Vigilantes Patrol Parts of Europe Where Few Migrants Set Foot


The groups remain relatively small, as focused on stirring up political support and media attention as on confronting migrants, and not all of them are actively patrolling. In Hungary, Mr. Vass posted a call last year to the Hunyadi Border-Guard Unit “to be prepared to step up for your own defense.” But the authorities later dropped an investigation after it became clear that the group had done nothing but prepare to take action.

Not only are there few migrants coming through Slovakia at the moment, but the government, like those of most countries in the region, is strongly resisting pressure from Western Europe to accept asylum seekers for resettlement.

Nonetheless, People’s Party-Our Slovakia, led by Marian Kotleba, is patrolling trains, so far without having to save anyone from a migrant attack. And Vzdor Kysuce is organizing and training paramilitary groups that it says would patrol the streets if migrants ever did appear in Slovakia. Mr. Magat, the party’s leader, calls the 20 people who have signed up as paramilitaries “sleeping soldiers” who have been trained to “protect the white majority” just as “people in Germany took their guns and started solving problems themselves in 1930s.”

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Members of the Organization for Protection of Bulgarian Citizens in April leading a group of migrants from Afghanistan near Bulgarian border with Turkey.

Credit
Organization for Protection of Bulgarian Citizens, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Despite the small number of active participants, the emergence of the groups has the authorities in some countries worried. “Whenever someone’s trying to replace the state’s function in some way, it creates a dangerous precedent,” says Tomas Nociar, an expert on extremism from Comenius University in Bratislava.

And the citizens groups have been more active in Bulgaria, whose border with Turkey has been an alternate route into Europe for migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria unable or unwilling to make the voyage by sea to Greece.

Mr. Nizamov has been under house arrest since mid-April and an investigation of his activities is underway. He was detained shortly after posting a video on social media showing the apprehension of three Afghan migrants, their hands tied behind their backs. The migrants told the police that the vigilantes, carrying knives and a gun, urged them to go back to Turkey.

While Mr. Nizamov is the only one who has been detained by the Bulgarian authorities for a citizens arrest of migrants, his group is not alone in patrolling the Turkish border.

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