Migrants wrap themselves with blankets to keep warm at a migrants' shelter in Bihac, Bosnia, close to the border with Croatia | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/A.Emric
Migrants wrap themselves with blankets to keep warm at a migrants' shelter in Bihac, Bosnia, close to the border with Croatia | Photo: Picture-alliance/AP Photo/A.Emric

A rights group has accused EU governments of "fueling a growing humanitarian crisis" on the bloc's border with Bosnia. Many of the migrants stuck there face dire living conditions.

European governments have supported Croatia's unlawful expulsions of migrants along its border with Bosnia, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Researchers found that Croatian police had used excessive force to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country from Bosnia, where many of them lack access to medical care, food or adequate shelter. Some 5,500 men, women and children are currently stranded in temporary accommodation camps in the northwest Bosnian towns of Bihac and Velika Kladusa.

Governments across the European Union partially funded the Croatian border force and in some cases paid police salaries and gave them equipment, the rights group said.

Read more: Displaced Bosnians offer support to refugees in Balkans

"By prioritizing border control over compliance with international law, European governments are not just turning a blind eye to vicious assaults by the Croatian police, but also funding their activities," it added.

Read more: Refugees on new Balkan route stuck in limbo 

Croatia denied abuse

Croatia has denied previous accusations that it mistreats migrants who try to enter the country. In August, the Croatian Interior Ministry told DW that it respected all migrants' basic rights.

"The Republic of Croatia has an active and successful return agreement with Bosnia-Herzegovina that regulates the return of those who have entered illegally," it said.

Many people wishing to apply for asylum in the EU try to enter via Croatia or Hungary after passing through Bosnia or Serbia, which are not EU members.

Fortress Europe

Hundreds of thousands of migrants used the so-called Balkan route to reach Germany in 2015. But numbers have fallen in recent years following efforts by Germany and others to strengthen the external EU border.

Amnesty accused the EU of pursuing that policy despite knowing about the harm that it inflicted on many migrants stuck in the Balkans.

"European leaders can no longer wash their hands of responsibility for the continued collective expulsions and violent pushbacks along the Balkan route that are the result of their determination to fortify EU borders, no matter what the human cost is," Amnesty said.

Author: Alexander Pearson

First published: March 13, 2019

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