Testimonies gathered by Save the Children, and its partner in Serbia, found more than 1350 cases of children being pushed back across European Union borders between January and November 2018, Save the Children said on December 24.
Almost a third of these cases reportedly involved violence inflicted by police or guards at borders, Save the Children said.
Cases of violence were in particular reported by children travelling alone or separated from their families – in almost half of the over 900 cases, lone children testified about border guards using force to push them back.
“Most of the reported pushbacks occurred at the border between Croatia and Serbia, but children we met in Serbia this year reported also push backs from the borders of Bulgaria, Macedonia( FYROM), Greece, Hungary, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Slovenia.”
According to children’s testimonies, some border guards at different borders in the Western Balkans region used pepper sprays on them, took their phones and broke them, stole money from them, forced them to remove clothes and shoes, and set dogs on them.
Children and families reported being, in some cases, held in detention without food or water, Save the Children said.
“Protecting borders can be done in a humane way without using violence” Jelena Besedic, Programme Director at Save the Children’s Balkans Migration and Displacement Hub said.
“Border guards should take responsibility and ensure children are safe, registered and can apply for asylum. Better monitoring at borders, by either European border guards or independent human rights bodies could help prevent violent incidents.”
As 2018 draws to a close, the numbers of refugee and migrant arrivals are shown to have dropped to the lowest level since 2007, Save the Children said, citing the European Border and Coast Guard Agency as its source.
Despite this fall in the number of arrivals, children still face brutal and disproportionate police violence at the EU’s borders, and find it increasingly difficult to access asylum or reunite with their parents, Save the Children said.
“With fewer people arriving, European countries should be able to better take care of refugee and migrant children” Besedic said.
“These children already face a unique set of challenges which make them vulnerable. Those in positions of authority should not be intimidating them, robbing them of their possessions or beating them, they should be ensuring they are protected, monitored and safe.”
(Photo via the website of Save the Children)