0904 GMT May 06, 2021
“It is outrageous that Slovak authorities are shooting at innocent people fleeing war,” said Andrew Stroehlein, Europe media director for HRW, on Monday.
The condemnation came after Slovakian customer officers said earlier in the day that they had opened fire at a car carrying refugees after it attempted to escape a checkpoint at the Hungarian border.
A press release by the Financial Administration, which runs the Slovakian customs service, said the car was one of four entering Slovakia from Hungary in the early hours of Monday . A 26-year-old Syrian woman inside the car was reportedly injured.
“The officers fired warning shots and when the car did not stop they fired at the car, injuring one person,” said the statement, without further details.
Stroehlein said, however, that authorities could have used alternative ways to stop the car.
“Officials said the car was driving dangerously … but there have to be ways of giving chase to a car without resorting to shooting at it,” he said.
Officials at a hospital in Dunajska Streda, southern Slovakia, said a surgery was performed on the Syrian refugee woman to remove the bullet from her back and she is currently in stable condition. Border officials said the car and other passengers were turned over to the border police.
The shooting may be the first inside Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone as previous incidents involving clashes between refugees and security forces only involved water cannons and tear gas.
Slovakia has seen relatively little of an overwhelming flow of refugees crossing from conflict zones in the Middle East into Europe. However, stricter controls at borders by neighboring Austria have triggered concerns in Slovakia that refugees may opt for crossing the country in the hope of reaching wealthy states west of the continent.
The European Union began to implement a major deal with Turkey in March whereby Ankara takes back all refugees landing in the coasts of Greece. The agreement was hoped to drastically reduce the flow of refugees, although reports suggest the arrivals are again rising in number despite a brief drop.
Slovakia, along with Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland, have been viewed as the most unfriendly EU members in accepting refugees as they opposed from the very beginning an EU scheme for imposing mandatory quotas for the relocation of asylum seekers.