Border violence and illegal push-backs on the rise – August update from the EU’s external borders with Bosnia

In August, our team in Bosnia and Herzegovina (mainly NoNameKitchen and Balkan Info Van) reported 260 cases of illegal push-backs from EU territory (Croatia and Slovenia) to Bosnia. However, there are most likely many others cases that remain unreported by our organizations.

In most cases, the victims of illegal push-backs were subjected to violence and humiliation at the hands of Croatian and Slovenian border authorities. The officers used sticks and stun batons on their victims, intimidated and threatened them, shot their guns in close proximity, strip-searched and sometimes sexually harassed, detained them in closed cells and cars with lack of oxygen, stole or destroyed possessions such as phones and legal documents and, in all cases, deported them back to Bosnia without giving access to asylum procedures.

red dots mark spots where the majority of the reported violent push-backs took place

We have observed several patterns in the violence used against the people attempting to cross the EU borders.

Firstly, the victims of the physical attacks by the border authorities were mainly people who clearly expressed their wish to claim asylum in Croatia or Slovenia. Simply by asking, people seem to be provoking or somehow aggravating the police officers. Groups described how they were told to “shut up”, and where individuals tried to articulate their asylum requests verbally, they were targeted disproportionately. Simply by speaking up, asylum seekers are now increasingly targeted by violent border guards. It seems that groups are forced to comply by remaining silent; meanwhile the relevant authorities refuse to comply with international law on asylum.

Furthermore, we have noticed a close cooperation between the Slovenian and Croatian police forces. The Slovenian police often hand people over to Croatian border forces dressed in black and called “commando”; a unit in charge of the violent push-backs to Bosnia. These violent deportations take place mainly in unmarked locations, particularly forests and mountain areas, close to Velika Kladuša, Šturlić, and Bihać (BiH).

Several victims also reported to us that they had seen Croatian and Slovenian officers paying the local population bribes in exchange for giving information about the place of residence of people on the move.

Within the detected and reported cases by our organizations, we have identified 43 children and minors, and 13 women. Women and children were either directly physically attacked by the border authorities or suffered injuries during the violent deportations (see also [1])

While we keep receiving large numbers of testimonies proving the continuing existence of border violence, the Croatian interior ministry still denies all allegations of police brutality. The ministry has stated to media that the Croatian police is acting in accordance with national laws, as well as international standards [2].

Here you can read the full article by Karolina (NoNameKitchen) and Simon (Balkan Info Van):

https://medium.com/are-you-syrious/illegal-push-backs-and-border-violence-from-the-eu-external-borders-to-bosnia-5f2ef2b941f

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[1] Ahmetasevic, N. for AlJazeera (08.09.2018): https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/metoo-fortress-europe-borders-180905074913780.html

[2] N1 Zagreb (22.08.2018): http://ba.n1info.com/a280377/English/NEWS/Croatian-ministry-denies-allegations-of-police-brutality.html