Observations and Trends in Pushbacks, Border Violence and Conditions in Northern Serbia
NGOs on the ground in Northern Serbia have put together a series of bi-monthly reports documenting the migration context at the Serbian border, one of the last access points before crossing into the EU. The advocacy report highlights how the combination of border violence and domestic violence can create severe psychological and emotional trauma.
Human rights violations inflicted by European authorities on people attempting to reach safety in Europe are becoming the norm, whilst the number of people trying to cross the border does not decrease. Data is retrieved through a methodology combining border violence testimony collection, medical conversations, joint organizational observations, and secondary resources such as Serbian and European government databases.
There is a direct correlation between increased police presence observed and increased reports of human rights violations. Border violence and pushback methods include physical violence, theft of personal possessions, dog bites, and, more systematically, hospital pushbacks. There have also been an increase in evictions of informal settlements and an increase in surveillance of these settlements by policing authorities. Authorities observed are not only Serbian and Hungarian but also from other European countries such as Austria, Italy, Slovakia, Lithuania and Germany. In addition, Serbian police are carrying out regular evictions, processes that “range from purely destructive but non-violent to highly violent and traumatic.” During evictions of informal settlements, personal belongings such as tents, stoves, clothes, and money, have all been reported stolen or destroyed by police authorities. In the process many are also often divided from their travelling communities, causing severe cases of anxiety and psychological distress.
Furthermore, repeated evictions and increased police presence across Serbia have caused a chain effect pushing people to camps located in Subotica and Sombor (northern Serbia). However, these camps have been observed to be in extremely unsuitable conditions, often being at maximum capacity. The Collective Aid team on-site has also been notified of around 100 people staying at the camps: without registered Camp IDs, access to a bed, food, or medical care. The team observed that “two of the main living areas were in large tents that appeared to lack proper heating, adequate flooring and protection from the cold and rain of winter.” The sanitation facilities were also “filthy” and showed “a clear sign that there was no regular cleaning.” Beneficiaries shared with the observational team that doctors rarely visit. When they do, the beneficiaries are in charge of getting their own prescriptions, even if they express anxiety about going into town due to fear of police intimidation. These oppressive living conditions are the reason why many people attempt to sleep rough, as it is a preferred alternative to the conditions offered at the official camps.
While people on the move endure violent conditions and deterrent methods, the number of people attempting to cross into the EU remains high. According to official Hungarian Police statistics, there are an average of 2500 pushbacks per week - 350 daily. Constant human rights abuses perpetrated by authorities, and the additional political pressure the EU holds over Serbia, awaiting its candidature to join EU membership, has created a culture normalizing violence, human rights violations and undignifying living conditions.
Dalia Impiglia, Communications Coordinator, Collective Aid: “The EU’s external borders are becoming one of the most violent areas for people on the move. The lack of safeguarding provided for people on the move makes it the responsibility of NGOs in the area to ensure people are provided with sanitation, food, and shelter.”
Paula Llopis, Communications Co-Coordinator, Europe Must Act: “Europe Must Act is committed to continuing shedding light on how the situation in Northern Serbia directly contradicts the EU’s human rights laws. Europe needs to start working on the protection of human rights.”
Notes for Editors
NGOs writers of the advocacy report:
Medical Volunteers International (MVI) is a grassroots NGO based in Hamburg with projects across the Balkan route. MVI has been working in Northern Serbia since March 2022. They provide health education to people on the move, help with their medical needs and facilitate people’s access to the Serbian healthcare system. To connect with MVI in Northern Serbia, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collective Aid (CA) is a grassroots NGO committed to bringing dignity and care to refugees and other displaced people across Europe. CA organisation currently works in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and France facilitating showers, clothes & washing services, providing food, safe water, and essential material aid. Collective Aid has been working in Northern Serbia since 2019 and has provided thousands of people seeking safety in Europe with countless amounts of vital material aid and hygiene solutions. To connect with Collective Aid in Northern Serbia, please contact email@example.com.
Construct Solidarity (CS) is a grassroots collective founded in November 2022. CS aims to improve the living conditions in informal settlements by installing stoves and closing door and window openings. To connect with construct solidarity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement that brings together volunteers, people on the move, and NGOs, campaigning to end human rights abuses at our borders and increase relocation within Europe. Through local action in cities across Europe and grassroots advocacy at our borders, Europe Must Act aims to influence European migration policy. To connect with EMA, please contact email@example.com.
Further comments available.
Read the full advocacy report clicking here
Elsa Beau, Communications Co-Coordinator and Raising Voices Coordinator, Europe Must Act
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.europemustact.org
Paula Llopis, Communications Co-Coordinator, Europe Must Act
email@example.com | www.europemustact.org
Dalia Impiglia, Communications Coordinator,Collective Aid
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.collectiveaidngo.org