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Croatian cops regularly pushing people across border with Bosnia, Human Rights Watch warns

CROATIAN police officers are regularly pushing people back across its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina without assessing their asylum requests, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

In a report released this morning, HRW accused the Croatian authorities of continuing to illegally force people — including unaccompanied children and families with young children — over the border despite official denials.

The report says the border police have frequently stolen or destroyed people’s phones, money, identity documents, and other personal property, and often subjects others (including children) to humiliating and degrading treatment.

“Pushbacks have long been standard operating procedure for Croatia’s border police, and the Croatian government has bamboozled European Union institutions through deflection and empty promises,” said Michael Garcia Bochenek, HRW’s senior children’s rights counsel.

“These abhorrent abuses – and the official duplicity that facilitates them – should end.”

HRW says it interviewed more than 100 people for the report, some as recently as April 2023. Some told the organisation that Croatian police had pushed them back dozens of times, routinely ignoring their asylum requests.

Rozad, a 17-year-old boy from Iraq, told HRW in November 2021 what happened the first time he and his family entered Croatia.

“A policeman took my phone from me and put it in his pocket…. I was surprised. I said, ‘What are you doing? That’s my phone.’ He said, ‘Oh, it was yours. Now it belongs to me’.

“I didn’t understand what was going on. I started yelling, and he beat me.”

Stephanie, a 35-year-old woman from Cameroon, told HRW the following in May 2022.

“The police came. They had us remove our clothes. They took our phones. They searched us. We said we want to seek asylum in Croatia. We said we needed medical attention.

“They said, ‘Go.’ They deported us with no consideration of our situation. This was the fifth time this has happened to us.”

Human Rights Watch said the European Union has contributed substantial funds to Croatian border management, but has failed to secure meaningful guarantees that the country’s migrant practices adhere to international human rights norms and comply with EU law.

“Croatia should immediately end pushbacks and other collective expulsions to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Human Rights Watch said.

“Other EU countries, including Italy and Slovenia, should not seek to return people to Croatia until Croatian authorities end collective expulsions and ensure respect for the right to seek asylum.

“The European Commission should require Croatian authorities to end pushbacks and other human rights violations at the border and provide concrete, verifiable information on steps taken to investigate human rights violations against migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.”

Top image shows Croatian border police on the Bosnian border [Pic: CGTN]


Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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