“We must break with a superficial vision of the migratory situation in the Balkans. They would like us to believe in a crisis whose causes would be difficult to identify and to which the Member States of the European Union (EU) would be in opposition. In reality, these are the consequences of a strategy that they knowingly implemented, with the support of various international organizations. »This is the final observation made by Sophie-Anne Bisiaux, researcher and lawyer specializing in foreigners’ rights within the Migreurop network, following a field survey carried out between January and April 2021. This Monday 22 November, she made public in Paris, in partnership with the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development-Solid Earth, a damning mission report.
For her, the European leaders have not ceased, for two decades, to instrumentalize the process of accession to the EU of the Balkan countries for the purposes of migratory control. A report from the European Commission, moreover, already showed, in October 2019, that the EU had granted these States more than 216 million euros between 2007 and 2019, stemming from the Instrument for pre-accession (IPA ), fully allocated to their migration policies. “The Balkan region therefore became a buffer zone responsible for protecting European borders and keeping exiled people deemed undesirable at a distance”, explains the researcher, paying particular attention to illegal practices of refoulement and the recurring violence that she describes. “standardized border management tools”. In her report, she compiles numerous testimonies evoking “beatings, electric shocks, dog bites, torn toenails, sexual violence, insults” and other humiliations inflicted on exiles along a veritable “repression corridor” starting from Austria and Italy, passing through Slovenia, Croatia and then Bosnia-Herzegovina, and extending into the western Balkan states.
For Sophie-Anne Bisiaux, this security strategy relies on a multitude of “actors and partners” who provide these countries, whether members of the EU or not, with operational aids, high-tech surveillance equipment and training for border guards. “We find not only Frontex, but also (…) the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or think-tanks (…) such as the International Center for the Development of Migration Policies (ICMPD)”, indicates the lawyer.
It also points to the implementation of a large system for collecting biometric information based on the Eurodac model, which it calls “Balkandac”, prefiguring, for it, the extension of the “Dublin” mechanism to countries third of the Balkans. A project that is fully in line with a real strategy of outsourcing EU asylum and return policies. By qualifying, for example, the Balkan States as “safe third countries”, European leaders facilitate the return of asylum seekers. And “the Union is now working on providing these countries with tools enabling them to return exiled people in turn, this time to their country of origin,” adds Sophie-Anne Bisiaux.
Like the various agreements and blackmail established with Turkey, for example, and several North African countries, the EU has indeed chosen to outsource the security and violent management of its borders to the Balkan States, by washing their hands of the abuses and violations of the law that result from it.