Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) latest regional update confirms that systematic pushbacks continue across the Balkans. The findings of the Croatian ‘independent’ human rights monitoring body challenged. Hungary apply double standards praising efforts for Ukrainian refugees while defining other groups arriving as “illegal” and “dangerous”.

BVMN has released their Balkan Regional Report covering May 2022 that shares 32 testimonies of pushbacks impacting 680 people-on-the-move (POM) across the Balkans and Greece. Worrying trends identified include “triangle pushbacks” between Romania, Serbia and Hungary, Croatian police officers entering Bosnian territory while perpetrating expulsions and the indiscriminate violence against third-country nationals.

NGOs have long called for independent and effective investigations into systematic pushbacks of migrants and refugees by Croatian officers in reaction to mounting evidence of violations of fundamental human rights at the Croatian borders. While a monitoring body has been established by the government its impartiality remains challenged. A recently released annual report, from the so-called ‘Independent Mechanism of Monitoring the Actions of Police Officers of the Ministry of the Interior in the Area of Illegal Migration’ states “cases of forcible returns of irregular migrants weren’t established- apart from the cases stated below regarding mine fields and the event shown on the Croatian TV”. This interpretation of the situation according to BVMN indicates shortcomings of the mechanism previously highlighted by the organisation. BVMN outlined that the report reads: “in mine fields’ areas, border guards are not physically present, but people on the move are entering and claiming asylum. Police claim the area is not under the “actual control” of the Croatian state.” Subsequently, they are “deterred from entry “in a way that they are returned in harmless locations”. The phantasmagorical description indicates pushbacks are perpetrated”. Meanwhile, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) reported that an unaccompanied refugee child filed a complaint to the UN Child Committee against Croatia and Slovenia over multiple violations of children’s rights. According to ECCHR, the child “faced repeated beatings by Croatian border officers, had his belongings burnt and his shoes confiscated before numerous forced expulsions, including a “chain” pushback from Slovenia.”

On 2 July, clashes near the Serbia-Hungary border has left one person dead and at least six others injured. The Serbian NGO, Asylum Protection Center, said that “Refugees claim conflict among smugglers from Pakistan & Afghanistan” caused the shooting. Meanwhile, Hungary continues to use double standards in its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees attempting to cross the border from Serbia. Stressing that 820,000 Ukrainian refugees were welcomed to the country, the Hungarian foreign minister noted that 110,000 “illegal” migrants have reached Hungary’s southern border in 2022 and added, “These migrants are increasingly dangerous, aggressive and armed. This is not a human rights problem but a threat to the security of the two countries”. Referring to the shootout, the minister criticised refugees’ rights organisations and accused them of “promoting illegal migration”.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.