Croatian police found 39 migrants over Christmas. They were hiding in a small van. The overcrowded vehicle had entered the country from Bosnia Herzegovina.
Among the migrants found in the van near the border town of Vrgorac in the early morning hours of December 26, 2018 were a number of women and children, according to the Croatian daily Jutarnji newspaper. Some of the women were reportedly pregnant.
The migrants told authorities that they had come from Iran and Iraq. At least two of the migrants were taken to hospital because of ongoing health issues. None were reported to have suffered any injuries during the journey in the van.
The driver of the vehicle, a 26-year-old Slovenian national, was later arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. According to Jutarnji, the suspect had tried to flee the scene while the van was still in motion but was soon put in custody.
He reportedly sustained minor injuries during his attempt to flee the scene.
Croatia part of main remaining land route for migrants
Since the so-called Balkan route, which led from Greece to Central Europe via Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, has effectively been closed off to migrants by various national governments, the remaining land route for refugees and migrants travelling to the European Union leads through Bosnia and onward into Croatia. (Croatia is an EU member state, while Bosnia isn't.)
Because of this, Croatia has heavily fortified its borders. There have been many reports of forced removals back into Bosnia. Some claim that these removals take place under duress and violence. A human rights organization working with migrants recently filed a complaint against Croatian police who it claims used excessive force and violence against migrants.