migrants try to get warm from an open fire as they take refuge in an abandoned warehouse near the border with Croatia in Adasevac, Serbia. Archive EPA/KOCA SULEJMANOVIC
migrants try to get warm from an open fire as they take refuge in an abandoned warehouse near the border with Croatia in Adasevac, Serbia. Archive EPA/KOCA SULEJMANOVIC

Human rights organizations have accused Croatia of illegally pushing back thousands of refugees and migrants, often preventing them from requesting asylum and subjecting them to violence and abuse.

Last year Croatia reportedly pushed back 3,242 migrants and refugees, often denying them access to the international protection system and refusing to consider asylum requests. There have also been many reports of abuse and violence against the migrants, say Croatian human rights associations, quoting UNHCR data from Serbia and those they collected through direct contact with migrants. 


Croatia 'worse than Hungary' in pushbacks 

According to the association Are You Syrious (AYS), founded in 2014 during the first large-scale migratory wave from the Middle East, in January of this year alone another 189 migrants have been pushed back towards Serbia. ''In 2017, Croatia became the country with the highest number of illicit pushbacks, even more than Hungary, which for this and similar practices is often cited as an example of inhuman behavior towards refugees,'' AYS's Tatjana Tadic said. 

In recent months, the number of people has reportedly risen who were illegally pushed back towards Bosnia, which is becoming ever more often an alternative route to reach the European Union. 

Police use violence systematically 

The reports collected indicate that migrants have in many cases suffered violence at the hands of Croatian police, had been deprived of their belongings or even forced to cross the border barefoot. 

Similar statements are found in a recent report from the human rights ombudsman in Croatia, which noted that these were not only isolated cases. The treatment is, instead, systematic and part of a plan adopted by the police to discourage the entrance of asylum seekers in Croatia. The police and judiciary have been informed of this but so far, say the associations, there have not been any concrete reactions. 

The Croatian interior ministry has repeatedly denied these and other similar accusations. 
 

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