur le #colonialisme_italien :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/871953

    ping @cede