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. Continue reading “Annual Torture Report 2020”
In the last fourteen days, BVMN-member No Name Kitchen have collected testimonies alluding to a spike in pushback violence in the Cetingrad area of the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The veracity of these testimonies is further supplemented with reports from local people and media outlets. The characteristics of this trend in violence have been complex and coordinated assaults by Croatian police, consisting of repetitive baton strikes, lashing and kicking. These tactics leave an indelible mark on returned transit groups, visible in the extensive bruising and lacerations across the legs, torso and upper body of people subject to such violence. First hand testimony of recent pushbacks are examined here, alongside pictures and videos from the HR/BiH border which reveal the deterioration in border violence seen in the last fortnight.
A Trend in Violence
Since the 3rd October 2020, 36 persons were recorded in pushbacks from Croatian territory by BVMN, involving extreme physical assaults in each incident. The recurrence of these attacks at a rural area of green border South West of Velika Kladuša suggest that the violence is the product of a concerted, and well choreographed, effort by the Croatian police to deter transit, and brutalise groups making journeys with the onset of autumn. The spate of brutal attacks in this border area has been corroborated by the Danish Refugee Council via the Guardian newspaper. In a recent article, the outlet profiled the a concurrent series of horrific cases occurring in the border area of Šiljkovača, outside of Velika Kladuša in the last two weeks.
The following piece is a product of a joint-investigation on behalf of the Border Violence Monitoring Network.
During the month of August, local initiatives organizing against the existence of an informal transit camp near the IOM-run transit center in Velika Kladuša heightened tensions within the Una-Sana Canton. In this time, people-in-transit have been cleared twice from the improvised shelters built around the official camp by authorities, but tensions have continued to climb. During this period, some locals began demonstrations which turned aggressive in some cases and violent in others.
By mid-August, there were regular demonstrations outside of the IOM-run transit camp wherein incoming buses would be stopped and searched for people-in-transit who, if identified, would be taken off and told to walk back in the direction they came from. Additionally, hateful Facebook groups amassed thousands of followers during this month, discussing ways in which to aggressively deal with people-on-the-move and aid volunteers living in the Una-Sana canton. Elsewhere, official cantonal policy refugees and migrants have shifted, wherein transit groups are actively being prevented from entering the Una-Sana Canton.
Since the spring, consistent and well-documented reports have shown masked men aggressively pursuing boats full of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea, before either destroying or off-loading the boats and initiating illegal return operations to Turkey.
One investigation which Josoor contributed to, analyzed a set of materials documenting masked men operating from an inflatable boat off the island of Lesvos in early June. Testimonies recorded on the BVMN database [June 5th; June 3rd] as well as other media reports describe a series of incidents where Hellenic Coast Guard [HCG] vessels approach boats carrying men, women and children in the Aegean between Turkey and Greece and variably drove them back, intimidated them, or destroyed and removed their engines. Several of these operations have been marked by direct physical violence at the hands of the HCG. A more recent report from the New York Times referenced at least 1,072 asylum seekers being abandoned at sea by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions since March. Continue reading “BVMN Visual Investigation: Analysis of Video Footage Showing Involvement of Hellenic Coast Guard in Maritime Pushback”