Monday, 20 May 2019

NGO Demands Action on Migrations ahead of EU Elections

ZAGREB, May 20, 2019 - Since 2015 the EU has not managed to find an adequate response to the arrival of a growing number of migrants, except for closing borders and growing repression on borders, while the asylum system is waiting for an overhaul even though some member states have made it clear that they will not accept changes that entail distribution of migrants among EU countries, it was said at a round table discussion on migrations in Zagreb on Monday.

The discussion, organised by the Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) nongovernmental organisation, was attended by representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, who spoke about the current situation regarding migrations and expectations in relation to decision-makers at the local and the EU level.

CMS representatives said they expected Croatian members of the European Parliament to demand that Croatia put an end to violence and unlawful activities on borders. They also called for "thoroughly investigating" what they described as unlawful and forcible deportations of refugees across Croatia's borders and the punishment of those responsible for them.

CMS activists said they wanted an end to be put to abuse and partial interpretations of Croatian and European laws to justify violation of migrants' human rights.

"A comprehensive migration and integration policy based on analyses of the situation needs to be adopted. Adequate funding needs to be expended both at the national and EU levels to support a two-way integration process, which includes cooperation between all stakeholders - the local community, civil society, citizens and the private sector," said Julija Kranjec of the CMS.

She added that the CMS expected Croatian MEPs to see it to that the EU "ensures safe and legal routes for persons seeking security in the EU and to ensure a functional asylum system."

The CMS expects the EU to support countries along the so-called Balkan route (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia), restrict the powers of the European border and coast guard agency Frontex and the establishment of 'an independent mechanism to control conduct on borders'.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Croatia Will Not Let Illegal Migrants In, Says Interior Minister

ZAGREB, May 17, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Thursday Croatia did not and would not let in illegal migrants, and that the police were complying with the law in handling migrants.

He was commenting on a Swiss Radio Television report the day before which showed Croatian police allegedly using force to return illegal migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Over two days in late April, Swiss reporters allegedly documented, from concealed positions, four pushbacks in which 70 migrants, mainly from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Algeria, were transferred against their will to BiH.

Responding to the footage, Croatia's Interior Ministry said it showed "official action in line with the Schengen code, aimed at preventing illegal entry into the EU."

Speaking to reporters, Božinović said the TV report "was conceived so as to show that Croatian police use violence, and it's not the first time." He said the footage showed "everything but violence," and called it "another futile attempt to accuse the Croatian police which, I repeat, are enforcing national and European legislation."

For some time now, the Croatian police are faced with accusations of unlawfully returning migrants to BiH, instead of giving them a chance to apply for asylum in Croatia, and of beating them and stealing their property. The Interior Ministry has rejected the accusations, saying it "discourages" migrants from attempting to illegally enter the country.

Božinović said Croatia, as a sovereign country, did not and would not allow illegal entry. He said parts of the border regions, notably in Sisak-Moslavina County, were believed to contain leftover mines and that migrants risked being killed. "Croatia is enforcing the Schengen legislation by enabling people to seek asylum," he said, adding that 80% of those who applied for asylum left before their applications were processed.

"After being identified by the authorities of Austria, Germany or any other EU member state, they are returned to Croatia. They don't want to stay in Croatia but go to third countries which don't want to receive them and return them to Croatia, which should care for those who don't want to stay in Croatia."

"This return of secondary migrants to Croatia and the fact that Croatia keeps detailed records of all such asylum seekers, notably in the last 18 months, discourages them from seeking asylum in Croatia because they know they will be returned sooner or later," he said.

This year through May 1, there were 4,309 illegal attempts to enter Croatia and the police arrested and tried 251 perpetrators for people smuggling.

Božinović said that in every county there were enough police to deal with migrants, reiterating that migrations were not a local issue. "Migrations are managed at national level, from the national task force formed within the Police Directorate," he said, adding that "we can respond to any challenge."

Police Director Nikola Milina, too, said the Croatian police acted in line with the law when dealing with migrants. "Last year alone there were more than 1,000 asylum applications. It's not true at all that people are being prevented from seeking asylum."

