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.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Nigerian Students Participating in World InterUniversities Championships Exiled to Bosnia!

An almost unbelievable story about a couple of Nigerian students visiting Zagreb appeared in the Bosnian media today.

[Let's preface this article by saying that no Croatian news media has thus far been able to corroborate the story, so it's possible that things aren't exactly like Bosnian Žurnal says they are, but we're sure more will be written about this in days to come.]

The story is as follows: a group of Nigerian nationals (four students and a teacher) participated in the 5th World InterUniversities Championships, which took place on the 13th - 17th of November in Pula, Croatia. 18-year old Abia Uchenna Alexandro represented his Owerri Federal Institute of Technology, playing table tennis at the competition. After the competition, the group returned to Zagreb, where they waited for their flight back home, through Istanbul. As they were in Zagreb for a day or so, they decided to take a walk around the town, which is exactly what he and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, his colleague, did.

As soon as they entered the tram, they were stopped by the Croatian police and taken to the police station. They tried explaining who they were, and that their documents are in the hostel where they were staying. The police refused to listen to what they were saying, and they put them in a van in the middle of the night.

They drove to an unfamiliar location, where the two cops told them that they were going back to Bosnia. The two Nigerian students tried explaining that they've never set foot in Bosnia, that they arrived in Zagreb by airplane, but again, nobody listened to them. The van stopped and they pushed them out into the bushes. Eboh refused to start walking in the direction where police were directing them to, and one of the policemen told him that he would shoot if he didn't start walking.

There were other migrants being pushed back to Bosnia at the same time by the Croatian police, and they helped the two Nigerians get to the camp in Velika Kladuša.

They managed to get a hold of one of their colleagues who was still in Zagreb, to send them their documents. Their visa for Croatia expires today, Eboh told Žurnal. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) runs the camp where they are now, and they've supposedly confirmed to Žurnal that the two Nigerian students have valid visas for Croatia and that they were at the competition. [Both Abia Uchenna and Eboh Kenneth are listed as the participants at the table tennis competition at the event: table tennis schedule].

The organisers of the competition, the InterUniversities Sport Committee confirmed to Žurnal that they're aware of this case. Alberto Tanghetti from the Committee says that all 5 participants from Nigeria had valid visas. He confirms that they also sad return airplane tickets to Istanbul and then Lagos. They were recorded by Croatian television at the competition, and the police in Pula was notified that they were in Pula. He said that the organisation would try to contact Croatian police and see if there's anything they can do to help the students.

Video by Ž confirms that they were able to talk to Abia Uchenna Alexandro, one of the students, who confirmed on the phone everything Žurnal wrote about. He added that the Croatian police took all of their money, and that they're border-line hungry at the camp now, asking Index journalists to help them any way they can.

We'll update this story as more details become available.