Van Dijken: EU now has visual evidence of brutal pushback at its external border

NEWS 07.10.2021 16:18
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Source: Lighthouse Reports

Lighthouse Reports members waited for days in the forest, in places where they knew asylum seekers try to cross the border from Bosnia to Croatia, waiting for masked individuals who’d beat them, forcing them to go back as they screamed in pain, Klaas van Dijken the director of the organisation told N1, noting that this practice is impossible to deny any more, now that they have concrete visual evidence of this practice at the border.

According to van Dijken, many journalists worked on this research which is important because now the European member states can no longer deny this kind of violence on account of lack of visual evidence.

“We found the places where these pushbacks were happening along the border. And we were just sitting at these places in different teams dressed up in green clothes in the forest, with the telephoto lens waiting for the masked men to show up and to beat the asylum seekers back off the border. The video that everybody had seen was shot by me and a colleague. How we did it was crawling through the bushes and we waiter at the spot at the border in order wait for the masked men to show up,” van Dijken told N1.

At first, they were unable to locate the persons with ski masks who come to these locations beating the asylum seekers and returning them back to Bosnia but they were, however, able to hear the screams.

“When we realised that the cracking and the noise were the people screaming – that’s something I will never forget. Seeing people forced to jump into the river with wounds and red faces is terrible. These people are unarmed, and seeing Croatian officers very casually waving with their batons beating people like it’s their daily job is very disturbing,” he added.

When asked if they know whom they were recording, van Dijken said they were unaware who it was but at later inspection of the video when they analysed their jackets which were strange to be seen because it was pretty hot on that June day, they say that they were identical to the ones worn by the ‘Croatian Intervention Police.’

“We obtained a photo of the official under-jacket of the Croatian Intervention Police and compared it with the jackets in the video and it was a 100 percent match. But to be 100 percent sure that jackets from the Intervention Police we showed the video to various sources from the Croatian police and they all confirmed that this is a jacket that belongs to the intervention police. The same was with the baton they used – the so-called ‘Tonfa’. This baton was only issued to the Intervention Police,” he said.

The director of the Lighthouse Reports stressed the reason they started this investigative work was to gather the evidence. Now they hope and expect that Croatia, but also the EU, will investigate these cases and punish the responsible people, as well as do everything to prevent such things from happening on Europe’s external borders.

“This is not only about the violence but also about the pushbacks. They deny the people their international right to seek protection. Those people are, for example, from Afghanistan and by now, everybody knows the situation there. Those people should at least get access to the asylum system in the European Union,” van Dijken concluded.

Lighthouse Reports, an Amsterdam-based non-profit organization leading a complex transnational investigation, published disturbing footage showing masked individuals brutally beating asylum seekers trying to cross from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia.

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