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

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Welcome! Initiative Demands Justice for Migrant Girl Killed by Train

ZAGREB, November 21, 2020 - The Welcome! Initiative on Saturday demanded justice for Madine Hussiny, a six-year-old Afghan migrant girl who died near the Croatian border three years ago, claiming that "nobody has been held to account yet."

The initiative said that on the day of her death, three years ago today, Madine's mother crossed the Croatian border with her six children and walked for an hour before spotting Croatian police, telling them they intended to apply for asylum.

The family says they were told to go back to Serbia and return to Croatia the next month, and that police ignored their plea to spend the night in Croatia because the children were exhausted. Police drove them close to the border and told them to follow a railway track towards Serbia, but shortly after that, Madine was killed by a train.

Welcome! said those responsible for her death had not been punished and that "violence and deaths on Croatian borders are normalised."

"That's why we are requesting justice for Madine and everyone who lost their lives in the search for security, those who are persecuted and those who have died on borders and in the name of borders," said the initiative.

Madine's death will forever be a symbol of the "cruelty of the contemporary border control regime and the European apartheid of which it is part," it added.

Croatian institutions have not taken responsibility and Madine's family has applied the European Court of Human Rights, the initiative said.

This was the third #JusticeForMadine campaign.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Croatian Police Dismiss New Accusations of Violence against Migrants

ZAGREB, Oct 21, 2020 - The Croatian Interior Ministry on Wednesday dismissed new allegations of violence against migrants after The Guardian, citing the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), said that Croatian police beat and robbed migrants and mentioned a case of sexual abuse.

Alongside photos and medical reports, the newspaper carried DRC claims about numerous instances of brutality on the Bosnian-Croatian border on October 12-16.

"The testimonies collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying," said Charlotte Slente, DRC secretary-general. "More than 75 persons in one week have all independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings and even sexual abuse."

The ministry said this was not the first time The Guardian and the journalist in question wrote about the alleged conduct of the Croatian police, "accusing them of various types of inhumane treatment of persons who illegally crossed the border, without providing any facts or evidence, or even basic verifiable information."

On the other hand, the ministry said, they never wrote about even one case in which Croatian police saved lives, including women and children, on inaccessible terrain in harsh winter.

The ministry said that following the latest accusations, it launched an investigation into them as its interest and goal was to remove any doubt about the conduct of Croatian police and to punish and remove possible irregularities.

Pushbacks near Siljkovaca tented settlement

According to migrants’ accounts, The Guardian said, the pushbacks occurred in Croatian territory over the border from Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, close to Siljkovaca, "a tented forest settlement of around 700 refugees and migrants."

"All of the persons interviewed by DRC bore visible injuries from beatings (bruises and cuts), as a result of alleged Croatian police violence," reads the DRC report.

According to The Guardian, "On 12 October, five Afghans, including two minors, crossed the Croatian border near the Sturlic settlement. On the same day, near Novo Selo, a uniformed police officer stopped them and then called two more officers. One of the migrants ran, and the other four were detained at a police station. Two days later they were taken to court, where they say they were to 'appear as witnesses in the case launched against the fifth member of the group - the one who escaped', who had been accused of violent behavior towards police."

"The asylum seekers told the DRC that the original officers then took them 'to some unknown location, where they were put in a van in the charge of 10 armed people," The Guardian said. "Their money was taken, their belongings torched and they were ordered to strip to their underwear. The migrants allege that they were forced to lie face down on the ground."

"One man in black was standing on the victim’s hands, preventing any movements," reads the report, adding that they "were punched, kicked, whipped and beaten" and that medical reports "confirm that migrants’ injuries are consistent with the use of a whip."

One migrant says that he was sexually assaulted by a man using a branch, The Guardian said, adding that the DRC shared its report with the European Commission, which has yet to investigate.

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Gallup: World Becoming Less Tolerant of Migrants

ZAGREB, Sept 23, 2020 - The world is becoming less tolerant of migrants, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, which shows that Croatia was the fourth least accepting country for migrants in 2019.

In 2016, following a migrant crisis that hit the European Union, Gallup designed the Migrant Acceptance Index based on people's views about having migrants living in their country, becoming their neighbor, and marrying into their family. These three questions were asked in 140,000 interviews conducted in 145 countries last year.

The highest score, of 8.46 out of 9 points, was recorded in Canada, while the lowest score, of 1.49, was recorded in North Macedonia.

North Macedonia was followed by Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia as the least accepting countries. Croatia's score was 1.81. They were followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Latvia, Thailand, Slovakia and Turkey.

In the previous poll, Croatia's score was 2.39, which made it the 10th least accepting country for migrants, while North Macedonia ranked first as the most unwelcoming country.

