Friday, 16 July 2021

Croatia Sends Aid to Lithuania to Cope with Upsurge in Migrants

ZAGREB, 16 July 2021 - The Croatian government decided on Friday to send tents, bunk beds, blankets, pillows and sleeping bags to Lithuania after the Baltic country has taken in more than 2,000 migrants in recent weeks.

The number of crossings of irregular migrants, mainly Syrians and Iraqis, from Belarus to Lithuania has increased 25 times compared to the whole of 2020, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinovć said at a cabinet meeting.

These developments prompted Lithuania to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and ask other EU member states for assistance.

Croatia's aid is equivalent to HRK 1.05 million (€140,000).

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Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Migrant Smuggling Market in Balkans Worth €50 Million

ZAGREB, 11 May, 2021 - The migrant smuggling market in the Western Balkans is worth at least €50 million a year, says a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, describing Serbia as an important destination for migrants because it borders with four EU member states.

The report notes that Serbian police have discovered several tunnels, three to seven metres deep and up to 30 metres long, under the wire fence along the Serbia-Hungary border near the Hungarian town of Szeged and village of Ásotthalom and the Serbian village of Kelebija.

The tunnels are considered relatively risky due to the possibility of arrest and the danger of them collapsing. The smugglers' fees range from €500 to 5,000.

This is much less than during the 2015 migrant however statistics show that the regional market for migrant smuggling is still large regardless of attempts to close the so-called Balkan migrant smuggling route, says the Global Initiative, an international network fighting acquisition of illegal gain and crime.

Quoting Voice of America, the Belgrade media reported about the report, which focuses on the flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans.

Using maps and analyses helps identify key entry and exit points for migrant smuggling through six Western Balkan countries, as well as locations that serve as drug smuggling hubs. Not even the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have disrupted illicit flows, says the Global Initiative.

Its report identifies Serbia as an important destination for asylum-seekers and migrants because the country borders with four EU members - Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The report quotes data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under which in 2019, 30,216 migrants entered Serbia, almost twice as many as in 2018. The report also quotes data from the Serbian Ministry of the Interior under which in 2020 more than 8,500 migrants were prevented from illegally crossing the Serbian border.

 

 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

USKOK Indicts Nine Migrant Smugglers

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - The anti-corruption office USKOK has indicted an Afghan national and eight Croatian nationals for smuggling migrants.

The Afghan national, who is the principal defendant in the case, is charged with having organised a ring to smuggle migrants across the Croatian-Slovenian border.

The migrants were charged €600-800 for transport from the Croatian-Bosnian border to the border with Slovenia.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Court Grants Constitutional Complaint by Killed Migrant Girl's Family - Večernji List Daily

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - A constitutional complaint by the parents and eight siblings of Afghan migrant girl Madine Hosseini, who died in 2017 after she fell under a train near the Croatian-Serbian border, regarding their application for protection in Croatia, has been granted, Večernji List daily said on Wednesday.

The Constitutional Court established that the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) and administrative courts did not establish with sufficient certainty that Serbia was a safe third country and that asylum seekers would not be at risk of being returned to their country of origin.

A complaint filed by the second wife of Madine's father and children has also been granted, so decisions of the High Administrative Court were quashed for a total of four adults and ten children aged one to 15 from Afghanistan and the case was returned to the Administrative Court in Osijek. All of them were represented by lawyer Sanja Bezbradica Jelavić.

After Madeine's death they were returned to Serbia, but in 2018 they re-entered Croatia and applied for international protection. The father and husband who filed the constitutional complaint said that the Taliban had threatened him because he had worked as a police officer and driver for the US military in Afghanistan, so in fear of them, since he had been wounded in one attack, he managed to flee with his family.

After they illegally entered Croatia, MUP rejected their asylum request by applying the safe third country institute. The explanation was that the Serbian constitution guaranteed fundamental human and minority rights.

Administrative courts also confirmed that Serbia's legal framework guaranteed an efficient and fair procedure of international protection, even from chain refoulement. The fact that they had not been exposed to inhumane or similar treatment in the year and a half they stayed in Serbia was also taken in to account.

However, the lawyer said that the evaluation of Serbia as a safe third country had not taken into account the fact that over the past 10 years refugee statuse had been granted to only 47 persons and subsidiary protection to 62, which was negligible in relation to the number of refugees.

