Migrants face violence and abuse in the Western Balkans

TMP – 19/04/2017

Violence, brutality and unlawful treatment of migrants by authorities on the Western Balkans route are a frequent occurrence according to a new report by Oxfam.

The report, “A Dangerous ‘Game’”, is based on interviews with migrants who used the Western Balkans route, travelling through Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria or the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It exposes brutality and mistreatment by border officials in those countries against migrants, including children.

All of the 140 migrants interviewed for the report claimed to have suffered mistreatment by border officials as they attempted toclaim asylum in the countries they passed through.

The report shows that authorities are pushing people from one country to another outside of the legal system without individual cases being heard, legal assistance or interpreters, or any possibility of appeal.

These accounts support findings from the UN refugee agency that migrants are regularly being expelled from one territory to another across the region. For example, in Serbia a group of migrants, including a two-year-old child, were told that they were being taken to a refugee reception centre. Instead, they were abandoned in a forest on the Bulgarian border in the middle of the night in freezing temperatures.

Of those interviewed, 75 had been expelled from Hungary to Serbia, 19 from Croatia to Serbia, 44 from Serbia to either Bulgaria or Macedonia, one from Macedonia to Greece and seven from Bulgaria to Turkey. Some were expelled more than once and from more than one location.