Friday, 6 December 2019

Croatia Police Allegations: Zagreb Hostel Disputes Nigerian Students' Story

Did the Croatia police (MUP) really abduct two Nigerian students who were legally at a sports competition in Croatia, on a tram just steps away from their hostel in the middle of Zagreb, and banish them to Bosnia?

Kenneth Chinedu Eboh and Uchenna Alexandro Abia, two Nigerian students who came to Pula to compete in table tennis, claim that that is exactly what happened, while MUP claims in a statement that they had checked out of their hostel, the name of which has now been revealed. They allegedly departed the HI Youth Hostel in Zagreb with their passports on November 18 and arrived in Bosnia illegally. However, MUP claims that they still do not know how the students got to Bosnia.

Over the past two days, this alleged expulsion has captured the media attention of Croatia and neighboring states. And, the story has now reached the rest of Europe after it was published in The Guardian yesterday.

Croatia Police and Nigerian Students Not Telling Whole Story

Based upon what is known so far, neither MUP nor the Nigerian students are telling the whole story, according to Gordan Duhaček/Index on December 5, 2019.

It has been confirmed that Nigerian students have obtained a visa for Croatia at the embassy in Pretoria and that they entered the country legally. They stayed at the Veli Joze Hotel in Pula while competing in table tennis at the 5th World InterUniversities Championships. However, their version of events regarding their alleged detention and forcible expulsion from Zagreb to Bosnia have not yet been corroborated.

The Nigerian students ended up in a migrant camp in Velika Kladuša in Bosnia, but were they really expelled by the Croatian police under the threat of violence? That cannot be confirmed, because the claim is based solely on the testimony of two students and has not been substantiated with evidence. And did the Croatian police really abduct them on a Zagreb tram, in front of other riders, in the middle of the city? That allegation has not been confirmed either, but MUP could easily inspect surveillance cameras on Zagreb trams and inform the public of their findings.

Nigerian Students' Story Conflicts with MUP and Hostel Account

The most suspicious part of Eboh and Abijah’s story is that they do not remember the name of their hostel in Zagreb. Then, as they claim, a friend from Croatia sent them their passports, which he collected at the hostel reception desk. Those passports arrived by mail in Velika Kladuša on November 25, which has been confirmed by independent sources from the field. How did that friend know which hostel to go to if they couldn’t tell him the name? Did he stay with them in the same hostel? And what is the name of the friend who sent them their passports? 

According to Vecernji List and other sources, the students stayed at the HI Youth Hostel on Petrinjska Ulica 77. That hostel is a mere 230m, or a 3-minute walk, from the MUP central office on the same street at Petrinjska Ulica 30, which casts doubt on the students' claim that the Croatian police wouldn't be bothered with confirming their travel documents at the HI Youth Hostel. According to their allegations, they were taken instead to the MUP central station 230m away.

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Students Took Their Passports and Luggage Upon Check-out

Hostel manager Branimir Markač confirmed in an interview with Dnevnik Nove TV that the students spent two nights at his hostel in Downtown Zagreb, checking in on November 16 (rather than November 17 as the students claim) and noted that they spent some of their time in the hostel lobby. They asked the front desk for some information; like the location of the nearest exchange office. After spending their first night and day at the hostel and taking side trips around town; the two Nigerians decided to extend their stay another night, which they did at 22:23h on November 17. Markač says he has their bill as evidence. They checked out of the hostel on November 18 at 11:00h and didn’t leave anything behind. This conflicts with the students’ claim that they were abducted by Croatian police on the evening of November 17, and sent to Bosnia, with their travel documents and luggage remaining at the hostel.

"Absolutely no one came to the hostel for their travel documents, nor would we ever hand over anybody else's belongings," Markač emphasized.

MUP has also claimed that Eboh and Abia left the hostel for an unknown destination, after checking out, taking their passports and paying their bills.

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Who sent their passports to Velika Kladuša?

