Refugee crisis: violent push backs in the Balkans

In spite of severe weather conditions, push backs of refugees in the Balkans continue.  Are You Syrious present the report on illegal push-backs from Croatia.

“The law has changed!“ This is what a police officer told to H. J. As hundreds of other migrants in transit who try to reach Western Europe through the Balkans, he was pushed-back from Croatian territory. But indeed, something changed — he was dropped on the Bosnian border, not on the Serbian side.

During this last two years, since the ”Balkan Route“ was closed, all this push-backs were perpetuated in Serbia, especially around Sid. Since about one month ago the methods are changing though. Currently, people caught in Croatia are forced to come back to either Bosnia or Serbia.

Moreover, we traced many cases of violation of the international protection law as well as the European Law since a safe procedure for asylum seekers is automatically denied. The arbitrary became the norm, since there are cases of people with asylum card in Bosnia who are pushed back to Serbia, and people who come from Serbia who are pushed back to Bosnia as well.

Regarding the second example, police usually drops people  near Velika Kladuša, the northwest city of Bosnia. As far as we know thanks to the testimonies of the migrants, there are two points where Croatian police leave them. One of them is near the border post, and the other one is 20 km North from the city of Velika Kladuša. Thus, once they are left there, they still have to walk in difficult weather condition to arrive to the first safe place. In many cases, they did not have the opportunity to sleep, have any kind of appropriate rest or eat for days, mostly because of what they call ”game“, which is the journey through Croatian territory.
After being caught, many experienced police violence from physical to verbal, psychological or the combination of all.

The common examples being ridiculoused “no asylum here, go to Italy“; threatened “If I see you a second time, I’ll kill you“ and all sorts of humiliation strategies. All this proves that once more EU is outsourcing the borders.

Velika Kladuša is becoming a new hotspot on the route. We estimate that there are around 60/70 people in this city, and the number is increasing. Nonetheless, more and more people choose this route instead of the Serbian one, where they are stuck for months living in very difficult conditions. The situation being there is a high probability that if Croatian police keeps on pushing back people as it is now, we might expect that the city of Velika Kladuša will face many new challenges. So far, local people have been helping migrants providing food, clothes and other necessities: ”They are Muslims, you know? Helping people in need is a pillar of Islam”.

However, police is trying to jeopardize the established chains of solidarity. Although many of the migrants are reporting that Bosnian police is not violent, mid February a direction was imposed on mosques from the Islamic Community, which is very closed to local government, forbidding the imams to accommodate the migrants and to provide them with temporary place to rest. One might think that a higher instance is imposing restrictive measures instead of finding appropriate solutions.

Actually, the atmosphere differs very much from the one in Serbia, where they are mistreated and even physically attacked by xenophobic groups from the local community. On the opposite, inhabitants of Velika Kladuša have hosted many newly arrived migrants empathizing with the given situation. Some public places, mainly privately owned cafeterias, were adapted, despite the obvious unprofitability of such a choice, not to leave the migrants sleeping outdoors.

While picturing the situation, do not forget to visualize the extreme weather conditions here.

‘We need help, please, please. Our legs are really frozen, they can not be too cold. We need urgent help because She has a child and hurts her, not good! Thanks for your help.’ — this is a start of just one of the calls AYS volunteers keep getting during the nights recently.

Via Are You Syrious

Photo: Relief Web