Responding to a new investigation by Lighthouse Reports which documents how authorities in several European Union (EU) countries have violently rounded up migrants and asylum seekers and summarily returned them to countries outside EU borders, Jelena Sesar, Balkans Researcher at Amnesty International said:
“This is the latest evidence that unlawful pushbacks and violence against asylum seekers and migrants are commonplace at the EU’s external borders. In numerous countries, including Greece, Poland, Spain, Croatia, people in search of safety and protection are being met with barbed wire and armed border guards.”
“Lighthouse’s report includes disturbing images of masked police and border officials beating migrants and asylum seekers with sticks as they force them out of Croatia, in blatant violation of EU law. Yet by their own admission, European Commission funding has been used by Croatian authorities to buy police equipment and even pay the salaries of border officials, rendering the EU complicit in these violations.”Jelena Sesar, Balkans Researcher at Amnesty International
“While the officials’ clothes are deliberately stripped of identifying insignia, it is clear that their uniforms, weapons and equipment are identical to those used exclusively by the Croatia’s special police, which has been notorious for conducting violent pushbacks for years now.”
European Commission officials, including Commissioner Johansson, said that they were appalled by such inhumane treatment of people on European borders. Yet this summer they allowed Croatia to set up a hollow shell of a monitoring mechanism, which would not ensure that those responsible for violations are brought to justice and held accountable. Greece has recently rejected the idea of setting a mechanism for monitoring human rights, despite Amnesty International documenting pushbacks and violence against refugees and migrants showing they are their de facto border policy.
“It is alarming that the European Commission continues to turn a blind eye to the staggering violation of EU law, and even continues to finance police and border operations in some of these countries. In July for example, the European Commission awarded Croatia a €14 million emergency funding grant, despite officials expressing their horror over Croatia’s inhumane treatment of migrants. These pushbacks, and the funding that facilitates them must end now,” said Jelena Sesar.
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After a complaint from Amnesty International, the European Ombudsman is currently conducting an inquiry into European complicity in Croatia’s border violence against migrants and refugees.