The constitutional judges too ruled that it was not enough to examine the legal framework for asylum seekers but also the real situation, Večernji List said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Amnesty International: Croatia Violent Towards Migrants, But Improves in Fighting Gender-Based Violence

ZAGREB, 7 April , 2021 - Amnesty International says in its report on human rights in 2020 that Croatia continued to be violent towards illegal migrants and that access to abortion was constrained, while commending improvements regarding gender-based violence and a ruling allowing same-sex couples to foster children.

"Aid organizations documented over 15,000 cases of pushbacks and collective expulsions, frequently accompanied by violence and abuse," AI says, singling out the case of 15 migrants allegedly beaten by police while being tied to a tree.

The Croatian Interior Ministry regularly denies allegations of migrant abuse.

Gender-based violence

"In January, legal amendments harmonizing the definition of rape in criminal legislation with international standards and increasing penalties for crimes of gender-based violence entered into force," AI says, adding that "the number of reported rape cases more than doubled" as the changes "significantly expanded the scope of the offence. Proceedings continued to be lengthy, lasting between three and five years."

"Due to the reclassification of domestic violence offences, the number of criminal prosecutions for such offences rose sharply. Nevertheless, in the majority of cases, domestic violence continued to be treated as a minor offence attracting minor penalties. Police and courts remained reluctant to enforce protective measures," AI says.

Sexual and reproductive rights

"Women continued to face significant barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services and information," AI says.

"The widespread refusal of individual doctors and some clinics to perform abortions on grounds of conscience, as well as prohibitively high costs of services and poor regional coverage of authorized providers, presented an insurmountable obstacle to women of lower social economic status."

A new law on abortion was not adopted, AI says, although the "deadline to replace an outdated law set by the 2017 Constitutional Court ruling expired in February 2019."

Roma discrimination

"Roma continued to face discrimination in all walks of life, including education, health, housing and employment," AI says, adding that due to lack of electricity and the internet, "many Roma children were unable to access any remote learning during school closures, thereby further deepening educational gaps between Roma and non-Roma pupils."

Freedom of expression

"Journalists investigating corruption and organized crime continued to face threats and intimidation," AI says, adding that according to the Croatian Journalists’ Association, over 900 lawsuits were filed against journalists in 2020 for “violation of honour and reputation”.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Croatia to Take in Orphan Migrants

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - Croatia is going to accept 13 unaccompanied migrant children from reception centres on the Greek islands as soon as they pass security clearance, the Večernji List newspaper said on Friday.

All the children, 12 girls and a new-born baby, will be provided with adequate accommodation and all the necessary psycho-social and other assistance as they are traumatised by war and their stay in refugee camps.

The children will be given the necessary assistance during integration into society, and the support of the local community will also be needed, the newspaper said.

Croatia is one of the ten or so EU countries that have responded to appeals by Greece, and later by Germany, to help unaccompanied minors and thus show humanity and solidarity with the EU member state that is bearing the brunt of migrants.

Details of the unaccompanied children have not been revealed for their protection. It is not known where they will be accommodated or from which countries they come. Statistics show that most of the minors relocated to EU countries come from Afghanistan (51%), Syria (26%), Iraq (8%), the Palestinian territories (4%), Somalia (3%) and other countries (8%).  

 For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Croatian Police and Deminers Rescue Several Migrants From Minefield

ZAGREB, 5 March, 2021 - Police and deminers yesterday and today rescued several illegal migrants whose lives were in jeopardy in the mine field in Saborsko municipality, after one migrant was killed and several sustained injuries in a landmine blast, the Interior Ministry (MUP) said on Friday evening.

Members of Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit yesterday searched the area by helicopter and then warned migrants that they were in a mine suspected area and should stay in place until help arrives. Deminers of Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit this morning started to inspect the field and create a safe corridor for evacuation and ten persons were rescued and offered medical help.

MUP said in the press release that a group of foreign nationals had illegally reached Croatia and entered a mine suspected area in a forest area in municipality Saborsko. There, a younger man stepped on an unidentified explosive device and died, while other persons from the group sustained injuries in the blast. After receiving a report, police officers found one man dead and one injured, while the rest of the group went away in unknown direction.

According to the interior ministry, at the moment six persons have an intention to make an application for international protection in Croatia, while other persons are in medical care due to having sustained injuries.The life of one of them is in danger.