He said the police were first and foremost focused on preventing people smuggling, and that they were also saving lives. He urged NGOs not to encourage migrants to expose themselves to danger, notably in potential mine fields.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Swiss TV Shows Footage of Croatian Police Pushing Migrants to Bosnia

ZAGREB, May 16, 2019 - A Swiss broadcaster on Wednesday showed footage of Croatian police pushing back migrants to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and migrants saying that police had seized their mobile phones and money.

Croatian police have been faced for some time with accusations that they unlawfully return migrants who reach Croatia's territory to Bosnia and Herzegovina instead of giving them the opportunity to seek asylum in Croatia. The accusations also include allegations of physical abuse and theft.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry has dismissed the allegations.

In its political programme "Rundschau", the SRF broadcaster showed footage of police bringing a group of migrants in a van to a border crossing and sending them back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Reporters secretly filmed the push-back operations for two days. In those operations, 70 migrants, mostly from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Algeria were sent back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The migrants told reporters that Croatian police had destroyed their mobile phones and taken their money and that they had used force against them.

A migrant said that when asked if they could seek asylum in Croatia, a police officer told them that they would get "Bosnian asylum".

The location where Croatian police were filmed while pushing back migrants in late April is said to be near the village of Gradine.

The Croatian Ministry of the Interior said in response to the SRF programme that the footage showed "an official operation that is in line with the Schengen Borders Code and is designed to prevent illegal entries into the EU."

However, German migration expert Marcus Engler says that this is a clear case of violation of European and international law because group expulsions are not allowed without a prior procedure. Engler says that Croatia is not the only one to blame for such practice and that the entire EU is responsible.

Croatian border police are financed with European money. Other countries support such conduct because they profit from it politically, Engler told the SRF.

The European Commission has declined comment on the footage made available to it by the SFR.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 May 2019

County Demands More Police in Gorski Kotar to Handle Migrant Problem

ZAGREB, May 13, 2019 - Primorje-Gorski Kotar County Prefect Zlatko Komadina on Monday warned that the police were having more and more difficulty in controlling the "green section" of the state border in Gorski Kotar and that the migrant pressure and illegal entries into Croatia had increased with the coming of spring, which way why he called for deploying additional forces to assist local police.

"We are faced with a serious problem and it is not new. Naturally, the problem needs to be resolved at the source, where migrations originate, however, that is a global story and we cannot influence it. What we can impact is the security of our borders, primarily the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina," Komadina told a press conference.

He added that he had asked the ministers of defence and the interior as well as Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to send additional forces to assist local police "because it is difficult to control the green areas of the county when migrants disperse."

He underscored that local residents are concerned for their security and that they do not wish to create any panic, however, "the fact is that with the arrival of spring migrant pressure has increased and I expect an adequate response from the relevant ministries."

Komadina also commented on a court decision made earlier in the day to open bankruptcy proceedings for the Uljanik dock, saying that this was the result of the government's inaction and bad decisions by Uljanik's management.

"Had the government wanted to prevent the bankruptcy, it wouldn't have happened. I regret that the court didn't wait for the response from the potential Chinese investor, but the fact is that the bankruptcy is primarily the result of the government not taking action and the poor decisions by Uljanik's management. It is important that this decision does not directly impact the 3. Maj dock," Komadina said.

"The period leading up to the bankruptcy hearing for 3. Maj gives hope of some recovery if the government wants it because opportunities do exist. 3. Maj's management has put forward a number of recommendations to the relevant minister and government and I personally believe that it does not have to go into liquidation," Komadina said in reference to the Rijeka-based shipyard, which, along with the Pula-based Uljanik dock, is part of the Uljanik shipbuilding group.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Migrant Crisis Escalating on Croatian Border with Bosnia

ZAGREB, May 13, 2019 - The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have to urgently deal with the extent of the migrant crisis and undertake measures to control it because the situation in Una-Sana Canton, where the most migrants are located, has become unbearable, the canton's prime minister, Mustafa Ružnić, warned on Monday. The canton is located on the border with Croatia.

Participating at a meeting of the House of Representatives of the Federation entity, Ružnić said that there are about 5,000 illegal migrants currently located in that canton, yet there is accommodation for only about 3,200 in reception centres in Bihać, Velika Kladuša and Cazin.

Last year 19,200 migrants from 46 countries passed through the canton and twelve check points have been established due to the extraordinary circumstances that are constantly manned by police in order to control the influx of migrants, and the police is barely managing to do so.

