Playing Ping Pong with Asylum Seekers

Despite the many EU measures aimed at slowing the pace of refugees’ arrival to Europe, migration cannot be stopped. It's time for member states to stop denying reality.
The “Welcome” Initiative has warned of serious human rights violations and the creation of legal insecurity as a result of problematic practices of returning refugees from Slovenia to Croatia, and from Croatia to Serbia.

The initiative presented a report created by activists from the group Moving Europe, who spoke with individuals “stuck” in the border areas of Serbia and Croatia, in the vicinity of Adaševci and Šid, as well as those in Belgrade. Their interviews, conducted from January 11-25, revealed instances of police violence.

Forced to return

The alarming decision of the EU to allow passage only to individuals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who explicitly state that they will seek asylum in Austria or Germany makes certain that many refugees must return to Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and other countries along the route.

Some of the returned individuals are also refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result of their statements, it is clear that frequently they are not even given the opportunity to seek asylum in Croatia, but are returned to Serbia.

They must make the journey without any support or assistance from authorities. We are again witnessing hundreds of people sleeping outdoors, and based on the reports of activists, police violence towards refugees is not a rare occasion.

Refugees on a road in Macedonia are prevented from traveling onward.   (Image: Seth Frantzman)

Despite the many EU measures aimed at slowing the pace of refugees’ arrival to Europe, migration cannot be stopped, and narrowing asylum legislation in EU member states causes a domino effect in other countries along the so-called Balkan route.

Human ping pong

Activists of the “Welcome” Initiative have met a person from Syria who wants to go to Denmark because his wife and son are there, but he was stopped in Slovenia and returned to Croatia, then from Croatia to Serbia. He is now probably on his way to Macedonia.

This type of human "ping pong" is unacceptable and leads to a state of legal insecurity, where individuals are not clear about what their options are.

The “Welcome” Initiative invites EU heads of state to reach for more humane options and use the temporary protection mechanism, which was created for cases such as the current situation of mass displaced persons seeking protection in Europe.

Instead of allowing the asylum system to collapse, denying the existence of an ongoing humanitarian crisis and not accepting the current situation as permanent, member states should demonstrate solidarity and cooperation, as is already being done by their citizens.

We invite all member states to participate in resolving this humanitarian crisis. All EU members should accept refugees seeking protection, and they should work together to build quality, long-term integration systems. They should also contribute to resolving this crisis by putting an end to the wars that caused it.