Balkan Region – Report July 2019

In July, illegal cross-border pushbacks continued at an increasingly institutionalized level along the EU’s external borders throughout the Balkans. Politicians, encouraged by unclear signals from the EU, have made clear that pushbacks operations are organized from the highest level of government. Varying levels of violence are employed by police officers during the apprehension, detention and return operations, creating a deterrence effect.

This report analyzes, among other things:

  • BiH politicians’ rhetoric on Croatian push-backs
  • Whistleblowers increasing pressure on Croatian authorities
  • Frontex presence in Hungarian push-backs to Serbia
  • The use of k9 units in the apprehension of transit groups in Slovenia
  • The spatial dispersion of push-backs in the Una-Sana Canton

Competing narratives around the legality of pushbacks have emerged, muddying the waters. This has become especially clear as Croatian president Grabar-Kitarovic admitted that pushbacks were carried out legally, which is contradictory to begin with, and that “of course […] a little violence is used.” Croatia’s tactic of de facto condoning illegal pushbacks is similar to Hungary’s strategy to legalize these operations domestically, even though they violate international and EU law. On the other side of the debate, a whistleblower from the Croatian police described a culture of secrecy and institutional hurdles, which prevent legal and organizational challenges to the practice. The role of the EU in this debate remains critical. However, despite paying lip service to the EU’s value, Brussels’ continues to shoulder the bill for a substantial part of the frontier states’ border operations.

The Border Violence Monitoring Network* has published a common report summarizing current developments in pushbacks and police violence in the Western Balkans, mainly in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and along the Serbian borders with Croatia and Hungary.

*The Border Violence Monitoring Network is a joint-project collectively guided by individuals from a variety of organizations, rather than an NGO of its own. Independent individuals and volunteers of No Name Kitchen, Escuela con Alma, Mobile Info Team (among others) collect the testimonies of affected transit groups and individuals using a shared methodology and editing structure.  In solidarity with the people suffering these abuses, we aim to bring their often forgotten stories to public attention and demand that these practices stop immediately.

 


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