Refugees sold out yet again: The return of people with unusual desire to live dignified life


The return of a very large number of refugees from Austria to Croatia, as many as 1,700 refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been announced. These are the refugees who came to Austria via the so-called Balkan refugee route.

Although this information is almost two weeks old, Interkulturelles Zentrum and Initiative Welcome emphasize that there is no any official reaction to the announcement of their arrival, let alone has there been a plan of reception and integration of these people. An available option for Croatia is refusal to accept these people, however, legitimacy and legality of both return and acceptance or refusal of the people, but also the responsibility of Austria for such treatment, is questionable.

Management of the Balkan refugee route was marked by, among other, radical political shifts and extreme legal uncertainty. The route was established to help refugees’ desperately needing security and protection come to Germany and Austria, which Member States officially implemented policies of welcome and solidarity. Allowing transit to these Member States in effect circumvented and derogated from the applicable EU legal mechanisms, in particular the Dublin III Regulation, according to which the responsibility for the processing of applications for international protection, by and large would not lay on those Member States. Mostly the derogations were rendered by political mechanisms, rather than in the due legal process. During the life of the Route welcoming politics were becoming more and more restrictive, increasingly transforming into a closed door policies.

The announcement of the return begs the question whether these policies were ever truly welcoming policies, at least with regard to the people who are to be returned. Allegedly, the return it to be based on re-establishment of the Dublin III Regulation, but the legitimacy of returning people from the Member State in which they were staying for many months, to Croatia, in which some of them spent only a  few hours in transit, is highly doubtful. In doing so the integration processes stop and re-introduction into a new culture, system and rights and obligations of already extremely traumatized people is required. The criteria for determining which people are to be returned is questionable. We were witnessing application of extremely arbitrary criteria of profiling refugees during the life of the Route which violated human rights of refugees. Finally, there is the issue of the impact of the returns on relations between the Member States. It is unacceptable that Member States arbitrarily decide on the application or inapplicability of certain legal mechanisms at the expense of human dignity.


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