The threat to CEAS, pushbacks, violence against children on the move and the forgotten Afghanistan

Last week, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) published a statement warning of the danger of adopting the Regulation addressing situations of instrumentalisation in the field of migration and asylum (so-called Instrumentalisation Regulation). The statement, currently co-signed by over 70 European organisations, including the Centre for Peace Studies, explains that the new proposal introduces a mechanism that allows member states to derogate from their responsibilities under EU asylum law in situations of “instrumentalisation” of migration. The mechanism is permanently available to the Member States who can invoke it in multiple situations, essentially enabling them to derogate at will from their obligations. Member States with an interest in the improvement of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) should focus on agreeing on reforms that support asylum systems to function effectively, and that protect rights, increase compliance and contribute to trust among the Member States in this conflictual policy area. An agreement on the proposed Instrumentalisation Regulation has the opposite effect and dismantles asylum in Europe, by allowing Member States to opt in and out of the CEAS. Moreover, a legal framework that allows countries to reduce standards for the treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees when instrumentalisation is involved is likely to be replicated elsewhere in the world, thus undermining the global protection system.

The report of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) for August shows a renewed increase in pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In August, 606 persons who experienced illegal pushbacks from Croatia were registered. Most of the victims come from Burundi, Afghanistan and Cameroon. Half of them reported denial of access to asylum and degrading treatment, while under one-fifth experienced physical violence or theft/destruction of personal property. There were 69 children among those who experienced pushbacks. From January to the end of August this year, 2,599 people were illegally pushed back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A new report by Save the Children (STC) presents the multiple types of violence that refugee children experience while trying to reach Western Europe via the Balkans, the circumstances of that violence, and the policies and practices that exist to support children. The report also contains recommendations for governments, NGOs and other stakeholders to strengthen the protection and support available to children on the move. Every child who participated in this research recounted being subjected to physical, psychological, sexual or other types of violence, directly or indirectly. This violence occurred in their country of origin, during their journey, when crossing borders, in reception, asylum and detention centres, in squats, in the street and in the workplace. The research was conducted together with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, key transit countries on the threshold of the European Union and on the way to Western Europe. It is based on in-depth interviews with 48 children aged between 13 and 19 years old.

The Dutch Council for Refugees (DCR) filed a lawsuit against the government and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers for the inhumane and wretched reception conditions of asylum seekers. In addition to hundreds of asylum seekers being left on the streets in the past months due to a lack of capacity at the central registration location, reception capacities across the Netherlands have been falling below minimum standards for almost a year. DCR demands that the government and COA provide reception facilities that meet the minimum standards by 1 October 2022. DCR hopes a court ruling will help break the administrative deadlock between the central government and the municipalities.

One year after the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan is in a state of lawlessness without a constitution. The overall security, economic and human rights situation is deteriorating, and people’s suffering is increasing. Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed, and the country is confronting a dire humanitarian crisis, with 23 million people facing acute hunger. The general level of conflict has dropped compared to before August 2021 since the Taliban was a party to the conflict and has taken power, but the country is far from stable. Targeted killings and systematic attacks against religious and ethnic minorities, particularly against the Hazara community, revenge killings by the Taliban against former government officials and former military forces have significantly increased. Freedom of expression and movement of mainly women and girls has been severely restricted. Other rights are violated by measures taken by the Taliban, such as the ban on secondary school education for girls. Many human rights violations and incidents are going unreported in the absence of a vibrant civil society and due to the fear of Taliban persecution. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), together with civil society organizations and organisations of the Afghan diaspora, has expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the treatment of Afghan asylum seekers and refugees in Europe. Read more about it in the joint statement.

Migreurop has published a new, fourth edition of the World Migration Atlas, which offers a critical analysis of state policies regulating mobility. It also shows how migrants face restrictive immigration policies every day and divert them to achieve their own freedom of movement. Based on the study of historical forms, the critical analysis of current regional spaces but also the theoretical currents, this Atlas aims to renew the imagination around the notion of freedom of movement and settlement. The Atlas is currently available in French, and an English translation is also being prepared.

Finally, we bring you a few recommendations:

  • A new episode of Troglas, dealing with illegal pushbacks of people on the move from European borders, especially unaccompanied minors, as well as the total silence regarding the violence against refugees at European borders. Discussing the perilous path towards a better life in Europe, the specifics of Croatian border areas, and the (im)possibility of Zagreb truly becoming a city of refuge are Sajid Khan, a young man from Afghanistan and the protagonist of the film “Shadow Game”, journalist Tamara Opačić from the weekly Novosti and author of research articles on the “Balkan route of death”, and Marijana Hameršak, researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb.
  • Text by Gorana Mlinarević The practices of solidarity must become a protest against violence about the film trilogy by Nika Autor, which will open the 17th Pravo Ljudski Film Festival, and which directly deals with the “so-called Balkan migration route and the people who are forced to travel it”.
  • The art installation Kretanja / Movements that selma banich and the art collective Movements / Kretanja are staging at the 57th Zagreb Salon of Visual Arts. Movements speak of violence and trauma, fragility as an experience of radical resistance, and healing as a tool for social change and liberation. The exhibition is open until 20 November at the Croatian Association of Fine Artists in Zagreb.
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