Is the friend who sent the Nigerian students their passports by mail (allegedly after retrieving them from the HI Youth hostel) their colleague from Nigeria? He also stayed in Croatia after his six-day visa expired and requested asylum with his passport at the MUP central station (230m from the hostel) on November 27, after reporting his passport lost at the same station on November 18. The police know his name but have not yet published it. He is likely being housed Hotel Porin, a reception center for asylum seekers in Zagreb, but police have been silent regarding his identity and whereabouts.

Were Smugglers involved?

According to Gordan Duhaček/Index; there is only one scenario in which the Croatian police might not be guilty of expelling Eboh and Abijah. Suppose that the Nigerian students went to the sports competition in Pula with the sole intention of staying illegally in the European Union after their six-day visa expired. Like most migrants, they don’t want to stay in Croatia, but want to go to one of the larger and more economically successful EU member states, so they paid smugglers, who are undoubtedly working throughout the region, to transfer them to Italy or Slovenia, i.e. to the Schengen free movement zone in the European Union.

Sources have confirmed that the students' arrived at the competions without rackets or sports equipment and lost every match. However, Hajdi Karakaš/Jutarnji List reports that other competitors considered them to be good-natured and pleasant to be around.

 

Smugglers Often Deceive Migrants

As Duhaček points out, there have been many reports of smugglers deceiving their "clients" and not taking them to the destinations they had promised. In that context, it's possible that the Nigerian students paid smugglers to take them to Slovenia or Italy but were tricked and brought to the Bosnian border. There the smugglers told them to walk through the forest where they would reach Italy or Slovenia.

Of course, Eboh and Abia followed instructions, and only when they came across migrants at Velika Kladuša did they realize that they had been duped and taken to Bosnia instead. There, they heard stories from other migrants about the aggressive pushback policy implemented by the Croatian police. That policy, as reported by The Guardian and other media outlets, involves bring migrants in vans back to the Bosnian border and illegally expelling them there under the threat of violence. With that information, they theoretically constructed the story they have shared Bosnia portal Žurnal and other media outlets.

Apparent Lack of Border Control

But even if that’s what really happened, it remains unclear how it was possible for a smuggler to take the Nigerian students to the Bosnian border, a border monitored 24 hours a day by drones, thermal cameras and thousands of police officers, and remain completely undetected.

In other words, the only scenario in which the Croatian police are not guilty is the same scenario in which the Croatian police are utterly incompetent, according to Duhaček.

Another Scenario Which Implicates Both Parties

Another possible scenario, which would involve wrongdoing by MUP and the Nigerian students, has the Nigerian students leaving their passports somewhere (or with their unidentified friend) after checking out of the HI Youth Hostel and setting off for Slovenia or Italy without travel documents. Croatian police intercept them somewhere outside of Zagreb and take them for illegal migrants, particularly after they were not able to furnish their travel documents. The Croatian police then put them in a van with other illegal migrants and forcibly expel them at the Bosnian border.

According to this second scenario, Eboh and Abia understand that admitting that they had set out for Slovenia or Italy without travel documents would identify them as illegal migrants regardless of the conduct of the Croatian police, perhaps compromising their chances of being granted asylum. Their unidentified friend (perhaps their Nigerian colleague in Zagreb) held on to their travel documents and sent them to Velika Kladuša after learning that things had not gone as planned.

Regardless of circumstance, if Zagreb police randomly pulled two people of color off of a tram, in the middle of Zagreb, and in an area frequented by tourists from all over the world; Croatia has a much more serious problem to contend with. 

For updates on this story, the activities of the Croatian police (MUP) and the migrant crisis in Croatia; follow our Politics page here.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Croatia MUP and Nigerian Students: Questions Emerge in Alleged Expulsion

Allegations of the abduction and forced expulsion of two Nigerian students to Bosnia by the Croatia police (MUP) has received wide attention in the Croatian media since the Bosnian portal Žurnal broke the story on December 3. More details have emerged, which have led to even more questions, and credibility issues are muddying the narrative.

After yesterday’s official statement from MUP regarding the alleged incident, additional details are emerging, some of which may contradict MUP claims. While the story is being covered extensively in Croatian media, most of the basic questions about this alleged incident haven’t even been addressed.

