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Syria: footage reveal that Migrants are stripped and forced back from Serbian border

Syria: footage reveal that Migrants are stripped and forced back from Serbian border

Syria: footage reveal that Migrants are stripped and forced back from Serbian border

Syria: footage reveal that Migrants are stripped and forced back from Serbian border

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  • Legis, an NGO in North Macedonia, sent two videos showing “abusive and degrading” migrant pushbacks.
  • Serbian authorities stripped and pushed back over 50 migrants who crossed the border.
  • The first instance of this practice is reported on the Serbia-North Macedonia border.
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The Guardian newspaper has received footage of Syrian migrants in Serbia being stripped and forced back into North Macedonia, revealing what human rights groups warn is evidence of growing violence targeting migrants on the edges of Europe.

Legis, an NGO in North Macedonia, sent two video clips showing a line of semi-naked men on a road near Lojane, close to the border with Serbia. According to Legis, the videos, dated Feb. 10, depict the second instance of “abusive and degrading” migrant pushbacks that day.

The NGO added that Serbian authorities stripped and pushed back more than 50 migrants who crossed the border. Legis President Jasmin Redjepi stated that the pushback followed an EU-Serbian cooperation summit aimed at bolstering the Serbian border against people-smuggling operations.

He added: “These incidents occur when the EU prepares restrictions for migrants on the route and in this case just days after an EU-Serbia border cooperation summit. We then see the direct impact and consequences.”

Although the stripping of migrants has occurred across Europe, the Legis footage represents the first instance of the practice taking place on the Serbia-North Macedonia border. A report by a Belgian NGO estimated that almost 350,000 forced pushbacks took place on Europe’s external borders in 2023.

Dunja Mijatovic, commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, said: “Recent reports of alleged pushbacks by Serbian police officers at the border with North Macedonia, characterized by ill- and degrading treatment and robbery of migrants, possibly including those attempting to seek asylum, require prompt and effective investigation by state authorities.”

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She added that the pushbacks on the North Macedonia border are indicative of an “urgent pan-European problem,” with the practice becoming a widespread phenomenon across the continent.

“These incidents are not only disturbing but also indicative of a wider, worrying trend among Council of Europe member states.

“These actions appear to violate the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits refoulement and collective expulsions, as well as other international standards which require ensuring genuine and effective access to asylum for those who seek it,” Mijatovic said.

“What I have observed and warned about is that migrants have been subjected to treatment that might constitute degrading treatment or torture in several European countries for years, in clear violation of states’ human rights obligations.”

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