On Friday 18th June 2021 at 10:00am the “Black Book of Pushbacks”, a 1500 page dosier recounting the direct experience of people at borders across the Balkans, was presented in Minoritenplatz, Vienna, infront of the Austrian Interior Ministry.
The book was published in collaboration with The Left in the European Parliament and contains 900 testimonies of border violence, and thus fundamental rights violations, experienced by 13,000 people-on-the-move. It is being presented for the first time in Austria, having been launched last December in the Brussels and various other national parliaments such as the German Bundestag.
Summary and analysis of pushbacks and internal violence documented by BVMN during the month of May.
The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) reported on 43 instances of pushbacks impacting a total of 760 people in May. The reports illustrate a range of different tactics and rights breaches which have become embedded in EU border enforcement, including extreme physical and racialised violence. BVMN is a network of watchdog organisations active in Greece and the Western Balkans including No Name Kitchen, Rigardu, Are You Syrious, Mobile Info Team, Disinfaux Collective, Josoor, [re:]ports Sarajevo, InfoKolpa, Centre for Peace Studies, Mare Liberum, IPSIA, Collective Aid and Fresh Response.
Today the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) sent a joint letter alongside colleagues from Statewatch to express concern over the involvement of Frontex in pushbacks from North Macedonia to Greeece. The correspondence urges investigation into five incidents recorded by BVMN where Frontex personel reportedly took part in the pushback of transit groups.
Addressing the head of Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Office Jonas Grimheden, Director of the Agency Fabrice Leggeri, and all Members of the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, the letter listed cases of pushbacks and fundamental rights violations documented over the past two years at the North Macedonian-Greek border. Oral testimonies given to BVMN by people who have directly experienced this border violence are included in the letter. They not only detail violent processes of cross-border removal, but also the overt presence of officers matching the visual description of Frontex. This evidence comes despite there being “no legal authority for officials deployed by Frontex to act on North Macedonian territory”.
On 30th March 2021, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) co-signed a letter to Commissioner Johansson alongside several other organisations regarding independent border monitoring mechanisms.
The letter put forward a firm stance on border monitoring, stating that the implementation of these mechanisms, particularly in the case of Croatia, should be fully compliant with fundamental rights, and that they should be “independent, meaningful and effective” to ensure violations at borders are fully investigated. Research by the The Guardian and MEPs has found systemic failings in the case of Croatia’s border monitoring mechanism, with deep questions marks over the lack of implementation, impartiality and mispent funds. The joint letter addressed the Croatian context as a key point in the development of EU-wide monitoring mechanisms, and stressed that any national agreement reached in Croatia that fell short of required standards would “set a bad precedent”.
In a recent policy analysis, BVMN looked in depth at the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in conjunction with Croatia’s existing monitoring apparatus, finding it stood as a symbol of bad practice. Moreover, within the context of succesive reports on the use of torture during pushbacks from Croatian territory, which in a recent publication by BVMN was demonstrated to have occured in 87% of recorded case in 2020, this lack of accountability is deeply concerning. The joint letter therefore urges for a robust and consistent set of standards to be ensured for national mechanisms, and that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is enabled to issue guidance for the implementation of border monitoring.