After Canada, the countries most tolerant of migrants were Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, Sierra Leone, and the United States. Among the most tolerant countries in Europe were Sweden (ranking eighth) and Ireland (ranking tenth).

The biggest drops in the tolerance of migrants were recorded in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia after these countries took in a lot of Venezuelans fleeing the economic hardship in their country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina also recorded a large decline because of a large number of migrants from the Middle East in the country.

The global index fell from 5.34 in 2016 to 5.21 in 2019, mostly as a result of the changes in Latin American countries.

On Wednesday, the EU is due to unveil changes to its migrant acceptance system, under which member states would be legally required to take in a certain share of migrants, which is opposed by the Visegrad Group countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia).

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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Police Still Looking for Missing 11-Year-Old Afghan Migrant Girl

ZAGREB, September 20, 2020 - Police are still looking for 11-year-old Banin Hossein, a girl from Afghanistan who according to her asylum-seeking father Seyed Hossein Shah, separated from him and their migrant group in Brocanac, at an army training ground near Slunj on August 27, Minister of the Interior Davor Bozinovic has said.

"There are indications that the girl continued her journey with another group of migrants, but that has not been confirmed since that group has not been found," Bozinovic told Hina on Sunday.

Even though police and army forces have been looking for the group, their search has not yielded results and the investigation in the case continues, notably through international legal assistance, Bozinovic said, adding that so far there was no confirmation of the group's having been earlier registered in camps along the Balkan migration route but that not everything had been checked.

Speaking generally of the problem of illegal migration, Bozinovic said that it was a fact that there had been a number of false reports about migrant childen going missing. For example, in the case of a false report about the disappearance of a Syrian girl in 2018, "Croatian police were criticised for more than a year by various activist reporters," said Bozinovic.

"It was only more than a year later that we received confirmation from Jordan that the girl in question had never left the camp in Jordan where she had stayed as a refugee. Illegal migrants are aware that if they say that they are looking for a child, they will not be repatriated. I can understand that, they are trying to get hold of European countries at any cost, specifically Austria, Germany, Sweden or other countries which do not want or cannot take them in," he said.

This is a security issue, Bozinovic says, claiming that some media simply do not want to admit that or the fact that policies in European countries are changing, that rightist camps are growing stronger and that migration can no longer be treated just as a humanitarian issue.

He stresses that one's fleeing death and war is a humanitarian issue but that fleeing poor living conditions is not.

The minister believes that humanitarian problems will grow deeper due to the coronavirus pandemic because "it will double the number of hungry people globally."

The group of 13 illegal migrants, from whom Banin Hossein allegedly separated at a military training ground on August 27, are in a reception centre in Zagreb and they have all applied for asylum in Croatia.


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Sunday, 30 August 2020

Intensive Search Underway for Missing 11-Year-Old Migrant Girl

ZAGREB, Aug 30, 2020 - An 11-year- girl, whose disappearance was reported by a group of migrants after they were discovered at the Slunj military range on Friday afternoon, has not yet been found, and army troops and police are engaged an intensive search for the child, the police directorate in Karlovac said on Sunday.

The police press release recalls that when thirteen foreign citizens who had illegally crossed the Croatian border were identified and detained at the Eugen Kvaternik Military Range on Friday at about 6.30 pm, they reported that a female child aged 12 had gone missing from the group.

Immediately, the intensive search was launched and is still underway.

The Karlovac police also reported today that of those 13 migrants, seven are adults, and six are minors, and they have expressed their intention to seek international protection.

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Saturday, 29 August 2020

Thirteen Foreigners, Presumably Migrants, Found at Slunj Military Range

ZAGREB, Aug 29, 2020 - Thirteen foreign citizens have been found and identified at the Eugen Kvaternik Military Range in the central Croatian town of Slunj, and they have been handed over to police for further action, Croatia's Defence Ministry (MORH) said on Saturday.

A group of thirteen foreign citizens who had illegally crossed the Croatian border was identified and detained at the Eugen Kvaternik Military Range on Friday at about 6.30 pm.

The group then reported that a female child aged 12 had gone missing from the group, the ministry's press release said.

Since the disappearance was reported, members of the Croatian Armed Forces have been intensively searching for the missing girl around the Eugen Kvaternik Military Range.

The Croatian police were immediately informed about this and they took over the foreign nationals and are also conducting an intensive search, MORH added.

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Thursday, 27 August 2020

Drunken Migrant Smuggler Takes 24 Foreigners To Wrong Town

August 27, 2020 – The inebriated people trafficker misheard or misunderstood and took his passengers to Dobrinj, on island Krk, instead of Brinje in Lika

They must have been very trusting of the driver or just very bad at geography. Migrants sitting in the back of a people smuggler's van on Tuesday ended up spending twice as long in the baking-hot confinement than they needed to.

