Balkan Regional Report – April 2022

Summary and analysis of pushbacks and internal violence documented by BVMN during the month of APRIL

In April, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) shared 30 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 832 people-on-the-move across the Balkans and Greece. This report brings together first-hand testimonies from a range of countries in the region to look at the way European Union states and other actors are affecting systemic violence towards people crossing borders. In terms of trends in pushbacks observed in the last month, this report analyses systematic pushbacks perpetrated against people-on-the-move in Greece.

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Protest statement against Tatjana Bobnar as a Candidate for Minister of Interior Affairs

The civil initiative Infokolpa, the Border Violence Monitoring Network and the undersigned organisations condemn the announced candidacy of Tatjana Bobnar for the post of Minister of the Interior. Our primary objections relate to her actions when directing the actions of police officers at the border and the implementation of deportations to Croatia in 2018, 2019 and 2020. We recall that in June 2018, Slovenia started the practice of mass deportations of persons and denying them the application for international protection in Slovenia.

From the beginning of 2018 until the end of March 2022, Slovenia has carried out 29,865 extraditions to Croatia under the informal procedure, according to official data. Bobnar, as Deputy Director General of the Slovenian Police and later as Director of the Police, participated in one of the worst cases of mass violations of fundamental rights in the modern history of the Slovenian state by co-signing internal directives on police action at the border. During her time at the highest levels, police officers began the practice of systematically rejecting asylum applications and carrying out deportations. In 2018 and 2019 alone, Slovenia carried out almost 16,000 deportations to Croatia, despite the proven serious risk of torture and inhuman treatment of migrants by the Croatian police. Many of these cases have been documented in the two volumes of Black Book of Pushbacks that will be sent to all the presumed coalition parties together with this statement.


Bobnar is directly complicit in creating a deadly situation on the Balkan migration route by abusing the police and directing police procedures in a way that does not follow legal mandates, but instead constitutes a direct violation of the universal right to life and protection from torture. The existence of such violations has also been established by the Supreme Court, and it is therefore worrying that the future coalition does not recognise the role of Bobnar in the abuse of the police to carry out mass deportations. Mass deportations have been recognised as a systemic violation of the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition of collective deportation and the denial of access to international protection by both the Supreme Court and the European Parliament Resolution on the rule of law in Slovenia.

We also draw attention to other problems: restrictive legislation and a lack of adequate staff have created confusion in the field of labour migration, where many foreign nationals and migrant workers wait for months before obtaining or renewing work permits and the possibility to regularize their stay. We also draw attention to the worrying situation regarding decisions on international protection status, where decision-makers are rejecting or holding for years applications from people fleeing countries such as Afghanistan or Eritrea. In 2021, Slovenia issued only 19 positive decisions on international protection status.
Slovenia needs a person to lead the Ministry of the Interior who will bring the police back into the community and who is able to resolve conflicts. We need a person who can reorganise the civil service to serve the people. Above all, we need a person who will be able to confront the serious violations of the fundamental rights of migrants that have been taking place on a massive scale in Slovenian police stations in recent years, and who will be able to carry out a proper investigation into the abuse of official procedures, to find the guilty parties, to apologise for their behaviour and, above all, to ensure that such serious violations do not happen again. We certainly do not need a person who will justify practices that systematically and brutally violate the human rights of certain groups.

Gibanje Svoboda party, that has won the last elections, has also declared in its programme  the removal of the wire from the border and a more humane migration policy. However, Bobnar’s candidacy as Interior Minister may mean a continuation of the policies pursued by the previous government towards the abuse of police powers and the normalisation of police violence on a general level. We remind the future mandate holder that the border fence is not a cosmetic problem and that its removal should not be a populist gesture.
If the pre-election confrontations promised to “govern in coalition with civil society”, we hope that the government will heed the warnings of civil society and involve it in shaping a migration policy based on human rights or at least in line with current legislation.

Info Kolpa
Border Violence Monitoring Network
Delavska Svetovalnica
Društvo Humanitas – Center za globalno učenje in sodelovanje
Are You Syrious? (Zagreb)
Centar za Mirovne Studije (Zagreb)
Push-back Alarm Austria
Zagreb Solidarity City (Zagreb)
Transbalkan Solidarity (Regional)

 

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.

 

 

Press Release: Greek police launched operations targeting people-on-the-move in Thessaloniki

30 April, 2022

Yesterday, April 29, 2022, the Greek police launched operations targeting people-on-the-move in the city of Thessaloniki. The police are targeting improvised homeless shelters and a food distribution site for vulnerable people with serious protection needs. To our knowledge, between 20:00 and 21.30 EET at least three people that are beneficiaries of Border Violence Monitoring Network member organisations in Thessaloniki were arrested on their way to collect food from a humanitarian distribution site in the city.

We, the Border Violence Monitoring Network, put forward our concerns about the potential repercussions of these operations. We have collated a body of evidence that suggests detention and illegal pushbacks are often a subsequent outcome of police operations, which entail numerous violations of international human rights provisions such as access to asylum, non-refoulement, and the prohibition on collective expulsions.

Similar operations were carried out in predominantly migrant neighbourhoods in central Athens nearly one month ago (March 2022) leading to the arbitrary arrest and detention of over 600 people-on-the-move, many of whom were previously unable to access the asylum system due to the termination of the online skype pre-registration system in November 2021.

Today, there have been reports of people-on-the-move being apprehended by police and put into the back of unmarked red vans across Thessaloniki. This is of concern in terms of a lack of transparency and of endemic police brutality in Greece, and pushbacks as a frequent outcome of such operations. Further, the use of similar unmarked red vans was mentioned in three first-hand testimonies of pushbacks in the Evros region in the last month (see below).

We reiterate that Greek authorities are obliged to act in full respect of European Union law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Immigration detention should be used as a means of last resort and should not be applied to vulnerable persons.

We urge that the Greek state should act in full compliance with the principle of non-refoulement, the European Convention of Human Rights, and other relevant human rights instruments to refer people in need of protection and vulnerable persons apprehended to the competent authorities and to ensure their rights to access asylum.

We remind the Greek state to abide by the recommendations of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances that found that people on the move who are pushed back are at risk of being subjected to enforced disappearances.

Details of these cases can be found in the full press release.

As the above information demonstrates, concerns about fundamental violations of human rights as a direct result of these operations are well-founded on the basis of previous experience. We urge independent human rights monitoring bodies to respond, to ensure that any individuals apprehended as a part of these operations have access to asylum procedures, and are not subject to police violence or treatment that would amount to torture, in line with their fundamental rights.

 

 

Balkan Regional Report – March 2022

Summary and analysis of pushbacks and internal violence documented by BVMN during the month of MARCH

In March, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) shared 36 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 762 people-on-the-move across the Balkans. This report brings together first-hand testimonies from a range of countries in the region to look at the way European Union states and other actors are affecting systemic violence towards people crossing borders.

Continue reading “Balkan Regional Report – March 2022”