A migrant walks with police assistance on the highway Belgrade-Zagreb. Photo: EPA/KOCA SULEJMANOVIC
A migrant walks with police assistance on the highway Belgrade-Zagreb. Photo: EPA/KOCA SULEJMANOVIC

A person claiming to be a Croatian policeman has sent an anonymous letter claiming that they receive orders to confiscate migrants' money and destroy their cell phones.

Croatia's public ombudswoman Lora Vidovic said she received an anonymous letter in March from a person claiming to be a member of the Croatian border police, which detailed the use of brutal force against migrants during so-called pushbacks.

The letter alleged that Croatian border police had received orders to push migrants back to Bosnia without checking their ID documents, to take away their money, and to destroy their cell phones.

Dozens of pushbacks each day

The anonymous report stated that between 20 and 50 people are pushed back from Croatia into Bosnia every day in this manner. The alleged policeman also detailed acts of violence he claimed were used by some of his colleagues, including "beating migrants and stealing their belongings, and doing basically whatever they want without any limits and with the approval of their superiors and the police headquarters."

The letter also claimed that "women and children are treated the same way," with some of them being immediately pushed back into Bosnia despite "showing visible signs of abuse and violence."

The alleged police officer wrote that he "would never have imagined something like this (could happen) when I chose this profession, that I would be forced to act in this manner. But I have no choice because I am afraid of being fired."

Waiting for inquiry to be launched

The ombudswoman has informed all relevant institutions about the existence of the letter, including the judiciary and the parliament, asking for a "complete and independent inquiry."

She reportedly has not received any response thus far, which is why she decided to go public with the information and take the issue to the media. Vidovic said that the letter had confirmed many of the accusations heard over the past two years.

International and local human rights organizations alike have criticized this illicit behavior among the Croatian police against migrants, and have reported similar instances of abuse, violence, pushbacks, and confiscations of telephones and cash.

Officials play down allegations

The Croatian police have always denied accusations, saying that they have not been able to verify any of the allegations, and that some migrants make false statements in hopes of receiving aid from NGOs.

In recent days, however, Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in an interview that "a little bit of force is needed when doing pushbacks." The president claimed that these acts are allowed by national law, and that the Croatian police have a duty to protect Croatian and EU borders.


 

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