Saturday, 23 October 2021

EU Citizens Opposed to Violence Against Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 23 Oct, 2021 - EU citizens want illegal migrants arriving at EU borders to be treated more humanely, and on Saturday they called in the European Parliament on politicians to really help people in migrants' countries of origin to reduce their influx.

The European Parliament on Saturday started a plenary at which 80 EU citizens were presenting conclusions of discussions on different topics held by 800 randomly chosen citizens in September and October.

"Citizens are worried about illegal migrations so our working group discussed that topic more than labour migration between the member states," Croatian pensioner Dajana Milinković said in a public address.

Migrations should be destigmatised, human rights respected

Milinković was speaking on behalf of 200 European citizens who discussed the topic of migrations and the EU in the world. Participating in the discussions was another Croatian pensioner, Dragan Volarević from Zadar, who was also presenting conclusions of that citizens' working group on Saturday.

"One should tackle the real causes of migrations and find ways and funds to help people stay in their countries of origin, by helping them financially and otherwise," Milinković added.

She advocated legal migrations.

"There will be less illegal migration if we establish good programmes of legal migration. That is what the EU lacks with regard to 'third world' countries," she said.

Citizens across the EU feel that they have no influence on decision-making processes, which is why euro-skepticism has been on the rise so the three main EU institutions - the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament - have launched a series of discussions called the Conference on the Future of Europe.

"Citizens have asked to be more involved instead of just being called to go to the polls every five years, so this is our answer to their wish," European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica said on Saturday.

Randomly chosen citizens who were invited in October to discuss migrations and the EU in the world have told politicians that they do not want violence against migrants such as that recorded on the Croatian border.

"Migrants' human rights need to be respected. They are humans too and we need to respect them," said Milinković, who comes from the northern Adriatic town of Umag.

Her speech in the European Parliament was welcomed by a round of loud applause.

Earlier this month, media broadcast footage of masked Croatian police officers clubbing migrants who had tried to enter Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina through a forest.

Wishing to lead the country into the Schengen area of passport-free movement, the Croatian government has been trying to convince the European Commission that it is capable of protecting the joint border. Similar reports of brutality by Croatian police have been arriving for months.

The Greek and Romanian governments have also been criticised in recent months over police conduct towards migrants.

"Migrations need to be destigmatised. They should be accepted as a fact," Milinković said.

"European countries need voluntary, legal migrants. That is why they need to be provided with better education in the countries they come from," she said.

Croatia not participating in refugee scholarship programme

Officials from the foreign ministries of 42 countries-members of the Union for the Mediterranean met in Barcelona this past Thursday to discuss the inclusion of refugees in the recipient-countries' education systems.

The talks focused on a project as part of which 300 refugees, mostly from Syria, will be granted university scholarships.

The three-year project so far has been joined by 10 of the 42 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean but Croatia is not among them.

A spokesperson for the Union has said that the aim is for as many countries as possible to join in and to extend the project.

A Croatian government official, however, told Hina: "That's it as far as the project is concerned. Those who wanted to participate have joined in."

Involved in the project are currently Poland, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco. The initiative for the project was launched by Portugal where refugees staying there have already enrolled at universities.

The funds for the education of refugees would be raised through donations by foundations, solidary taxation of the academic community, and risk capital fund investments in talented students.

For Croatia's latest news, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Božinović Says Police Officers Were Involved in Violence Against Migrants

ZAGREB, 8 Oct 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Friday that police officers were involved in violence against migrants on the Bosnian border, which was reported by Croatian and European media earlier this week.

"The police director, as soon as he saw the footage, sent an expert team which worked very intensively and as far as I know at the moment, they established that those were police officers," he told Croatian reporters in Luxembourg, where he is attending a meeting of EU interior ministers.

Božinović said he assumed it was "some individual offence by several police officers," adding that the police director was expected to provide more details today.

On Wednesday evening, a number of European media outlets showed disturbing footage of a migrant pushback on Croatian territory. The footage shows men, wearing balaclavas and clothes similar to those of Croatian police, pushing migrants across a backwater of the Korana river towards Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In doing so, the men were hitting the migrants with batons such as those used by Croatian riot police and some wore vests like those worn by that unit.

According to the media, the footage was taken in June as part of an investigation by a number of European media outlets.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

PM Expects Report From All Relevant Services On Violent Pushbacks of Migrants

ZAGREB, 7 Oct 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he had talked with Interior Minister Davor Božinović about violent pushbacks of migrants from the Croatian border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and expected a report from all relevant services to see what had actually happened. 

