Islets, Interim Measures, and Illegal Pushbacks: Erosion of Rule of Law in Greece

 

This report documents the recent increase in use of Rule 39 measures on the Greek mainland, in order to secure access to international protection. It specifically details and analyses three case studies whereby transit groups were stranded on islets in the Evros river over the months of May and June 2022, and sent distress calls to state and civil society actors across Greece expressing their will to claim asylum. In all three cases, civil society organisations, including the Greek Council for Refugees, Human Rights360, AlarmPhone, and The Rule 39 Initiative submitted applications for interim measures on the behalf of the transit groups, and a Rule 39 decision was indicated by the European Court of Human Rights, legally binding the Greek state to provide temporary access to Greece and material reception conditions. Despite the Court’s rulings, as well as the extensive public documentation of the cases on social media platforms and in news outlets, all three transit groups were reportedly pushed back to Turkey after several days on the islets without food, water, or medical care.

In order to contextualise these events, the report briefly introduces a history of Evros islets in the context of pushbacks, the lack of access to asylum on mainland Greece and interim measures at the European Court on Human Rights. It subsequently discusses the ongoing responses and evolving consequences of the Greek state’s violations of the Court’s rulings, including by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Members of the European Parliament, the LIBE committee, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, and other actors in Greece. The report additionally observes the concerning trend of criminalisation of civil society organisations and the use of smear campaigns to restrict migrant rights defenders from operating. In the context of the cases documented here and the recent investigation by Lighthouse Reports we, the Border Violence Monitoring Network, call for Greece to be held accountable and for all operational and financial support to be suspended until the rule of law is restored.

Criminalisation Report: Accused of Solidarity

This report documents cases of criminalisation attempts experienced by BVMN’s member organisations in several countries, mainly in the Western Balkans and Turkey in 2021. In order to contextualise these events, the report briefly introduces a definition of criminalisation, the political and legal environment, as well as relevant actors, and forms of criminalisation. In addition, it discusses the consequences of criminalisation for BVMN’s member organisations and incidents of criminalisation they were subject to, listed after the countries they are located in.

The report observes a trend of deterioration in the situations of CSOs and their team members due to such incidents. Different forms of criminalisation, namely formal and informal criminalisation, scrutiny, obstacles related to visa procurement, defamation in the media and smear campaigns, as well as threats, harassment, and violence had huge negative consequences for the contributing member and partner organisations of the Network.

BVMN and its member organisations are one of several CSOs working in an increasingly restrictive environment to support and monitor the fundamental human rights of people-on-the-move in the EU. Here, the restrictive legal environment for CSOs working in this sector is combined with increasing societal, administrative, and police pressure. This is no longer a country-specific phenomenon, but rather a European- wide trend that, in line with the EU’s externalisation policies on migration in general, extends well beyond its external borders.

This report was produced within the Border Violence Monitoring Network’s (BVMN) Internal Violence Working group. BVMN is a network of watchdog organizations active in Greece and the Western Balkans including No Name Kitchen, Rigardu, Are You Syrious, MobileInfoTeam, Push-back Alarm Austria, Josoor, InfoKolpa, Centre for Peace Studies, BlindSpots, Mare Liberum, Collective Aid, and Fresh Response. As such, this document was produced through joint collaboration of these groups.

 

 

Violence Within State Borders: Greece

This report considers violence within state borders experienced by people-on the-move (herein POM) and those seeking asylum in Greece. It draws on 40 testimonies collected in the last months of violence in detention, police brutality, racist violence, and hate crimes, as well as open- source data on structural forms of violence present in the management of migration and asylum in Greece. Since the BVMN’s last report on internal violence in Greece in October 2020, the situation has continued to deteriorate, leaving POM at increasing risk of both physical, actual harm, and structural violence against their living conditions and immediate amenities. Continue reading “Violence Within State Borders: Greece”

Violence Within State Borders: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Since spring 2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has become one of the most important cross-roads along the Balkan route. The build up of people-on-the-move in the country in Sarajevo, Tuzla, and especially in the Una-Sana Canton at the Croatian border, has been marked by myriad forms of violence used against this population by national police. Added to this is the situation in the EU-funded and IOM-run camps, whose conditions can be described as a form of violence and are undoubtedly inhumane. 
Continue reading “Violence Within State Borders: Bosnia and Herzegovina”

Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Report on combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatisation, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief.

Despite the Human Rights Council calling upon all States to “take effective measures to ensure that public functionaries, in the conduct of their public duties, do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion or belief” BVMN is deeply concerned that Islamophobia continues to underpin violent and illegal border enforcement in Greece and the Balkan region. At the time of submission of this evidence to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, BVMN had recorded 1,212 pushback testimonies many of which reveal a pattern of verbal, physical and psychological religious abuse and discrimination at the hands of law enforcement.

Continue reading “Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief”