Thursday, 17 October 2019

Situation with Migrants Not Good for EU, Bosnia's European Prospects

ZAGREB, October 17, 2019 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović has said that illegal migrants attempt to enter Croatia on a daily basis but that Croatian police protect the border and are prepared for all eventualities.

Božinović made the statement on Wednesday during a visit to the eastern town of Vukovar, where he attended an event commemorating 97 police officers killed or gone missing in the defence of that town in 1991, when reporters asked him if there was a danger that the 1,500 migrants staying at the Vučjak camp in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, close to the border with Croatia, could force their way into Croatia after their water and power supply was cut off.

Suhret Fazlić, the mayor of the Bosnian town of Bihać, where the Vučjak camp is located, on Tuesday again accused Croatia of pushing back migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina or rather to Bihać. He noted that Croatia recently pushed back a group of migrants who had entered Croatia at the Bajakovo border crossing on the border with Serbia in eastern Croatia.

"I regret the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I have personally warned my colleagues in that country that they need to step up the protection of their eastern border because, by their own admission, illegal migrants enter Bosnia and Herzegovina from the east without any problem. It is not good for Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is not good for the EU and it is also not good for Bosnia and Herzegovina's European prospects," said Božinović.

Commenting on Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava's dissatisfaction with efficiency in the prosecution of war crimes committed in that town during the 1991-95 war, Božinović said that a special working group for the investigation of war crimes was formed in February 2018 and that it had achieved significant results.

"That, of course, is not everything, and work on the identification and prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes in Vukovar will never end," the minister said, adding that this year police had uncovered 19 war crimes, including 10 in Vukovar.

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

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Božinović: EU Understands Comprehensive Approach Needed for Migrant Routes

ZAGREB, October 9, 2019 - Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday there was understanding among EU member states that a comprehensive approach was needed for all three migrant routes - eastern, central and western Mediterranean.

EU interior ministers met in Luxembourg today to discuss migration and a temporary mechanism for rescuing migrants at sea, on the central Mediterranean route, that was agreed by Germany, France, Italy and Malta on September 23.

The agreement does not envisage quotas and member states would take in migrants rescued at sea on a voluntary basis. EU president Finland would like the mechanism to expand to 20 countries.

There have been countries, including Croatia, that have been pointing to the importance of the eastern Mediterranean route from the start as it is used by the largest number of migrants, Božinović said, adding that after Greece and Cyprus, Croatia was the next member state "suffering the biggest pressure."

"Over the past two years we have manage to communicate that the route across Croatia is potentially the one by which the largest number of migrants may come. We see it every day and I'm sure this message has become clear to everyone," Božinović said when asked if Croatia would join the agreement signed in Malta.

One of the more important priorities of the next European Commission will be to find a solution to all migrant routes, which are not identical, but it all boils down to the same thing, he said, "which is how to protect the EU's external borders and how to prepare all institutions and all states for circumstances which will make Europe increasingly prepared for a possible new wave, because it's clear to everyone that the years 2015 and 2016 must not happen again."

"Something has to be done on all migration routes. All countries must get involved, both those which are EU member states and those which are not, because the challenge is the same for all," Božinović said.

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

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

UN Rapporteur Accuses Croatian Police of Migrant Abuse

ZAGREB, October 1, 2019 - The UN rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales, on Tuesday called on Bosnian authorities to ensure adequate accommodation for migrants and accused Croatian police of the alleged mistreatment and pushback of migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He wrote a report after visiting BiH for several days to find out first-hand the scope of the migrant crisis in the country. He presented the report at a press conference in Sarajevo.

I received reliable information on the pushback of migrants and asylum seekers by the Croatian border police on BiH territory, he said in the report, adding that according to the statements he was given, many migrants were pushed back to the BiH border without any official procedure.

Concrete tactics are different, but a common pattern is catching people on the move, confiscating their belongings, notably communication devices, hitting people with batons and chasing them with dogs to physically exhaust and prevent them from attempting to cross the border again, he said.

A number of men, according to the statements, were undressed, beaten and forced to walk back to BiH barefoot, he added.

The special rapporteur said the abuse by the Croatian border police clearly represented a violation of those persons' human rights.

He concluded that such conduct had no real effect because it did not deter migrants from their intention to continue on towards the European Union, but only resulted in the thriving of smuggling networks and organised crime, which he said demanded urgent attention and action by all the countries in the region.

The rapporteur says in the report that he discussed this problem with Croatian Ambassador to BiH Ivan Sabolić, that he will continue the dialogue with Croatia's authorities, and that he expects to receive informed soon that the situation has improved.

The report says that 40,000 illegal migrants entered BiH from the start of 2018 to August 2019, that 7,300 are in the country now, while the rest have managed to head west.

