Sunday, 23 January 2022

Migrant Workers' Trade Union Accuses Tax Offices of Malpractice

ZAGREB, 23 Jan 2022 - On Sunday, the Croatian Trade Union of Migrant Workers, whose Croatian acronym is HSRM, accused local tax offices of malpractice and miscalculations in tax returns, claiming that such cases of negligence amount to violations of double tax avoidance agreements.

The HSRM says that it has come to this conclusion based on the findings made by its legal experts who analyzed cases of migrant workers whose tax returns were miscalculated.

The union issued a press release signed by union leader Franjo Lazar, stating that the state-level tax administration seems to be ignorant of cases of malpractice.

The union calls on its members to wait for some time before submitting their tax returns to the relevant authorities as negotiations are being conducted with the Finance Ministry, regarding the nine requests presented by the union with the purpose to improve the status of migrant workers.

According to the HSRM, an estimated 20,000 migrant workers come back to Croatia weekly or monthly and bring up to a half-billion euros annually.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Activist Must Pay €8,000 for Helping Migrants to Illegally Cross the Border

ZAGREB, 15 Dec 2021 - Croatia's High Misdemeanor Court has dismissed the appeal lodged by Dragan Umičević, an activist of the  Are You Syrious, against a fine of HRK 60,000  imposed on him after he had helped a group of migrants in March 2018 to illegally cross the Croatian border, the Jutarnji List reported on Wednesday.

The ruling of the High Misdemeanor Court was sent to Vinkovci's Municipal Court that fined Umičević in 2018 when it found Umičević guilty of helping a 14-member Afghan family to illegally cross the border from Serbia into Croatia near the town of Strošinci, by sending them light signals from his car about where to cross the border.

Umičević helped them to seek asylum in Croatia, the daily newspaper reported today, adding that the final verdict amounts to the campaign of intimidating activists and NGOs who help irregular and undocumented migrants.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Serbian Civil Society Activists Accuse Croatian Police of Brutality Towards Migrants

ZAGREB, 7 Dec, 2021 - Currently there are over 4,000 Afghan refugees and migrants along the border between Serbia and Croatia, often encountering the brutality of the Croatian police after crossing the border, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation told a press conference in Belgrade on Monday. 

Vladan Jeremić, the Foundation's representative for Southeast Europe, said that collective expulsions, abuse and arbitrary arrests had been going on at the Serbian-Croatian border since 2016 despite the efforts by civil society organisation to prevent such things from happening.

Croatia denies accusations of inhumane treatment of migrants.

Jeremić said that the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, which is close to the German leftwing party Die Linke, supported the report by Nikola Kovačević documenting human rights abuses on the Serbian-Croatian border. Its aim is to provide civil society organisations with guidance on how to document and legally oppose unlawful practices along the border between Serbia and Croatia.

Violent behaviour is not happening in cooperation with the Serbian police, but away from border crossing points, with migrants being beaten up, humiliated, dispossessed of their valuables, and threatened at gun point, said Milica Švabić of the Belgrade-based KlikAtiv Centre for Development of Social Policies.

She said that about 1,700 people are currently staying in three official migrant camps at the western town of Šid, while an estimated 4,000, including families and unaccompanied minors, are staying in abandoned buildings and in tents in the woods in the surrounding area. They are trying to cross the border almost every day, running the risk of violent push-backs.

The practice of illegal and violent push-backs of refugees from Croatia is still ongoing on a daily basis, Švabić said.

Although they are also being expelled from Hungary and Romania, refugees claim that the Croatian police is the most brutal in push-backs, Švabić said, adding that the refugees who have been expelled by the Croatian police regularly report having been beaten with truncheons and rifle-butts and many have suffered serious injuries, including fractures and head injuries.

Ana Ćuća from the Zagreb-based Centre for Peace Studies said that Croatia has used systematic violence against migrants since 2016, seizing their personal belongings and mobile phones, beating them, confining them in basements, and allowing police dogs to attack them.

Victims are not just adults, but children too. These are not individual cases, but orders from the political leadership, which often cannot be avoided, Ćuća said.

She said that civil society activists in Croatia are victims of police intimidation because they draw attention to human rights violations on the EU border, which, she added, makes the EU responsible too.

Ćuća said that the change in the EU migrant policy has resulted in violence, adding that more and more Croatian police officers are anonymously providing information on the structure of the system of violent and illegal expulsions of refugees.

This policy comes from Brussels and it can be ended only if EU member states and countries suffering the consequences of such a policy demand it.

Kovačević said that victims should get certain compensation for violence they are subjected to, and that those responsible for abuse should be identified and the government should also be held to account.

