Thursday, 4 July 2019

President Tells Croats in Bihać Croatia Monitors Migrant Crisis

ZAGREB, July 4, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has written to a group of Croat residents of the northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina town of Bihać, telling them that Croatia has been closely following the migrant crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily said on Thursday.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak confirmed to the daily that the Croatian president replied through his ministry to a letter by four Bihać residents who asked her in a letter to intervene over a decision by town authorities to set up a new migrant centre in Vučjak, only ten kilometres from the border with Croatia.

The four Bihać residents believe this move jeopardises the few remaining Croats living in villages close to Vučjak.

In her reply, Grabar-Kitarović said that she and Croatian authorities were following developments in the area of Bihać and that she had forwarded the letter to the Croatian ministries of foreign and internal affairs for further action.

The Croatian president did not specify what the two ministries would do with regard to the situation in the neighbouring country.

The largest number of migrants who illegally enter Bosnia and Herzegovina and attempt to reach the Western Europe via Croatia have been staying in the northwestern Una-Sana Canton and the towns of Bihać and Velika Kladuša, close to the border with Croatia.

As two migrant centres opened in downtown Bihać have become overcrowded, two months ago the town authorities decided to set up a new migrant centre at Vučjak, seven kilometres from the town centre.

A large number of migrants are staying there in a tent settlement in poor conditions and the EU has said that it will not finance it because the settlement does not meet even the most basic conditions for normal functioning considering that it is located in rugged terrain and is close to areas believed to be infested with mines and even lacks running water.

The head of the Delegation of the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, has suggested that the country should consider the model used by Serbian authorities which have distributed migrants evenly in 18 centres across the country.

Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina will discuss this dispute with EU officials in Brussels on July 17.

The EU has said that this year it will set aside slightly less than 15 million euros for Bosnia and Herzegovina to deal with the migrant crisis.

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

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

EU Allocates 14.8 Million Euro for Migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina

ZAGREB, June 26, 2019 - The Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday said that the EU would allocate 14.8 million euro to Bosnia and Herzegovina "to address the needs of migrants and refugees who remain present" in that country.

The assistance includes 13 million euro of support "to migration management – for which an implementation agreement was signed on 21 June with the International Organisation for Migration – and 1.8 million euro for humanitarian aid."

"This brings EU overall assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina to cope with the increased migratory flow since 2018 to 24 million euro (20.2 million euro from the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance and 3.8 million euro of humanitarian aid)," the EU says.

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations was quoted as saying: that "Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities need to ensure effective coordination, at all levels, of border management and migration management capacity, as well as the functioning of the asylum system. This is necessary for the country to take full advantage of the EU substantial assistance – in the interest of refugees and migrants and of the local communities."

Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, was quoted as saying that "the EU is committed to help those most in need and cover the basic needs of refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, complementing national efforts."

"It is important that the well-being of the refugees and migrants is at the heart of decisions for the location and quality of accommodation centres."

The statement recalls that local authorities proceeded with a forced relocation of 900-1000 refugees and migrants to a new location called Vučijak "that has been deemed unsuitable by the European Union and UN."

"The above-mentioned venue, without the necessary infrastructure in terms of water, sanitation or electricity, surrounded by minefields, creates a clear danger for the life and health of migrants. Furthermore, the land is a former landfill and may still be toxic. The European Union is concerned about the well-being of the people moved there and has, together with its humanitarian partners, requested the authorities to stop forced relocations and provide dignified and secure shelter solutions. The European Union is also concerned about the authorities’ intention to take measures against humanitarian partners."

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

Friday, 21 June 2019

Accusations Against Croatian Police’s Treatment of Migrants Not Confirmed

ZAGREB, June 21, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Friday inspected the Grabovac border monitoring centre, telling reporters that for now no misconduct had been identified in the police treatment of illegal migrants in a mountain hut on Mount Risnjak and that an investigation was still ongoing.

"Croatian police have interviewed staff. Our reports do not confirm the events from the anonymous report on that day and place, and the police are very strict when it comes to complaints of official misconduct and such behaviour is punished," Božinović said.

He added that he could not speculate on the motives of a mountaineer who had sent an anonymous letter to the media accusing the police of inhumane treatment of migrants.

He said that "he had no idea" who had sent the anonymous letter and concluded that the police were being criticised by migrants because they had been stopped on their way to Western Europe.

The fact that they managed to enter Croatia fairly easily speaks more of the countries along the way, he said and added that Croatia is a serious country that implements its laws.

The letter sent to the H-alter website by an anonymous mountaineer notes that he saw special police on Mount Risnjak beating migrants with their rifle butts and shooting above their heads to intimidate them.

