Migrants attempting to cross into Croatia hold banners as they gather near the Maljevac border crossing, Bosnia and Herzegovina | Photo: EPA/Fehim Demir
Migrants attempting to cross into Croatia hold banners as they gather near the Maljevac border crossing, Bosnia and Herzegovina | Photo: EPA/Fehim Demir

Has the European Commission failed to protect migrants from abuses by Croatian border forces? After Amnesty International filed a complaint, an inquiry into this matter has been opened.

European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly announced on Tuesday that she has opened an inquiry into how the European Commission seeks to ensure that fundamental rights of migrants are respected by border forces in Croatia.

The ombudsman said that as part of receiving EU funding, "Croatia should have set up a 'monitoring mechanism' to ensure that border management operations are fully compliant with fundamental rights and EU law."

A complaint filed by Amnesty International, she said, raised doubts as to whether such a mechanism had been set up.

Failure to monitor border force?

Amnesty had filed the complaint against the EU in September. The organization alleges that the European Commission ignored several reports of abuses. They also claim that the EU failed to establish a proper monitoring mechanism to ensure that Croatia’s border measures -- which are in part funded by the EU -- complied with fundamental human rights. Amnesty said this mechanism, the development of which should have involved various NGOs and civic defenders, never became operational.

According to reports by British newspaper The Guardian, Croatia received millions of euros from the EU to strenghten its borders with non-EU countries and was required to establish a supervisory mechanism to ensure the humane treatment of migrants at the border. In June, The Guardian had reported that Croatia had failed to spend money earmarked for border patrol oversight.

Reports of violent pushbacks

Now, the ombudsman will look into whether and how money set aside for monitoring Croatia's border force was spent, and whether the European Commission failed to properly inform members of the EU parliament about the situation.

Brussels has until the end of January to respond to her inquiries.

Multiple human rights organizations including Amnesty International and various news outlets have documented serious human rights violations against migrants by Croatian authorities at the border with Bosnia.

The Croatian government has consistently denied these accusations.

 

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