A joint report prepared by the German media outlet Der Spiegel and other media partners revealed that German and Croatian border police used brute force against migrants and pushed them back to Bosnia.
Greek and Croatian security forces have carried out hundreds of illegal pushback operations at European Union external borders to prevent refugees from seeking asylum, according to a joint report prepared by the German media outlet Der Spiegel and other media partners.
The report, by providing video footage, revealed how masked Croatian special forces thrash refugees and push them to Bosnia with batons.
At the same time, some other migrants were pushed by Greek forces into the Aegean Sea.
Speaking against these legal violations at the union borders, the responsible EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson commented on the issue for the first time.
Johansson said the report was "shocking" and deeply concerning. She said the research showed systematic violence by the member states at the external border of the EU and the situation needs to be investigated.
It is also "convincing evidence of the misuse of EU funds," Johansson said. She was due to meet with interior ministers of Croatia and Greece on Thursday October 8, 2021 - to urge them to "take the issue very seriously."
EU governments deny the existence of a violent campaign by masked men to turn away asylum seekers at EU borders. A months-long investigation by @LHReports & leading media unmasks these groups, reveals who commands & finances them pic.twitter.com/nGNFs5Epsi— Lighthouse Reports (@LHreports) October 6, 2021
“The Commission strongly opposes any pushback practices, and has repeatedly emphasised that any such practices are illegal, and the national authorities have the responsibility to investigate any allegations, with a view to establishing the facts and to properly follow up on any wrongdoing,” a spokesman for the executive European Commission said.
"Violence and mistreatment of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are unacceptable and need to be investigated," added the spokesman.
During the research, Der Spiegel and other media organisations received and evaluated hundreds of videos which show illegal and violent pushbacks by the mentioned EU member states.
Croatian authorities beating refugees is, alarmingly, not new. These photos were taken two years apart.— Anealla (@anealla) October 7, 2021
In September 2018, @MersihaGadzo documented the brutality.(https://t.co/4cnxulYejQ)
Today @LHreports shares its findings of similar abuse. (https://t.co/4jhIfNN93a) pic.twitter.com/6PryfqWhrv
Furthermore, the videos show how Croatian security forces picked up refugees with small vans and illegally brought them back to Bosnia across the border.
In total @LHReports & partners filmed 11 pushbacks in Croatia. Drone footage shows a police officer covering his face with a balaclava before forcing at least 15 people over the border to Bosnia pic.twitter.com/9IZQSIY1c6— Lighthouse Reports (@LHreports) October 6, 2021
The Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic did not want to comment on the report, but he told a local TV channel that he had too little information. Bozinovic said possible attacks of police would be investigated and they will be punished, if necessary.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković asked for an investigation from his interior minister.
Greek forces’ inhumane pushing back of refugees
Special units of the Greek coast guard in the Aegean Sea have been intercepting potential asylum seekers and throwing them in the sea in orange life rafts, according to the expose.
Some of the life rafts were purchased by EU money, as many videos obtained by Der Spiegel revealed.
The Greek Migration Minister Noris Mitarachi denied the allegations.
Mitarachi tweeted on Thursday: “We make no apology for our continued focus on breaking up these human trafficking operations, and protecting Europe’s border.”
We make no apology for our continued focus on breaking up these human trafficking operations, and protecting Europe’s border.— Νότης Μηταράκης - Notis Mitarachi (@nmitarakis) October 7, 2021
Even before the latest report, Turkey had brought up Greece’s illegal actions many times.
Greece, in clear violation of a fundamental principle of the asylum law, pushed over 80,000 refugees back to Turkey in the last three years, the Turkish deputy foreign minister said in February.
Greek soldiers are also using brute force to send back any asylum seekers who have managed to cross over or come too close. Greece has not shied away from using bullets, tear gas shells and even physical torture, to avert any irregular crossings into its territory.