Replying to reporters regarding a new refugee camp in Vučjak near the town of Bihać in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, Božinović said that it was obvious that local authorities were sending a message to the migrants, "head toward Croatia."

"That hasn't surprised us. We are always a few steps ahead and anticipate events. We have sufficient forces and technology and are very flexible and mobile and can respond to any challenge," Božinović concluded.

He underscored that these were not asylum seekers but illegal migrants who wish to find work in western EU countries. Croatia however cannot allow illegal crossings and has no intention of becoming a "hot-spot", Božinović said, noting that refugees seeking accommodation and asylum in Croatia are being assisted.

Chief of police Nikola Milina said that there were about 600 migrants around Vučjak and about 5,000 in all in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that the police were ready to respond should the migrant pressure increase.

Asked about the misconduct of some police officers toward migrants, Milina said that some officers had been punished, however in most cases these were false accusations, recalling a Syrian refugee who had falsely claimed that he had been separated from his daughter and who was later charged as a result.

He said that the pressure of illegal migrants was constant and that last year more than 1,000 people traffickers had been arrested.

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

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Syrian Refugees to Be Accommodated in State-Owned Flats in Sisak

ZAGREB, June 18, 2019 - About fifty Syrian refugees who arrived in Croatia from Turkey through the resettlement programme will be accommodated in Sisak in mid-July, representatives from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Croatia said on Tuesday.

This is the first group of a total of 250 refugees who are currently in the Kutina asylum centre and will be housed in state-owned flats and be given asylum status.

JRS on Tuesday conducted an educational meeting with state administration, city and county representatives, as well as people in education, health, welfare and other institutions, to prepare them for accepting the Syrian refugees.

Ten state-owned flats have already been prepared to accept the refugees and another ten are being prepared for the same purpose, it was said at the meeting.

Activities concerning the acceptance and integration of refugees will be conducted by JRS, while the Interior Ministry will finance the process with European funds.

Croatian language classes will be organised for the refugees and children will be enrolled in school, and once adults have passed re-training courses, they will be put in contact with employers as part of an employment programme.

The resettlement programme is an expression of international solidarity and sharing the responsibility with countries where there are large numbers of people who require international protection, and a tool to manage legal migrations and prevent people smuggling, it was said.

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

Thursday, 13 June 2019

More and More Illegal Migrants Trying to Enter Croatia from Bosnia

ZAGREB, June 13, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Thursday informed the government that the biggest pressure of illegal migrants had been lately concentrated along 350-kilometre-long sections of Croatia's border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Presenting a report on the implementation of the strategy on the integral border management in 2018, Božinović said that while in the previous years, a majority of migrants had come to Croatia from Serbia, currently the borderline in Karlovac, Lika nd Sisak counties with northwestern Bosnia was exposed to the heaviest pressure of irregular migrants.

In order to raise the resilience to this pressure, full engagement of the border police is necessary.

In addition, 2,800 law enforcement staffers have been trained for that purpose.

Furthermore, 60 police off-road vehicles have been obtained plus 65 hand-held thermal imaging devices and 100 hand-held cameras.

He said that all the entry points at the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina were designed in accordance with the Schengen rules and agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A total of 19 cameras are installed along the border, 12 at the border with Serbia and seven with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Croatian Police Bolstering Capacities to Fight Illegal Migration

ZAGREB, June 11, 2019 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Tuesday that the placement of barriers at the Maljevac border crossing with Bosnia and Herzegovina was envisaged in the Schengen Catalogue, and that the Croatian police were strengthening their human and technical capacities to combat illegal migration as effectively as possible.

The Schengen acquis recommends that border crossings be separated by a barrier, Božinović told reporters.

Asked why barriers were placed at Maljevac, he said they would be placed at other border crossings as well.

A large group of migrants who wanted to illegally enter Croatia had gathered at Maljevac a while ago, he added. "We kept strong police forces there for several days and barriers would certainly help us, in the event that something similar happened again, to cut the costs of our own resources."

The minister dismissed the interpretation that the barriers were a sign that the Croatian police lacked staff, saying Croatia has one of the largest and best-equipped border police forces in the EU.

"We use our capacities depending on the situation on the ground. We have enough forces and reservists, and we'll also have reserve police who can be engaged, if necessary, for the tourist season and for other areas, including the border," said Božinović.

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

Friday, 7 June 2019

Local Community Key for Integrating Refugees

ZAGREB, June 7, 2019 - The local community has a key role in integrating refugees, according to an international conference organised on Friday by civil society organisations on the occasion of the start of REFUGEE weeks which will see several events during June to inform citizens about the new members in their society.