"Last night I immediately called Minister Božinović to ensure that the Ministry and police take all the necessary measures and investigate the matter so that we see what happened and take appropriate decisions, because Croatia, as a country governed by the rule of law, respects its own laws and international rules. We do not want any actions that might be connected with the state and that are not in accordance with our legal system," Plenković said at a cabinet meeting.

"We have a duty to protect our border and prevent illegal migration. We appreciate the role of the Croatian police in protecting the border in the last few years after our continent has become a destination for migrations, which are often illegal and led and organized by smugglers who benefit from the misfortunes of many people who for various reasons left their homes," he added.

Likewise, We Can! party on Thursday described the treatment of migrants as shown by footage of violence on the border as unacceptable, calling on the police management to leave border protection to somebody else if they were not up to the task.

Footage of masked police beating migrants at the border. (Telegram.hr)

The latest footage of violence against refugees and migrants on our borders reveals serious problems in the way the Ministry of the Interior is dealing with the challenges of migration, the opposition party said in a Facebook post, thus joining in numerous reactions to videos showing the brutal beating of migrants on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"If the current police leadership is not up to the task, it is time other people assumed the responsibility of protecting the border. The current approach to migrations is unacceptable and we once again support all police employees who do not agree with it and who have been warning about it for some time," the party said, recalling that it had warned on a number of occasions that the border can be protected without the use of violence and violation of human rights.

"The latest footage proves that we either have organized groups of thugs who beat refugees or police who remove their insignia and use force and beatings to drive people out of Croatia. Either means a defeat of the idea of a law-based state and human rights protection."

Božinović either denying the problem or announcing probes without an epilogue

The party went on to say that the Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović was "either denying the problem or announcing investigations without an epilogue."

It called on the minister and the prime minister to clearly say what was going on, who was responsible, and why they had not prevented the criminal activity on the border.

Minister Božinović said earlier today that an investigation had been launched to establish if the footage broadcast was authentic, noting that there was no tolerance to violence in the police.

Asked by reporters if he, too, was responsible if it turned out that the footage was authentic, Božinović said, "Why should I be personally responsible?"

He added that nobody had been given an order to use force, except in cases defined by the law, and that most situations on the border did not warrant such conduct.

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

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Danish Social Democrats: Croatia Is Right to Turn Back Migrants

ZAGREB, 12 Sept, 2021 - The Croatian government is doing the right thing by stopping illegal migrants at the Croatian border, the spokesman for the ruling Danish Social Democratic Party, Rasmus Stoklund, told Hina in an interview. 

He would not comment on criticisms by some organisations of the methods allegedly used by the Croatian border police in turning back migrants.

It would be easy for me as a Danish politician to sit here and criticise the situation in another EU member state that first deals with the problem, Stoklund said, noting that his country assists EU member states facing attempts at illegal immigration.

The Social Democrat member of the Danish parliament defended Denmark's strict immigration and integration policy, saying that the Danish approach is increasingly accepted in the European Union.

Denmark has adopted a very clear strategy to avoid taking in refugees from the Middle East and African countries every year. We are witnessing a culture clash in many areas, notably in attitude towards work, universal freedoms and how children should be raised, Stoklund said.

Denmark has a reputation as one of the happiest countries in the world, but in recent years it has attracted attention with its "zero refugees" strategy.

Stoklund said that the long-term aim of the laws passed this year is to reduce the number of applications for asylum in Denmark to zero.

Danish media have said that the government is negotiating this with Egypt, Eritrea, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Two years ago, only 2,716 people applied for asylum in Denmark, eight times less than in 2015.

Although this initiative is gaining support in Denmark, it is giving rise to concern in the international community, with the UNHCR saying that it is against the international principles of cooperation on refugees.

Stoklund expects this policy to discourage refugees from heading to Europe. He said that the money that would be saved on support to immigrants who are not entitled to political asylum would be spent on development projects in their countries of origin. 

Stoklund expressed satisfaction that a majority of EU member states follow the same principle as Denmark - refugees should be assisted in the adjacent countries where they are currently staying before they set out to Europe.

At the last European Council meeting we were very happy to see that none of the European countries wanted to send a signal to refugees from Afghanistan to come to Europe. The countries have realised that the situation like the one in 2015 is untenable, the Danish MP said.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

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).

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

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.

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

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.

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