Belgium, (Brussels Morning) Romani refugees fleeing from Ukraine are facing segregation in Moldova while Bulgaria authorities are violently pushing back Afghan migrants back to the Turkish border.
The warnings have been voiced by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other NGOS, which have previously reported racist behaviour at the EU’s doors amid the migrant crisis unleashed by the invasion of Ukraine.
HRW have been on the ground both in Moldova and Bulgaria, talking with members from the police, border patrol and social services, reporting practices of segregation in designated state-run reception centres.
In Moldova, amid pervasive discriminatory attitudes toward Roma, government authorities have permitted and, in some cases, directed staff and volunteers to deny Romani refugees housing at government-run facilities.
Since the onset of the military conflict on 24 February, more than 471,000 refugees have crossed into Moldova from Ukraine. About 87,000 stayed in the country, one of the poorest in Europe.
“Moldovan authorities have offered critical support to people fleeing Ukraine, but that does not excuse segregation of Romani refugees,” said Anastasiia Kroupe, assistant Europe and Central Asia researcher at HRW. “Regardless of the economic and social problems Moldova faces, the government has a responsibility to ensure that refugees are not discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity.”
A similar treatment seems to be given to Afghan migrants who try to arrive in Bulgaria from Turkey, only to be received with violence by the country’s authorities.
“Bulgarian authorities are brutally and summarily pushing back migrants and asylum seekers across the land border with Turkey,” said Michelle Randhawa, refugee and migrant rights officer at HRW. “The EU should ensure that Bulgaria immediately stops the illegal and dehumanizing pushbacks at its borders and allows asylum seekers access to fair asylum procedures.”
According to HRW, twelve people said that Bulgarian police used police dogs when the migrants first encountered them. Five said that a police dog bit them or someone in their group, and that they were not moving when they were bitten.
Moreover, twelve people interviewed said that the police took them directly to the border after detaining them, while three said police took them to a detention facility, where they spent between 24 and 72 hours before being taken to the border. The authorities gave none of them a chance to ask for asylum, HRW reports.