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VIOLENCE AND NEGLECT IN SERBIAN REFUGEE CAMPS: A THREE MONTH ENQUIRY SHEDS LIGHT ON EU AND UNHCR COMPLICITY IN HUMAN RIGHT VIOLATIONS IN SERBIA.

By Benedetta Bressan, Ginevra Canessa, Sofia Fanfani and Zelda Mccormick, as part of the No Name Kitchen team in Serbia. Edited by Ali and designed by Isabella Pasqualetti

No Name Kitchen, an independent movement working in solidarity with people on the move along the Balkan route releases its latest report: “Watch The Camp: Counter Mapping Architectures of Violence in Serbia”.

Based on three months of observation and study in Serbian refugee camps, the report builds a case for ‘watching the camp’, as a space where the complex set of social, political and economic forces of migration management operating at the national, regional and global level, are laid bare. 

Key findings of the report are: 

  • EU-funded camps in Serbia are the sites of severe human rights violations and displacement in contravention of the ECHR. The report highlights overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions and forms of police brutality. It also shows how the exclusionary geography of camps in Serbia allows for this violence to go undetected and unmonitored. 
  • Serbian shift in migration management towards a more securitarian approach in liaison with the EU New Migration Pact. A three month observation shows how the use of camps in Serbia is key to new migration management strategies at the EU level. These are based on two key principles: (i) curbing the movement of people toward the EU whilst (ii) maximising profit for private and public entities involved with the control and surveillance of people. 
  • Globally, the report presents new trends linked to the emergence of the border industrial complex. It pinpoints, for instance, the key role played by Israel in the exchange of technologies of violence for containment and surveillance.  
  • UNHCR failure in upholding the rights of migrants and refugees in Serbia, remaining complicit in inadequate living and healthcare conditions and failing to denounce these. 
  • UNHCR official accounts on Serbian migrant centers present consistently inaccurate data on camps’ capacity and conditions, obscuring data on overcrowding, lack of healthcare, and conditions. 

Here you can read all the information in detail:

Context and structure of the report

From October to December 2023 Serbian refugee camps were subjected to an intense set of raids and evictions following the onset of the Joint Action Against People Smuggling — a military operation undertaken on Serbian soil by the Serbian and Hungarian governments. Overtly tackling smuggling groups in the Northern part of Serbia, the operation had dramatic consequences for people seeking international protection and significantly changed the layout of the ‘Balkan route’.

The report follows the unfolding of the operation and its effects on people on the move through the events and key findings in six reception/transit and asylum centers located in North-West Serbia near the borders with Hungary and Croatia in October-December 2023. It denounces  police abuses and institutional violence that took place in these months and exposes a strong securitarian shift in Serbian migration management.

These shifts are connected to the European Union’s externalization strategies in the Balkan region as well as to larger economic-political interests behind the containment of migration worldwide. These events are set in the context of the passing of the New European pact on migration and linked to the emergence of new technologies for containment and surveillance at the global level.