The Ministry of the Interior and Croatian police, it is recalled, have been intensively underscoring the dangers of illegal migrations since 2018, especially warning of the danger of mine suspected areas, severe winter conditions in the mountains and rivers.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Turkish Migrant Drowned Attempting Illegal Croatia Border Crossing

February 15, 2021 – Tragedy on the Bosnia Croatia border yesterday as a lifeless body was found in the River Glina. The Turkish migrant drowned attempting an illegal crossing into Croatia

The body of a Turkish citizen was discovered at the river Glina in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The citizen had been missing for days and it was sadly already suspected the Turkish migrant drowned after becoming separated from a group they were travelling with.

Seven Turkish migrants had attempted to illegally cross the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia on the Glina River during the night of Thursday 11 February 2021 and the morning of Friday 12 February 2021. They believed the water level in the area was low. Alongside extremely cold temperatures, the nighttime darkness they used as a cover for the illegal border crossing attempt, must have made the journey treacherous. The tragic result is that one Turkish migrant drowned.

According to Svevlad Hoffman, advisor to the director of the BiH Border Police, six migrants were saved from drowning at the time of the crossing, but one of the group disappeared. This Turkish migrant drowned.

"It was suspected that there was a drowning, which was unfortunately confirmed today," Hoffman said. He explained that the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, whose members had found the Turkish migrant drowned, had informed them about the discovery of the body. Police from Bosnia and Herzegovina had informed Croatian counterparts about the situation at the time of the migrant's disappearance.

Investigation of the case was taken over by the State Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and six Turkish citizens were handed over to the jurisdiction of the Service for Foreigners Affairs of BiH.

The river Glina, where the Turkish migrant drowned, forms a natural border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the Croatian side of the border lie Karlovac County and Sisak-Moslavina County. On the Bosnian side of the border, many large camps have sprung up containing migrants who wish to attempt an illegal crossing into Croatia. Croatia is rarely their intended destination. Most are hoping to travel further west into the European Union.

The crossing where the Turkish migrant drowned is not the only border through which migrants try to enter. On Friday 12 February 2021, Osijek-Baranja police rescued a Syrian migrant family from inaccessible Slavonia wetlands. They had become cut off on an island and surrounded by swollen waters in the area around Kopacki rit Nature Park after crossing the border from Serbia.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Syrian Migrant Family Rescued from Inaccessible Slavonia Wetlands

February 13, 2021 – Osijek-Baranja police rescued a Syrian migrant family, including two children, from inaccessible Slavonian wetland terrain. They had become cut off and stranded on an island, surrounded by swollen waters

Osijek-Baranja police have rescued a Syrian migrant family, including two children, from inaccessible Slavonian wetland terrain, police revealed in a statement released on Saturday 13 February. They had become cut off, surrounded by swollen waters, in the area around Kopacki rit Nature Park.

At around 10 a.m. Friday 12 February, in a forest area near Aljmaš, police found a 19-year-old Syrian citizen during a regular patrol. The 19-year-old asked for police help because his family was cut off on a river island of Kopački rit.

Immediately after learning about the other members of the Syrian migrant family, the police dispatched two patrol boats to look for them. They discovered the Syrian migrant family in a very short time. In addition to the teenager already discovered, police found the rest of the Syrian migrant family travelling party to include three women, born in 1973, 1998 and 1999, and two children, born in 2016 and 2017.

The found persons were transported to the mainland by the police. There, they were met by an ambulance, which had been called due to cold temperatures in the area and fears their exposure could have lead to hypothermia. They were transported to the Osijek Clinical Hospital Center (KBC).

The Syrian migrant family was released from the hospital later in the same day.

It has been established that the Syrian migrant family have expressed their intention to apply for international protection in the Republic of Croatia. They have been sent to the Shelter for International Protection Seekers, a reception centre for asylum seekers in Zagreb, said the police.

Kopački Rit, where the Syrian migrant family were rescued, is a nature park in the eastern Croatia municipalities of Bilje and Kneževi Vinogradi. It is located northwest of the confluence of the Drava and the Danube, right next to the border with Serbia. It is comprised of many backwaters, marshland and ponds that exist immediately between these two great rivers. It is one of the most important, largest and most attractive preserved intact wetlands in Europe.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Two Bodies Found By The Road, Frozen On Papuk Mountain

January 26, 2021 – Multiple harrowing questions are posed by the tragic discovery yesterday of two bodies found frozen on Papuk mountain. They were at first suspected to be those of migrants. It is still not yet known how they came to be there, if they were travelling together or alone.