Kovačević is the recipient of the UNHCR Nansen Award 2021 for helping refugees.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Council of Europe's CPT Accuses Croatia of Severe Ill-Treatment of Migrants

ZAGREB, 3 Dec 2021 - The Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) issued a report on Friday accusing Croatia of the severe ill-treatment of migrants by the police and the obstruction of cooperation.

The CPT  published a report on its ad hoc visit to Croatia from 10 to 14 August 2020, in particular to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), "to examine treatment and safeguards afforded to migrants deprived of their liberty by the Croatian police."

The Ministry of the Interior said on Friday that the CPT report was published without its consent and that it was based on unverifiable information from Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that the CPR clearly overstepped its authority.

The CPT said that its delegation also "looked into procedures applied to migrants in the context of their removal from Croatia as well as the effectiveness of oversight and accountability mechanisms in cases of alleged police misconduct during such operations. A visit to the Ježevo Reception Centre for Foreigners was carried out as well."

The CPT interviewed migrants and "received numerous credible and concordant allegations of physical ill-treatment of migrants by Croatian police officers (notably members of the intervention police)."

"The alleged ill-treatment consisted of slaps, kicks, blows with truncheons and other hard objects (for example, butts/barrels of firearms, wooden sticks or tree branches) to various parts of the body. The alleged ill-treatment had been purportedly inflicted either at the time of the migrants’ 'interception' and de facto deprivation of liberty inside Croatian territory (ranging from several to fifty kilometres or more from the border), and/or at the moment of their push-back across the border with BiH," the report said.

The persons interviewed "displayed recent injuries on their bodies, which were assessed by the delegation’s forensic medical doctors as being compatible with their allegations of having been ill-treated by Croatian police officers (by way of example, reference is made to the characteristic “tram-line” haematomas to the back of the body, highly consistent with infliction of blows from a truncheon or stick)."

The report also documents several accounts of migrants being subjected to other forms of severe ill-treatment by Croatian police officers, such as "migrants being forced to march through the forest to the border barefoot and being thrown with their hands still zip-locked into the Korana river, which separates Croatia from BiH."

"Some migrants alleged being pushed back into BiH wearing only their underwear and, in some cases, naked. A number of persons stated that when they had been apprehended and were lying face down on the ground, certain Croatian police officers had discharged their weapons into the ground close to them."

The CPT urged the Croatian authorities "to take determined action to stop migrants from being ill-treated by police officers and to ensure that cases of alleged ill-treatment are investigated effectively."

The report noted that for the first time since the CPT started visiting Croatia in 1998, "there were manifest difficulties of cooperation."

"The CPT’s delegation was provided with incomplete information about places where migrants may be deprived of their liberty, and it was obstructed by police officers in accessing documentation necessary for the delegation to carry out the Committee’s mandate," the report said.

"In acknowledging the significant challenges faced by the Croatian authorities to deal with large numbers of migrants entering the country, the CPT stresses the need for a concerted European approach. Nevertheless, despite these challenges, Croatia must meet its human rights obligations and treat migrants who enter the country through the border in a humane and dignified manner," it added.

The CPT claims that there are no effective accountability mechanisms in place to identify the perpetrators of alleged acts of ill-treatment. 

As regards the establishment of an "independent border monitoring mechanism" by the Croatian authorities, the CPT sets out its minimum criteria for such a mechanism to be effective and independent.

In conclusion, the CPT said that it "wishes to pursue a constructive dialogue and meaningful cooperation with the Croatian authorities, grounded on a mature acknowledgment, including at the highest political levels, of the gravity of the practice of ill-treatment of migrants by Croatian police officers and a commitment for such ill-treatment to cease."

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Božinović Says Waiting for Results of Investigation Into Violence Against Migrants

ZAGREB, 11 Oct 2021 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Monday said that he did not have any new information related to videos of police violence against migrants and that it is necessary to wait for the results of the investigation.

"We'll wait and see what the results of the investigation show. Everything that will happen as part of the relevant procedures will be in line with what the police chief said on Friday," Božinović told reporters.

Protecting the borders in line with the law

Asked about responsibility in the chain of command, Božinović underscored that the orders are to protect the state borders in line with the law.

"There cannot be any order that is not in line with the law. As soon as I receive the report from the police directorate, I will forward it to the prime minister, even though we have already discussed all this," said Božinović.

He said that police officers, particularly those assigned to border control, doing one of the most difficult jobs.

He added that there were cases when the police themselves identified cases of police officers overstepping their powers or unlawful conduct.

