Refugees headed to Europe facing systematic abuse, police brutality

Refugees headed to Europe facing systematic abuse, police brutality


This photo shows Afghan asylum seeker Attal Shafihullah posing for a photograph in a park near the central bus station in Belgrade, Serbia, on March 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of refugees trapped in Serbia have been facing systematic abuse, police brutality and violence as they desperately struggle to seek shelter in Europe.

“I could not imagine that European police could be so violent,” said Najim Khan, a 21-year-old asylum-seeker from Pakistan in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Saturday.

Kkan, who arrived from Bulgaria a few weeks ago, said that one evening, the police burst into the squat where he was staying in Sofia.

“They beat us, took us to a police station and then to a closed center. They beat us again during transfers,” he added.

From Serbia, Khan joined a group and tried to reach the European Union, but he was stopped at the border by the Hungarian police.

“They made us lie on our stomachs, in a line. They ran on our backs, laughing. They were throwing beers in our faces,” he said, adding, “They took our cell phones and broke them.”

In early March, medical aid group Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors without Borders, denounced violence against refugees, calling it a “ritual of brutality… designed to stop people from trying to cross again.”

Rights group say EU’s last year decision on border closures and restrictions has dramatically worsened the humanitarian condition of refugees and only made the Balkans route more dangerous.

The closure of “the EU borders has led to a staggering increase in violence, especially along the Balkans,” said MSF’s Andrea Contenta at a clinic set up by the medical aid group in Belgrade.

“More than half of our patients have experienced violent events during their journey,” said Contenta.

This photo taken on a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean Sea shows stranded refugee women crying after being saved on November 4, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

MSF has registered more than 70 refugee deaths between Greece and Hungary since last year.

Among the causes of death are hypothermia, drowning and suicide.

Many human right groups see Western global policies as a main cause of the outbreak of conflicts especially in the Middle East and North Africa and an increase in the number of asylum-seekers in recent times.  


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