The rapporteur warned that children are especially in danger. They make up 20% of migrants and one in three arrived in BiH without parents.

BiH authorities were asked to improve conditions in reception centres, notably in Una-Sana Canton, where the largest number of migrants is concentrated.

The fragmented political structure, the lack of a uniform vision and will by the authorities at different levels for genuine cooperation undermine the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, Gonzalez Morales said at the press conference.

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

Thursday, 26 September 2019

11,813 Migrants Enter Croatia in First Eight Months of 2019

ZAGREB, September 26, 2019 - In the first eight months of 2019, Croatian border police arrested and processed 11,813 migrants who attempted to illegally enter the country, which is 3,609 more persons than in 2018 and as many as 8,019 more persons than in the same period of 2018, the Jutarnji List daily of Thursday reports.

The daily quotes official figures from the Ministry of the Interior which show that police stopped 49 people on a daily basis while they were trying to illegally cross the border into the country.

However, the total number of illegal migrants processed by Croatian police in the first eight months is far higher because in the same period, Slovenian police returned to Croatia 6,447 illegal migrants.

Those people managed to cross Croatian territory into Slovenia, where they were arrested and returned to Croatia in line with international regulations. Based on these figures, it can be concluded that 18,260 illegal migrants entered Croatia in the period from 1 January to 31 August.

The daily wonders where those 18,260 people are and concludes that they have been sent back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia without having been offered protection.

If the influx of migrants continues at the current rate, Croatian police could arrest more than 15,000 migrants by the end of the year, which is by far the highest number since March 2016, when a large wave of people arriving in Europe from the Middle East, Asia and Africa was stopped.

Leading police and border officials warned at a meeting of the coordinating committee for homeland security on Tuesday that the situation with illegal migrants has been growing more and more serious.

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

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Croatian Police Dismiss News Report About Migrant Abuse

ZAGREB, September 25, 2019 - The Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday denied an article by the H-Alter news website saying that Croatian police were "punishing migrants" by burning their feet with a hot iron rod.

"In order for an allegation to be officially verifiable at least some evidence should be made available, but none is presented in the article," the ministry said in a statement.

It said that the person who spoke with the author of the article did not know which police station he was taken to, could not remember details of the appearance of the police station, and the article did not specify the time when the incident allegedly happened.

"This kind of reporting can only be tendentious and that's why we resolutely dismiss the allegations from the article, which provides no evidence to support the claims made in it," the statement said, adding that the primary task of Croatian police is to guard the country's borders and protect its citizens and their property.

The ministry stressed that the Croatian police abide by all relevant European and national regulations concerning human rights protection.

"We emphasise once again that the Ministry of the Interior has zero tolerance to any form of violence, including in the treatment of migrants. So far it has been shown that accusations of alleged violence used by the Croatian police, made by migrants who were prevented from crossing the state border illegally, have no basis in reality nor have they ever been corroborated by any evidence," the statement said.

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

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Minister: Croatia Will Not Change Its Policy Towards Migrants

ZAGREB, September 17, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović has said that Croatia will not change its policy towards migrants, which has been recognised by the European Commission, underscoring that the country will continue reinforcing the protection of its borders against irregular crossings and, in parallel, enable the integration of migrants who want to stay in Croatia.

"We are ready to respond to any situation in the event of a stronger influx (of irregular migrants)," Božinović told reporters at an international conference on homeland security in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Addressing the conference, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović warned about possible recurrence of migrant crisis, and said that Croatia would respond to such developments in a responsible manner, protecting its borders.

In his comment on the president's speech, the minister told reporters that, being a sovereign state, Croatia protected its territory and had reinforced human and technical capacities to that end.

He noted that the developments in the Middle East and north Africa are being followed, as those areas are sources of a large number of migrants. "Currently, there is no direct threat," Božinović said, adding that Croatia had stepped up control of migrations.

He also underscored a rise in the number of arrests of migrants' smugglers as a result of both higher pressure from migratory routes and improved efficiency of law enforcement authorities.

The minister commented on Croatia's obligation to integrate migrants relocated from Greece, Turkey and Italy.

"Some 252 people have been integrated in Croatia under that scheme, and the process is going on well," Božinović said, recalling that the government assumed that duty in 2015.

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

Friday, 6 September 2019

Croatian Police Present Migrants with Notices of Readmission to Bosnia

ZAGREB, September 6, 2019 - A group of about 20 Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants were given notices of readmission to Bosnia and Herzegovina after it was established that they had entered Croatia illegally and after none of them applied for asylum or requested medical attention, the police told Hina on Thursday.

The migrants were found in Pokupsko, south of Zagreb, where they stopped on their way to Slovenia. They had walked along a road from Velika Gorica and sat outside a church in Pokupsko waiting for the police to pick them up, according to the police report.

