24 April 2017
Migrants and refugees are "routinely abused by law enforcement officials in the Western Balkans"
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"People who are trying to access the EU in search of safety and dignity are being routinely abused by law enforcement officials in countries in the Western Balkans. State agents responsible for upholding fundamental rights are instead subjecting people to violence and intimidation and denying access to asylum procedures to those seeking international protection. Governments in the region must immediately end these violations and initiate processes to ensure safety and dignity for people on the move in their territories."
The report is based on testimonies collected from 140 people:
"The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Macedonia Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) collected testimonies from 140 migrants, including refugees, between 30 January and 17 February 2017. Researchers spoke to 100 people in Serbia and 40 in Macedonia who had attempted to move between countries in the weeks and months previously. In Serbia, interviews were conducted in Belgrade, on the Serbian-Hungarian border in the north around the city of Subotica and on the Serbian-Bulgarian border in the east, around the town of Dimitrovgrad. The interviews in Macedonia were conducted in the village of Tabanovce in the north of the country, near the border with Serbia.
Of the 140 people interviewed, 75 had been expelled from Hungary to Serbia, 19 from Croatia to Serbia, 44 from Serbia to either Bulgaria or Macedonia, one from Macedonia to Greece and seven from Bulgaria to Turkey. Some were expelled more than once and from more than one location. The vast majority came from Afghanistan, the others from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon."
It says (emphasis added):
"Rather than being places of safety, countries on the Western Balkan route have failed to offer protection or due process to many new arrivals and instead have pushed them back to their previous country of transit or even another country, without giving them a chance to claim asylum. Pushbacks are happening in different ways. Hungary and Croatia both EU member states have used brutal tactics, such as attack dogs and forcing people to strip naked in freezing temperatures. The Serbian authorities have generated a climate of fear and uncertainty amongst migrants by expelling groups of people who have been legally registered and were expecting to receive their right to an individual hearing. This practice meant that in mid-winter, in freezing temperatures of -20ºC, people were afraid to stay in government centres for fear of being pushed back to Macedonia or Bulgaria. Interviewees also accused Bulgarian authorities of treating people in such a brutal manner that they are afraid to return."
The authors call on the governments of Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria to:
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