Successive days of extreme police repression at the Greek border with Turkey have highlighted the EU’s militant policy towards people-on-the-move: violations marked with a European stamp.
Over the last week, people reaching the border areas near to Ipsala and Erdine (TUR) faced tear gas, stun grenades, live rounds and brutality from border police on the Greek side. The gathering of people at the border crossings was precipitated by Ankara’s decision to “facilitate” movement from Turkey; a remonstration on failings of the EU-Turkey deal and a piece of crude brinkmanship towards current interventions in Idlib, Syria.
The ensuing scenes confirmed the stance of the EU (and it’s member states) to human life at borders. People were met with blunt force, carried out by Greek border police in the Evros region. In Greece as a whole, border security is backed up with 530 Frontex border guards, and a further 100 are being currently deployed along with additional financial aid to sure up defenses. This strategic support comes on top of a heavily militerised border, where army deployment has become the norm. Coupled with Greece’s decision to suspend asylum access for an entire month, arrival at this border strips away almost every right owed regarding international protection and humane treatment.
Such a situation is not however new. During this cruel assault, it is key to link this mass repression to the continuous pushback regime being carried out from the Evros region. A landmark report published last year by Thessaloniki based Mobile Info Team analysed the collective expulsion of transit groups which continues to this day, revealing that the same violent tropes witnessed by the world press at Erdine and Ipsala are being carried out consistently by roving divisions of the Greek military who – masked and armed – are pushing people back through the green border, often robbed, beaten and half dressed.
Reporters for the Network also recently spoke to transit groups pushed back across the Evros river. In a case from last November:
‘The police officers caught one of the members of the transit group. The officers in balaclavas tied this man’s wrists and ankles together using plastic cable ties and threw him into the Evros River. The respondent states that he still does not know what happened to this man: “I don’t know if he is dead or he is alive. I have no idea”’
These evidences of systematised violence, as recorded recently by Forensic Architecture and Spiegel, show that the situation today is built of a web of border violations stretching way beyond “crowd control” at official border crossings. The Network asserts that this spike in violence, though horrendous in it’s scale, remains on a continuum with the protracted efforts on the ground to stem movement and deny fundamental rights.
The political grounds for this externalisation program are not hard to decipher. Commissioner von der Leyen’s visit yesterday to the border area offered a clear seal of approval, and in comments she praised both Greece and Frontex in their work. Notably her words struck a chord with the comparative documentation being carried out by the Border Violence Monitoring Network.
Sadly in this she is not wrong. In centering this issue as a European one, the Commissioner alerts us to the common pool of violations being carried out across the EU external border. The concerns of people-on-the-move on the GRK/TUR border are certainly analogous to those facing similar repression in Croatia, Hungary and Romania.
Network reporters in the field have recorded in 2020 alone:
While the Brussels administration hope to instrumentalise the crisis in Evros, it is important to note that this site of contestation is one of many across the external border where a program of externalisation is turning the tables on the threshold of violence that can now be tolerably applied to people-on-the-move.
Read more soon from the Network, who will continue to follow the unfolding situation.
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