Erdogan opens mosque visited by Turkish refugees in Croatia

We begin this week’s report with the announcement that Turkish President Erdogan is visiting Croatia on the 7th and 8th of September, where he will meet with the Prime Minister and the President. His visit will cause traffic jams and obstructions to the normal functioning of the city. In addition to Zagreb, Erdogan will also visit Sisak, where he will attend the opening ceremony for a mosque and Islamic Centre. Unfortunately, instead of addressing numerous rights violations committed by Erdogan’s Turkey against members of the opposition, journalists, activists, as well as ethnic minorities such as the Kurds, Croatian politicians are instead choosing to kowtow to dictators. According to statistics published by the Ministry of the Interior, in the first 6 months of 2022, Turkey was the second country in terms of the number of people who requested asylum in the Republic of Croatia, with a large number of Turks with asylum status currently living in Croatia. This becomes especially problematic when we know that in Sisak Erdogan will be welcomed by the Mufti of the Meshihat of the Islamic Community, but also the president of an organisation working with refugees and their integration, which also operates in Sisak.

The number of refugees in Bulgaria is on the rise, as two refugee centres located at the Turkish-Bulgarian border are overcrowded. Plans are in place to add a little over a thousand more places by setting up containers in the closed centre in Lyubimets, while the currently open centre in Pastrogor could be converted into a closed camp. The Bulgarian authorities have detained several groups of Afghan refugees in the last week, also announcing an additional 300 officers sent to the borders due to an increased number of people at the borders as well as the upcoming elections in October.

The number of refugees at the border crossings between Hungary and Serbia is also increasing, while Klikaktiv reports that violence and humiliation are also on the rise. They bring the story of a young Moroccan man who, together with a group of other refugees, was surrounded, beaten and had his possessions taken away by Hungarian police officers near the border a few days ago. The police took his shaving machine and made a cross on his head. Klikaktiv concludes that the selectiveness of Europe is plain to see – on the one hand humanitarian corridors for desirable refugees, and on the other, razor wire and a variety of violence and humiliation for those marked as undesirable.

In the Netherlands, one of the richest countries in the world, there has been a crisis of insufficiently available accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees for a long time, so recently a ship was outfitted in Estonia in order to house around 1000 people for whom there are currently no other housing options. The ship is supposed to dock in the Dutch municipality of Velsen, although there is resistance to the plan and there is still no sail date. However, recent news shows some progress is being made as last week 400 men were evacuated from the overcrowded and hazardous to health Ter Apel reception centre to other centres across the country where they will housed while their asylum applications are under consideration. However, many refugees remain in Ter Apel due to the fear of losing their place in the queue for the registration of their cases, and a week ago a three-month-old infant died in Ter Apel under still unexplained circumstances. Deutsche Welle provides a good analysis of the political situation that led to this housing crisis.

A complaint has been filed by the anti-surveillance advocacy group Privacy International against the UK Home Office due to intrusive surveillance technologies on refugees entering the country through irregular routes. The Home Office has launched a pilot project to track people arriving by boat using ankle bracelets of the same type used to track people inside the penal system, with the idea of tracking people 24 hours a day for an unlimited amount of time. They say that the tags are additionally to be used to track people intended for forced deportation to detention centres in Rwanda, another dirty UK agreement that we have written about in previous reports. Privacy International argues that the practice is intrusive, illegal and threatens the fundamental rights to privacy to which everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled. Speaking generally about surveillance and detention, we recommend the International Detention Coalition (IDC) publication discussing alternatives to detention, and in the context of Croatia, we recommend the publication Alternatives to Migration Detention: Overview of Practice in the EU with Recommendations for the Development of a Model in the Republic of Croatia, which situates the subject of detention and its alternatives in the Croatian context.

The first group of refugees has been resettled from Italy to France as part of the “voluntary solidarity mechanism”, a new EU system being pushed as part of the new Asylum and Migration Pact – that was agreed at the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 21 June, with the idea that the countries that are “most affected” by migration flows receive support, either by relocating people or financial support, from other member states. France is one of the countries that agreed to this mechanism, committing to accept 3,000 people per year, a truly miserable figure considering the number of people arriving at Europe’s borders in search of protection.

We end this report with a proposal from the German human rights organisation Pro Asyl, which seeks to establish the right of residence for all victims of racial violence. The plea comes on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the racist pogrom in the city of Rostock against Vietnamese and Roma communities, where in 1992 several hundred right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis attacked a reception centre and an apartment building with people inside, while thousands of residents and neighbours cheered and supported the violence that included throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. As Pro Asyl points out, reception centres in Germany are still a frequent target of racist violence. They also demand the dissolution of mass reception centres, since they serve as targets for right-wing terror and solidification of prejudices, and for the relocation of people in different municipalities.

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