In an attempt to reduce the pressure on the border with Croatia, the police in that part of Bosnia have returned 3,330 migrants since the start of 2019.

According to Bosnia's security agencies, more than 6,000 illegal migrants have entered the country so far this year, which is twice as much compared to the same period last year.

There are only two inspectors working with migrants in Una-Sana Canton and state and entity authorities have not taken any responsibility, and it turns out that the state simply does not have any strategy to manage the migrant crisis, Ružnić said.

He added that at this pace, Bosnia and the entire region will need to deal with the problem of illegal migrants in these numbers for the next ten years, and that it is necessary as soon as possible to undertake measures to control that problem.

The Una-Sana Canton's minister of health, Nermina Ćemalović, warned that the health system in the canton is under huge pressure and that the hygienic-epidemiological situation "is out of control."

During 2018, more than 30,000 migrants were treated which cost the canton's health budget more than 2 million euro.

She confirmed that about 90 HIV positive cases had been identified among migrants located in Bihać and that there were "silent epidemics" such as TBC which no one wants to admit publicly. "Health inspections in migrant reception centres have determined a horrific situation," she said.

She warned that the security situation in Bihać has become unbearable, with frequent break-ins, attacks and theft. "Bihać is occupied by migrants, 80% of them are illegal migrants," she said.

Bihać Mayor Suhret Fazlić complained that the Croatian police were returning migrants across the border in contradiction to extradition procedures. "I saw Croatian special police enter Bosnian territory armed with rifles. I saw that and I warned them about that," said Fazlić.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

NGOs Connecting Migrants and Employers

ZAGREB, May 11, 2019 - The integration of migrants and helping them find employment is a positive and important example of solidarity which European Union member states show to people fleeing war and poverty, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations told a panel in Zagreb on Friday ahead of elections for the European Parliament.

The panel, entitled "A Europe of solidarity", also involved the head of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Croatia, Tvrtko Barun, and the state secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, Žarko Katić, who spoke about positive cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organisations for the purpose of employment and integration of migrants.

Last year the Jesuit Refugee Service helped find work for 40 migrants, in most cases assisting entire families in settling their status.

"The main precondition for any integration is knowing the language," Barun said. "Integration is a two-way process. Not everything depends on us, the government or the non-government sector. It is up to a person to make an effort and learn the language so they can communicate in their neighbourhood and at work."

Katić said that cooperation between the government and non-government sectors was crucial for implementing quality projects. He noted that finding employment for migrants was particularly successful given that the Croatian economy needed a large number of workers.

"Employers are looking for workers all the time, and they are hard to find in the neighbouring countries. That's why they are looking further afield from Croatia, as far as East Asia," Katić said, adding that the government planned to accept 65,000 foreign workers this year.

Barun said that it was important to give confidence and funding to the non-government sector so that they could ensure effective cooperation. "Non-governmental organisations will do this work more effectively, more cheaply and faster than the government sector," he said.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Police to Protect People in Areas Intersected by Migrant Routes

ZAGREB, May 10, 2019 - "We will protect people who live in areas intersected by migrant routes," the state secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, Žarko Katić, said in parliament on Friday while responding to MP Saša Đujić's question as to how police intended to guarantee security to citizens in the mountainous Gorski Kotar region and the area of Rijeka, in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where cases of migrants breaking into family homes have become frequent.

Do people have to hire security guards, Social Democrat Đujić asked during a parliamentary debate on a private protection bill.

Katić confirmed that the migrant pressure was the greatest in Karlovac, Primorje-Gorski Kotar and Lika-Senj counties, noting that additional police forces were being sent to those counties with state-of-the-art equipment.

"The problem does exist, we are aware of it and are dealing with it in the most appropriate way, we will protect people who live in areas intersected by migrant routes," Katić said, adding that police work in the areas in question was hampered by the fact that those areas were sparsely populated.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Bavarian Interior Minister Commends Croatian Border Police

ZAGREB, May 10, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović met with his Bavarian counterpart Joachim Hermann in Munich on Thursday and Hermann commended the work of Croatian border police in protecting Croatia's and the European Union's external border, a press release said.

Božinović is on a two-day official visit to Bavaria where he met with Hermann and discussed ways to strengthen police cooperation as well as border protection, migration, Croatia's membership of the Schengen area and preparations for and main priorities of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the European Union in the field of police work.

