Its 5th January 2017, at around midnight. A group of 39 people have entered into Hungary from Serbia through the infamous border fence. They walk through the snow. It’s dark. It doesn’t take long for the Hungarian police to arrive, surrounding them in four patrol cars. The officers move fast; setting dogs on the transit group, then destroying their mobile phones, and following this up with a brutal beating with batons. One man cries out in fear as an officer raises a gun and holds it to the man’s head. Another cannot cry out. He is lying on the floor with the cold boot of an officer rammed against his throat, as other policemen kick at his body. The police strip the people of their clothing, some down to their underwear. The next morning they are driven to the border fence and pushed back into Serbia.
On 1st October 2019, in the early evening the sun is setting as five people in transit walk through a southern area of Slovenia. It’s not long before they hear gunshots and shouts of “Stop!”. The Slovenian police take them to Croatia in a van and hand them over to the authorities. Then the Croatian police take them in a van to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). There is no procedure carried out, the Croatian officers only take time to fire two tear gas cannisters into the rear of the van, before locking the door. The five people, choked and vomiting, are driven for around six hours and dumped at a remote border spot. Here there are more Croatian police officers. The authorities strip them of their clothes and push them half naked into the river which marks the border, forcing them back into BiH.
No right to food. No right to water. No right to shelter. No right to walk in the street. No access to asylum. No access to healthcare. Is this a safe country to be returning people-on-the-move?
In the 2007 bilateral agreement signed between Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) and the European Union (EU), Article 13 explicitly states an obligation to “non-refoulement”. This principle ensures that an individual’s removal to BiH can be halted:
“(a) if the third-country national or the stateless person runs the real risk of being subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”
BVMN, alongside media and human rights groups, have substantiated the claims that Croatia is illegally pushing people back into BiH, aspects of which are often tantamount to torture. But recent news from BiH shows that the conditions awaiting people in the primary receiving state also go further: fundamentally violating the principle of “non-refoulement”.Continue reading “Is Bosnia and Herzegovina a safe country to readmit to?”
The Border Violence Monitoring Network, along with other NGOs, have signed the following letter.
Croatia’s Schengen membership should be halted until human rights are respected
Today, Croatia received the green light from the European Commission to enter the border-free Schengen Area. While we agree that expanding the Schengen space could be a positive and much-needed move towards improvement of free movement inside the European Union, Croatia’s Schengen membership should be made conditional on the immediate end to the Croatian Government’s illegal and violent push-back of migrants. Such practice at the soon-to-become Schengen border not only directly violates provisions of the Schengen Border Code, but represents a violation of international and EU law, including the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees.
The Border Violence Monitoring Network has just published it’s September report analyzing collated testimony of pushbacks and police violence in the Western Balkans. The case material covers extensive violations along Croatia’s border with Bosnia-Herzegovina, chain refoulement from Slovenia, pushbacks from Hungary to Serbia, and incidents from the North Macedonian -Greek border.
Last week saw autumn rains sweep through Bosnia and Herzegovina, marking the season’s change. For most people, it means gradually escaping into their homes and into warmth; for the people-in-transit mired in northwestern Bosnia, a seasonal desperation sinks in. In spite of the brutal border regime of Croatia, Slovenia and their EU patrons, people keep moving in search of safety.
So too the local people of Bihać forge their way through this ongoing story. The northwestern city has kept a vigil now for over eighteen months, hearing the same cycle of empty promises around camps, facilities and change. Yet Bihać is bracing itself again for winter, and as before, people are forced to do things themselves.