There are possible credibility issues with a member of the Nigerian group and proven credibility issues with MUP. No witnesses have come forward to corroborate the Nigerian students’ allegations. One member of their group claimed asylum in Croatia on November 27, which may help support the MUP claim that people from third countries are using sports competitions to enter the EU.

However, several world news organizations have disproven MUP’s repeated denials of an aggressive pushback policy toward illegal migrants. Here’s what we still don’t know.

What was the groups’ actual flight itinerary?

According to MUP, the group of five Nigerians, one leader and four students, arrived in Croatia on November 12. The leader and one student departed Croatia via the Zagreb airport on November 17. The students claim that their return flight departed on November 18, which meant that they had arrived on the same flight with the others but wouldn’t be returning to Nigeria on the same flight.

What Zagreb hostel did the students check into?

MUP has not provided the name of the hostel and the students claim that they don’t remember the name, as they had just checked in, before setting off on a stroll through the city.

What date did the students check into that unidentified Zagreb hostel?

MUP claims they checked in on November 16, rather than November 17, as the students claim. Alberto Tanghetti, the organizer of the 5th World InterUniversities Championships in Pula supports the students’ claim and indicated that the students left Pula for Zagreb on November 17 to make their November 18 flight. 

Are there any witnesses to the students’ alleged abduction by Croatian police on the Zagreb tram?

The sight of police removing the students from a tram in a large busy city for no apparent reason (they weren’t disturbing the peace) would have produced witnesses. So far no one has come forward.

Who sent the students their passports?

In yesterday’s statement, MUP claimed that the students checked out of their Zagreb hostel on November 18 and took their passports and belongings with them. However, sources now confirm that the students didn’t have their passports with them when they entered Bosnia. An unidentified friend from the competition sent the students’ passports from the unidentified Zagreb hostel to Bosnia. The students received their passports on November 25, nine days after their alleged abduction and expulsion from Croatia.

Where is the students’ luggage?

If the students weren’t allowed to return to the unidentified Zagreb hostel, the hostel would have had their luggage as well as their passports. They would have packed for a five-day trip. Where is their luggage now?

Why would the Croatian police expel the students to Bosnia, when it would have been much easier, and legal, to allow them to catch their return flights to Nigeria?

It would have been very easy for the Croatian police to physically go with the students to the unidentified Zagreb hostel and confirm they were registered there. In addition, by law, every traveler visiting Croatia must furnish their passports to the front desk (or host) of their accommodations upon arrival, as part of the registration process. That information is reported to MUP, so they should have been able to confirm where the students were staying. Why would the Zagreb police detain the students for hours, for no apparent reason, and allegedly send them in a van to Bosnia? Furthermore, in an interview for Index, Željko Cvrtila, an experienced criminologist, emphasized that the Croatian police could have only legally deported them back to Nigeria, as they had valid visas for their stay in Croatia.

If MUP has no record or evidence that the students crossed the Bosnian border, what does that say about the effectiveness of the MUP effort to control the border?

If MUP has no record of the students’ whereabouts and was not able to intersect the students’ illegal and forced expulsion into Bosnia, it would seem to suggest that Croatia still lacks effective tools, surveillance and manpower to monitor and control illegal movement across the border.

Are there any witnesses who can corroborate the students’ arrival and length of stay in Bosnia?

According to the students, they were abducted by Zagreb police on November 17 and taken in a van to the Bosnian border with a group of illegal migrants. That also means that they have allegedly been in Bosnia for 2 ½ weeks.

Is there additional information on the fourth student who sought asylum in Croatia?

According to MUP, the group leader and one of the four students returned to Nigeria on November 17. Another remained in Croatia and tried to enter Slovenia twice, but was denied entry because he did not have a Schengen passport. MUP claims that he reported his passport lost on November 18 and refused an alleged offer from the MUP central station in Zagreb to contact the Nigerian embassy on his behalf. On November 27, the student returned and filed a claim for asylum and is currently being housed in an asylum center in Zagreb.