"Minister Hermann commended the work of Croatia's police in protecting the Croatian and the external EU border. He underlined that he is aware of the pressure Croatia is faced with due to its geographic and geostrategic position with regard to illegal migration and concluded that Croatia and Bavaria cooperate excellently, including cooperation between their police forces," the press release from Croatia's interior ministry said.

Božinović said that he entirely shared Hermann's stance of the high level of cooperation between Croatia and Bavaria regarding police cooperation and thanked him for recognising the work of Croatia's police.

"Croatia's border police force is one of the most trained European border police forces and efficiently protects our borders and deals successfully with illegal migrations on a daily basis. It prevents illegal entries into Croatia, that is, the European Union," Božinović said.

He recalled that Croatia's border was the EU's longest external land border and that cooperation with Bavaria in that regard was very important for Croatia. "I am pleased that the contribution the Croatian police are making is recognised in the European Union and here in Bavaria," Božinović underscored.

He also underlined that security challenges today are on the most part of a transnational nature, meaning that they can be responded to only through cooperation between countries and "Bavaria and Croatia serve and will continue to serve as an example in that regard."

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Ethics Commission Cautions Živi Zid Due to Anti-Migrant Hate Comments

ZAGREB, May 7, 2019 - The Ethics Commission on Tuesday issued a warning to the Živi Zid party and ordered it to remove without delay numerous 'hate' comments below two articles about migrants that incite hate and violence, and called on the party's members to publicly apologise for violating the election ethics code.

The commission determined that Živi Zid had violated the election ethics code because of the negative comments on the party's official Facebook profile below links to articles published by two web portals about migrants and that the party did not delete 'hate' comments or those inciting to violence.

The commission was referring to comments made following an article by the web portal about houses being broken into and crosses and property being destroyed by migrants. The RTL private TV station also ran a story about a married couple whose house was broken into by migrants while they were sleeping.

The Gong NGO that monitors election procedures submitted a complaint to the ethics commission about the contentious comments on the Živi Zid’s FB profile regarding the two stories.

The commission determined that by posting links to the two stories about migrants the Živi Zid knew that this would lead to negative comments which contained hate speech and, as such, acted irresponsibly and in contradiction of election ethical standards.

The commission added that it regrets that public space in Croatia is burdened with a low level of culture in communication and with rampant hate speech, particularly in Facebook comments on media reports. However, in the context of the election process, special responsibility lies on those participating in the election to promote a culture of dialogue and to prevent any form of hate speech and incitement to hate and violence, the Ethics Commission said.

More news about Živi Zid can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Živi Zid Calls for Deployment of Army to Guard Border against Migrants

ZAGREB, May 4, 2019 - Leaders of the opposition Živi Zid party visited Karlovac on Friday as part of their campaign trail for the European Parliament elections, accusing the government of being unable to deal with the migrant crisis and calling for the deployment of troops along Croatia's borders.

"The Croatian authorities are unable to cope with the migrant crisis. With warmer weather coming soon, migrations will increase, and Croatia could become a hotspot and temporary shelter for illegal migrants," said the top candidate on the party's election slate, Tihomir Lukanić.

Lukanić proposed that army troops assist the police along the border and that the issue of increasing migrations be dealt with at their source, in Asia and Africa. He added that Živi Zid would enter the EP in cooperation with kindred parties and platforms, citing Italy's Five Star Movement.

"In the EP we are going to fight institutionally for halting the migrant tide in the countries from which migrants are coming," Lukanić said.

The party leader Ivan Vilibor Sinčić said that "Croatia is not controlling its territory as its borders are highly porous."

The Croatian army is "at the Russian border and in Afghanistan instead of at the Croatian border while the Austrian army is at the Austrian border, the Hungarian army is at the Hungarian border, the Slovenian army is at the Slovenian border and the Bosnia and Herzegovina army is at the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Sinčić.

"There are not enough personnel and equipment at our border, we should take this problem seriously rather than ignore it. We should deploy the army," he added.

Sinčić went on to say that the population on the African continent currently stands at 1.2 billion and that United Nations estimates indicate that it would rise to 2.5 billion until 2050.

It is evident that the only solution is to create conditions for a normal life there and not allow migrations, he said.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

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