Balkan Regional Report -July 2022

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

In July, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) shared 18 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 273 people-on-the-move (POM) 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.

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PRESS RELEASE: INTERIM MEASURES GRANTED FOR 49 TURKISH AND SYRIAN ASYLUM SEEKERS ON A GREEK ISLET IN THE EVROS RIVER. GREECE YET TO COMPLY.

On the 16th August at 06.26 EEST, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) was alerted to a group of Syrian and Turkish asylum seekers stranded on an islet in the Evros river close to Didymoteicho, in Greek territory. The Syrian nationals of the group stated that they were seeking asylum due to the war in their country which has placed them at risk of serious physical harm, and the Turkish nationals are from the Kurdish minority and therefore at risk of persecution in Turkey. They reported that they had been stuck on the islet since the 14th August 2022. The group includes nine women, 16 children and eight individuals who are particularly vulnerable and require medical attention. One is four months pregnant, two are asthmatic, one is diabetic and suffers from high blood pressure, another suffers from high blood pressure, two of the children are having difficulty breathing, and another child has a severe visual impairment. We immediately relayed this information to the competent authorities: the Hellenic Police, Frontex, the Ombudsperson, the National Human Rights Institution, and UNHCR. Our operatives on the ground called the emergency 112 line at 18.23 EEST on 16th August who assured us that they were aware of the group and a search and rescue (SAR) operation was underway. The following morning, on 17th August at 09.27 EEST the group again shared their live location which showed them on the islet, stating that nobody had approached the islet the previous evening or over the night.

 

Briefing for Policymakers: Illegal pushbacks from islets in the Evros River continue

At the start of July, BVMN published a report on the phenomenon of groups being stranded on islets in the Evros river border between Greece and Turkey, and the increasing frequency with which human rights groups are filing for interim measures at the ECtHR. In the report, we highlighted the shifting modus operandi of human rights violations at the Evros border and the concurrent criminalisation of those responding to them. Read alongside the recent investigation by Lighthouse Reports, LeMonde, Spiegel, the Guardian, and ARD76 which uncovered systematic exploitation of people-on-the-move, it is evident that the mass proliferation of human rights violations in Greece are contributing to an overall erosion of the rule of law.

The following briefing details political responses that followed the publication of the report, updates on the situation regarding pushbacks in the Evros region in the last month, and recommendations to the Greek government, European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), and the European Commission.

 

Balkan Regional Report – June 2022

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

In June, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) shared 14 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 676 people-on-the-move (POM) 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.

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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.