Did the students perform competitively at the 5th World InterUniversities Championships?

Zoran Ničeno, Director of Border Security, claims in an interview with Dnevnik Nove TV that they had confirmed with organizers that the students fared very poorly at the 5th World InterUniversities Championships and lost every match. He then implied that they may not have been professionally trained for the sport and were simply using the competition as a way of entering the EU. While varied resources and levels of training can produce performance gaps among contestants in international competitions, videos of the students at the event might reveal their proficiency in the sport they flew to Croatia to compete in.

What about MUP’s claims that the students may have been involved with illegal smugglers?

In the same interview, Ničeno claimed that they have information that the students may have been involved with illegal smugglers. What evidence do they have to support that claim?

Did Bosnian officials offer to help the students return to Nigeria?

Ničeno also claimed that Bosnian officials offered to help the students return home to Nigeria, but they allegedly refused and expressed a desire to return to Croatia and apply for asylum. Did this help offer include buying them one-way tickets home? Bosnian official have not confirmed Ničeno's claims.

Follow our Politics page here to stay updated on this story, MUP activities, and the migrant crisis in Croatia.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Croatia MUP: Deported Nigerians are Lying According to Police

Croatia MUP representatives released a statement today regarding the Nigerian students who had reported to the Bosnian portal Žurnal that they were arrested by Croatian police in Zagreb, forcibly taken to Bosnian border and then left there.

Police Claim They Didn’t Act on Skin Color

Croatian police have dismissed those allegations, according to their statement as reported by Index on December 4, 2019.

"Claims that Croatian police acts and condemns individuals on the basis of their skin color are unacceptable and we strongly reject them! The police have verified the accusations of the alleged treatment of the Nigerian nationals in Zagreb on November 17. On November 18, they properly checked out of their hostel in Zagreb with their documents and left," they claim.

The police also announced what they have learned about the case so far.

"The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Croatia have reviewed the allegations made publicly on the Bosnian portal Žurnal, and have determined the following through their research:

- On November 12, five Nigerian nationals entered Croatia, legally and according to proper procedures, to participate in an inter-university competition in Pula. The group consisted of a team leader and four participants.

"The team leader and one participant legally left the Republic of Croatia via the Zagreb Airport, after competing," MUP reported.

Conflicting Accounts of Documents Loss and Dates

Police also say Nigerians checked out of the hostel a day later than they were allegedly expelled from the Republic of Croatia.

"The two Nigerian nationals, who are being mentioned in the Bosnian media, left for Zagreb a day earlier than the rest of the group, and stayed in Zagreb. Therefore, they checked into the Zagreb hostel on November 16 of this year. On November 18, they checked out of their hostel and went to an unknown destination, after paying their expenses and taking their travel documents and personal effects with them.

Therefore, its entirely inaccurate, and we reject the allegation that their documents remained in the hostel, and that police officers of the Zagreb Police Department had acted inappropriately against them. We call attention to the contradictions in their statements and their allegations about how the police officers allegedly dealt with them on November 17. The fact is that they appropriately checked out of their Zagreb hostel on November 18 (a day later). The police had no record their legal departure from the Republic of Croatia, nor did police officers working in the field of illegal migration deal with people with these names," MUP added.

Fifth Participant Tried to Enter Slovenia Twice

MUP also wrote about the group's fifth participant, whose visa expired while he was in Croatia. He received a judgement to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) within 14 days.

"Regarding the fifth participant in the group, it was determined that he left his accommodation in Pula on November 17 of this year. He tried to leave the Republic of Croatia and enter Slovenia at two separate border crossings. On both occasions, Slovenian border police officers denied him entry because he does not possess a Schengen visa. Following these two attempts to cross the border, the Nigerian national arrived at the Central Zagreb Police Station on November 18 and reported the loss of his travel documents. He was offered the option to contact his embassy ​​but refused.