He said that disciplinary procedures had been underway from before against eight police officers and that 22 cases had been documented and submitted to the State Attorney's Office (DORH).

"When someone individually breaches or oversteps their authority anywhere, there are services in the police directorate and internal controls to conduct investigations and decide on the penalties," he said.

Commenting on an anonymous letter by a police officer who claimed two years ago that an order existed for violent pushbacks, Božinović reiterated that anything that was reported was always investigated. DORH rejected 13 of the 22 cases for lack of evidence, he said.

The anonymous police officer's letter refers to a specific case, with a specific location and date, which previously was not the case, said Božinović and added that a prompt reaction followed the anonymous letter and that the matter was still being investigated.

Božinović also commented on a recent drug incident in the Croatian Army, underscoring that police offices were exceptionally active regarding the fight against drug smuggling.

"The cocaine market is expanding into the general population, which is concerning. We will meet with the anti-drug commission in the next few days. In 2020, 60 kilograms of cocaine were confiscated whereas in the first eight months of this year more than 667 kilograms were seized," he said.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Abuse of Migrants at the Border, Chief of Police Nikola Milina Speaks

October 9, 2021 - On Friday, the Chief of Police Nikola Milina held a press conference at the Police Directorate, where he spoke about the published recordings of the treatment and abuse of migrants and the findings of the Expert Team so far.

"According to the first information after the publication of the recording, we immediately formed an expert team, and colleagues from the Police Directorate were sent to the field in order to shed light on what it is about. Immediately during the first actions, we came to know that the persons were police officers of the intervention police. "Since at this moment there is a basic suspicion of a serious violation of official duty, which is very damaging to the reputation of the police, the procedure of handing over the decision to the officers on the removal of duty is underway and further disciplinary proceedings are underway," Milina said.

As reported by Net.hr, the chief of the police said that they were in cooperation with the DORH, with which they would conduct further investigations. He also pointed out that they want to shed light on the event to the end. “Our interest is certainly to shed light on this event to the end, in no way do we want the individual event to affect the praise the police receive for their daily dedicated work,” he said.

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

''Corridor is not some secret operation''

He then denied certain information that emerged from the publication of the video.

"We have to deny that the Corridor is a secret operation aimed at intimidating or promotes abuse of migrants. It is a long-term action to prevent human trafficking, we have arrested 4,000 smugglers in the last two years. Members of the Croatian police have rescued migrants from streams, rivers, indoors where they have been placed by smuggling groups in often dangerous situations. In these few years, the Croatian police have been at the forefront of preventing the smuggling of migrants. 

Another misinformation is that there are police cover-ups, and that police officers in turn carry out some illegal orders. ''It doesn't stand out at all. I constantly send instructions to behave cautiously, especially towards vulnerable groups, such as women, children, but also in other situations", he said.

He said state prosecutors have initiated a total of 22 proceedings since 2018 regarding police treatment of migrants; in 13 cases the proceedings were suspended, the rest are ongoing.

"For those who break the law, the Croatian system is the most rigorous in treating its members and they must be aware that they will be held accountable. Also, regarding situations concerning alleged police officers who say they have been ordered to work illegally. There is a very clear situation, a police officer is obliged to report illegal actions ex officio. We also conducted 8 disciplinary proceedings against officials who violated the rules of treatment and abuse of migrants. I can say that in at least 13 cases the proceedings were suspended, and we always check everything we have to and wherever there are grounds for suspecting that there are disciplinary errors'', said Milina.

PXL_081021_90084742.jpg

Chief of Police, Nikola Milina, at a press conference on Friday. (Photo: Goran Stanzl/PIXSELL)

Milina confirmed that there were three intervention police officers in this case and many have been identified so far. "Surveys will continue to be conducted in cooperation with the competent state attorney's office. These are facts that I can communicate. I am responsible for the first day of work in the police," said Milina, emphasizing that there are no special orders for abuse of migrants.

"It is especially warned that no use of force is allowed, especially against vulnerable groups, women, and children. It is about acting during working hours. This is certainly not a procedure that is appropriate and dignified, regardless of whether it is done at the border or any kind of treatment", he said.

The director general of police also said that "it will be seen for what reason (police officers) did not wear the prescribed uniform". "This is not about any treatment outside working hours. As far as uniforms are concerned, police officers are obliged to wear the prescribed uniforms, and it will be determined why they had certain parts differently and did not wear the prescribed uniform. This is about treatment, suppression of illegal migration, but this is certainly not a procedure that is appropriate and dignified. It is an intervention unit of the police that was on the rescue, it seems to me from the Istrian Police", he said.

