Josoor is covering the increasing levels of violence and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers on the Balkan route
Authorities committing illegal activities all across the Balkan route has now become the norm, and Greece’s move to officially reserve a secret budget for the Ministry of Migration & Asylum is terrifying to anyone who still upholds the founding principles of the European Union today. Josoor has learned of unsettling developments regarding the treatment of asylum seekers across the Balkan route with increasing concern. Both the scale and proliferation of illegal activity by authorities of both EU member states and candidate countries has increased massively. In contrast to the similar unlawful activities of Malta and Italy, these violations of European and International law in South-Eastern Europe, no less criminal in scope, have hardly received any attention. In cooperation with several other NGOs and journalists, Josoor is currently working on shining a light on these developments. This press release, lengthier than usual, intends to give an overview of some of the recent events across the Balkan route.
In addition to the established practice of taking money and phones from asylum seekers before illegally pushing them back, the authorities of EU member state Croatia have recently been spray- painting people with orange paint before illegally forcing them back to Bosnia- Herzegovina, tagging them like livestock. Two instances of this new practice have been confirmed in two separate groups on May 2nd and May 6th .
Greece recently began taking registered refugees from camps where they were staying whilst waiting for interviews in their asylum cases, and unlawfully deporting them to Turkey. 149 such cases were confirmed by our colleagues from the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN)  in Greece and Josoor is aware of many more. Collective expulsions of registered asylum seekers are now happening on a daily basis; involving several different police units. Since the area along the Greek-Turkish border is a Frontex operation area, it is of utter importance to investigate whether Frontext troops are involved in these push-backs as well. Greece has also been pushing back asylum seekers to an island in Evros river. Taking all their belongings has been the common practice for a while, officers now also leave them stranded on the island without any water, food or phones. We have reason to believe that at least one Pakistani minor drowned whilst trying to swim to Turkey on April 5th, two others have not been heard of since either. Daily, asylum seekers are pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece. Despite the fact that large numbers of forces are currently present in Greece and the EU has provided a large budget for “border security”, no Greek police are present at the northern border of Greece. This has led us to believe that chain deportations are allowed at least to some degree; or planned acts of collusion between forces. Greek ships are also continuing with their push-backs at sea . Asylum seekers arriving on Greek islands are often forced to remain wherever they land for a two-week quarantine period (some much longer than that), without shelter or basic supplies . Several groups that were proven to have landed on the Greek islands have simply “disappeared” since and their landings have not been officially recorded. Greek authorities pressure locals to keep silent about the ongoing situation . On Friday, May 8th, Greece passed a new “anti-migration” bill . One of the many alarming developments in it is a secret budget for the Asylum & Migration authority. This budget will most likely be used for illegal push-backs.
Italy has been pushing back asylum seekers to Greece via ferry - one ferry per week to Patras .
As has been the practice for a while , Slovenian authorities continue with illegal push-back practices. One case recently contacted Josoor upon his arrival in Turkey after a total of 29 push-backs. He was pushed back from Slovenia five times before being pushed back all the way to Turkey through Croatia, Serbia, North Macedonia and Greece. Romania continues pushing asylum seekers back to Serbia and Josoor has recorded more than 20 push-back cases from Bulgaria to Turkey this past week.
Like Greece, Serbia has recently started taking registered refugees in the midst of their asylum procedures from camps and unlawfully deporting them .
North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been pushing back asylum seekers at their borders to Greece and Serbia respectively in the same manner (e.g. the different BVMN reports ).
In addition to all these alarming developments, almost all of the big international NGOs have effectively stopped their work in Turkey and instead, small initiatives and independent volunteers have to fill the gap. In several instances, such big NGOs have simply delegated their work to small initiatives and independent volunteers. Other NGOs in Greece have reported situations of a similar manner.
Josoor International Solidarity, an association registered in Austria, has been involved on the ground in Turkey since March. Initially focusing on organising emergency relief for refugees stuck at the Greek border, Josoor soon expanded its focus on monitoring and reporting about the developments on the Evros border and in Turkey. In addition to coordinating long-term humanitarian relief for refugees in Turkey, the main task at the moment is support for victims of pushbacks at the border with Greece. Due to the growing numbers of such pushback cases, Josoor is coordinating with NGOs active in other countries on the Balkan route in jointly monitoring the situation with increasing concern.