Croatia is included in the relocation and resettlement programme for refugees from Turkey and Greece and, in addition to providing accommodation, it is necessary to actively include them in society, heard the conference organised by the Coordination for Integration.

Dragana Knezić of the Stress and Trauma Rehabilitation Centre said that citizens and the community show empathy and solidarity with refugees if they are informed on time and are included in decision-making.

So far 793 aliens have been approved international protection in Croatia and another 500 have applied for asylum.

Mirna Varga of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) noted that at the end of May, 50 Syrian citizens arrived in Croatia from Turkey as part of the resettlement programme and they are currently accommodated in the Kutina migrant centre and will be housed in apartments in Sisak and Karlovac.

The government is expected to adopt a plan to relocate those people who have been granted international protection in an effort to decentralise their accommodation. Most of them are now located in Zagreb.

"There are refugees also in Rijeka and Zadar. Our objective is that they are not all in Zagreb but for all of Croatia to profit from their knowledge and skills. By the end of the year, another 50 people will certainly arrive, which will meet our quota for 2018 of 100 Syrian refugees from Turkey. A new quota of 150 people has been approved for 2019 but no one knows when these people might arrive in Croatia," Varga said.

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

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

(VIDEO) Smuggler Crashes with Migrants into Roadblock, Ends up in Hospital

ZAGREB, June 4,, 2019 - A 31-year-old Serb national who was smuggling 33 migrants on early Tuesday morning crashed into a police roadblock and was hospitalised for serious injuries, while the passengers in the vehicle were not injured, Zagreb police reported.

A little after midnight between Monday and Tuesday the police began to follow a Citroen Jumper van suspecting that it might be transporting illegal migrants. When the police sounded their sirens, the driver of the van sped up, attempted to get away and to run the police vehicle off the road.

The police blockade was set up at the toll gates at Lučko, however, the driver tried to smash through the roadblock and the van crashed into two police vehicles and was stopped.

The police found 33 persons in the van, believed to be illegal migrants who were not injured in the crash. They will be questioned by police to determine their identity and their status while in Croatia.

The van driver was taken to hospital after being seriously injured in the crash. He will be charged with illegal entry, movement and residing in Croatia or any other EU member state or Schengen Area country.

Also, two police cars were damaged in the incident.

Last year the police arrested 620 people traffickers while preliminary figures for this year indicate that by June 1, 344 smugglers were arrested.

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

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Dozens Injured in Fire in Migrant Centre near Border with Croatia

ZAGREB, June 1, 2019 - About 30 people have been injured in a fire which broke out on Saturday morning in the migrant reception centre for illegal migrants in Velika Kladuša, north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina, Una-Sana Canton police spokesman Ale Siljdedić said.

The fire broke out in a former factory which was repurposed last year for the temporary accommodation of migrants.

"It's too early to say what caused the fire," Siljdedić said, adding that at least 29 people who were in the centre were taken to hospitals in Velika Kladuša and Bihać.

Witnesses said they saw migrants jumping out of windows in a panic. Local media released video footage of the former factory encircled by thick smoke.

More than 6,000 illegal migrants have entered BiH this year and most of those who arrive in the country in an attempt to reach Croatia seek temporary accommodation in Velika Kladuša and Bihac. Local authorities have been warning for months that they can no longer handle the migrant flow and seek greater assistance from the state authorities and the international community.

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

Friday, 31 May 2019

Sixth Group of Syrian Refugees Relocated from Turkey to Croatia

ZAGREB, May 31, 2019 - Fifty Syrian refugees have arrived in Croatia from Turkey as part of the European refugee relocation programme, the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement on Thursday, explaining that this was the sixth group of refugees to be relocated to Croatia so far on the basis of quotas set by the government.

The last group of refugees arrived in Croatia on May 29-30. So far, 202 Syrian refugees have been relocated to Croatia from Turkey.

Another 51 Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in July and August, when Croatia will have met quotas defined by government decisions of 2015 and 2017, taking in a total of 253 refugees.

As was the case with previous arrivals of refugees, the last group of Syrian refugee families underwent cultural orientation in Turkey and will immediately begin with the process of social integration in Croatia, the ministry said, adding that refugees would initially be provided with accommodation at the centre for seekers of international protection in Kutina.

The ministry recalls in its statement that relocation is an expression of international solidarity and sharing of responsibility with the countries where a large number of people seeking international protection have arrived or have been staying, and that it is a tool for the management of migrations, reduction of illegal migrations and prevention of people smuggling to which refugees are frequently exposed.

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

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