Famous for its wealth of covering forest, cascading streams, picturesque views and wildlife, Papuk is the largest mountain in Slavonia, eastern Croatia. It's actually a stretch of mountain range with an eponymous peak and the whole area is designated as a Nature Park. It draws thousands of visitors each year who come to enjoy its natural beauty and the opportunities for walking and hiking it provides. But, in a place we associate with the fullness of life, it is death that yesterday came to Papuk Nature Park.

Two bodies have been found frozen on Papuk. On a section of the Velika - Jankovac road, which runs north-south right through the heart of the Nature Park, winter service employees found the first body frozen on Papuk on Monday at around 9.45 am while clearing snow on the route with a plow. At around 3pm on the same day, a second body was found frozen on Papuk by a 41-year-old man working in the area. Both were bodies of young men. Details were provided by the Virovitica-Podravina Police Department.

Though the two bodies found frozen on Papuk were not discovered simultaneously, they were located quite close together - within 3 or 4 kilometres of each other. It is not currently known if the two persons were associated with one another, were travelling together or of what nationality they are. On the evening of Monday 25 January, it was suspected and being widely reported in Croatian media that the bodies found frozen on Papuk were those of migrants. 

If the persons were travelling through the area and were not alone, anyone alive and remaining within the mountainous area will be in a precarious position. Over recent days, temperatures within the park have reached daytime highs of -2. At night, the temperature has dropped to below -8. The snow is currently up to half a metre deep in some places on the Nature Park. As with many mountainous regions of Croatia at present, the snow continues to fall.

139805761_10159222223838324_401411676191381434_n.jpgThe snow is up to half a metre deep in some areas on Papuk at present. Over recent days, the nighttime temperature has dropped to below -8 © PP Papuk

If the bodies found frozen on Papuk are ascertained to be migrants, many will wonder just what they were doing there and how they came to be there. The area in which they were found is some 70 kilometres from the nearest border with Bosnia and is not on any existing route popularity attempted by migrants for passage into more westerly-lying countries in Europe. From Papuk, the next nearest European border is Hungary, just short of 50 kilometres to the north. The crossing of the border into Hungary again is not one presently chosen by migrants.

Croatia_location_map-2011-01-02.jpgMap of Croatia © NordNordWest derivative work: Southpawphilly (talk), adapted by TCN

“It's a very strange route,” TCN was told by a man who has spent extensive time with migrants in the Bosnian camps which lie just across the border from Croatia. He preferred not to be named in this article. “If they are migrants, it is possible that they wandered off route. But, in my opinion, that is highly unlikely because most of them use mobile phones (for navigation) even more than we do.”

“I'm really only guessing, which is all that anyone can do for now, but I think it is more likely that, if they are migrants, someone drove them halfway and just left them there, telling them that it was a place that it was not. That's very much something that some of the smugglers are capable of. They could have been driven across the border from Bosnia, taken to the edge of the mountains and told that Slovenia was just on the other side.”

For now, the identities of the bodies found frozen on Papuk remain a mystery, as do the circumstances of how they came to be there. Croatian media is reporting that they have unofficially learned that no documentation was found on either of the bodies. This has lead many to believe that the bodies found frozen on Papuk may actually be locals who had become trapped there by severe and deteriorating weather conditions. The immediate area in which the bodies were found experienced a snowstorm on Sunday, with up to half a metre of snow being deposited.

By the late morning of 26 January, some Croatian media were reporting they had learned that the men were not migrants but were, in fact, local men. The matter is under investigation by the police. A search of the area was undertaken and a survey of the surrounding terrain assessed in order to decide whether other services were needed to be called on for any continuing search.

By order of the County State's Attorney from Bjelovar, both bodies were transported to the Department of Pathology in OB Virovitica, for autopsy and identification. A brief police statement said the public would be notified after an autopsy was performed.

UPDATE: In the mid-afternoon of 26 January, police confirmed that the bodies were those of a 26-year-old and a 38-year-old, both from the local area. The men's families had performed the sad task of identifying their bodies. Later in the day, it was confirmed that the two men did in fact know each other - they were brothers-in-law.

TCN will be updating this story as and when we receive more and relevant details

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