Fortress Europe continues to take lives. This week, a young man’s body was found in Istria, in the inaccessible forest area of Vodni dol. It was determined that he died due to freezing. The search went off after the police in Žejane met an individual of Sudanese origin who pointed to the man in need of help. The Sudanese got charged for the offense of illegal border crossing, but it is not known whether he was granted access to asylum. In Velika Kladuša, a 33-year-old Algerian was killed in a car crash. According to the testimonies of a friend who was with him, the driver left the car and escaped. What is further concerning, according to his claim, is that the Miral staff did not want to call for help and potentially save the life of an injured man.
According to the UNHCR report, in 2018, 6 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean every day. We are counting about a total of 2275 missing or dead in an attempt to reach security. At the same time, arrivals in Europe in 2018 were the lowest in the last 5 years – a total of 139,300 people. Harmful outsourcing policies of migration further jeopardize human lives on the Libyan coast. Namely, the Libyan Coast Guard, funded by the EU, continues to circumvent refugee ships and locking people in detention. Many of these people testify of torture, abuse, and trauma, and totally inhumane conditions where they do not have food and drinking water for days and are forced to drink water from the toilets to survive. Some have stopped talking, some do not remember their families, some wet as a consequence of these traumatizing tragedies. Many of them suffer and die under often unclear circumstances, and the figures of the deceased are not known. Return to Libya is seen as a death sentence, and in 2018, at least 15,000 people were returned to Libya in the attempt to cross the Mediterranean. There are also alarming data on at least 640 children in Libyan detention centers, where children older than 14 years are accommodated in adult cells.
This week, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed on operational co-operation with the European Border and Coast Guard. Frontex will then, when the agreement comes into force, act on the territory and in cooperation with the countries concerned in migration management. In this way, the “protection” of external borders is moved further away geographically and from the eyes of the EU.
NNK reports on at least 91 people illegally expelled in B&H in January, with at least 28 people pushed back from Slovenia and 63 from Croatia. Although fewer people are seen returning with visible physical injuries and fractures, most of them are forced to go through ice water under the threat of blades and then walk into miles of miles to get to Velika Kladuša. UNHCR reported that the number of collective expulsions from Croatia to Serbia declined in January compared to December, and reported 241 cases compared to the previous 370.
According to the AYS report, local authorities in the Una-Sana Canton have issued an ultimatum asking for state institutions to take IOM’s responsibility for refugees and migrants in that area, by removing 500 people. They also demanded that all families with children must be moved to the former Sedra hotel and to the renewed camp of Borići, where the living conditions are much better than in the current camps. If this does not happen, local authorities allegedly threaten to close four camps in that area. Closing the camps would seriously jeopardize the already insecure refugee survival, especially when it is winter.
Solidarity this week has achieved a small, but significant victory in the context of criminalization of solidarity. Fifteen activists convicted of a criminal offense associated with terrorism for chaining around a deportation flight at Stansted Airport, known as Stansted 15, have been fined or sentenced with community service. The judge ruled that the threat to the security of the airport they were charged with was not comparable to other terrorism-related acts, and accepted their motivation for profound reasons, that is, the well-being of the people on the plane. Namely, Stansted 15 prevented the deportation of 60 people, and 11 are still in the UK today, including victims of trafficking. This case points to the importance of similar reactions in order to prevent deportation from adhering to the non-refoulement principles through which the state continues to knowingly and unconsciously violate international law. We can only hope that this verdict will be an example of the future rulings in cases of disabling deportation or aircraft retention, as well as in the ongoing proceedings against the Swedish woman Elin Ersson, who stopped the deportation of an Afghan refugee. In a sign of solidarity support, sign and share the #WelcomingEurope petition.
Following the interim measure of the European Court of Human Rights, 32 people from Sea Watch have been disembarked into the hot spot in Messina, while juveniles are located in facilities for unaccompanied minors. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic has called on Italian authorities to be responsible for respecting human rights, both on Italian soil and on ships arriving, providing adequate conditions and access to education and health.
Meanwhile, the Catania-based Prosecutor’s Office ruled that Sea-Watch 3 did not commit a crime following a route to Italy.