No Name Kitchen / Edition of English by Clemen Talvy

For a couple of weeks now there is a new illegal procedure going on in the border between the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina that is causing huge stress to people on the move.

Buses with people are coming back openly from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In particular, people are being taken to Lipa camp —a camp funded with EU money—, or to Borici Camp, also funded by the EU, but which is only for families with children.

As all of you who have been following us know, since 2017 we have been denouncing publicly how the Croatian authorities are pushing people back to neighbouring countries like Serbia or Bosnia — breaching human rights law and preventing people from exercising their right to ask for international protection.

During all these years, these pushbacks have normally taken place during the night, secretively, because they are illegal. But suddenly there is a new phenomenon: they are taking place openly, without hiding. People on the move are being taken by bus from Croatia to Lipa and Borici camps. By the end of last week, around 80 people had been taken there.

According to the media, around 100 people were taken to Lipa camp during the weekend of 1st April, and some days agothere were around 70. We still do not know for sure the number of people who have been taken to Borici (it might be also dozens), but in this case we are talking about  families, women travelling alone and unaccompanied minors.

Our team in Bosnia is trying to reach out to these people to learn about their situation and collect testimonies that help us provide more information about it. However, the people we have met so far are really scared. They are afraid that they could be deported to their countries.

We are keeping an eye on it. Moreover, because we are always connected with people in the camps. Even when police take people on the move to camps after they have been pushed back, once in the camps they are not provided with the things they need, so people write to No Name Kitchen team via Messenger to ask for basic goods such as clothes, underwear, blankets, etc.

These people are from countries such as Afghanistan or Syria, places from which they fled to search for a safe life.

Why is this illegal from a legal point of view? Everybody has the right to apply for international protection, and the authorities of EU countries have the obligation to start this legal procedure by analysing their situation case-by-case.

What we do know is that many of the people that have been taken to Lipa or to Borici have an expulsion paper that says that they are not allowed to enter the European Economic Area for one year.

Paying money for being detained

Many people also have documents showing that they were put into detention centres in Croatia for weeks,  a paper that also includes a ticket of how much they have been forced to pay for their expenses.

People explained to No Name Kitchen team members that in the detention centres, where they were taken by force, they were denied the possibility of talking with a lawyer, nobody told them what their rights were, nobody translated the documents that were issued to them, nobody told them how long they would be kept there and they had no right to ask for asylum, they could not have a phone, they slept in very bad conditions and they were given small portions of food.

We must also remember that Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as other nearby countries like Serbia, Montenegro and Albania, rarely approve asylum claims. Therefore, people have no other option than to try to reach another country in Europe and ask for asylum there, due to the total lack of legal and safe ways to migrate.

All this is simply, completely illegal.

However, the European Union is using its racist speech to criminalise the people who are seeking for safety so strongly, that it seems that we, as EU citizens, are taking this attack to basic Human Rights as only natural.

Our team will keep talking to the people, and we will keep reporting the news.

These last days we have already shared some testimonies on our social networks. In the photograph of this article you can see how the Croatian Authorities wanted to charge almost 800 euros to a person, to have him pay the expenses for being detained.

We also received information about buses coming from Austria to Zagreb with dozens of people on the move getting deported.

European Union and Dublin Agenda

All of this is not casual. It is part of the decisions taken by the European Commission. There is the Dublin Road Map in place since December, and Ursula Von Der Leyen urged EU member states to implement it “right now”, as she said in an interview some days ago.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum urges all member states to take on responsibilities about asylum. A person should apply for asylum in the first EU country where he or she enters. But we all know that places such as Bulgaria, Greece, Spain or Italy, that can be the first country where a person enters, are not always committed to offer safety and to study asylum claims. Moreover, what people on the move frequently find in these border countries is violence by the authorities and push backs.

Ursula Von Der Leyen talked about an engagement with key third partners to work together on migration. At the same time, let’s remember that last December, Bosnia and Herzegovina took a major step to join the European Union after the bloc’s European Affairs ministers agreed to recommend the country be granted candidate member status. As Bosnia wants to become a EU member, it will follow the rules coming from Brussels much more than before.