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Rights groups hand over Human Rights Council document on torture of migrants on Balkan route

The Palestinian Return Center and the Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria handed over to the Human Rights Council, on the sidelines of its 52nd regular session, a written document on the torture and humiliation of irregular migrants seeking to reach the European continent, via what is known as the “Balkan route”, to escape conflicts and harsh living conditions. in their countries, including hundreds of Palestinian refugees.

The Action Group (AGPS) stated in its report that the document bears reference number A/HRC/52/NGO/237, and was included by the Return Center in United Nations documents in accordance with Economic and Social Council Resolution 1996/31, under item 3 “Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”

The Return Center and the Working Group stated the lack of safe and legal roads pushes those looking for safety, dignity and protection to take dangerous irregular routes to reach the countries of the European continent, and in the meantime they are subjected to mistreatment by border security forces on the Balkan route, which begins in Turkey, passes through Bulgaria or Greece and makes its way through the various republics of the former Yugoslavia.

The Center added that international protection seekers are subjected to violence and intimidation and are denied access to asylum procedures, and the authorities of Hungary, Greece, Croatia and Austria have engaged in brutal tactics to forcibly return them to the places from which they came, including beatings with batons, electric shocks, shooting dogs at them and forcing them to undress in icy temperatures.

The Center stated that many immigrants who were deprived of the means of heating lost their lives on the Austrian-Hungarian border and near the Serbian border areas, where temperatures are close to freezing, noting also that dozens of women and children, including infants, died at sea in inhuman pushbacks carried out by the coast guard, including the Greek, which is of great concern.

The Return Center relied on interviews and research conducted by the "Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria" over recent years, documenting testimonies of torture, violence and human rights violations regularly against migrants, warning that dozens of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria are at risk of forcible return without regard to the risks of enforced disappearance. And the torture that awaits them upon their return, as the United Nations warned in earlier times that Syria is still not safe for the return of the displaced.

The Return Center document states that these acts of violence are truly shocking and contrary to international law, including the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state that no one shall be subjected to a person subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights also prohibits the use of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Return Center emphasized that such practices are prohibited under international law and should not occur under any circumstances, adding that commitment and priority to saving lives and prioritizing migrants' well-being and human rights are vital to the safety of any border.

The advocacy group also stressed that the failure to address serious allegations of violence against migrants is unacceptable, calling on Balkan countries to stop all violations at their borders and establish independent and effective border control mechanisms to investigate allegations and examine whether degrading treatment of migrants is part of their governments' policies.

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