Then He Applied for Asylum in Croatia

Given that his visa had expired on 17 November of this year, he was issued a judgement to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) within 14 days, following an administrative procedure. However, the Nigerian citizen did not leave Croatia, but returned to the Central Police Station in Zagreb on November 27th and expressed his intention to seek international protection in the Republic of Croatia. He was granted protection status and is currently in the Asylum Seekers' Asylum Reception Center in Zagreb. It is important to note that, on this occasion, he presented the travel document which he had previously reported lost," they added.

Police claim that third-country foreign nationals are using legal entry into the Republic of Croatia to attempt to move further to the EU after participating in the activities for which the permits were obtained.

Using Sports Competitions to Enter EU Illegally

"All of the Nigerian nationals had their return tickets for November 17 of this year. Two of them used their air tickets and left Croatia on that day, while the remaining three missed their opportunity to leave Croatia legally. This fact casts real doubt on the intent of their arrival and stay in Croatia.

Police officers had been encountering abuses of alleged and real participation in sports competitions in Croatia during their elevated campaign in the fight against illegal migration. Entering Croatia legally and participating in an approved sports activity is one way for foreign nationals from third countries to continue their journey illegally to their target destination countries in Europe.

The Republic of Croatia has refused entry to nine Nigerian nationals at border crossing this year due to non-compliance with conditions for entry.

Police officers will continue to investigate the allegations and review available facts in this case to determine whether this is another case of abuse of sports competitions for the purpose of illegal migration," MUP concluded.

Follow our Politics page here to keep updated on the migrant crisis in Croatia.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Interior Ministry Doesn't Know How Nigerians Ended up in Bosnia

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - The Interior Ministry on Tuesday responded to a news item about the illegal deportation of two Nigerian students to Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying Croatian police did not have their legal departure from Croatia on record and that they did not know how they ended up in BiH.

Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, both 18, have told Bosnian website Žurnal that Croatian police deported them to BiH, treating them as illegal migrants despite the fact that they arrived in Croatia with valid visas.

The police told Hina that five Nigerian citizens - four students and their supervisor - legally entered Croatia on November 12 and took part in a sporting tournament in Istria County, and that the supervisor and one of the participants in the tournament legally left Croatia via Zagreb's airport, while one applied for asylum in Croatia.

The two Nigerian citizens mentioned in the media checked into a Zagreb hostel on November 16, checking out on the 18th, settling their debts, taking their things and documents, and going in an unknown direction, ministry spokeswoman Marina Mandić said.

The police have no record of their legal departure from the country so they cannot say how they ended up in BiH, she added.

She said the police were checking if this was yet another attempt by foreign citizens to abuse attending a sporting tournament in Croatia.

The fifth Nigerian citizen arrived at a Zagreb police station on November 18, saying he lost his passport, and was given a decision to leave the country, Mandić said. However, she added, he came back to the station on the 27th and said he wanted to apply for asylum, and he is now at the Porin reception centre for asylum seekers.

Mandić said that in the meantime that person tried to enter Slovenia "but was sent back."

The students from Federal University of Technology Owerri arrived in Zagreb from Nigeria to participate in the World InterUniversities Championships in Pula. After competing in the table tennis tournament, they left for Zagreb from where they were to have flown to Lagos via Istanbul on November 18,.

Alexandro and Chinedu are now in Velika Kladuša's Miral camp as illegal migrants. They told Žurnal that police officers had put them in a van, took them to the BiH border where, together with several other persons, probably illegal migrants, they chased them away to BiH.

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

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Minister Says Croatian Police Commended for Protecting EU's External Border

ZAGREB, December 3, 2019 - Croatian police have been commended in the EU for protecting the EU's external border, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Monday in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council.

"EU ministers of the interior know best how to assess the role of the Croatian police, who at the moment are irreplaceable in the EU," Božinović said, adding that he had a lot of meetings with his colleagues.

"There is a consensus on the issue of protection of the external border. Everything that needs to be done with regard to the common asylum policy and legislative changes in that area actually depends on whether we have secure external borders, that is the precondition, and what Croatia and several other countries represent at the moment is the EU's security," Božinović said.

