This report is the product of the Border Violence Monitoring Networkʼs (BVMN) efforts to document violence occurring against people-on-the-move (herein POM) within the borders of countries along the Balkan Route. In addition to identifying cross- border pushbacks, BVMN collects evidence of physical, material, and structural violence against POM within Serbia. The quantitative and qualitative data included in this report was collected via questionnaire from volunteers who interacted daily with POM in cities such as Belgrade, Subotica, Majdan and Šid. Additionally, information was drawn from the testimonies of POM and from the observations of long-term volunteers and activists, which collectively illustrate the complex factors influencing the well-being of POM in Serbia.
Through analysis of data collected in the field, the first section of this report will discuss acts of physical violence against POM. The second will examine violence inflicted by law enforcement officers and members of extremist right-wing political groups, while the third will report instances of structural violence, a term that refers to the development or perpetuation of inequality by social institutions or processes. Specific examples of structural violence reported by POM and the organizations which support them include restricted access to asylum, collective expulsions, evictions, harassment, and criminalization of solidarity.
Summary and analysis of pushbacks and internal violence documented by BVMN during the month of AUGUST
In August, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) shared 13 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 354 people-on-the-move (POM) across the Balkans and Greece. This report brings together first-hand testimonies from a range of countries in the region to look at the way European Union states and other actors are affecting systemic violence towards people crossing borders.
Border Violence Monitoring Network is an independent network of NGOs and collectives based on the so-called Balkan Route, Greece, and Turkey, which monitors Human Rights violations at the borders of the European Union and advocates to end the violence exerted against people-on-the-move (POM). BVMN came into existence in 2016, with the closure of the Balkan Route and the signing of the EU-Turkey Agreement, when several grassroots organizations started reporting on violent pushbacks of POM along the Balkans and Greece and began to document such cases. The Network has developed a common methodology for the recording of testimonials and supporting evidence which, after going through a process of fact-checking, are published on our website (see our database). Since 2018, the year of establishment of the EU Data Protection Regulation (EUDPR), BVMN has collected 1,372 pushback testimonies, affecting an estimated 24,401 people (BVMN, 2022). During pushbacks, BVMN has noticed a trend of ongoing and systematic violations of the personal data rights of POM, constituting serious violations of the Fundamental Right to protection of personal data as enshrined in Art. 8 (1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR) and Article 16 (1) Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), as well as Art. 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).
With this submission, BVMN gives feedback to the EU Data Protection Regulation (EUDPR), drawing particular attention to data protection issues that arise during pushbacks. BVMN will particularly focus on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), as well as on the use of drones as an increasingly used tool of data collection in border surveillance at the EU’s external borders.
The Border Violence Monitoring Network welcomes the call for evidence for the 2014 European Union Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS) and its revised Action Plan (2018) as a possibility to contribute to the safety at sea through pointing at current lacks in compliance with UN, EU and national law and offering recommendations for the implementation of such within the newly formulated strategy.
With this submission, BVMN aims to contribute to the Maritime Security Strategy, drawing particular attention to severe violations of international law concerning people in distress at sea. BVMN will especially focus on the mounting securitization efforts through the increasing employment of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), as well as a strengthening of border surveillance strategies to the detriment of Search and Rescue. Finally, we are formulating recommendations on how the significant gap between international Human Rights legislation and its implementation through national and European actors can be reduced and the compliance with international law at Europe’s external border assured within the updated Maritime Security Strategy. Even though the expertise of BVMN lays on pushback incidents in the Aegean Sea, the following submission will also cover some developments in the Mediterranean Sea. Through that, we aim to point to the overall importance of a comprehensive and reliable implementation of international law at sea within renewed Maritime Security frameworks.