NGO report unveils ‘merciless’ violence against migrants at Europe’s borders
Saturday, 19 December 2020
Migrants trying to enter Europe are subjected to abuses such as beatings, attacks by dogs and the theft or destruction of their belongings, according to a new NGO report denouncing violence and illegal pushbacks at EU borders.
The “Black Book of Pushbacks” produced by the non-governmental Border Violence Monitoring Network at the initiative of the radical left GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament, is based on close to 900 testimonies related to over 12,654 people.
It covers events in Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia, along with non-EU countries in the Balkans such as Bosnia and Serbia.
German MEP Cornelia Ernst (GUE) said the legislators had been “very shocked by the endless accounts of merciless, sadistic and degrading violence that are reminiscent of brutal dictatorships.”
Noting that the black book “sheds some much-needed light on this dark chapter of the EU,” she added: “Our hope is that it will contribute to bringing an end to the crimes, and to holding accountable the governments that are responsible.”
The report was presented on Friday to the European Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who noted in a statement sent to French news agency AFP that pushbacks were against European law and the right to asylum.
Pushback occurs when a State sends back migrants across its borders without giving them an opportunity to apply for asylum, without regard for their personal situation, without any possibility of recourse and using violent, sometimes illegal methods, the report stresses.
Johansson recalled that the Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented in September, includes a border surveillance mechanism meant to avoid such behaviour.
The European Border Monitoring Agency, FRONTEX, recently had to defend itself, following an investigation published in many media, due to its involvement alongside Greek coastguards in the illegal pushback of boatloads of asylum seekers to Turkey, accusations denied by the Greek government.
The many accounts in the Black Book include that of a 17-year-old Afghan boy whom Italian police discovered in November hiding under a truck in the port of Bari. He said he was beaten with a stick before being sent back to Greece without being allowed to eat or drink.
In Greece, a group of 65 people from Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Syria, ages ranging from 3 to 50 years, was forced, also in November, to go back to Turkey on foot across the Evros border river.
A Syrian arrested in December 2019 along with five compatriots, two of them 15-year-old minors, said he had been attacked and bitten by dogs released by police officers in Croatia who pushed them back into Bosnia.
The report’s authors, Hope Barker and Milena Zajovic, explained that the pushbacks covered by the network were just part of a much broader, systematic phenomenon that is still denied and often neglected.
The report also denounces the use of tasers against migrants, the practice of forcing asylum seekers to undress, and that of detaining people in structures that lack the most basic amenities.