The police found that they had illegally crossed the border from the Bosnian town of Velika Kladuša.

They were processed in accordance with the law on foreign nationals and were given notices of readmission after they expressed no wish to apply for international protection in Croatia.

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

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Not One Asylee in Međimurje County, Only 15 in Istria, Rijeka

ZAGREB, September 5, 2019 - The highest number of asylees in Croatia, 620, are accommodated in Zagreb and the lowest in counties reputed as multicultural, which points to the weakness of the state's policy, Večernji List daily said on Thursday.

Since 2015, Croatia has granted international protection for 696 people, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Interior Ministry data, asylum has been granted for 620 and subsidiary protection for 76 applicants. The government has also met its 2015 and 2017 obligations to take in 250 Syrian refugees relocated from Turkey as well as adopting a third decision to take in up to 150 citizens from third countries in a show of solidarity with other EU member states, the newspaper said.

As expected, the largest number of asylees is in Zagreb, but it is surprising that Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties, reputed as multicultural and tolerant, have taken in only 15 people, Večernji List said.

The state has the duty to integrate asylees into society so that, while keeping their culture, they can accept the values and norms of Croatian society and it them. However, Croatia does not have a migration policy and until now has not dealt with the integration of a larger number of foreigners from third countries, so integration is being implemented based on government action plans for the integration of refugees and asylees, the paper said.

It also mentioned the findings of a government survey showing that the lowest support for asylee rights, the highest expectation of negative change and the least willingness to help come from the people of the Dalmatia coastal region and eastern Croatia, while Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties and central Croatia have more positive views.

Willingness for close contact with asylees is lowest in Dalmatia and eastern Croatia, and highest in the northern Adriatic and central Croatia, Večernji List said, adding that it was therefore surprising that only 11 asylees have residence in Istria County and only four in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. Eighty-seven asylees reside in Sisak-Moslavina County, 43 in Zadar County, 42 in Brod-Posavina County, 34 in Zagreb County, seven in Split-Dalmatia County, six in Varaždin County, one in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, while there is not one asylee in Međimurje County.

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

Monday, 2 September 2019

Croatia Dismisses Serbia's Accusations of Abuse of Migrants

ZAGREB, September 2, 2019 - Croatia's Interior Ministry on Monday said that it was not acquainted with a case of alleged violence against migrants that Serbia's office for refugees and migrants reported about last week.

The Serbian office claimed last Saturday that Croatian border police staff had brutally beaten an Afghan minor.

"We consider this one more unfounded and uncorroborated accusation against the Croatian police forces because of their persistence and resoluteness in the protection of the state border which is also the European Union's external border," the ministry said in a press release.

Croatia's police have prevented 9,487 attempts of illegal crossings of its border since the beginning of this year, which is a 200% increase compared to the corresponding period in 2018.

Croatian law enforcement authorities have to date arrested nearly 600 migrant smugglers and 17% of the apprehended smugglers were Serbian nationals, the ministry added.

It recalled several cases when Croatian police officers helped migrants in dire situations and rescued them from peril.

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

Monday, 2 September 2019

Croatia Won't Allow Illegal Migrations, Interior Minister Says

ZAGREB, September 2, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said in a television interview on Sunday evening that the migrant wave was less intense than four years ago but that the number of illegal migrants had increased, adding that Croatia was following the rules and would not allow illegal migrations.

"The migrant wave has actually never stopped. It is much less intense than in 2015 and 2016. The main difference is that in 2015 migrants were invited to western Europe, while the situation today is completely different," Božinović told the HRT public television service.

He said that the EU today obviously did not want to take in illegal migrants anymore and that Croatia, given the fact that it has the longest external border of the European Union, was withstanding the pressure.

Božinović said that Croatia was aware of the complex situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina given its internal relations and division of powers, adding that the problem was not the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia but "the fact that, according to their own admissions, they are doing nothing on the eastern border of Bosnia and Herzegovina where migrants are entering the country."

The minister said that the number of illegal migrants had increased compared to last year. "Croatian police are abiding by the law and are not allowing illegal migrants into Croatia," he said.

Asked if Croatia had the resources to deal with the increased number of people smugglers, 589 of whom have been arrested so far this year compared to 600 in the whole of 2018, Božinović said that the police had the necessary resources and were much better organised in combating illegal migration.

As for Croatia's bid to join the Schengen passport-free area, Božinović said that a confirmation of the country's technical preparedness was expected this month. He said that seven chapters had been closed and one more was expected to be closed within the next week or two, after which a political decision would follow.

"It is very much in Europe's interest for Croatia to become a Schengen member," the interior minister said.

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

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