On the 6th of October 2021, Lighthouse Reports released a video on its Twitter account revealing the reality of an EU campaign compromising masked men in charge of turning away asylum seekers at EU borders. In this video, one can clearly see masked men beating asylum seekers with bludgeons while they are trying to escape along with their screams from being beaten up.  The nonprofit organization points out similar cases in Croatia, Greece, and Romania.

Thanks to the testimonies of the victims, former policemen, and guard officers, videos containing footage, and tracing the money trails back to EU funds, Lighthouse Reports gathered strong evidence of the involvement of the EU and national governments. The organization gave detailed insight into the case of Croatia and stated that the footage allows for identification of the uniforms of the masked men as jackets used by the Intervention Police. The Intervention Police are the Croatian police’s riot control branch, whose jackets are financed by the EU’s Internal Security Fund. The organization managed to film 11 pushbacks in Croatia. Similar findings were carried out in Romania. In Greece, they collected and analyzed 635 videos of alleged pushbacks in the Aegean, at least 15 of them showing masked men in action.

The report also highlighted the use of violence from the officials, with several testimonies of assaulted asylum seekers. Testimonies of police involved in border operations confirm the regular use of violence. It is also known that the belongings of migrants are stolen and confiscated, later burned.

The EU is therefore involved in the pushback perpetrated at the border by national police thanks to its financial and material support. The EU policy on migration was already highly criticized because of the policy of containment carried out at the borders, making agreements with third countries such as Turkey or Libya.

Those internal and external policies of containment carried out by the EU and the Member States go against all the fundamental values of the EU, the EU human rights legal framework, and the EU regulations on migration.

Migrants pushed back at the borders can be refugees from countries bordering Europe, such as Turkey, or nationals from third countries (Syria or Afghanistan) which use European neighboring countries as a transit to reach Europe. The pushbacks perpetrated at the EU borders by the masked men can therefore have tragic consequences for migrants, especially for refugees fleeing from bordering countries of Europe. For instance, if a Turkish asylum seeker fleeing from the persecution of the Turkish government is pushed back at the Greek border, they will be forced to go back to Turkey, where their life might be in danger. A Syrian refugee pushed back at the European border will continue his life in Turkey. The shadow armies are therefore violating the principle of non-refoulement, according to which no one should have to return to a country where they could face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and other irreparable harm.

Morgane Bizien


[1]OHCHR, “The principle of non-refoulment under international human rights law” (available in, 14/09/2020)


[2]“Unmasking Europe’s Shadow Armies.” n.d. Lighthouse Reports (blog). Accessed September 22, 2022.


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