Milina did not want to specify what the officers removed from duty are charged with, saying only that it was a serious violation of official duty and damage to the reputation of the Croatian police due to what was on the recording. "We will strengthen the control mechanisms. They have written instructions, they will also receive oral instructions. The focus is not only on the intervention police but on all branches of the police, we will strengthen education," he said.

He also said that, according to available data, there have been no disciplinary proceedings against police officers removed from duty so far.

For more on politics, 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.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Police Form Task Force Over Videos of Violence Against Migrants

ZAGREB, 7 Oct 2021 - The head of the border administration, Zoran Ničeno, said on Wednesday that the Police Directorate had formed a task force that would go into the field after the release of videos showing masked persons hitting migrants and pushing them back from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Earlier in the day, RTL television showed videos of men wearing ski masks pushing back migrants from Croatia across a backwater of the Korana river, hitting them with batons such as those used by riot police. Some of the men also wore vests like those of riot police.

RTL said the footage was from June and that it was taken during an eight-month journalistic investigation in which an RTL crew took part with colleagues from Lighthouse Reports, an investigative journalistic network based in the Netherlands, from the Swiss SRF Rundschau, the German ARD, ARD Monitor, the French Liberation, the Dutch Pointer, the Croatian Novosti, and the German Der Spiegel.

Ničeno told RTL the Police Directorate saw part of the video for the first time earlier in the day and the whole report later on TV.

"We saw that the material is impressive and the police director decided to form a task force that will go to that supposed terrain tomorrow. Given that these are journalists' claims, today we called the Cetingrad police commissioner and we haven't managed to determine the location of the event," Ničeno said.

He said blows or beatings were not part of regular police procedure and that there was no command or order to push back migrants and beat them. "In order to establish all the facts, everything has to be checked."

Ničeno said Croatia was one of the most successful countries in catching migrant smugglers and that the job of the police was to protect the Croatian border. However, he added, "it's absolutely impossible that someone in the police would order or support such hitting."

Investigation by a number of European media

The video and story about violence against migrants were released in a number of countries, including testimonies by migrants, medical staff, investigators, and analysts.

Investigative journalists Klaas van Dijken and Lamia Šabić recorded the violence near Šturlić on the Bosnian side of the border.

About 20 meters from us, we saw through the bushes four persons with masks hit people and force them into a river up to their chests. By force into the Korana and back to Bosnia, van Dijken said.

By looking at the footage, he said, they noticed that the men wore vests like those of the Croatian riot police.

Analysts also established that the gun one masked man had on his belt was made by the Croatian company HS Produkt, which supplies the Croatian police. They also noticed the baton used by Croatian police.

Also broadcast was drone footage showing persons brought to the border in a van and directed to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The head of Lighthouse Reports coordinated a journalistic investigation on the Romanian and Greek borders as well. Lots of information leads to the conclusion that similar practice is being implemented on other European borders, RTL said.

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

Friday, 2 July 2021

Ressler: We Mustn't Give in to Pressure Regarding Illegal Migrants

ZAGREB, 2 July 2021 - Croatia must not give in to political pressure aimed at changing the policy of preventing illegal migration, Croatian MEP Karlo Ressler said on Friday, adding that Social Democratic Party (SDP) MEPs had been known to be "fall" for "campaigns lambasting" Croatia.

"From the very start of this European Parliament, we have been exposed to political pressure because of our protection of the external border and because of our ambition to become a member of the Schengen Area," Ressler told a virtual press conference called "Asylum, migration and the Schengen Area's functioning" that was organised by the EP's office in Croatia.

Several NGO's and some MEPs claim that Croatia is illegally pushing back migrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As we draw closer to joining the Schengen Area, the pressure in the EP has increased, said Ressler, adding that it is necessary to underline that there cannot be any double standards and that it is a duty to protect the EU's external border.

He added that that entails "respecting all human rights, all high Croatian, European and international standards."

Earlier this year four Italian MEPs (S&D) tried to get to the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and they were prevented from doing so by Croatian police. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković then said that it was an attempt to mar Croatia's reputation. SDP leader Peđa Grbin and his deputy Biljana Borzan, who is also an MEP, then condemned the fact that the Italian MEPs were prevented from getting to the border.

Ressler said that strong awareness exists among European leaders and institutions that "there is no room in Europe for illegally crossing borders."

State-secretary in the Interior Ministry Terezija Gras said that due to the accusations against Croatia that it was violating the rights of migrants, Croatia would allow an "informal visit" to the Croatian border so that the Commission and member states could be convinced of what Croatia has done with regard to improving its technical equipment on the border with BiH and to strengthen its police capacities.

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

Page 1 of 3

Search