He said that on Tuesday he would meet with the EC Vice-President for Migration, Margaritis Schinas, and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Asked to comment on criticism regarding excessive use of force by Croatian police and two cases when migrants were shot at and wounded, Božinović said that nobody had even mentioned it.

"Nobody mentioned the two cases. Right after it happened, we took the necessary activities, the prosecutorial authorities have been involved, and I contacted my colleagues in Europe right away. Everything should be done to prevent incidents but, I repeat, Croatian police act in line with national and European legislation, they are recognised in the EU and we will continue pursuing our policy," said Božinović.

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

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Illegal Migrant Shot and Wounded While Resisting Arrest

ZAGREB, November 28, 2019 - An illegal migrant was shot and wounded while resisting a police officer in the wider Mrkopalj area of western Croatia on Wednesday, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County police said in a statement on Thursday.

The man suffered a gunshot wound to the right shoulder and was admitted to the KBC hospital in the northern Adriatic city of Rijeka on Wednesday evening. His condition is stable and his life is not in danger, the hospital said.

The incident occurred after police encountered a group of migrants in the wider Mrkopalj area. One of the migrants resisted arrest and in the process caused a police officer's gun to fire. The man was immediately administered first aid and was taken to hospital, according to the police statement.

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

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Border Police Equipped with 17 New Vehicles with Thermal Vision Cameras

ZAGREB, November 26, 2019 - Croatia's border police on Tuesday received 17 vehicles with thermal imaging cameras for border surveillance and this highly sophisticated equipment can cover distances of up to five kilometres.

During a ceremony in Zagreb to receive the equipment, Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that the equipment was produced by the Croatian company Ericsson Nikola Tesla and a few other local companies.

This innovative Croatian solution has already been commended by the European Commission, the minister said adding that he hopes that some other countries will express interest in purchasing this equipment.

These self-sufficient systems are placed on vehicle trailers and can stay in the field for six months because they can receive different electrical charging sources, including solar panels and batteries as well as other models of electricity generation.

The minister said that this 47-million-kuna project, which is co-funded by the European Union, will make tthe police more efficient in protecting the border.

Border police director Zoran Ničeno said that the border police directorate and the manufacturers of this equipment had cooperated in designing the border surveillance equipment.

Another nine vehicles with these systems will soon be delivered to the police so that it can cover the external border at all dominant points, said Ničeno.

In the first ten months of 2019, Croatian law enforcement forces caught 800 migrant traffickers, he said.

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Wounded Migrant Undergoes 4th Surgery, Still in Critical Condition

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - The migrant gravely injured when a policeman shot him on Tuhobić mountain over the weekend underwent a fourth surgery in Rijeka on Tuesday but he remains unconscious and his condition critical.

A doctor at the Rijeka University Hospital said one bullet was found in the migrant's body and that he suffered lung, liver and spine injuries.

The accident occurred when police came across a group of illegal migrants on inaccessible terrain and one officer shot one of them in the torso and abdomen. County police said they recovered items on the scene that could help in establishing the circumstances.

Police said they could not say more because of the confidentiality of the investigation and a pending report from the Police Directorate.

The police union said the migrant was wounded when an officer's gun accidentally went off and that the migrant's life was saved because the officer acted in line with the highest principles.

None of the 17 migrants in the group has requested legal protection in Croatia, so they will be returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where they illegally entered Croatia.

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

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Inhumane Conditions Reported in Migrant Camp Near Croatia’s Border

ZAGREB, November 19, 2019 - European Commission representatives called on all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday to join as soon as possible in dealing with the problems caused by the high influx of illegal migrants, insisting on the closure of the Vucjak migrant camp where hundreds of migrants stay in inhumane conditions.

Michela Matuella, head of the unit for BiH at the European Commission Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, and Martin Taschner of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, talked about the migrant crisis in Bihac with representatives of the city and cantonal authorities and visited Vučjak, where migrants stay in tents without electricity, heat or running water and sleep in the mud, protected only by cartons they bring themselves.

