More than 130,000 people were deported from Hungary to neighbouring Serbia without an asylum application being registered. Now Croatia is returning refugees on a large scale to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Croatian police are currently carrying out mass deportations of refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to media reports on Monday, people from the Republic of Croatia are being taken by bus across the border and from there to the notorious Lipa men’s camp or the Borići reception centre. Both facilities are located in the border area near the town of Bihać.
The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), whose member groups are active in the Balkans, had already pointed out the noticeable increase in deportations to Bosnia and Herzegovina last week. According to the report, people are being intercepted by the police all over Croatia and sometimes taken away in unmarked vehicles. The people concerned were held for hours in prison-like basement rooms without access to food and water. There, the police issued them with deportation notices to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The refugees had to sign the documents even though they did not understand their content. Appeals against the procedure were not possible, the report says. This also violated international law, BVMN complains. The groups were then transferred to other detention centres. The deportees were even forced to pay for accommodation, food and transport to the border.
The BVMN suspects that the methods described are the implementation of compensatory measures announced by the Croatian Minister of the Interior, Davor Božinović, after the country’s accession to Schengen at the beginning of this year. In this context, 742 police officers were to be withdrawn from other border crossings with Slovenia and Hungary and pick up refugees in mobile teams in the border area with Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the announcement.
By receiving the deported of refugees, the government in Bosnia and Herzegovina is also following EU Commission guidelines. The country has adopted implementing protocols for readmission agreements with 16 EU states, which Brussels considers “overall satisfactory”. However, accelerated readmission procedures with neighbouring countries must be “fully and effectively implemented”, according to an October report. In 2021, the number of third-country nationals returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina under various readmission agreements amounted to 570, which is significantly lower than in previous years.
For the implementation of EU requirements, Bosnia and Herzegovina cooperates with the Commission in a “Joint Readmission Committee”. In December, the country adopted a “Strategy on Migration and Asylum” for the period 2021 to 2025 and committed itself to following hundreds of new measures. In return, the country beckons the status of an EU accession candidate.
Hungary is also deporting refugees en masse to neighbouring Serbia. According to information from “nd”, this now affects around 130,000 people who have not been given the opportunity to apply for asylum by the Serbian authorities in so-called fast-track procedures. The persons concerned have therefore not been entered in the Eurodac file in Hungary with their fingerprints and facial image. With such an entry, a country declares itself responsible for processing the asylum application.
Bilateral readmissions without verification of a claim for international protection constitute a violation of the international principle of non-refoulement and EU law, the European Court of Justice had ruled. The EU border agency Frontex therefore stopped its activities on the Hungarian side of the border with Serbia two years ago. However, the agency subsequently launched a mission on the Serbian side.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: Start of Frontex mission in Serbia 2021 (Frontex).