On the borders of Greece and Croatia, migrants are victims of illegal pushbacks by special police units. It can also become violent. Stops are a “well-established strategy for countries whose police receive financial support from the European Union.” This is evidenced by a survey conducted by various European media from seven EU member states.
German magazine Der Spiegel investigated the case for eight months with German broadcaster ARD, French newspaper Libération, Dutch research platform Lighthouse Reports and Croatian and Serbian media. There is talk of a “system” in which “special units” operate. They are often unrecognizable: they wear uniforms without insignia and hats that completely cover the head, according to Der Spiegel magazine.
“They usually work in the dark – and are paid by European citizens,” the German magazine wrote. There is talk of a video of eleven cases of opposition in Croatia. It shows how the men beat the refugees before returning them to Bosnia and Herzegovina. After reviewing the photos, six Croatian officials confirmed that they were members of a special police unit. The process was internally called “corridor process”.
After analyzing the videos and testimonies, the investigation confirms that in the Aegean, special units of the Greek Coast Guard have to intercept asylum seekers and then leave them on orange lifeboats. This, too, would have been partially paid for with European money.
The Greek government, which has previously rejected similar allegations, did not answer reporters’ questions. The Croatian government did not answer either.
“There are no individual practices but a well-established strategy”
According to Libération, these are not just individual practices that only certain officers are guilty of. Stops are a “well-established strategy for countries whose police receive financial support from the European Union.” According to the newspaper, many testimonies about practices in Greece, Romania and Croatia have been recorded by NGOs, lawyers or journalists. The investigation picked up evidence via drones, thermal cameras and wildlife cameras.
Human rights group Amnesty International said it was “alarming” that “the European Commission continues to turn a blind eye to flagrant violations of European law and continues to fund police and border operations in some countries”.
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