Migrants who were seemingly trying to reach Croatia with police assistance, pictured walking on the Belgrade-Zagreb highway. | Photo: EPA/ Koca Sulejmanovic
Migrants who were seemingly trying to reach Croatia with police assistance, pictured walking on the Belgrade-Zagreb highway. | Photo: EPA/ Koca Sulejmanovic

A report by a coalition of Croatian NGOs denounced the country's authorities continuing practice of illegal push-backs, abuse and violence against migrants at the border between Croatia and Bosnia.

Systematic illegal push-backs of migrants in Croatia, as well as abuse and violence against the migrants, continue to take place at the Croatian border with Bosnia, according to a report by a coalition of Croatian NGOs working for the protection of human rights. In the report, the NGOs called on authorities in Zagreb, in particular the country's interior ministry, to stop interpreting national and international laws in a selective way that intentionally penalizes migrants. 

Expulsions despite appeals 

The organizations said illegal push-backs and abuses by Croatian border police against migrants are continuing despite numerous appeals and criticisms in recent months by various international organizations, including the Council of Europe, UNCHR, and Amnesty International. 

"All the eyewitness accounts confirm that illegal expulsions and various abuses continue at the borders," the NGO report said, specifying that in 2018 at least 10,000 migrants had been expelled from Croatia. Among the examples they gave were cases of violence, in some cases brutal violence; the seizure of cash or mobile phones; and threats using firearms. The Croatian police have consistently denied these criticisms, maintaining that they are working in full respect of laws on international humanitarian protection and with respect to asylum seekers, but that they also have a duty to protect national borders. 

Criticizm extended to Italian police

The report also criticized the Italian police, accusing them of having participated in "illegal chain push-backs" and thus violating the rights of asylum seekers. The Trieste police department denied these allegations in November when the news came out in Italian newspapers, and said there were "no irregularities in repatriations." The report, which mainly describes the conditions and abuses at the border between Croatia and Bosnia, also contains a series of observations by the Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS) based in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, which borders Austria and Slovenia. 

According to some asylum seekers' accounts collected by ICS last October and November, Italian police in the Trieste area acted "in an arbitrary way, pushing back migrants to Slovenia." At that point, it said Slovenian police pushed the migrants back to Croatian police, who in turn pushed them back to Bosnia. ICS reported that the Trieste police department said in 2018 there were about 300 cases of readmission to Slovenia, but that it is unknown how many of these were legal and how many were illegal.
 

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