Special Report: COVID-19 and Border Violence along the Balkan Route

The Border Violence Monitoring Network are publishing a feature report on the intersection of the current health crisis and border management. This new report shares first hand testimony of people-on-the-move who are experiencing the COVID-19 lockdown in transit. Its scope looks at the way restrictive measures disproportionately affect vulnerable persons in camps and at borders. Further, analysis of various countries from the region shows how COVID-19 measures have also been utilised to shape and erode the fundamental rights of these communities. Approaching the topic of COVID-19 as a period used to stage rights suspensions, some of the developments explored in this report include:

The deployment of military forces at borders and camps is a core feature of the securitised response to COVID-19. This was seen with proposals made by the Slovenian government to increase the army’s remit in the border area and the garrisoning of camps in Serbia.

-The development of pushback practice in countries such as Croatia has shown a disturbing turn. Augmentation of border violence as a result of the pandemic appeared with the crude paint tagging of transit groups near Velika Kladusa. Meanwhile two officers actively involved in pushbacks in the Topusko area were tested positive for COVID-19, putting people-on-the-move at direct risk of contracting the virus at the hand of perpetrating officers..

-Collective expulsions from camps has rapidly become a new concern for people in centres in Greece and Serbia. The lockdown measures were used on multiple occasions as an excuse to perform large scale pushbacks from inner city camps and centres hosting asylum seekers.

-Inadequate accommodation facilities are an ongoing concern for transit groups denied the basic means to exercise relevant health protocols. Across the Balkan Route and Greece, the sealing of centres marked disproportionate deprivations of liberty and wilful neglect of hygienic standards by states and the European Union.

These findings point to the sharpening of inequality for people-on-the-move, whose access to asylum, healthcare, adequate accommodation, and safety from brutal collective expulsions has decreased rapidly during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Webinar launch: 22nd May 2020 (CET)

This report, and the unfolding situation during COVID-19, will be the topic of a webinar hosted by the Border Violence Monitoring Network. Listen in to hear from various members in the network and activists from the field  who will discuss the latest developments regarding coronavirus and pushbacks in the Western Balkans and Greece.


-Milica Švabić (Belgrade) – lawyer and activist from Klikaktiv – Centar za razvoj socijalnih politika

-Katja Utroša (Ljubljana) – activist from collective Infokolpa Milena Zajović (Zagreb) – president of Are You Syrious?, BVMN advocacy officer, journalist, film maker and activist

-Zied Abdellaoui (Velika Kladuša) – activist from Tunis, currently stuck in Western Bosnia

-Simon Campbell (Thessaloniki) BVMN field coordinator, activist

Join the event via: https://youtu.be/9CAGedKQEIs

If you have any questions regarding this report and would like further information contact us at press@borderviolence.eu. For translated press releases see links below:

Balkan Region Report – March 2020

The Border Violence Monitoring Network is releasing its latest report covering updates from the Western Balkans and Greece. In March, illegal pushbacks at multiple borders continued unabated, placing transit groups at physical risk and violating their fundamental rights to asylum and due process. Two simultaneous crises also amplified  and brought into sharp relief the breakdown of legal and humanitarian protections along the route. The movement of thousands of people in Turkey towards the Greek border drew the issue of collective expulsion across the Evros river into view. Meanwhile, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe was used as justification for  new and concerning policy at several points along the route, such as detention and militerisation.

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Balkan Region Report – February 2020

The Border Violence Monitoring Network is releasing it’s latest report on violations recorded from across the Balkan Route. In February volunteers observed a convergence of abuse against people-on-the-move during illegal pushbacks and prevention tactics at the EU’s external border. The Network shared the story of 190 people who suffered collective expulsion, analysing several trends and phenomena that can be found below. These cases are also summarised in conjunction with the set of violent measures taken at official border crossings, as seen most overtly at Turkey’s border with Greece.

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Balkan Region Report – January 2020

The Border Violence Monitoring Network is releasing it’s January Report, covering the pushback of 263 people, across fourteen different incidents. Work by volunteers in the field shone a light on the continued use of blunt physical force to damage, impair and brutalise people-on-the-move. Reports involved a range of perpetrators, with Croatia carrying out the majority of recorded pushbacks, alongside three chain removals from Slovenia and two mass explusions from North Macedonia to Greece.

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Balkan Region – Report December 2019

The Border Violence Monitoring Network just published it’s monthly update, covering the pushback of 128 people in December, adding to the thousands who have already faced brutal collective expulsions during 2019. Monitoring work identified consistent police violence, alongside deepening trends specific to the winter conditions on the Balkan Route. The report covers pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and from Greece to Turkey.

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