It's only around 70 kilometres from the Bosnian border to Brinje, in Lika, their intended destination. You can do the journey in around an hour and twenty minutes. But, their inebriated driver misheard or misunderstood where they wanted to go. He instead took them to Dobrinj, on Krk island. It's a three-hour drive and almost 200 kilometres from the border to there.

The sleepy village of Dobrinj is not used to hosting many visitors © Tourist Board Krk island

Not so popular with tourists as other parts of the island, Dobrinj is a sleepy village that relies more on its olives and sheep than on the footfall of visitors. It is not used to hosting strangers, save for the bears who occasionally come in winter to hibernate in the wilds on the outskirts of town.

Villagers were therefore taken aback when a heavily-loaded and struggling van with Zagreb license plates rolled into town at around 7pm. Even more shocking was the state of the driver. Novi list reports that locals he encountered described the man as being visibly intoxicated or "under the influence of heavier opiates."

But, an even greater surprise lay in store for those peering through their curtains at the curious scene. Once the doors of the windowless van were opened, some 24 out-of-place looking young men emerged.

Inhabitants of the village are reported to have expressed sympathy for the hapless and misguided passengers. Although the cretinous mistake by the driver is certain to have raised a few smiles. Island police were soon called to the scene and took both the driver and his passengers into custody in order to begin investigating exactly what had transpired.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Ministry: Croatian Police Accused of Injuring Migrants Without Proof Again

ZAGREB, June 12, 2020 - The Interior Ministry on Thursday dismissed allegations which, it said in a press release, accuse Croatian police, by established practice and without evidence, of injuring migrants.

The ministry was responding to an Amnesty International press release which said that Croatian police "tortured" a group of asylum-seekers on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ministry said, "this time the alleged police action occurred in late May in the Plitvice Lakes area and on this occasion illegal Afghan and Pakistani migrants were tied to trees, mistreated with a knife, by shooting in the air and to the ground, beaten with pistol grips and eventually had ketchup, mayonnaise, and sugar smeared on their hair."

"We reject the notion that a Croatian police officer would do something like that or have a motive for that," the ministry said.

It recalled that "in the previous version of the accusations" police allegedly sprayed crosses on migrants' heads. "The crosses allegedly had some symbolism that one wanted to use in the month of Ramadan, but now the symbolism of ketchup, mayonnaise, and sugar eludes us."

"If the men wearing black, as has been insinuated, are supposed to be members of the Croatian Special Police, we recall that it is they who deserve credit for rescuing many illegal migrants, women, and children on inaccessible Croatian mountains in the most inhospitable terrain. Should this be a reason to directly attack and call them out?"

The ministry urged "all those who want facts" to pay attention to actual events, fights among migrants in camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as media reports on the injuring of migrants and the accidents and injuries that happen to them along the way.

"Since this latest theory mentions late May, we draw attention to the fact that on May 28, close to the Croatian border, in Cazin, migrants clashed among themselves near the village of Sturlic, and that the police were notified by a local," the ministry said referring to locations in Bosnia.

A representative of the Bosnian Interior Ministry confirmed that a police patrol found two dead men on the scene and that they had visible knife injuries, and Bosnian police established that a number of migrants were injured in that clash, the ministry added.

The people who meet migrants on a daily basis as part of their work know well the pattern of their fights, notably among Afghans and Pakistanis, the ministry said. "However, despite all of the above, all the public accusations need to be checked and they will be in this case too."

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Pressure Of Illegal Migrants Mounting On Bosnia-Croatia Border

ZAGREB, June 2, 2020 - The pressure of illegal migrants along the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in the northwestern Bosnian canton Una-Sana is rising, the local police authorities said on Tuesday.

The fewer the restrictive measures which were in place during the COVID-19 lockdown, the more migrants are arriving in this cross-border area.

Busloads of migrants, who are trying to reach western and northern Europe, are arriving in this canton, and there is no more room in the accommodation centres organised for migrants, which is why there are more and more people staying outdoors or in makeshift migrant shelters.

In the last seven days, with the restoration of bus services between cities, between 100 and 150 migrants arrive in Bihac by bus every day, police spokesman Ale Siljdedic was quoted by the Fena news agency as saying.

The local authorities also fear that the situation will be further worsened with the resignation of Bosnia's Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic.

"We will again have a crisis in the Bosnia and Herzegovina agencies tasked with managing migrations," the cantonal prime minister Mustafa Ruznic told the N1 commercial broadcaster.

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