Corner Press release

Migrants on the Macedonian-Greek border: Victims of inhuman and degrading treatment 21 August 2015

Yesterday's decision of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia to declare a state of emergency is exceptionally disquieting. The announcement of the involvement of the Armed Forces without President Gjorgje Ivanov, the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, previously giving his opinion on this, accompanied by the silence of Parliament (which has to be informed) and the Crisis Management Center (the authority in charge of making assessments prior to declaring a state of emergency) undermines the lawfulness of the measure.

The inhumane treatment of refugees by the special police forces is evident from the published multimedia where it is clear that they employed measures of coercion, using tear gas and stun grenades. Therefore, we urge the unconstitutionally appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Mitko Chavkov, to inform us who gave the orders for these measures of coercion to be used.

We would like to remind that these people have fled their homelands due to the terrible political situation in their countries, i.e. they are migrating in order to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Inhumane treatment by the special police officers, as well as the xenophobic attitudes and hate speech spreading on social media, incited by certain public personalities, has led to increased danger to the lives of migrants outside their homelands - Uranija Pirovska, Executive Director of the Helsinki Committee of Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, concluded.

According to Ms. Mersiha Smailovic from NGO Legis, those who have made the decision to declare a state of emergency have never set foot on field and do not have the necessary information to adopt such a decision. More specifically, no representative from the Crisis Management Center has ever shown up at the border crossings in Gevgelija and Tabanovce, nor have they ever talked to the activists working on field. It is also important to mention that the Republic of Macedonia has failed to take sufficient measures to deal with the migrant crisis, i.e. after the changes to the Law on Asylum, the country has provided virtually no alleviations or care for the migrants whatsoever. 

Furthermore, in the same vein of absence of empathy, the police officers refuse to allow the activists to access the no-man's land between Macedonia and Greece, leaving the migrants exposed to the elements, without food or water, while the access of ambulance vehicles is also aggravated. The state authorities have often resorted to pushing the migrants back into no-man's land and thus exposing them to inhumane living conditions, i.e. creating an artificial "camp" for the migrants. Some of the activists of Legis draw attention to the discriminatory attitude of the police officers towards the migrants, as in the case when one officer told them in English: "Go back to your Muslim countries, there's nothing for you here."

The general conclusion of the activists is that the measures of increased police control are not imposed for the purpose of general safety, but in order to push the refugees back to no-man's land, where they have no living conditions, and the danger on smuggling is high, bearing in mind that the control over no-man's land is nearly impossible, thus leaving room for "alternative" escapes.

Finally, we would like to make an appeal for solidarity with the migrants among the citizens, since the citizens are the only ones who have made any efforts to provide aid and enable minimum living conditions. The donations for migrants can be delivered at the premises of the Committee (Naum Naumovski Borche no. 83) and the stockrooms of Legis (Chairska no. 48).

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