The conditions are very bad and we are now even more convinced that this camp must be closed and that another location must be found to accommodate these people, Matuella told reporters.

The migrants in Vučjak could not be accommodated in better equipped camps in Bihac because there was no room.

"We clearly said that not only Vučjak but Bira and Miral must also be closed. We didn't give in and won't allow the accommodation capacities (in Bihac) to be enlarged," said Mustafa Ružnić, premier of Una-Sana Canton.

Matuella and Taschner said the EU had given BiH 36 million euro since the start of 2018 to provide for illegal migrants, adding that the assistance would continue to arrive but would have no results if the BiH authorities did not do their job or cooperate to put the migrant crisis under control.

We can't replace the representatives of government, Matuella said, recalling that 10 million euro was approved for BiH in August to expand accommodation capacities and build new reception centres, which have not been established.

She said it was encouraging that possible locations for illegal migrants had been found near Sarajevo and Tuzla, adding that this would reduce the pressure on Una-Sana Canton.

She said those locations were being assessed, after which a relocation plan would be made for the migrants in Vučjak.

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

Monday, 18 November 2019

Police Continues Investigation of Migrant Shooting

ZAGREB, November 18, 2019 - An on-site investigation on Tuhobić mountain, where a police officer shot a migrant who is in a critical condition, has been completed and "items of interest for further investigation have been recovered," Primorje-Gorski Kotar County Police said on Monday.

They added in a press release that they could not say more for the time being given the confidentiality of the investigation and a pending report by experts of the Police Directorate.

In coordination with the county prosecutor's office, the police are continuing the investigation to establish all the relevant facts concerning the shooting of the illegal migrant and the light injuries sustained by a police officer, the press release said.

The police recalled that a group of 17 foreign citizens, including the shot migrant, illegally entered Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since none have said they intend to apply for international protection, the process of their readmission to BiH has been started.

The Rijeka University Hospital said the gravely wounded migrant was on a respirator and that his condition remained critical.

He sustained serious gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen during a police operation on Saturday in inaccessible terrain on Tuhobić mountain in the Gorski Kotar region.

Citing unofficial sources, the media have reported that the wounded migrant was carried to a car several kilometres away by the officer who should shot him and another officer. The officer allegedly wanted to shoot in the air so that other officers could come to his assistance however he tripped and fell, shooting the migrant.

The Centre for Peace Studies (CMS) said on Monday it was unacceptable that police shot a migrant in the Gorski Kotar mountainous region, while the police union said the migrant was wounded when a gun accidentally went off and that his life was saved because the officer in question acted in line with the highest principles.

According to media reports, the man underwent urgent surgery due to a gunshot wound in the chest and abdomen area and Rijeka University Hospital doctors are fighting for his life. The use of firearms against refugees and migrants is becoming the rule, and the Interior Ministry and Minister Davor Božinović are doing their best to justify such conduct instead of preventing it, the CMS said in a press release.

The unofficial police information, although the investigation's findings have not been disclosed, is unconvincing and even more worrying are Božinović's statements justifying the use of firearms by police towards migrants, this nongovernmental organisation said, adding that this was not the first time that shots were fired at groups of migrants and refugees.

The SPH police union applauded the activity of all police officers protecting the state border in a difficult time when, it said, the number of people trying to illegally enter Croatia is on the rise.

Conscientious and professional police activity is necessary to maintain the state's integrity and citizens' security as well as to meet all the commitments Croatia undertook by joining the EU and other international agreements and associations, SPH president Dubravko Jagić said in a press release.

As for the shooting of the migrant in Gorski Kotar, he said all public and official information so far indicated that he was shot when the gun of one of the police officers who came across a group of illegal migrants accidentally went off.

Unfortunately, the wounds were grave and the person is still in serious condition, but his life was saved only because the officer whose gun accidentally went off acted in line with all the highest principles of the police profession and humanity, carrying the migrant, together with a colleague, over three kilometres of inaccessible terrain to a place which an ambulance could reach, Jagić said.

The dedicated work of the police to save the life of a migrant is a deeply humane act, the union concluded.

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

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